Cre­ative spirit at work

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

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.

Photo: JESS LEE

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.

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