Make a visible change to people’s lives

Mark Whillans is a landscape architect, and works for a global design firm in London. He has previously worked in UAE, France, and now has lived in the UK for over 10 years. He travels whenever he can, and enjoys cycling and climbing.

My journey with Onpartu started...

My journey began when Paulina first spoke about starting Onpartu. We knew each other from a previous job, and when she told me about Onpartu, I loved the idea and was very keen to get involved in any way I could.

Getting involved meant...

Getting involved meant helping people who have been in similar situation to me. I was lucky to not have to learn a new language, but a lot of these women have come into a new country, a new culture, and have had to learn a new language - basically starting from scratch. I think it is very difficult for someone to move their whole life and start again, so any support they can get is hugely beneficial.

My Onpartu role is...

I act as a mentor, which is both challenging and rewarding. I have had to constantly remind myself that the Onpartners are undertaking this course while in full time employment, and often have a family to go home to also. It is fantastic to see people develop despite all this, and see their confidence and self-worth grow throughout the program.

In my day job, I am responsible for ...

I work in Landscape Architecture and Urban Design, and I am involved in projects all the way from concept to construction. I usually work in teams made up of people from all different cultures and nationalities, and am also involved in the interview process for new staff, so this has been a great opportunity to put those skills and experiences to use.

Volunteering with Onpartu provides...

The work I have done so far with Onpartu has been hugely rewarding. It is very humbling to see people come to a new country, and out of pure necessity, take up a job that may not be as stimulating or challenging as they are used to. It is a really brave shift to then take deliberate steps to get back to what they are passionate about. To see the Onpartners building their confidence, and regain purpose in their lives is a wonderful thing to observe.

My biggest learning so far...

My biggest lesson so far has been to work a lot harder to empathise with the Onpartners situation. My Onpartner would arrive at our mentoring session after already having worked an 8-10 hour day, so we started spending the first 5 minutes just chatting and unwinding before getting into our work. I am now a lot more understanding about the pressures and fears they are facing, and the effects this can have on their progress. This also helps me to appreciate the huge progress they make over the course of the programme.

My most memorable Onpartu moment...

Being at the graduation for the first women who participated in the programme. Just to see the sense of achievement on their faces was absolutely priceless.

Talent is...

A combination of commitment and time invested in a particular task or subject. I think it is something that anyone is capable of, it is not restricted to a few “gifted” people. It is something that everyone can achieve.

Join Onpartu because...

You have the opportunity to make a visible change to people’s lives.

Our "Onpartu+I" series shares stories of people working behind the scenes.

To discover more click here.

#NewZealander #LandscapeArchitect #Volunteering #Mentoring #Empathy #OnpartnerCeremony #OnpartuI

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