Award-winning employer helps disadvantaged job seekers shine

Paying it forward is something Belinda, manager and director of nursing at Baptcare Karana Community in Victoria’s leafy suburb of Kew, feels very strongly about.

It is a philosophy that has no doubt contributed to her becoming a recipient of the Captain’s Award, which recognises the outstanding contributions of African-Australians in the community.

Kenyan-born Belinda credits WISE Employment’s Ed, Employer Liaison Officer from the WISE Prahran office, for setting her on a new path to engaging and mentoring youth, not only in the aged-care sector but in the general community. She now hopes the five job seekers she has hired through WISE Employment will also go on to have a positive impact on others and really make a difference.

Belinda says it was only thanks to Ed’s persistence and regular contact over several months that convinced her to take on a young job seeker who had experienced incredible disadvantage.

“I met Ed and he told me about WISE Employment and what they do,” Belinda says. “It’s hard because we’re a very regulated (aged-care) industry so I have to be very picky. There are police checks, we need the right skill-set etcetera, but I thought I would give it a go and see what happens.”

With Belinda’s mentoring and ongoing support from Ed, the job seeker flourished. Belinda was so inspired and encouraged by the positive changes she saw that she eventually appointed four more job seekers through WISE Employment.

Working together for the better

The positive changes in all five job seekers has had a profound impact on Belinda, inspiring her to do more in the community and encouraging others to give people a chance to turn their lives around.

“Obviously there is a stereotype of people who are on welfare,” she says, “But I had an open mind. I needed someone who would work well despite where they have been.”

Ed was able to work within the regulated parameters of the industry and was able to put forward a number of candidates for Belinda’s consideration. She says the fact that Ed understood the criteria was paramount to the success of the five placements.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Ed. He could have given up a long time ago because I am very particular, but he just kept trying. He understood the industry; it’s not like you’re working in a factory with machines, you’re actually working with people, so trying to find the right person to take care of people…well, he just worked really hard.”

Follow-up phone calls, visits, and continued mentoring and support from Ed, has ensured any issues were nipped in the bud. “Ed is only a phone call away,” Belinda says. “I’ve never called him and found that he’s not available. He has talked through any problems with the job seekers and they’ve turned out great.”

Belinda cannot enthuse enough about the job seekers, all of whom have become friends and support one another. “The staff I recruited have had a bit of struggle in their lives,” she says, “but I can see what a difference working here has made to them.”

“You don’t know someone’s journey”

Selam is one of the job seekers whose life has been greatly enriched by her employment at Baptcare. She was just 12 years old when she had to flee Ethiopia with an aunty and one brother following the tragic death of both her mother and father.

With limited English, limited education and no work history, Selam’s prospects for work were bleak. She sent off many job applications but was unable to get to the interview stage with any of them.

Her luck changed when she was referred to WISE Employment and, in turn, Belinda at Baptcare. Eighteen months later and the increasingly confident Selam cannot stop smiling.

“I feel much better,” she says, “I feel good. Before I was working, I just stayed home. I had family issues. Now I feel settled and happy. Australia feels more like home.”

Ed helped Selam prepare for her interview at Baptcare and has continued to stay in touch via phone and on-site visits.

As a personal care assistant, Selam helps residents of Baptcare Karana in their day-to-day lives. Her enthusiasm and reliability in the role has not gone unnoticed by Belinda, who says there will be more opportunities for Selam in the future, including further training and possible studies.

Selam’s care and concern for the elderly residents at the facility is particularly appreciated. “The residents love her and the other staff members too,” Belinda says. “I can pick the residents she looks after: she does their hair, dresses them well. She is an asset to us.” It is a trajectory Belinda has enjoyed being a part of.

“I’m so proud of her,” she says. “She couldn’t even look into my eyes. She was just really, really scared. She didn’t have confidence then, I don’t think she believed she could do the work. It’s really nice to see her smiling and happy.”

“I keep telling her she is changing people’s lives,” Belinda continues, “The ball is in her court now; she can be whatever she wants to be. I just want her to change someone else’s life – say, ‘look, I can do it, I’m okay now’.”

Changing one life at a time through employment

Reflecting on just how much Selam and the other job seekers have blossomed and contributed to her organisation, Belinda encourages all employers to have an open mind when it comes to their own businesses.

“What I’ve learnt is that it’s amazing the difference you can make to someone’s life,” she says, “And it has a ripple effect. That’s what made me recruit the next one and the next one; it’s someone’s life changing. You don’t know someone’s journey: they could be depressed just because of the hardships they’ve experienced, but then if you change something in their life, like a job, that all changes – and for their families as well. I’m so glad I did that for someone. I think it’s something all employers should do: give someone a chance to turn their lives around.”

As for the Captain’s Award, Belinda says she shares the honour with Ed and WISE Employment.

“WISE Employment was the seed: my recruiting disadvantaged job seekers, then seeing what happened with Salem and the other staff members, I asked myself ‘is there more I can do’? It lead me to do more mentoring in the community.”

“If it wasn’t for Ed and WISE Employment, I would not have received that award.”

As for the job seekers, Belinda continues to be inspired by their resilience, despite the extreme hardship and challenges they have faced in their young lives. “It’s not just work,” she says, “It’s a social network.”


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