Camper to Board Member: Neerali Parbhu on the next generation of leadership
At eight years old, Neerali became part of the CQ community as a camper – one of the few upsides of being diagnosed with cancer as a child! From then on, she was hooked. Every summer and winter camp, she was there. When she phased out of the age bracket, she returned as a volunteer – and then a staff member for Camp Quality Auckland/Northland. Now, with work experience and two degrees under her belt, Neerali has become Camp Quality’s youngest board member.
Coming out of her shell at camp
“It’s a cliche, but it’s true,” says Neerali. “At camp, you become a family. You develop a unique bond that makes you want to return every year.”
As a child, Neerali says she struggled with shyness. “I was often isolated in my childhood because of my diagnosis. I usually played alone, and wasn’t allowed at social gatherings while undergoing treatment. Camp helped because everyone is so great at including everyone else. It got me out of my shell, and I felt like finally I could be involved.”
Despite these struggles in her early years, Neerali was able to find a community and a sense of belonging among the other campers and volunteers at Camp Quality.
“It was amazing to grow up with this organisation. And coming back as an adult is so cool. You see kids come back year after year, growing up and maturing.”
Camp Quality isn’t just a one time experience – it’s a lifelong community of people and involvement. Neerali says this journey is what has kept her involved year after year.
Bringing young eyes to the board
After studying industrial design at university, Neerali pursued her Masters in philosophy to focus on the value of leveraging children’s perspectives in the development of medical equipment. She went on to work for Fisher & Paykel Healthcare where, 8 years on, she now leads their charitable arm, the Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Foundation.
The Camp Quality board is filled with experienced professionals who all bring something slightly different to the table. In addition to bringing in both her own personal experiences and the experience she’s gained at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, Neerali is helping the team approach things from a younger and more culturally-aware perspective.
“As an organisation that primarily serves young people, we need to ensure that we are seeking their input. It is often said by Māori – ‘Nothing about us, without us.’ That is why it is so important to keep looking to younger representatives for guidance.”
Diversity of thought, and ensuring a wide range of perspectives is healthy for any leadership board – but when the work is so closely intertwined with young people, this becomes even more important.
“One key area I’m looking after is cultural competency,” says Neerali, “and looking at how we can honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi throughout the organisation, whether it’s through upskilling our people, supporting our volunteers, or building in better practises.”
Neerali is also looking forward to supporting the fundraising side of the organisation, and helping create more security for Camp Quality’s future. She is already having a huge impact on the board and the organisation as a whole – and we look forward to seeing where her ideas can take us.