Anti-bullying angel answers the call
‘‘I'm always in the back seat doing the donkey work and that's fine by me.’’
Chatting to Karla Sanders immediately boosts your zest for life and puts some faith back in humanity.
She initially called a proposed get-together over coffee her ‘‘worst nightmare’’.
Sanders hates the spotlight ... but she deserves it.
The 38-year-old Alexandra mum is the co-founder of the nationwide movement Sticks ‘n Stones.
It’s an online anti-bullying group fronted and run by high school kids.
Since 2012, members have been to conferences in Washington DC, Melbourne and Ireland. They’ve been invited to Government meetings at Parliament. They’ve been on television, in newspapers and on the radio. Some were even invited to meet the Queen.
But the now 300-strong group comes from humble beginnings in Central Otago.
Behind it all, securing funding and doing those menial tasks, is Sanders.
Even after she’s been made aware this story is about her, she makes it very clear that what drives the movement are some very bright and passionate young people.
‘‘There’s always young people doing something incredible. These guys are colleagues. It’s not like they are my minions.’’
Sanders doesn’t want to be the face of the organisation.
‘‘That’s why you don’t see a lot of me...I’m always in the back seat doing the donkey work and that’s fine by me.’’
But it’s clear Sticks ‘n Stones would not be successful without Sanders and her love of ‘‘empowering young people’’.
Recently the group secured a grant from telecommunications giant Vodafone, which has allowed Sanders to finally be employed full time.
It’s a far cry from the days when everyone thought her idea for Sticks ‘n Stones would ’’never work’’.
The Christchurch-born teacher moved to Alexandra in 2010 to ‘‘marry a local farmer’’ but couldn’t get a teaching job.
Faced with a dilemma, Sanders applied for a Ministry of Social Development grant to launch an idea she’d had, Sticks n’ Stones.
‘‘I said that I would get students and that we would create something amazing...I never in the world thought anyone would give us money.’’
With an app in prototype and a trip to Sweden on the agenda this year, Sticks ‘n Stones is at the point it needs other paid staff.
Most of the kids who joined while at school are still involved despite being away at university, and half of the group’s board are young people.
The group plans to expand into Queenstown and Southland schools this year and possibly introduce a programme for primary school-aged pupils.
Sanders is proud.
‘‘We’ve got the opportunity to impact really positively on young people and show them that they matter.
‘‘We know that we’ve done some great work but now there’s an enormous amount more to do.’’
Sticks ‘n Stones co-founder and project facilitator Karla Sanders.