Making an Impact

By PSS | Posted: Tuesday December 4, 2018

Volunteering was not only an enjoyable and rewarding experience for Dilna Kolakunnath, but it also opened the door for a new career.

Dilna only arrived in New Zealand in June; moving to Invercargill from India with her husband, who is studying at the Southern Institute of Technology, and her 5-year-old son, but she was immediately keen to develop her skill set and seek work in the region.

“At the start I was looking all around for a job, but I soon thought that volunteering would be a good way to get experience and get to know people first,” she said.
“I started volunteering at the St John Opportunity Shop and someone there suggested I contact staff at Peacehaven, as there could be job opportunities there. There were no jobs at the time, but I spoke with Lynn Morton (Enliven Community Services Manager) and I started volunteering.”

From July, Dilna spent three mornings a week volunteering at Invercargill’s Peacehaven Village, supporting the activities staff.

She assisted with activities such as art and crafts and games, and also initiated her own ideas. Residents recently enjoyed a Diwali celebration; the Hindu festival of lights, and Dilna loved sharing her culture with residents and staff. At other times, her role involved supporting a small group of residents or individuals with activities such as crosswords, or simply having a conversation; 

“Sometimes they (residents) just want someone to listen,” she says.

Showing a real sense of commitment to her voluntary role, in September, Dilna was offered a paid fixed-term contract with the Quality of Life activity team to cover staff leave; a role she is loving.

Lynn said volunteering was a great way to kick start a career, and Dilna had showed real commitment to her role.

“Over the years there have been a number of staff who initially volunteered their services and then, through their experience, their confidence and understanding of working with older people, have grown and been successful in applying for vacancies when they have become available,” she said.

One of the main things Dilna enjoys about her voluntary, and now paid, experience, is that there is something different happening every day.

The best part, she says, is the environment and the people.

“Everyone is so ready to help each other, you’re so well supported,” she says.
“(Enliven activities co-ordinators) Susan and Sheree have been great and given me really positive guidance.”

Her advice to anyone considering volunteering?

“It’s such a good thing to do, especially if you are looking for job opportunities. Go there, volunteer, make an impact and see where it leads – it is such great experience.”

If you are interested in become an Enliven volunteer, please contact Lynn Morton on 03 211 8253 or