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Heaven & Hell with Kirsty Pitcher of The Benjamin Foundation

PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 August 2020

Kirsty Pitcher, interim chief operating officer of The Benjamin Foundation. Picture: The Benjamin Foundation

Kirsty Pitcher, interim chief operating officer of The Benjamin Foundation. Picture: The Benjamin Foundation

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Kirsty Pitcher, interim chief operating officer of The Benjamin Foundation, shares her East Anglian Heaven and Hell with Gina Long.

Kirsty Pitcher, interim chief operating officer of The Benjamin Foundation. Picture: The Benjamin FoundationKirsty Pitcher, interim chief operating officer of The Benjamin Foundation. Picture: The Benjamin Foundation

Kirsty Pitcher is interim chief operating officer of The Benjamin Foundation, which was founded in 1994. Her background is in education social work and she worked for a local authority for 12 years. She joined the foundation, which works to prevent youth homelessness, and offers emotional wellbeing support and provides positive activities for young people with limited opportunities in 2010. Their work brings hope, opportunity, stability and independence. Here she talks with Gina Long MBE.

What’s the impact of Covid-19 on your foundation and how are you adapting?

Like all charities, we have been significantly affected by Covid-19. Our priorities have been to continue supporting children, young people and families whilst keeping our staff safe and well. I am immensely proud of our amazing staff team for adapting to new ways of working, embracing online technologies and finding a way to work with children and young people whilst social distancing.

The Benjamin Foundation has three furniture stores in Norfolk and two re-use shops in Suffolk, all of which were closed for three months and we are working harder than ever to make sure that we are financially secure for the future.

What advice can you give to our readers during Covid-19?

It is the same advice that we already know; be kind to one another. Be kind when you don’t understand, be kind when you are frustrated about the rules and be kind when you consider the impact on others.

What is your connection to East Anglia?

I was born and raised in north Norfolk. I left for university and then settled in the North West but always came back to Norfolk for holidays and fell in love with the area all over again. Hence moving back to work at The Benjamin Foundation. It’s now where my husband and I raise our two children, where we enjoy walking, canoeing, camping and chocolate cake!

What is your East Anglian Heaven?

It’s a cliché, but I love the wide open skies, the landscape, the coast, the Norfolk Broads and the people.

What is your East Anglian Hell?

I really hate queueing in traffic to get over the Wroxham bridge and avoiding people in the middle of the road there – I would like my own personal tunnel.

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?

There are lots to choose from but Norwich Cathedral is an iconic skyline symbol that evokes a calm feeling in me.

What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?

As well as the county shows and festivals I really like the smaller, local fetes and fairs.

What’s your specialist Mastermind subject?

Books, especially books with similar titles. I am in a small book club and am renowned for heading off and reading the wrong books but with similar titles, such as “Girl on the Bus” instead of “Girl on the Train”. I am an avid reader but must admit that I never finished Middlemarch. We had decided to read some classics and I really tried but eventually gave up and now I never believe anyone who says they love it!

What is always in your fridge?

There is always cheese in my fridge. My daughters are both keen swimmers and they train a lot and eat a lot so although I try to keep the fridge well stocked sometimes it looks a bit bare, except for the cheese.

What’s your simple philosophy of life?

Give energy to the positives and celebrate everyone’s unique greatness. At The Benjamin Foundation we have embedded the Nurtured Heart Approach and it really resonates in my personal as well as professional life. In 2019 I was fortunate to speak at a global conference in New Jersey, USA and heard so many inspirational stories about using this approach to build stronger relationships for individuals and families.

What’s your favourite film?

Mamma Mia – for its sheer sing-along cheesiness and for being a film that is loved by the different generations of females in my family.

What was your first job?

I worked part time as a waitress, first of all at a holiday camp on the North Norfolk coast and then when I went to university I got a job at Chester Zoo. I loved seeing all the animals before the crowds arrived each day. I did spend a day picking mange tout somewhere in the depths of Norfolk but I wasn’t very good at it and my friend and I decided not to go back as we only earned £3.

What is your most treasured possession?

I have a powder blue retro style fridge freezer that I bought from one of The Benjamin Foundation’s second hand furniture and electrical stores. I know it is just a possession and far less important than people but I just love it.

Who do you admire most?

One of the people I admire most is Maya Angelou, author, poet and activist. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. The internet is peppered with notable quotes from her, but it was when I listened to a dramatisation of her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings that my admiration grew to a deeper level.

What is your biggest indulgence?

You already know that I like cheese. I also drink too much caffeinated fizzy drink. I have never drunk tea or coffee, which most people find unusual but there are more of us out there than you realise. We should start a club to talk about how to deal with social situations when people assume you will have a hot drink and you don’t want to appear rude.

What do you like about yourself most?

I think that I can communicate well. I like engaging with people whether it is one to one or delivering training to a small group or a whole auditorium full.

What’s your worst character trait?

I am impatient. I don’t like waiting in queues and I don’t like it when things don’t work, especially the internet when I am in the middle of an online meeting.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

Camping with my family in France. We like exploring new places and don’t tend to visit the same area twice. My first holiday as a child was camping in Suffolk and I’ve loved it ever since.

Best day of your life?

My wedding day, obviously, because I married my amazing husband but also because it was an incredible party with family and friends. I spent the whole day grinning. My late father in law described it as one of the best days of his life and I feel honoured by that.

What’s your favourite breakfast?

I have never been great about breakfast. Growing up in the 1980s, my mum gave in and 
let me have a mini milk before school sometimes! When I was on a trip with my book club in Amsterdam (there are books set there so it was classed as an educational visit) we found a great café where I had the best eggs Benedict ever.

What’s your favourite tipple?

An Aperol Spritz. It’s such a lovely orange colour, it comes in a large glass and tastes of summer.

What’s your hidden talent?

I can fit an awful lot of marshmallows in my mouth and say ‘chubby bunnies’. I learnt that in the Girl Guides.

What’s your earliest memory?

Going to school on the back of my Dad’s bicycle aged four. I remember the feel of the metal seat and the wind in my hair along with the slight fear of him going too fast.

Tell us something people don’t know about you?

I have a fear of cows. When I did my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expedition in Suffolk a school friend told me to walk calmly as the cows were heading towards us but she was running past me as she said it. We also walked through a field with horses in the distance only to find out they were bullocks and we were not on the footpath at all.

What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

When friends and family have shared that they have cancer. Some have survived and it has spurred them on to achieve a new level of greatness but others have sadly died.

Tell us why you live here and nowhere else?

I love having access to the countryside but being near the amenities of Norwich. During Covid-19 I have been immensely grateful for the East Anglian countryside.

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

The Benjamin Foundation supports in the region of 2,000 local young people, children and families every year. If you’re in a position to help a charity, please do consider us. We’re always immensely thankful for the support we receive, but especially so during the challenging times as a result of Covid. If you’d like to learn more about us, please visit benjaminfoundation.co.uk

If you would like to be considered to be featured email gina@hallfarmfornham.com or follow Gina @geewizzgee1.


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