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I detect some nostalgia as Anah Aikman recounts her childhood on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.

“It was very much a village back then and everyone knew and supported each other,” she says.

Anah, a registered nurse, thinks society has lost something of the empathy, kindness, care and other values that underpinned our communities.

“We often miss these things because life is too busy, too stressful and we’re not focusing on creating those trusting relationships that underpin healthier communities.”

Photo credit: Max Paterson Valley Films

It was this notion that inspired Anah to set up Changing Lenses, an inaugural workshop event that looks at how empathy, culture and kindness translates into healthier communities.

It’s a topic that Anah has grown increasingly passionate about over the course of her career.

The defining point came after Anah embarked on a course in New York in 2013 to become the first international certified Integrative Nurse Coach outside the United States. She emerged with a greater understanding of the impact that values-based leadership, empathy and connectedness can have on communities and made it her goal to affect change in this area.

“I wanted to create a platform where we could have a conversation about values-based leadership,” she says.

And so Changing Lenses was born. The inaugural one-day event, set to take place in Christchurch on Friday 26 October, will take a conversation-based approach to these issues, with some highly acclaimed speakers leading the dialogue.

Anah is particularly delighted to have filmmaker and photographic ethnographer Carolyn Jones flying over from New York especially to speak at the event. Inspired by a personal experience in which a nurse helped her get through chemotherapy, Carolyn has spent the past seven years interviewing over 150 nurses in an effort to better understand the role that nurses have on our society.

Rachel Callander, author of Super Power Baby Project, and Emergency Medicine specialist Dr Summer Damuth Do will also join the speaking panel, who will also lead ‘On the Couch’ discussion sessions.

It is during these discussions that Anah expects most of the ‘a-ha!’ lightbulb moments will occur for attendees.

“Change only happens if we’re willing and we’re curious,” says Anah, “It’s very easy to become mediocre so it takes much more strength and courage to get outside of that.

“I totally feel that if we work together collaboratively, mindfully, that we will be able to create new conversations to help people start to make a change.”

She anticipates that those who come to the first Changing Lenses event will become future change agents for their communities and create a groundswell for change.

Anah envisages setting up a support group or forum for everyone who attends to help continue the conversation, and prompt smaller workshops in their communities.

Christchurch is a fitting venue for the inaugural event, and Anah hopes they’ll be able to give back to the Christchurch community in some way. Her dream is to take it nationally, via workshops, and then internationally.

The beauty of Changing Lenses is that it has relevance for every sector, including health, education, business, and community sectors. Anah says it will provide an opportunity for people who are curious about the topic or who are already resonating with the importance of how we interact with others and those values.

“If we’re going to lead better, we must look at how we respond internally. My mantra is about creating change from within. How we respond, how do others respond to us and how do we make that better and more trusting so that we have greater productivity, and respect and integrity for all?”

Changing Lenses will take place on Friday 26 October at The Piano, Christchurch. More information and ticket sales can be found here.

Photo credit: Max Paterson Valley Films
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