Simone Daher, the 311th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, feels blessed she gets to serve others and do work that makes a meaningful difference.

Simone is the CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities Sydney, which provides accommodation for sick and injured children, and their families, who have to travel more than 100 kilometres to Sydney for treatment.

Ronald McDonald House Charities play a vital role in our stretched healthcare system – and, sadly, demand for their services far exceeds supply. 

Simone feels enormous compassion and admiration for the parents, who face substantial pressures. Not only do they need to care for their sick children, and without their support network on hand; but they often face financial challenges as well, because if their child has an extended stay in hospital, they may need to take unpaid leave or lose their job.

How, I wondered, do Simone and her team stay grounded in such an emotionally charged environment? Mainly by focusing on the mission, she said, and also, where possible, looking for opportunities to laugh during the work day. At the same time, Simone said there are occasions when she cries on her drive home.

Earlier in her career, Simone served as practice manager of a medical centre. In 2006, when she applied for a house manager role at Ronald McDonald House Charities Greater Western Sydney, she told her husband after the interview that it felt like she’d found her home. In 2017, she was appointed to her current role.

What struck me during my lunch with Simone was just how much of her heart she puts into her work. It’s not a job, but a calling.