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Watch NZH Local Focus: Call centre aims to empower Maori and Pacific workers

By Sieska Verdonk

It could be a call centre anywhere in the world, but Connect Global is based in the small South Taranaki settlement of Waverley. It provides desperately needed jobs for ten locals.

"Our vision is for the empowerment of Maori and Pacific people, to create a viable business model that will create employment, and create further education and development for our people, in the communities that they are in," says Serena Fiso, chief executive of Connect Global.

Serena Fiso and her husband Siuai are the brains behind the business, which provides a range of services to big companies such as Genesis Energy. They started the company more than a decade ago after leaving positions in recruitment companies.

"The driver for our vision was born out of our own frustration. As a young Maori girl growing up in Wainuiomata College, I was constantly told I couldn't do well. In fact, at college I was told in the 5th form year, that I might as well leave school because I'm not going to pass -that, in fact, the best you can hope for was to be a cleaner at Griffin's biscuit factory over the hill," says Mrs Fiso.



Waverley is not their only location. They also operate in Ruatoria, on the East Cape of New Zealand, in another of our most economically deprived communities.

"If you tell someone enough times what they are capable of and what they will be, they will believe that and then they will become that," Mrs Fiso.

Each of the Fiso's employees has their own inspirational story. Brenda Maraku used to travel to Wellington for the working week, driving more than three hours to work in a mental health and addictions centre.

Now she can now be home ten minutes after she finishes work.

"It's allowed me to be available for my family 24/7, it's given me work in my hometown where I live. There are not many jobs available in Waverley, whereas Connect Global has made many jobs available for our local people," says Mrs Maraku.

It's a recipe the owners want to replicate in other areas of regional New Zealand, with plans for more offices on the way.

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- NZ Herald

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