Volunteering has led to rewarding paid work for mother-of-three Rochelle, after more than a decade of unemployment.

Her advice to other jobseekers: “It is possible. Take any upskilling opportunities you can. Keep trying and keep at it.”

Rochelle had been on a benefit for 12 years and a few years ago started volunteering at a community charity – Common Unity Project Aotearoa . It was a role where she could have her seven-month-old and three-year-old with her while she worked.

“Another mum came up to me when I had my kids alongside me volunteering at the café, and said I was quite inspiring to her. That meant the world to me!” says Rochelle.

After 10 months of volunteering, Rochelle was offered a full-time role. That was four years ago.

“My mum and grandmother were on benefits their whole lives, but that isn’t the life for me. I’m loving my independence and loving setting an example for my kids,” says Rochelle. “I’m getting that weekly pay packet that I know I’ve earnt myself. It’s pretty amazing really.

“It’s not just a 9 to 5 job, it’s fun, doing something I love and being around supportive people. The job lets me be me, in my own unique way.”

Julia Milne, Common Unity Project Aotearoa’s founder says “Rochelle’s story is an inspirational one. Not only has she grown her skills capacity, she has also grown our little café from its inception, and also a community around it.”

The Common Unity Project Aotearoa is a charity working with community, schools and organisations across Lower Hutt on projects to unite the community and meet the needs of children.

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