Volunteering for settlement success
When Paramjit Ghuliani first set foot on New Zealand soil she felt completely lost.
Paramjit and her school-age daughter Jasleen followed her husband Gurdip Singh to Wellington, where he works as a business analyst for Telecom.
She left behind family and a career that involved human resources and later lecturing at a leading Mumbai University in both economics and HR.
“I felt a sense of loss having left my family, I lost my confidence, I was totally lost when it came to the New Zealand culture and I was definitely not ready for work.
“It was a huge adjustment for me, it was like starting life from scratch all over again,” says Paramjit.
After some encouragement from husband Gurdip, she paid a visit to Volunteer Wellington, a visit that has changed her life.
“I started out volunteering there once a week. It was a huge step at the time because I wasn’t ready to socialise with anybody, I was feeling quite negative.”
But as an administrator at Volunteer Wellington Paramjit found herself surrounded by welcoming, friendly people, both volunteers and users of the service, an environment that helped her regain confidence.
“Talking to so many people from so many different cultures and helping others helped me to find myself again, it was life-changing.”
Paramjit then went on to volunteer for other organisations, namely Diabetes Wellington, Wellington Citizen’s Advice Bureau and New Zealand Scouts, in similar roles.
And that volunteer work has ultimately led to paid employment, firstly with Canteen, then to the Earthquake Commission during the Christchurch earthquake and most recently Paramjit has secured a fulltime office support role for ANZ National Bank.
“I am sad I’m not volunteering anymore but on the other side I’m very happy to have paid work,” she says.
“Nothing has happened overnight, it’s been a step by step process, but slowly but surely I have got there in the end.
“So many things were different for me when I came out, certain cultural differences and values, and working at Volunteer Wellington helped to bridge those gaps for me.
“I feel like Volunteer Wellington was a doorway, it helped me take those baby steps that would lead me to my destination.”
Paramjit’s social networks have grown too – on her arrival she knew only her husband and daughter but she has since built up a network of friends, largely thanks to her voluntary work.
“Because of the nature of volunteering I’ve got to really understand the people here and that understanding has helped form various other relationships and some good friendships.”
These days Paramjit is happy to call Wellington her home away from home and she’s keen to settle down here.
In fact, now both are working, they are looking to eventually buy a home here rather than rent.
“When I came here I just had a mental block and I was not willing to accept Wellington, but now I’m quite ready to stay here. I finally feel settled – I have my family, I have a job, I have good friends, I have a good lifestyle, and I feel happy” says Paramjit.
“I’m still working towards my ultimate destination but I’m getting there. Life is good.”