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“There are opportunities to be taken and so many exciting things to explore,” Paul says. 

With help from Workbridge, Paul has had invaluable work experience, has found a new career direction, and is back in training following his passion.  

Paul had a stroke at the age of 50, after a career that included working as a police officer, a school teacher, a security officer in international conflict zones and on cruise ships, and a fisheries observer. 

At the time of his stroke, Paul was working for Sealord in Nelson, checking health and safety on contracted fishing vessels. Though Sealord gave him the opportunity to return to work, he felt he couldn’t properly do his very active job anymore, and chose to resign and focus on his rehabilitation. 

When he started seriously looking for work again six months later he was initially frustrated by rejections. But when he attended a Workbridge welcome session, his life changed.  

Paul’s Workbridge employment consultant Nicola Zielinski recommended volunteering at the SPCA to combine his love of dogs with meeting new people and getting back into the routine of working.  

He got more from the experience than he could have imagined.  

“Dogs don’t judge you. They just love you and they just want a pat and a rub behind the ear. Not only did I find the role therapeutic, it did all those other things like getting me meeting new people, re-socialising myself, developing a routine again and having the responsibility of having to be there and to care for the animals.” 

One thing led to another and he picked up part-time work gardening on a rural lifestyle block, and then a role at the Wakefield Kennels Canine Retreat — thanks to a reference and the experience he had gained at the SPCA. 

“The job there is similar to the SPCA — letting dogs out in the morning, feeding them all, making sure dogs that are on medications get their meds, exercising them outside and cleaning and sanitising their individual kennels and communal areas.” He also gets to use his photography skills to take photos of the dogs to share with owners via their Facebook page. 

But that’s not where the story ends. Paul has now enrolled as a full-time student, studying a Bachelor of Visual Arts and Design at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology.  

“What Workbridge got me to do was to think a bit more laterally. Even though I wasn’t keen on volunteering initially because I thought I needed paid work, once I started doing it I saw the value in it so I started thinking a bit differently about my future and what my prospects were,” he says. 

“I decided to do something that I really loved and wanted to do. It has given me a new lease on life.” 

He still doesn’t know where it will all lead, but is grateful to Workbridge for helping him rebuild confidence and forge a new path, and is excited about building a new career doing work he’s passionate about.

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