Compass Trainee since 2012
Caitlin leans over and says to me, “It’s okay to cry if you want to my girl.”
As I sit next to Caitlin on a bench amongst the trees at Compass Farm, she fidgets nervously.
As someone who appears very confident on the outside – often the life of the party and the first one to take charge of a task or a situation – her inner nature is in fact quite self-conscious and gentle. I told her a week ago that I wanted to interview her for this story, and she’s been nervous ever since, she tells me.
I start out by making a joke and she starts to loosens up. When I tell her about the positive feedback I’ve gathered from others about her, she instantly comes out of her shell, gives me a huge smile and says loudly, “Nooooo! You’re going to make me cry!” and then bursts out laughing, leaning into me for a hug.
This mix of nervousness, BIG expressive emotion, love, joy, care, leaning in and insecurity – all rolled into one – is Caitlin. It’s what makes her so beautiful.
I ask her how she would describe herself, and interestingly, she naturally chooses to describe how she’s changed.
“I’m more happier in myself,” she says. “More confident… and I’m just one of those girls that comes out here every day and has a smile on her face.”
It’s a smile we all love – not just Compass staff, but also, pretty much every visitor that comes to Compass Farm knows Caitlin, as she’s often the first to greet them and make them feel welcome with her big and vibrant personality.
As our Development Co-Ordinator, Kelly Hamond, says, “Caitlin is the first person to dive in and help, especially with larger Compass wide projects.
“She loves to meet visitors at the Farm and share our appreciation with the community for their support. She is a natural promoter and always makes you feel seen and loved.”
Caitlin wasn’t always this confident though.
“My anxiety before I started here, it was really bad,” she tells me. “When I came out here to the Farm and Jack (Compass support trainer) came out, he actually helped me through the ups and downs big time.”
Intrigued, I ask her how.
“He helped me out by doing different things and keeping my mind occupied, and saying I was in a safe environment, that I had friends here, that I would be fine… It was so helpful.”
I feel my own emotion welling up as I can see how much this means to her and I know how much it will mean to our trainer, Jack. Instantly, Caitlin leans over and says to me, “It’s okay to cry if you want to my girl.”
These are such simple words and such a simple reflection of some of Caitlin’s experience, but I’m struck by the depth within this simplicity.
Think about it… who doesn’t want to go to a place every day where they feel like they’re growing as a person, they have people who care about them and support them to be who they are, they feel safe, they feel seen and they feel like it’s okay to express their emotions and to encourage others to do the same?
This level of self-awareness and the ability to express it I also find amazing. It’s a definite hallmark of Caitlin’s growth as a person.
Her mum Jenny reflects on this, “She’s always giving me cuddles and is very loving towards me and others. She never used to express that until these last few years. She’s definitely more open with her expression.”
“She’s also a lot more outgoing, her social skills have really improved, and she’s more independent. She’ll often organise her own activities now, including her transport, and most recently, she’s even started going to the shops and following a shopping list on her own.
“In general, she’s matured A LOT.”
Compass Support Trainer and Farm Manager, Andrew Diggines, has worked with Caitlin since she started with Compass in 2012. His reflections are similar to Jenny’s.
“Her self-awareness has come a long way and how she reflects in challenging situations,” he says. “She’ll think through things and how she could have handled it better.
“Her maturity and her self-confidence have grown a lot too. She believes in herself more and has become a bit of an Ambassador for Compass.
“I think she’s at her best when she can shine in front of others… when she can really be seen.”
I love this because of course, this is what this whole project is all about – helping to give the people we see and cherish every day in our work at Compass, a platform to continue to shine to the rest of the world. To you.
This story was written by Compass team member, Sandra Brodie, through interviews and contributions from Caitlin’s Mum Jenny, some of Caitlin’s support staff at Compass and Caitlin herself.