Volunteering helps Zambian settle
Imagine if you arrived in Auckland with little understanding of New Zealand culture or the job market. What would you do?
Mt Roskill man Stephen Mulonda says what made all the difference to him was volunteering. It gave him an understanding of what New Zealanders are all about and also helped him gain permanent work.
Mr Mulonda comes from Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.
He followed his wife and four children to Auckland in January last year. The former public servant enrolled in a one-year course in mental health and addiction support at Manukau Institute of Technology, which he will complete in July.
He's very much enjoying his studies.
"I had an interest in doing something for humanity. With my Christian background, I thought if I could do something that showed my love for humanity, it would be rewarding for me."
He has particularly liked the practical component of the course.
He completed a clinical placement at The Selwyn Foundation's Gracedale rest home and hospital in Mt Roskill and is still volunteering there in his free time.
"I help the residents cope with life so they feel loved and feel good. I attend to them, feed them, provide for them and encourage them."
Volunteering at Gracedale gave him some insights into the New Zealand way of life.
"I'm in a completely new cultural setting. When I am caring for people I learn about their likes, dislikes and their values."
He finds attitudes are generally more liberal and people are more independent here.
Another thing to get used to was the food.
The main staple in the Zambian diet is maize meal, something which is found in just a few stores here. New Zealand food has a greater variety of dietary influences and people eat more seafood and potatoes.
Despite these differences he feels at home.
"I've not experienced any situation where I felt unwanted."
Volunteering was key to him gaining permanent part-time employment.
The 52-year-old started working at the Gift Centre on January 6. It is a Christian residential care facility in Balmoral which looks after intellectually disabled people.
The interaction with residents is very satisfying, he says.
"You are dealing directly with people's daily lives and giving them support in every way you can. They put their trust in you.
"They expect a lot but at the same time they are very willing to help themselves.
"When they express happiness about something I've done for them, it makes me feel fulfilled.
"If you have spare time, spend it on making someone else better off. You can open other possibilities and expose yourself to the job market," he says.