Community of Changemakers: An Interview With the Co-Facilitators of the ‘Support Haven’ Global Coaching Initiative

Author : Sam Chambers

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27th April 2020

In the current crisis people from every corner of the globe are experiencing levels of uncertainty they’ve never felt before and many are finding the challenges of the present moment to be incredibly overwhelming. 

At Animas, we are proud of the vibrant and supportive community of changemakers that we have helped to create and continue to build through our coach training programme. In the present moment, knowing how powerful coaching can be in helping others, we are not surprised to see coaches in the Animas community finding different ways to provide support during the Covid-19 pandemic.

One of a number of pioneering initiatives founded within the Animas community as a response to the challenges of coronavirus, Support Haven brings together more than 100 Animas coaches with the goal to offer free coaching to anyone around the world struggling to deal with the impacts and challenges of coronavirus. 

In this Q&A interview piece, I sit down with Animas graduates and co-facilitators of Support Haven Beatrice Zornek and Jenn M Choi to explore where the idea for the global coaching initiative came from, the mission and vision driving it forward and how you can support it on its journey. 

Sam: Thank you so much to both of you for taking the time to talk with me. I’d love to know, where did this idea for Support Haven start?

Beatrice: It started with a post within our Animas community - I realised that during this Covid-19 crisis, people are coming together to volunteer and support in their own time in various ways, and I was wondering how I can do the same using my expertise as a coach. The post resonated with so many other coaches in our community who all wanted to help others right now.

Overnight we found ourselves with over 100 coaches who felt inspired by this idea, and we started an initiative where we are each volunteering 2 hours of our time every week to support those impacted by Covid-19. I felt so inspired to see the values and generosity of the Animas community who all wanted to give back in this way.

I was very fortunate that Jenn, who is part of our Berlin community, stepped up on the very same day and we decided to co-facilitate this initiative together, as it had taken huge proportions overnight - I’m really glad that she said yes wholeheartedly and that’s how we got the ball rolling!

Jenn: And I’m so glad that Beatrice and I get to work together with so many caring coaches on this! As she mentioned, we call ourselves Co-facilitators and not co-leads. For people to be mobilised sometimes it helps for them to have a bit of structure or focus. Like with any group, group coaching for example, there needs to be some guidance and facilitation to get the wheels turning. We're helping people get out there to do what they want to do which is coach people who are feeling challenged by Covid-19.

It's been really fun to work behind the scenes on this, but as Beatrice mentioned this is really a representation of the intent, the goodwill, and the desire of our entire community of motivated coaches to mobilise and help.

S: And how would you summarise the goal and mission statement of this initiative?

J: The mission statement of Support Haven is to provide practical emotional support from life coaches for anyone feeling impacted by Covid-19. We want to support anyone who has been impacted by the current crisis. We really do mean anyone, but this might be healthcare and other key workers, business owners, professionals whose careers have been affected, parents, and even those who need support around grieving and bereavement.

These are just some examples of the people that are really important to us to serve and support at this time, but we want to help anyone that needs it.

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S: And what’s your vision for this initiative?

J: Our vision for Support Haven is ‘a global database of life coaches who have volunteered to provide pro bono coaching to those in need of support to find calm and ways forward.’ We stand united in our core initiative values: Compassion, Integrity, Empathy, Inclusivity, Progress.

B: It’s also about raising awareness that the coaching relationship is such a powerful, transformative tool, particularly during a time of crisis. Coaching is more widely known now, than it was 10 years ago, but still there are so many people who don't know what it is exactly, or how it works. I feel that creating this initiative is a fantastic opportunity to make people aware that there is support and that they don’t have to go through these challenges on their own.

While of course it’s not a solution to mental health conditions, when people struggle emotionally and want help, they often think ‘I need to go to my GP and find counselling’, but actually coaching being more solution-focused and about finding internal balance can be so, so powerful and supportive during this time. This is at the core of why we're doing this, to use our expertise to give back to the world.

S: That’s great! How many coaches are currently in the Support Haven database?

J: We have over 100 in the coach database signed up. Which is a lot! If you multiply that by what each coach is volunteering for, that's 2 hours of pro bono coaching a week x 100+ coaches, that's a significant amount of time providing support each week. We still have a long way to go, but one of our focus areas right now is getting the word out there and building awareness so we can reach people who need it.

Hopefully as we raise the awareness the momentum picks up and more of those sessions are booked so we can help as many people in need as possible.

B: Exactly - 2 hours may not seem like much to some people, but overall it adds up to a lot of time. And of course we all have a private practice and/or a job in our day-to-day life, so it’s important to find a balance between growing our own businesses, and giving back in a meaningful way.

Support Haven Coach Collage

S: You’ve shared a little about the brilliant response that you’ve had, but how did that feel and was that a surprise to you at all?

B: It was pretty shocking that it grew so quickly. We had so many people message us and wanting to join, and we could sense that it was going to start growing significantly overnight.

J: It was heartening I would say. When we saw how many people wanted to help, we were then more motivated and that momentum propelled us to move quickly on the initiative.

We launched the Facebook page and the coach database within 10 days of that first Sunday when Beatrice and I were chatting on Facebook messenger. From idea to launch was only 10 days. The reason being that we felt the energy of our coaches who wanted to help and we couldn't ignore what was in front of us. It was just so moving, and it propelled us to move forward on the initiative. It was truly galvanising.

S: How have you found the experience of running and setting up something like this?

J: For me, I've found it's been an amazing growth opportunity both for internal reflection and in working with others and building something from the ground up. I think as coaches and as people we want to help, but sometimes patterns can come up for us about wanting to do the best work and be perfect but we have all learnt to let go of this a little bit.

One of our mottos or team principles is 'done is better than perfect'. I think we recognise that the world right now is in an imperfect state. There are so many changes and so much uncertainty that there is no way that we can be perfect in all of this. Bringing a bit of that self-compassion into how we operate, build the initiative and work on this as a team and as a community has been a really helpful tool in making this all sustainable amongst everything else we are working on.

B: As we started this initiative, both Jenn and I were working on other things but we prioritised this because we knew that the most important thing in that first week was to launch this as quickly as possible, so we have invested a bit more of our time doing that. Though I remember in the first week Jenn and I were chatting and were both saying 'wow I've worked 10 hours today but I feel so energised' because it just felt so inspiring.

Talking of being inspired, I know that you're speaking with the two of us as co-facilitators, but actually so many people - probably two dozen other coaches, have stepped up to take various roles in this initiative, supporting us to make this happen in addition to the free coaching support they're offering. I feel that this galvanised us even more. Seeing so many messages like "How can I help? I have 30 years marketing experience, can I support you to create more awareness?" was really inspiring and energising.

I really felt I was running on passion in the first two weeks. It felt like everything fell into place to support us in creating this initiative.

S: That’s so good to hear. While we are touching on the Animas community, I wanted to ask how important Animas and the Animas community have been in getting this initiative going?

B: We’ve had so much support. We have had support from the Animas team, resounding support from the Animas community, and even in doing this interview with you it’s supporting this initiative in creating more awareness. So the whole Animas community has helped to shape this.

J: Also, even if people aren't in the initiative we know that they are resharing the Support Haven posts. Even if they say ‘hey I can't offer 2 hours a week pro bono’, or maybe they're not in the initiative themselves, we know of so many people within the Animas community sharing the Support Haven posts which is so helpful.

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S: What are the next steps for you and your goals for 2020?

B: When we started, it was almost like setting up a first aid tent in the middle of a crisis zone - where you need to act fast. So the priority in the beginning was speed, in order that we could get this support out there to people who need it.

The second stage was about creating a marketing strategy which Jenn led together with other coaches who stepped up to help implement the vision and goals. We now have something more structured in place to raise awareness and offer this free service to even more people.

J: Yeah, I agree. In the first few weeks it felt like creating a team of first responders and a list of people who would be first responders, and now we're in a state where we want to see Support Haven as a crisis clinic. It's not just a tent anymore, maybe it becomes a building. For how long the building will be open we're not sure, because there is no concrete timeline for this as the crisis develops.

That being said we have made a decision to keep Support Haven open for at least 3 months until at least the end of June 2020. The reason being is that's what the current world events are informing us, that we won't be out of this anytime soon. Whether this will live on beyond that, we are unsure but we have realised that what's important is that we just adapt as we go. Done is better than perfect. We are learning, as the world is learning, how to navigate this challenge.

We set this as a temporary time frame with a view that we will review what happens in 3 months, and obviously if the community wants to continue and there is still a need, then there is potential to extend.

S: I know that this is currently only open to Animas coaches, and so my last question is how can Animas coaches get involved. And for those that aren’t Animas coaches what can they do to spread awareness of Support Haven?

J: There are many ways people can get involved. Firstly, if you're an Animas coach and you'd like to volunteer and join the initiative you can join our Facebook group. We have a Facebook group that's separate from the main Support Haven page for coaches that have volunteered to help.

At the moment we’re focused on promoting the initiative so every share, like and comment helps spread the word. We are not taking more submissions at the moment but you can still join our private group if you’re an Animas coach and perhaps you can support this in a different way.

B: Yes! Spreading the word about this initiative whether by word of mouth, or by resharing our images and posts on social media. We really want as many people as possible to know about this so that we can support them to navigate these incredibly challenging times.

S: Beatrice, Jenn, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me, it’s a great initiative and I look forward to following Support Haven’s journey!

If you want to find out more about how you can support this initiative take a look at the Support Haven website, and follow their Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn for updates. 

Do you want to help others and make a difference to the world?

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