NEHA SAOJI came to Wellington from Pune in India in 2010. She was entering a new phase of her life in more ways than one. An NBA graduate in human resources and a new bride she was leaving her home state of Maharastra for the first time.
She flew alone to New Zealand to be met by her husband already working her in the IT field. ‘I was beginning my married life and my professional life in a completely new environment,’ she said one year later. It could all have been a nightmare. Then she grinned.
‘Frankly speaking I found a home away from home.’ The breakthrough came quickly when a friend suggested going to VOLUNTEER WELLINGTON to find a volunteering role. The interviews which followed (Neha became such an enthusiastic volunteer that she came back for a further interview to find more positions) led to an interestingly diverse list.
VOLUNTEERING NEW ZEALAND started the ball rolling with an online social media role once a week working with Branka Cicak, the communications officer. Neha’s husband gave her some IT advice and she was on her way. She set up a Wikipedia page for the organisation and continued to do weekly updates.
Next came data entry with SCOUTING NZ, HR work with PRESBYTERIAN SUPPORT CENTRAL, interviewing with VOLUNTEER WELLINGTON; and later more data entry with ARTHRITIS NZ. Neha’s week was full and all the time she was learning and meeting new people.
‘The people and managers at every one of these places gave me a feeling of belonging. I always felt I was treated as one of the staff – properly equal.’
Her C.V. was very short upon arrival; now she says it covers ‘quite a few pages’. This evidence of a New Zealand working experience (demanded by so many employers) paid off with a part-time job fitted into the voluntary mix, with Adworx Media, becoming a full-time position at the time of this interview.
‘The volunteering – especially with VOLUNTEERING NZ because of the social media work – got me my job,’ she said. ‘Once I’m used to 40 hours a week I will hopefully be able to come back to interviewing with VOLUNTEER WELLINGTON. This was the most awesome thing I have ever done. Every person I met taught me something new – every conversation was special.’
Neha entered the paid workforce with more knowledge of the Wellington community than most locals. Other involvements during her full volunteering career were one-off projects which included work with WELLINGTON CITY MISSION, International Volunteer Day and a promotional expo at MASSEY UNIVERSITY. She put her skills and heart into these positions. ‘There is no difference in effort from a paid job,’ she said. ‘Maybe more space to enjoy and learn – and feel supported by the people around.’