Superwoman: A woman who fulfills her many roles with apparently superhuman efficiency.
Collins English Dictionary
Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
Kathy Barnett shares loves with those in need
If you attend one of the women’s groups charity events – you will probably see Kathy. She doesn’t miss an opportunity to socialise for a good cause. After maintaining a busy life in New Zealand, in 1999 she and her husband found themselves starting a whole new life experience in Thailand, and welfare involvement became a big part of it.
The twin sisters back in their singing days
“I am always inspired by those with the biggest hearts”, says Kathy Barnett. “You meet many living in this exotic place. I am sometime too compassionate … something I have yet to grow out of.
Thailand has been a huge inspiration in my life, it is why I have to stay.”
I first met Kathy a few years ago, when I attended the quarterly inter-women meeting with the presidents of all the international women’s groups in Bangkok. Everyone on her turn introduced herself, and said which organisation/group she represents. Kathy had 3 or 4 ‘hats’ – she represented a few groups under different roles. And she sounded so passionate about each group and charity activity she was involved with. ‘Wow’, I thought to myself, ‘This lady never rests’.
After serving as the president of the Australian
New Zealand Women’s Group (ANZWG), president of the Soroptimist’s club, secretary and scholarship foundation volunteer of IWC (International Women’s Group) and representing Thailand in APEC – Kathy still claims that her life in Thailand is quite simple. Simple? It doesn’t look simple to me.
Back home, in New Zealand, she feels she was much busier. “I had been teaching young teens at a private school in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. I was also a director of our family Champagne importing company, and ran another company, which rented Italian villas to Kiwis and required me to travel every year to Italy for inspection. I also took care of our 2 acre garden, which was shared with a German Shepherd. Life was extremely busy for me and my husband Justin”, Kathy explains.
Tell me about your first steps in Thailand
“Arriving in Bangkok in 1999, and knowing no one, I was determined to be part of my new world, and to get involved with charity works.
Justin and I first, with the help of a Thai neighbour, helped rebuild a temple and one of its Buddhas in Dao Kanong. This experience gave me an insight into Thai life.
Baby milk powder project in Klong Toey
I then joined ANZWG as a member. Twice a week a group of us went to Pakkred Orphanage. There I met many different nationalities who were all involved with hugging and loving the babies. I quickly joined the ANZWG committee and within 18 months was President for 2 years.
I also joined book clubs and the National Museum Volunteers Group (a must for anyone staying in Bangkok).
My life was beginning to be full and interesting.”
ANZWG charity event
You were involved along the years with many charity activities, how did this enthusiasm start?
“While being ANZWG President the thing I loved the most was being involved with all the welfare activities.
I travelled and saw all the work that ANZWG was involved with in those days. Once your heart has been opened to this, you can never let it go.
In my former life, I have travelled extensively and also managed to live in America, Canada and England. But in Thailand it has been the first time that I have been able to help others.
Thailand gave me the opportunity for ‘hands on experiences’. Being able to help, and share love to all of those in need fulfils my every need.”
Since the first time I met you I was impressed by the fact that you are very involved with different roles in many social clubs and projects. And you seem passionate about them all. What projects keep you busy nowadays and in the last few years?
“While being ANZWG President, I was invited to lunch at the Australian Ambassador’s residence. Here I met many other Presidents and Thai women, one of whom was a Senator; after telling her what I had been doing the past few years, she invited me to be part of the APEC women’s conference being held in Chiang Mai that year. I would be representing Thailand. I loved it.
All nationalities shared the idea of the ‘universal women’, and after 4 days of conferencing and making many friends, I loved the idea of empowering women for the better of all societies. Sadly I learned that only a few of our motions were accepted by the actual APEC conference later held in Bangkok.
Once back in Bangkok I was asked to talk to some different groups about my experience. I met the two Soroptimist International clubs. (i.e. SORO=sister, OPTA=the best) and later joined the SI Dusit club. I have been President for 3 terms, was National Representative for Thailand for 4 years and have joined many conferences for our federation SI South West Pacific. (SISWP).
I also belong to the International Women’s Club (IWC). I rejoined a few years ago and was acting secretary and then correspondence secretary. I am also on the IWC scholarship foundation.”
Being able to help, and share love to all of those in need fulfils my every need.”
It seems you are a very busy woman …
“Apart from attending meetings, playing golf, socialising and catching up on correspondence, my life is quite simple. Back home I worked, taught, went to the gym 4 times a week, walked the dog, did the garden, ran two businesses, did all the housework, and enjoyed time with my friends. Here in Thailand I am getting lazier.”
With scholarship SI Dusit students from the hilltribes
Enjoying golf with the girls
Do you take time off? What do you do then? How do you pamper yourself?
“Friends, golf, reading, computer games, drinking wine and eating the superb assortment of food in Thailand, plus the frequent trips to London to see my son and my daughter’s little family.”
What drives you?
“Loving life and people. I do love time with myself, but a part of me would die if I could not share my joy with others.”
Two years ago you changed status to a grandma. Your grandchild lives in London. How is it to be a grandma on a remote control?
“I have always loved children. I have loved teaching them, so the ultimate joy is now to be a grandmother. I Facetime many times a week, and my wee Lanchai (grandson) is adorable – words cannot describe all the feelings and amount of joy one gets from this experience.
My friends know how Gaga I can get. At the end of this year I will have two grandsons under two years. There is a busy time ahead for me as a grandmother.”
Tell me a little about your own childhood. What type of child have you been? What kind of childhood you have experienced?
“I was lucky enough to be born a twin. To always have a best mate by your side is beyond words. We are identical mirror twins, i.e. she is left handed while I am right handed, etc.
We did everything together. We were never allowed to be bad tempered or disagreeable and our parents hugged and kissed us every morning and before bedtime.
Being brought up on a sheep farm we always had each other to rely on. From a very early age we sang for hours a day together, and taught ourselves the guitar. As we got older we sang, performed at concerts and did an annual TV stint. At teachers college and university we modelled for extra cash, and really had a great time. The only really huge shock to our life, was our mother dying of cancer when we turned 21 years. One of my greatest regrets is not having this angel any longer in our lives.
becoming a grandma
She was not there for my children, and so I just do things as I know she would have loved to have done.”
Who is Kathy that not everyone knows?
“Oh … I keep that to myself. I hate bullies, cruelty, and those who insist on an argument. I just keep away. I am very spiritual.”
What are you proud of?
“I am very proud of my family. I love and adore them all. I am also lucky that I have been given the chance of a second marriage after 22 years – the magic is still there and I know how blessed I am.”
Your top tip to inspire other expat women in a foreign city?
“1 + 1 = 2; but in some countries 3 – 1 = 2. Learn to accept that they may do it differently while the answer can be the same. Do not judge too early.”
Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?
“Just loving life, here, in Thailand.”