Volunteer takes the St John message to communities

Volunteer takes the St John message to communities

Auckland, June 27, 2019

Giving back to the community runs in the blood for Indu Bajwa.

At a young age, she was inspired by her father, a wealthy man who carried out a great deal of charitable work in her native country, India.

“He was known for his social work. He was always helping others and would take me along with him. He started a school for young girls in India,” she said.

After migrating to New Zealand with her husband in 2003, Indu sought ways to get involved in the community and to make good use of her time.

She began volunteering as an English teacher for migrants and refugees in Auckland, through English Language Partners, which subsequently became a paid role.

Call from St John

In 2006, Indu found herself flipping through a local newspaper when she discovered an advertisement seeking for volunteers for the St John Caring Caller service.

“That is how I got involved with St John. I started out as a Caring Caller and eventually became a team leader. It’s been an amazing journey,” Ms Bajwa said.

The St John Caring Caller Programme has over 800 volunteers regularly connecting with over 1250 clients who range in age and ethnicity, offering friendship and support to people who may be experiencing social isolation.

Ms Bajwa would regularly call people for a friendly chat, which was sometimes the only conversation that person had for the week.

Great Service

About four years ago, she was promoted to the role of District Manager for the Norther Region Caring Caller service, where she manages a team of 46 Caring Callers and connects new clients with Caring Caller volunteers who she carefully matches up.

“It is a good service because a volunteer can make a phone call from the comfort of their home. I help recruit other Caring Callers, then I match their profiles and interests with our clients, to ensure they have something in common,” Ms Bajwa said.

With her gregarious, fun-loving nature, she fuels her passion for people by arranging social gatherings for her Caring Caller compatriots.

“I try to arrange Christmas parties and events to bring people together,” she said.

Not only does she bring people together, she is helping to connect communities facing social isolation. “Working closely with migrants and refugees has brought to light the needs and struggles of these communities. Sometimes apart from teaching English, I’m their counsellor, mentor and friend. They share their personal issues with me. I have learnt that language is a big problem for many of them,” Ms Bajwa said.

“Through Caring Caller, we are slowly gathering people who have been working with the team to roll out the service in multiple languages. I have a few students who have limited English and are socially isolated. I hope to be able to match them with Caring Callers who speak their language and can help them through the resettlement process,” she said.

Hindi Service

Following the successful roll-out of the Caring Caller service in Mandarin and Cantonese, Ms Bajwa is now helping St John with its plans to introduce the service in Hindi.

“We should all believe in humanity first. If we all start forgetting about race, colour or creed, we can all make New Zealand a more beautiful place,” she said.

Like her father, Ms Bajwa hopes to inspire the next generation to follow in her footsteps by offering their time to helping others.

She was recently honoured with an award recognising 12 years of service to St John.

“It was a lovely service and I was deeply humbled. Giving back to the community is a life commitment. I will do it until my last breath,” she said.

National Volunteer Week

Ms Bajwa is one of St John’s 9600 volunteers being honoured during National Volunteer Week. St John estimates that its volunteers contribute more than two million hours to New Zealand communities, and if it were possible to put a financial value on such support, it would be in excess of $30 million.

St John Director of Community Health Services Sarah Manley said that St John’s community health volunteers play a significant role in helping to build resilient communities, through programmes that address some of today’s most prevalent issues that affect people’s health and wellbeing.

“By lending a helping hand, they are enabling New Zealanders to live healthy, independent lives for longer,” she said.

Indu Bajwa being honoured during the St John Volunteer Week (Picture Supplied)

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