Passionate advocate for young people
Kelly Hunt became passionate about social injustice at a young age.
She was in boarding school at 13 volunteering in a soup kitchen, when she noticed most of the people in need were ethnic minorities.
“I felt it was important to share that information with other kids at my school who weren't as aware or lived in privilege,” she said. “I didn't want to make it sound like it was anything that was their fault, but wanted to let them know if we worked together we could do something about it.”
She never strayed from that view.
The 38-year-old works with the Coalition for the Protection of Children as its director of child and adolescent services.
She recently completed a long-held dream, a postgraduate degree in complex trauma and child sexual abuse intervention.
“It was definitely hard and something you really have to stay committed to,” Mrs Hunt said. “There were times when I wanted to throw in the towel. There were nights when I'd be up studying until 3am and still have to get up for work the next day.
“But I had a lot of support from my husband and kids as well. I think my eldest daughter, Annalise, felt a little inspired watching me. She had to do her homework, but I had to do mine as well. I tried to show them the importance of studying and actually accomplishing what you set out to do and hopefully they got that. Annalise is on the honour roll. I couldn't be more proud of my girls.”
The $6,500 Cummings V Zuill Leadership Award covered half the cost of her tuition.
“It's quite an honour that they chose me because there are a few people that go after that,” Mrs Hunt said.
“And just knowing there's a foundation that supports people in the third sector means a lot. These aren't usually the highest paying jobs so people do this work because they want to and it's something they are passionate about, so any support is welcome.”
Mrs Hunt's Connecticut boarding school encouraged students to volunteer on Wednesdays instead of doing class work.
“I began helping out in the soup kitchen at the age of 13,” she said.
“I also started a programme at my school called Cultural and Social Awareness and left high school with the community service award.
“Even before that injustice had always been on my radar through being around [my great aunt, trade union pioneer] Dr Barbara Ball.
“As a child I heard about all the things she was doing on the Island so I had an understanding of what injustice was and had my eyes open early for it.”
After college she worked as a substance abuse counsellor.
None of her classmates were surprised she ended up in that line of work, she said.
“When I was working at the soup kitchen as a teenager I saw that around 85 per cent of the population that came in had a substance abuse addiction, so when I got into the substance abuse world and did that kind of work I realised very quickly the drugs were just a band-aid for the trauma they had experienced as a child,” she said.
“They were covering it up or numbing it out with drugs.
“At that point I knew everything about the substance abuse world, but I didn't know how to actually address the trauma from their past. Now having done this postgraduate degree it makes sense that those wounds won't heal until they're addressed. That's where I come in.”
Mrs Hunt helps her clients see themselves as survivors instead of victims.
“With children we can use play therapy or art and music therapy instead of just talk therapy,” she said. “Oftentimes, complex trauma survivors don't come to terms with what's happened to them until they're, on average, 30-years-old. That's when they start seeking support.
“With this service I'm hoping they'll be able to get help sooner. But even if they're older, it's never too late to find healing. There's always hope.”
• The award is available for people involved in the charitable sector to help with the costs of their education and training.
• It’s available to non-profit sector employees and volunteers who can show a track record of commitment in the sector.
• It was established in recognition of Cummings V Zuill who was a pioneer in his contributions to the field of philanthropy and the development of the third sector in Bermuda.
For more information, visit www.cvzuillaward.org