The Volunteer Connect Award for newcomers – a collaborative project between Volunteer Wellington, Settlement Support and Wellington Central CAB – was launched last year during Volunteer Awareness Week. At exactly the same time this year (the third week in June) the first 11 graduates from the programme were presented with their certificates.
The award is a way of encouraging newcomers to participate in community activity through volunteering and taking part in seminars and workshops which add to local knowledge. Points are given for each activity and when 100 have been achieved the newcomer is eligible to receive a Volunteer Connect Award certificate.
Neha Saoji, a newcomer who has volunteered with a number of communities since her arrival in New Zealand Aotearoa, was among those who recently received their certificate.
Newly married and having just graduated with MBA in human resources, Neha came to Wellington from Pune in India in 2010. ‘I was beginning my married life and my professional life in a completely new environment,’ she said adding that it could have been a nightmare.
‘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 ‘ball started rolling’ with a social media role at Volunteering New Zealand. By then she was intrigued with the community sector and soon was involved with a number of other Volunteer Wellington members.
Among them was data entry with Scouts NZ, Human Resources work with Presbyterian Support Central, interviewing with Volunteer Wellington and further data entry with Arthritis New Zealand. ‘The people and managers of volunteers 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.’
This experience has now led to full-time paid employment with Adworx Media. She now says that some of this volunteering – especially the interviewing of other volunteer seekers – ‘was the most awesome thing I have ever done. Every person taught me something new – every conversation was special’.
She has entered with workforce with more knowledge of the local community than most locals. ‘Once I am used to 40 hours a week I will return to some volunteering after work.’
Others who received certificates were from Thailand, China, Colombia, Vietnam and Egypt. All have similar stories to Neha. Volunteering has made them feel they belong. Volunteer Wellington is grateful to Family Community Services and the Ministry of Social Development for funding support which enables our work with settling-in projects to take place.
For more information ring Volunteer Wellington 4994572.