Shambhavi Manjrekar wears the name of a goddess, and she certainly beams with radiant energy. At the time of this interview Shambhavi had only been volunteering at Volunteer Wellington for one month. Yet she already knew the organisation’s ins and outs. No wonder: what started as a one day a week shift gradually turned into three days a week. Actually her motivation is such that you can find her around the office on most days!
‘There’s always something to do,’ she says. ‘The more you do, the more you learn.’ One of her main learning curves, she feels, is that she has become a ‘sharper listener’.
Her tasks include interviewing volunteer seekers hoping to find a volunteer opportunity. She has also taken on the following-up role which is a later communication with each person to discover how their efforts in the community sector are progressing. ‘This gives us a clear picture of how we are helping them on their volunteering path. Their motives may be to balance up their paid work or to develop skills which will lead to paid work.’ She likes the fact that her contribution is appreciated.
‘It’s already been a beautiful journey. It’s like a family here. I get to interact with so many people and build a rapport with them. I help them get comfortable because they can be a bit suspicious. – or shy – at first.’
It may be because she is herself a newcomer to this country that she understands her peers’ mindset intuitively. She left her native Mumbai and quit her position as an executive assistant to theIndiaTimes president last December, to join her husband inWellington. ‘Even before getting married, I was ready to relocate in India or abroad. I like taking risks,’ she says.
Not at all inclined to lead the ‘monotonous and idle life of a housewife’, she immediately started looking for work. But ‘finding paid employment here is like running a marathon! In spite of having a five-year experience with a well-known brand, a MBA in HR, and a valid work permit, all I have received so far are rejections,’ she says.
So she is learning to be patient, and keeping her spirits high. And since she hadn’t taken any time off in the past five years, she is enjoying the change of working environment.
“I understand New Zealand is a small niche market. Employers are looking for a kiwi experience or qualifications.’ Confident in her prospects and guided by a positive attitude, she intends, through volunteering, to get to know her new environment. So far, she appreciates peoples’ honesty. ‘I tell people that I am looking for work so that they can keep an eye out for me.’
Story and photos: Cécile Lepage