30 June 2023

People of Parent to Parent Celebration!

In the run-up to our 40th Anniversary Celebration in November, we hope you enjoy our series of fun, fortieth-themed interviews with the People of Parent to Parent.

Meet and greet

Karen Miles, Chief Executive of Parent to Parent is no stranger to high-level management or supporting families on the ground. With a degree in psychology, family counselling expertise, and experience across family-led services and corporate change management, Karen has spent the past forty years traversing the globe to support people through challenges.

From Canada to New Zealand, Australia and Micronesia, Karen has set up services where there were previously none and led the drive to create family-centred models of disability support. Meet Parent to Parent’s very own Mary Poppins.


Can you tell us you’re a parent without telling us you’re a parent?

In five minutes I can create a full day of activities for large groups of children from my craft bag, which is always within reach. I call it my Mary Poppins bag.

I used to love to create all these craft stations for a soccer team who would come to our home during school holidays—so everybody was busy for the day. And to keep children occupied for several hours on plane trips, I’d take along my bag full of stickers, coloured card, craft sticksa whole variety of things so we could get creative on the fly ✈️.

I’ve been known to sing a tune or two from Mary Poppins too—A Spoon Full of Sugar, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious—as I pull out lots of bits and bobs and create an activity, or game, or team challenge. It’s all about bringing some magic to the everyday, because that’s what parents learn to do, isn’t it?

Tell us your age without telling us your age (and, to make it extra tricky, you must use the number 40).

My favourite song when I turned 40 was Fallin’ by Alicia Keys. My favourite musicals at the time were Mamma Mia and Les Miserables.

X 40th Celebration multiplication X

 Tell us about 4 Parent to Parent initiatives you’re planning for the next 4 years.

  1. Delivery of our three-year Strategic Plan (2022-25), which focuses on our parent and whānau connections. We have a list of core areas, but probably the most important part is to connect families with change. And in that information exchange space, focusing on our grassroots: empowering parents and whānau at the local level, to envision and plan a good, inclusive life for their child and whānau.
  2. To continue to strengthen Parent to Parent’s structure, partnerships and services in meaningful and valuable ways, so we are responsive to the evolving needs of parents, whānau and communities. We will be integrating the EGL principles while meeting families where they’re at, in terms of what works best for them at any given time.
  3. To grow in the advocacy space, to ensure that our family voices are heard and are in the driving seat in terms of community conversations and positive changes in their communities.
  4. To raise our profile so more whānau have access to our services, as and when they need us. Despite our 40-year history, our reputation amongst those who know us, and the millions of information packs we’ve supplied over the years, many people still aren’t aware of us, or the services we provide. We want everyone to know we’re here, and how we can help.

In x10 words, could you explain to me to us what you love most about Parent to Parent?

Working alongside our incredible families and Parent to Parent team.

Tell us about 4 people who have inspired you to do the work you do.

  1. My first inspiration in this space was my sister, who had a disability and has sadly passed. She had a wonderful view of the world: always seeing life as an opportunity to learn and grow. She had tremendous tenacity and an ability to overcome obstacles, in a determined yet gentle manner.
  2. Stephen Hawkins, because he’s an icon of my generation, and for his humility. His quote, ‘The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance. It’s the illusion of knowledge,’ really chimes with me. I’ve studied in the psych, relationship and family therapy areas. But the more I studied, the more I appreciated the limits of my knowledge, which inspired me to learn more!
  3. Another person would be Oprah. Again, she’s someone of my generation who was constantly opening me up to new ways of thinking and personal growth. Particularly by introducing new thought leaders, whether it was Eckhart Tolle or Marianne Williamson or Brené Brown.
  4. And last, but by no means least, my immediate family—my husband and son, who are my daily source of inspiration and support, always encouraging me to pursue work that I truly love.

Finally, could you give us a x10-second elevator pitch about where you see Parent to Parent in another 40 years?

In 40 years’ time I hope we’re holding a very different space, in a world that has realised full inclusion. In such a world, Parent to Parent’s thought leadership role would be, ‘How do we realise the true potential of everyone working together?’ That’s when the magic will happen: when the combined power of an inclusive society creates team synergy, to improve the lives of everyone. 1+1+1 could equal 5… then we really will be flying!

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