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An Interview with… Jane Blackie

In the second of our KLU Q&As, we’ll be focussing on a very different type of volunteer. While some of our volunteers offer their time and talent by leading KLUbs, such as Bert at Kids Like Checks, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Jane Blackie is an invaluable member of the KLU team, helping us in a whole host of ways that would take far more than this brief introduction to describe! Jane is a great person and a great friend, and so it was our pleasure to sit down with her for a quick interview…


Q: How did you first hear about Kids Like Us?

Jane: My son has been a student of Anne’s since before KLU, so as she moved on to become KLU we moved with her.


Q: What made you decide to become a volunteer?

Jane: As we have been around since the early days, there was always something that they needed help with here and there. As KLU grew, there was a more permanent need for volunteers, so here I am!


Q: Tell us a little about what you do at Kids Like Us

Jane: I guess I’m a bit of an all-rounder, really. This term I come in on a Wednesday and usually do the kitchen duties, coffee/tea runs, work in with the classroom with the teachers and help them with the kids – as well as answering the doorbell! I also do filing, arranging the files of the kids that Anne has seen over the last week. Or, if there are any other projects that need extra help I sometimes come in on other days as well.


Q: What’s the best thing about working with Kids Like Us?

Jane: I can see what help the kids are getting from all of the various activities that are provided, whether it be from the teaching, tutoring groups, counselling or the activity clubs like Lego, Chess, etc. These activities help them grow not only with their school work but in themselves. It’s a happy, caring environment, and this helps the kids feel that they want to be involved.

The concept of the organisation and what they do behind the scenes is really helping to make the schools, community, and others that need to be aware that not every child has the same way of learning. It doesn’t mean that the child is stupid or dumb, but that they’re wired differently and need to be helped accordingly. Picking up the child’s learning problem as early as possible gives them the advantage of being helped earlier.

On a personal note, I love working in the environment and have formed great friendships.


Q: What do you do when you’re not at Kids Like Us?

Jane: I was a Nurse for many years until I had to leave through ill health. Now I’m a stay at home Mum, who likes catching up with friends on a more regular basis. I also went on a cruise to New Zealand earlier this year, and I love the idea of going on more cruises. I recently got hooked on puzzle and quiz books, and I love making plans to redecorate areas of the house – but never seem to get around to actually redoing it! Spending time with my family is very important to me, including our furry four-legged little girl, Lucy.


Q: If you were a fictional character, which character do you think you’d be – and why?

Jane: Oh dear, that’s hard! Pooh Bear from Winnie the Pooh, because he is so laid back, has no worries and is in no rush to get anywhere or do anything.


Q: What was your favourite book when you were at school?

Jane: Definitely not any of those Shakespeare ones! 7 Little Australians is one that comes to mind – though I’m not sure if it was a school one. They also made a TV series from it.


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An Interview with… Bert Crosby

KLU is made up of all kinds of special people who give their time, talents and tuition to our students. We come in many forms, from teachers to volunteers.

One such volunteer is Bert, an experienced local chess player who has been generously coming into KLU to play chess with our students.

We sat down with Bert to talk about his time with Kids Like Us, as well as his recent adventures…

Q: How did you first hear about Kids Like Us?

Bert: I hadn’t heard of KLU until, one day, the phone rang; it was Catherine. At the time I was President of the Mentone Chess Club, and the key contact point for the club. She asked if I knew anyone who could spend an hour each Wednesday lunchtime playing chess with the kids. I said that I’d be interested and we arranged to meet. The rest is history!

I asked my other chess-playing friends too, but ultimately I was the only one with the time available.

Q: What made you decide to become a volunteer?

Bert: I wasn’t initially looking to be a volunteer, so it was simply because Catherine asked me. I said ‘Absolutely!’, then immediately went off to get my Working with Children Check – and here we are!

Q: What’s the best thing about playing chess at Kids Like Us?

Bert: Very simple, the kids and staff alike are all lovely people! There’s such a positive and creative vibe about the place, making it lovely to be a small part of. Moreover, seeing the kids develop an interest in chess and improve their knowledge is a pleasure.

When I started playing chess about 60 years ago, no-one ever, ever just let me win – I lost countless games before I won at all. I try to help, give pointers and often forgive simple mistakes, but in the end one learns to play chess through losing – not by being gifted games. I’ve lost one game in my time at KLU, and I was delighted!

Q: Tell us a little about your recent travels and your unique photos you sent to us

Bert: My wife and I were away for the month of June. Just before we left, Sarah [a member of the KLU team] asked me to send some pictures for the kids at KLU. I can’t remember her exact words, but they left me with the idea of taking a chess piece along for the ride. It became an enjoyable part of the holiday deciding where next to take a picture of the White Queen (and later the Black King too). It greatly amused my family, as well as other people we met along the way.

We first went to Rome where we had a wonderful long weekend some of my relatives. It was easy choosing places to take pictures of the White Queen – The Trevi Fountain, The Vatican, and The Colosseum were all fabulous backdrops!

Then, we travelled on to Gloucestershire and Somerset in England to visit more family. While lovely areas, they are not quite as spectacular as Rome for the White Queen to visit. We found a few nice rural places to take pictures – including a new donkey sanctuary!

After a just under a week in UK, we moved on to Canada where still more of my family lives. Before getting to their home in Kingston, Ontario, we flew to Quebec City before driving to Prince Edward Island. While a long way, this allowed us to visit the provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick – both of which were new to us. Much of the area is very French, which definitely challenged my language skills! The White Queen was joined here by the Black King, and together they visited places such as Green Gables of Anne of Green Gables fame, a French Patisserie in Fredericton, Riviere du Loup, the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa and so on.

We spent just under a week with my family in Kingston. It was my birthday during our visit, and my brother hosted a dinner for us with all his family – it was some party! Here the White Queen visited a now closed prison, took a cruise around The 1000 Islands and toured Fort Henry. The weather was perfect!

Lastly, each time we return to the UK we try to visit a new destination in Europe. This year, it was Amsterdam. The White Queen took a cruise on the canals, visited Anne Frank’s house, and even went to see The Dam.

Q: If you were a chess piece, which piece do you think you’d be – and why?

Bert: I don’t really mind if I play white or black but, in either case, there’s only one piece I would want to be… the King!

Why? Well, I would castle early and find a nice safe place in the corner of the board protected by pawns and pieces. From there, I would direct my army on its quest to capture the opposing King.

Q: What do you do when you’re not at Kids Like Us?

Bert: I’m retired now, so apart from normal household chores, my main focus is on family. While working, I spent a great deal of time away, so now I spend as much time with them as possible. In fact, we’ll all be going to Hong Kong for my granddaughter’s birthday. She’ll be the same age as our daughter was when we first moved to Hong Kong in the early 80s, and it will be great to see their reaction to that wonderful, exciting city.

I’ll be sure take the White Queen and Black King on another adventure!

Apart from family, I love watching cricket – test cricket especially. I played for many years, with my last competitive game in Hong Kong in 1986 just before coming to Melbourne on a two year secondment… We are still here 30 years later, and we love it!

These days, I play chess online with people from around the world, which is wonderful. During the holiday, we caught up with one fellow chess player while in Ottawa. He and his wife are now our good friends, and we had a superb time together.

I also really enjoy cryptic crosswords, so I’m never bored! I like cooking and frequently (usually weekly) go to the movies, as I prefer seeing new films first on the big screen.

Q: What was your favourite book when you were at school?

Bert: Gee this is a tricky one, as it is such a long time ago! Rather than nominating just one book, I’d say that my favourite books were the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.