Creative spirit at work
VERONICA Maynard fits in seamlessly as a member of the team at fashion label Ruby.
The 23-year-old travels all the way from Bombay to Ruby’s Grey Lynn headquarters twice a week after landing the job in July as part of the Creative Spirit programme.
The initiative provides people with intellectual disabilities with work in companies across New Zealand and Australia and aims to inspire others to provide more workplace opportunities for willing employees.
At Ruby, Ms Maynard is a welcome addition to the workforce, design director Emily Miller-Sharma says.
‘‘Workplaces are more exciting when they are vibrant and eclectic when you have people from different backgrounds. It just made perfect sense.’’
It was Ms Miller-Sharma’s father Vere Sharma who first heard about the initiative when he stumbled upon a story about Fairfax Media’s involvement.
Fairfax, publisher of the Auckland City Harbour News, has two employees who have been working at its Hereford St office for nearly a year and a half.
Ms Maynard helps Ruby’s production assistant and stock controller.
She is also in charge of looking after the kitchen and resident bird Rufus.
She says she loves her work for the label.
‘‘It’s better than staying in the classroom all day.
‘‘I was nervous at first but I’ve been trying to get over my shyness and get to know everybody.’’
It’s not something the Ruby team have really spoken about until now, Ms Miller-Sharma says.
‘‘When you have a new staff member you don’t broadcast it to the world, we just look at this as having a new staff member,’’ she says.
At Fairfax it was one of the company’s senior managers, Annamarie Jamieson, who first introduced the programme.
Ms Jamieson had heard how difficult it was for a friend’s daughter with Down syndrome to find a job and went on to learn about the Australian advertising agency Droga5’s programme.
To date the initiative has created nine positions for people in various organisations ranging from media and fashion to the financial sector.
Fairfax also assisted financial services technology firm Chelmer Ltd to hire an employee through the programme this year.
But for every company who steps up to get involved there are at least five times as many parents wanting to give their kids a chance at contributing to society, Ms Jamieson says.
‘‘It doesn’t matter who you are or what your ability is, everybody has similar dreams in life and everybody should be given the opportunity to fulfil them.
‘‘It’s not about creating roles for people – they’re filling the sort of jobs that keep our companies going,’’ she says.
The programme not only has profound effects on the people who are employed but can also change attitudes in workplaces.
Ms Jamieson would like to see the programme spread across New Zealand to provide opportunities to people across a wide range of workplaces.
Seamless transition: Veronica Maynard, left, is now part of the team with fashion designer Emily Miller-Sharma at fashion label Ruby thanks to the Creative Spirit programme.
Go to aucklandcityharbour news.co.nz and click on Latest Edition to watch a video about the Creative Spirit programme.