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Monday, 20 May 2019 10:49 pm

Wanted: ideas on how you can raise $1 million in a recession

IT TOOK Kitty McKinley just one lecture in law school to know being a lawyer isn’t anything like law on TV.


So she became a social worker, and now faces as big a challenge as anything the legal profession might have thrown at her: how to raise a million dollars in the middle of a recession.

The money is needed to crown a project Kitty started in Wellington 21 years ago – to build a permanent single home for Challenge 2000, a youth development agency that helps young people achieve goals and to give back to their community.

“I wanted to be a lawyer because of an American television programme about young lawyers who were helping people.” It soon became apparent to her that that wasn’t the way real lawyers worked.

She decided to do an arts degree because Victoria University did not offer an undergraduate degree in social work. After graduating, she continued her studies in England and completed a post graduate degree in social work before beginning her career in social work, which she has been doing on and off for the past 33 years.

Before starting Challenge 2000, Kitty worked at the Catholic Social Services for ten years. They provided a huge range of youth programmes, prison programme and programmes for the unemployed.

In 1986 she took a break from social work and began her own business – McKinley Training – which offered services like leadership courses and conflict resolution.

“I was employed by all sorts of people as a cooperation consultant.”

She needed money to be coming in as she began Challenge 2000 so she could support herself and Challenge.

She considers herself to be unusual because she is able to feel at home in the corporate world as well as in social work.

“I’m at home with chief executives and I’m at home with people who have committed serious crime.”

“But because of finances there are a lot of social and community workers who can’t stay where I have if they want to pay their mortgage or have a life.”

Kitty was raised in a state house in Napier and says she and her brother, Mark, grew up being selfless rather than selfish. “I was brought up in an environment of sharing and being responsible for other people.”

Although she grew up in Napier, she calls herself a Wellingtonian, but admits “it’s a bit difficult when the Hurricanes play the Magpies”.

She doesn’t think a person should be held back because of a bad decision or where they come from. “John Key also grew up in a state house and he chose to be a financier…and I chose to be a social worker.”

Kitty is a role model for her niece Bridget who says she has always looked up to her aunt.

“Kitty has been involved with youth since she was younger than I am now,

“It was not until I recently worked with Challenge 2000 that I realised what a difference Kitty has made in the community.”

Kitty was named Wellingtonian of the Year in Community Service in 2001 but she was honoured with two awards last year.

The first was the Paul Harris Rotary fellowship which she was really touched to receive as she was not a member of the club.

She was stunned people wanted to acknowledge what she had done in the community but says she has only come this far because of the support of people at Challenge.

“If I’ve stood out it’s because I’ve stood on the shoulders of giants. There’s nothing that I’ve done that I could do by myself so it was recognition of Challenge and myself.”

“I thought God – they’re giving this to me?”

When she was given the Delargey Award at World Youth Day last year, she said she was really touched as she never thought her own faith community would recognise her work at Challenge, because of some of the views on Catholicism.

The Delargey Award recognises significant and outstanding contribution in the field of Catholic Youth Ministry.

“I felt on the edge of the church because of my views and my commitment to justice and to people who are struggling in particular.”

“It was really quite an honour to receive it in front of thousands of youth”

When she is not at Challenge, Kitty can be found spending time at the family bach, swimming in Lake Taupo or spending time with family and friends drinking red wine and eating.

Although she lives her life committed to the gospel, she calls herself a slightly left wing Christian because she doesn’t agree with the Catholic church on all matters, for example, the use of contraception.

But most of all, Kitty is passionate about life: “I love life – it’s something to be lived fast and to be lived slow.”

Challenge 2000 works with nearly 3000 young people around Wellington and currently rents several buildings in Johnsonville which include the Challenge College, a transition unit, administration, and the youth and family centre.

“It’s like planting a forest – in 40 years all the young people we have worked with and who have developed a sense of self and excellence and community will be responsible for running the country.”

She laughs: “We have a small agenda, really.”

Owning premises will mean the group will be able to employ more youth workers to help deliver their services.

Fundraising through small community events like sausage sizzles and youth programmes begins in April, but the possibility of a production of Jesus Chris Superstar has the staff excited, she says.

“We also have a bunch of high profile New Zealanders preparing to do events, as well.”

In 10 years, Kitty hopes Challenge 2000 will be a national organisation, but they already run occasional leadership programmes around the country.

“We will become like the golden arches – but we will be the blue spiral. Whenever you see it you will know what it stands for.”

Kitty thinks there are only two qualities that makes a leader; first is to have a vision of something you can personally commit yourself to and the second is to have courage to keep going no matter what obstacles you face.

“Being a leader is a wonderful gift but is also extremely hard.”

Kitty’s heroes have changed through out her life. She was inspired by her parents who she says had a vision of hope and fairness; “I caught that at a very young age.”

As she grew up in the sixties Kitty looked up to public figures like Pope John 23rd and John F Kennedy because at the time they spoke of a new way of living; “But later, on you hear that JFK might have been a naughty boy.”

But now, she looks at the people around her as her heroes, those who she surrounds herself with everyday.

“People who I work with, who I live with and who I’m friends with.”

Kitty hopes to leave behind the legacy of: she did what she could, where she was, and with what she had, in a loving inclusive way.

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is a Whitireia Journalism student.
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  1. Kristina Keogh, great going, really do appreciate taking such bold step, keep it up.

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