Making a difference | ELPNZ

Making a difference

03 October 2007

Making the move

GuadeSince moving here from the Philippines three years ago she has worked as a tutor at Victoria University, been an ESOL home tutor, set up a support group for refugee and migrant women and landed full-time work at Amnesty International. On top of all that, she has recently been appointed to the association's Ethnic Advisory Group.

Guada came to New Zealand because her Kiwi partner moved back here, 'the usual story,' she says with a laugh. They met in the Philippines through a mutual friend, and when he returned home she followed a year later.

Building a  new life

Her professional background is impressive. She has a bachelor of science in psychology, a masters in community development, and taught psychology at the University of the Philippines for six years before turning her hand to full-time consultancy work, in the field of organisation development. Guada specialised in training consultancy, and much of her work involved training community organisers and coordinators of NGOs. 'What I provide are tools on how they could be effective facilitators or organisers in the community; for example, developing project plans, or how they should motivate people to take action.' Guada also had a number of government agencies as clients. She coordinated a major project funded by USAID that looked at how local government units could better deliver their services. But when she moved to New Zealand, Guada was unsure where she could best apply her skills and experience.

The volunteer experience

She began working as a volunteer at Amnesty International while waiting to gain permanent residency, and it was during this time that she trained as an ESOL home tutor. Her friend Silvia Zonoobi had told her about the scheme when she visited Wellington a year before moving here. Silvia coordinated the social English groups for English Language Partners Wellington for a number of years. 'I knew then that I am coming back, so I said "OK when I come back I'll look for you and I'll apply for that home tutorial thing".'

Guada taught a learner for almost a year, but had to stop when she began tutoring full-time at Victoria University. She continued to be involved with the Wellington scheme by representing it on the board of the Multicultural Services Centre, which governs the centre where the scheme's office is based.

Supporting migrants

Last year Guada was offered full-time employment at Amnesty International's campaign office in Wellington. She juggles the two roles of campaign coordinator and executive assistant, which keeps her busy. Yet despite this, she still found time last year to begin setting up Women's Ethnic Connections, a group which seeks to play a key role in connecting women from diverse ethnic backgrounds and enabling them to make positive contributions to Wellington community life. 'Since I had a difficult time finding employment and settling in New Zealand, I thought of helping out other women migrants who were in the same situation that I was.'

Coming to grips with the 'learning process'

Last year the group received funding from the Wellington City Council to conduct a needs analysis. 'We would like to play a facilitative role, and not duplicate existing programmes,' Guada says. 'The study was aimed at learning about the needs of migrant and refugee women who are not usually included in government consultations and we intend to share the findings with other organisations.'

The pilot study was done through a survey and small focus group discussions. Guada conducted the study, and women from theEnglish Language Partners' English Language Group in Wellington took part in two of the focus groups. Guada says the project was challenging and a 'learning process' for her, as it didn't go as she had expected. But it has helped determine what needs to be done in the next round of study. Women's Ethnic Connections currently consists of eight members, although Guada says it is in 'hibernation' at the moment. She plans to revive it this year, and the long-term goal is to form a trust.

Given that Guada is setting up the group while working full-time, it is hardly surprising that she was hesitant about being nominated for the association's Ethnic Advisory Group. But when she found out the group only met four times a year, she decided she could manage it. Guada is modest about her achievements, and thought it was unlikely she would be appointed to the group. 'During that time I didn't think I would get in, because it's a nomination process. I was thinking, "Oh, there are probably a lot of people there who are more competent than me, who have more experience in ESOL as a tutor for example, or as a volunteer, than me." I didn't expect to be elected or chosen, so it was really a surprise.'

Joing the Ethnic Advisory Group

She is excited about being appointed, although still finding out 'how best to contribute to the group'. She is interested in learning more about how the English Language Partners' services are delivered, monitored and evaluated and how effective they are for different ethnic communities. 'I am really keen on contributing more to it because the goal is I'd really like to help out, one way or another, on how services are delivered effectively, so that the people who are the beneficiaries of it would really benefit from it.' Guada certainly has much to offer the group, with her background in training consultancy. And her whole-hearted commitment to projects and to her job is perhaps explained by her approach to life. 'I probably won't survive in a corporate setting,' she says with a laugh. 'I really want to make a difference in people's lives, in whatever manner I can. That's something I've always wanted to do, whether I was back in the Philippines or here.'

Writer Esme Gibbins