the story of exchange
Exchange Foundation was founded by Kat Alexander in 2015. Kat, who has grown up with a deep Christian faith, was moved when she was alerted to the suffering of women with severe trauma in her own community, to leave her career in design and work with women in trauma recovery programs.
kat's personal story
It was in January 2004 that my eyes were opened. I was volunteering as a connector at a counselling drop-in tent at Parachute Music Festival in New Zealand. As a graphic designer, the extent of my experience with people in need was volunteer youth work and the basic course the festival team gave us in preparation time.
After a long weekend, my very last connection was a young woman who was severely depressed, lonely, and had been self harming. Knowing the issue was beyond my level, I called in the psychologist and we went to a private counselling area to finish our conversation. The psychologist asked the young woman if she could show us where she had been harming herself. She lifted the leg of her shorts to reveal many wounds on her upper thigh. I was shocked, I had never seen anything like it. Not just shallow scratches, but deep, wide wounds.
On the drive home that day I was distraught. I never knew how far the effects of abuse could cause someone to suffer. I cried and prayed and asked Jesus to speak to me, and he did. He spoke to me so clearly it was unmistakeable : I was asked to leave my career and my country and go overseas to work for a leading organisation treating women who were suffering from the effects of trauma. On the 1st of November 2004, I touched down in Australia to begin my journey of caring for these beautiful, brave, young women.
My work with women continued for many years in various not-for-profit roles including rehabilitation centres, church based womens ministry, international community development. It was in 2014 that God spoke to me again and asked me to use my wealth of experience gained over the decade to create a unique solution for women in crisis. The need was and is still overwhelming.
After a pre-launch of Exchange Foundation in late 2015, I went through a life crisis of my own that turned my world upside down, my life would never be the same. In 2016 I experienced a very traumatic family situation and through time I developed c-PTSD, panic attacks, chronic insomnia disorder, and in 2017 I had a stress induced heart attack. Although I had been through many difficulties in life, I had never experienced the level of trauma that I suffered during this season.
Throughout that traumatic time, I had a deeply moving experience of the suffering of the women I had worked with, and would be working with in the future. There were months where every day I would wake in panic feeling like I would not survive the trauma, every day was a battle to coach myself to believe that I would get through it and be able to help others going through the same. What kept me going was the presence of my Jesus in my darkest times and the unshakeable faith he had given me.
With the support of my GP, psychologist, counsellor, mentors, friends, and most importantly my relationship with God, I was able to recover from c-PTSD by late 2018. This was incredible to me and the support network around me, as many people suffer from the aftermath of trauma for many years. There is deep truth, pure gold, I gained during the trauma and in recovery that I could not have learned any other way.
Over the past seven years, though huge trials, Kat has worked with dedication to set up this charity as a beacon of hope for women struggling with mental health problems and domestic violence. In the past two years, particularly since our relaunch, we have been able to help many women and their families get back on track by giving them practical assistance, hope and relief.
We have helped women plan their health treatment journeys with medical professionals; we have supported them with clearly mapped out pathways to wellness; we have transported women to appointments; we have helped women going to court for domestic violence, including attending as support persons; we have connected women with churches and new friends; we have even made meals and sent cleaners to the homes of women in need. We should mention too that our work has extended to many men in the process, as part of our mandate to help the whole family unit and community.
Through this work Kat has personally had the privilege of mentoring women to unlock their value and worth, their God-given identity, through my training as a behavioural analyst. She has spent countless hours mentoring, advising and referring women to organisations and professionals who would best help them recover.
We have not shared any of these women’s stories publicly, firstly because of confidentiality and secondly because their journeys are not yet done! We never wanted to be a charity that pressured people into telling any part of their story for marketing and we never will. At Exchange Foundation we understand that for every person, their stories are their own and theirs to tell when or if they are ready.
We know with mental health, it can be a very long road. So, Exchange Foundation has played only a part in each woman's life to create a new legacy of hope, for their future and the future of their children. Please be assured, dear friends, that your support has been so appreciated and really has made such a difference.
The time has came in 2022 for Kat, as the founder, to hand over this organisation to a team with the passion to take this dream into the future. She has found in this season of my life that she really wants to be a present and available mother to her children, to give them the best platform to thrive into adulthood.
Our new team has a wealth of experience and really great vision for helping vulnerable women in the future. You can continue to support us with your prayers and by attending upcoming events, AND! we would love you to continue to support us by donating at exchangefoundation.org.au/donate
Once again, we are grateful for your support and love over the years!