Mahua Choudhuryand Paramjit Ghuliani are bright, highly qualified young women from different parts of India who have ended up during the past couple of years in Wellington and are now good friends. Both have husbands who work in IT with Telecom. Mahua comes from Hyderabad and Paramjit, Mumbai.
Their stories and their past experiences have veered in different directions but, when this interview took place, both had a strong sense of purpose in common. They had been volunteering for some months with Volunteer Wellington – Mahua as an interviewer and Paramjit an administrator.
‘After I arrived in New Zealand, I initially felt isolated and useless,’ said Mahua. ‘I’d watch people rushing to work and think why aren’t I doing that too.’ With a small child and a completely changed culture and workplace, this was not possible. Despite her previous background with sales, marketing and education she lacked confidence. ‘I was not prepared yet.’
During a stint in Delhi she was introduced to volunteering through a teaching organisation set up by the famous police commissioner, Kiran Bedi, (who changed the face of the largest prison in India through the power of volunteers). The spirit – and the value of voluntary effort – had entered her thinking.
Firstly through a positive experience with a local playgroup she was helped ‘in this communication with Kiwis’. Her next step was to ‘prove myself’. This she chose to do through volunteering.
Paramjit’s career in India involved human resources and later lecturing at a leading Mumbai university in both economics and HR. She has had to overcome a number of adverse circumstances since arriving in New Zealand with her young school age daughter and joining her husband. A process of rebuilding was needed, she said.
When her husband first came here without his family, challenging work was no problem – something to do in the weekends was. He volunteered for a conservation group and it was he who suggested to Paramjit, a visit to Volunteer Wellington. ‘I wanted to mingle with the people, form stable relationships.’
Both women talked together about their joint ‘volunteer outcomes’ on the eve of departing to paid employment. ‘I would never never have met so many people from so many different cultures if I had not been an interviewer here,’ said Mahua. ‘Every person has a story to tell – I felt great happiness when people said thank you for giving me direction and referrals on into the community.’
Paramjit agreed. ‘It’s this interaction which has helped us find ourselves again. A welcoming place, encouraging training. We have been given the tools to build our confidence. So it’s not bye bye…we are keeping our doors open behind.’
from Volunteer Wellington