Tuesday, 05 Nov 2019

Healthy Harold helped my Dad stop smoking

Kristen Ameit; Healthy Harold Graduate

Kristen Amiet’s dad gave up cigarettes 20 years ago, thanks to a visit to Kristen’s school from the Life Education van. The Healthy Harold graduate and Junkee journalist shares her memories of seeing Healthy Harold in her hometown of Coonabarabran and what it means for kids in the bush to have this experience…


What school did you experience Life Education and Healthy Harold?
I grew up in Coonabarabran, in North-West NSW and saw Healthy Harold at St. Lawrence’s Central School.

Did your family and / or friends experience the program too?
Two of my older brothers attended the program, as did all of my school friends. Coona is a small town and my primary school only had about 150 kids from Kindergarten to Year 10, so we looked forward to it every year!

What do you remember learning from the visit?
The stuff I learned through Life Education – like the fact that the small intestine is about three times the length of our bodies – has served me very well on trivia nights!

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a marine biologist, a forensic scientist, or a florist.

What did you think were the hugest challenges for kids when you were at school?
Being from a rural area is great because you have a lot of freedom and you become really good at making the most of what you have – there are no malls to go to after school or beaches to hang out at on the weekend. But it can also be really challenging to make the leap to uni or certain careers because you basically have to move your whole life to do it. It can be pretty overwhelming when you’ve spent your entire life in a town where everyone knows your name (and your parents’ names, and your dog’s name…)

And what do you think are the greatest challenges for today’s kids?
I think it must be really hard to grow up in a world where everyone’s online all the time. I was about 13 when my family first got a computer, so I didn’t have to think about who I was on the internet or worry about how people saw me as I figured out who I was. Even now, when I spend the vast majority of my days on the internet, I consider who I am online to be separate from who I am in the real world – it must be really challenging to get to know yourself when there’s always someone to compare yourself to on the internet.

What impact did Healthy Harold lessons have on your health and safety choices growing up?
Healthy Harold taught me a lot about eating a balanced diet and the value of regular exercise, but the lesson that had the biggest impact on my life was one about the dangers of smoking. My dad had been a heavy smoker since long before I was born, but one day, I came home from Healthy Harold really upset that his habit was putting his health – and life – in serious danger. That day – almost 20 years ago! – he had his last cigarette and hasn’t touched one since.

And has that been something you’ve kept in mind as an adult?
Absolutely. I’ve never smoked and tell my dad’s story to anyone who will listen to show that, with a lot of willpower and the right support network, quitting is possible.

What is your career now and what inspired/motivated you to follow this path?
I studied journalism at university and worked in editorial (where I covered health for about two years) for the first five or so years of my career. For the last 18 months, I’ve been working in custom and branded content for a youth publisher called Junkee. Rather than becoming a scientist or a florist, I pursued a career in media because I really love storytelling in all its formats – in articles, videos, and even memes. The world is full of amazing stories, so I feel privileged to have the platform and the skills to ensure people hear them!


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