Keri’s tears of happiness

Mar 26, 2018 | Blog Articles

Keri writes about her role at Quest – the only job that ever drove her to tears of happiness


Over the years I’ve worked in government and non-government and just when I thought retirement might be beckoning, I ended up working for a charity, this charity, the Quest for Life Foundation.

We run education programs for people living with the challenges of cancer, chronic illness, loss, grief, trauma, anxiety and depression. What I’ve learnt since working here is there’s no right or wrong way to feel or to think and it’s not about comparing what has happened in your life with someone else’s, it’s about learning how to find peace in your own.

Our Moving Beyond Trauma program, for people living with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), ran last week. There were 11 men and women in the group. My job at Quest doesn’t require me to have any knowledge of people’s stories so unless they tell me themselves I don’t know why they’re on the program. What I do know, however, is how much courage is required for them to get here. My basic knowledge of people living with PTSD is that they try an assortment of ways to help them feel better. In fact, it seems to me, they are so desperate to feel better, they will try anything.

Esther McKay, a former forensic police officer with the NSW Police helped to develop our Moving Beyond Trauma program. Esther was medically discharged from the NSW Police with PTSD. Her personal experience, insight and knowledge helped produce a program that has helped many people since it began at Quest. The results of our evaluation process support just how much the program helps.


I don’t have the personal experience, the insider knowledge or the qualifications of our team, I just play a small role. On Monday, I take the Quest van down to Bundanoon train station and meet program participants. They’re usually quiet or sometimes visibly emotional. They’ve been told what to expect, but they’re nervous, doubting and, I think, probably frightened.

I see them over the course of the week either in the dining room or perhaps walking around the nine acres of the property, sometimes alone sometimes with others. By Wednesday, I notice the noise level in the dining room has increased as, I imagine, they start to trust each other.

By Friday afternoon I return very different people to the train station. The change in them is visible. Not only are they chatting to each other, swapping contact details and taking photos, they’re also talking about and planning for the future. From looking hunched over and broken when they arrive to standing up straighter, smiling and laughing and looking hopeful. The change never ceases to move me.

Government holds the purse strings, non-government organisations and charities touch the lives. Vastly different jobs but only one that ever drove me to tears of happiness.
– written by Keri Ahmet, Executive Assistant to Petrea 

Learn more about Moving Beyond Trauma