Leanne Long (née van der Leeuw, Class of 1981) is a busy and energetic lady with a great enthusiasm for life! She lives in Bedfordshire, England with her husband, Tim, an Educational Psychologist, as well as her two dogs, Yoda and Scooby, and cat, Ruby. Leanne is a mom to two daughters, Kate (22) and Amy (20). Kate is currently studying towards her Masters in International Relations at Durham University and Amy is at college doing Outdoor Adventure.
Leanne works for World Vision, a global poverty relief and development charity, where she leads on Culture and Capability (which roughly translates to leadership, performance management, development, communications, faith at work and organisational ethos.)
Leanne enjoys running her local Parkrun on weekends, baking (and eating!) up a storm in the kitchen and getting involved at church, which she describes as being “big and lively!” She has recently completed an MSc in Strategy, Leadership and Change and is a trustee of several charities, including Food Bank. The Long family love camping and hiking in the Lake District, and Leanne’s ultimate dream is someday retiring there to run a café!
It was such a pleasure to catch up with this inspiring lady for this month’s Heart to Heart. Take a look at what she says:
What have you done since leaving school?
A lot of different things. I have had a career hopscotch, rather than a career path! However, it’s all been interesting and worthwhile. My basic degree in Performing Arts at Wits lead to teaching Drama and English at several Maritzburg schools (sadly not St John’s D.S.G.) before lecturing in the Education faculty at the University of Natal for 10 years, with a M.Ed and some textbook writing thrown in as well.
A move to the UK in 2000 meant a shift into project management, strategy and policy work, as well as organisational development, initially in Children’s Services in local government, and then in the charity sector. Outside of work, I ran a small project in my church taking Bible story assemblies into my kids’ schools, growing it into a national success story. Open the Book is now in over 20% of primary schools across the UK with over 15 000 volunteers. I survived cancer in my early 40s, thanks to the grace of God, and so I make sure to maximise my second chance. We have travelled a lot as a family, including a road trip in our vintage pop-up across Europe, all the way to Dubrovnik.
What did you love most about St John’s D.S.G.?
It was small enough that you could get involved in everything – so I did! Sport (even the ones I wasn’t very good at), music, social concern outreach, chapel, even a bit of academics now and then. The then brand new, state-of-the-art Theatre was my happy place – Drama, school plays, public speaking, debating… but I must say that I was also quite keen on the socials we used to have with the various boys’ schools!
What does success mean to you and how did St John’s D.S.G. equip you for life after school?
Success for me is an internal thing and doesn’t require validation by fickle external measures, like an important title or a high salary. I feel successful when I know I have added value by being involved in something, when I recognise that I have invested my best skill and energy into things that matter, and I can see the ever-widening positive ripples going out from my efforts. I mostly didn’t recognise how St John’s D.S.G. equipped me until much later on in life. I just enjoyed the stimulation of school and kinda sailed through it; life seemed a lot less pressured back then. Apart from teaching me to think and learn, I think St John’s D.S.G. instilled in me the importance of a value-based life, about knowing your ‘true North’ and staying aligned to that as life swirls around you. The school also gave me space for my love of reading, words and expressing myself.
What advice do you have for our current girls and their families?
Recognise how blessed you are to be in such an authentic environment and seize all the richness these years offer – not in a pressurised, driven way, but for the sheer joy of it. Who you become as a person will always outweigh what you do or achieve, so make sure you invest in growing and maturing the ‘inner’ you. And enjoy the process, because it’s lifelong.