Kaibosh coordinator has designed herself a meaningful life
IN HONOUR of her father George, who passed away several years ago, Anoushka Isaac wears the scrabble piece ‘G’ around her neck. She carries this with her as she works on her various social justice-infused projects, which have ranged from a supervising role at Youthline to studies of gender in the media.
Anoushka, who goes by ‘Noush’, is the volunteer co-ordinator for Wellington food rescue service Kaibosh, which has just been named Supreme Winner of TrustPower National Community Awards and last year won the Wellington Airport Regional Community Awards.
Kaibosh collects unsold food from retailers and passes it on to charities that help Wellingtonians in need.
At last count, they had 68 volunteers, and a waiting list of yet more people willing to help out. They are the first food rescue service of this kind in New Zealand. Noush’s role here is the culmination of a life dedicated to a set of community-focused values.
Bright, effusive and whip-smart, Lower Hutt-born-and-raised Noush says she spent her school years as “a bit of a geek”. She went straight from Sacred Heart College to a graphic design degree at Massey. It was there that she first began thinking seriously about her contribution to society.
She took a break from Massey to work as a receptionist at a design company, to see if the design world was right for her. She spent every moment of her spare time at Youthline, where she soon went from phone counsellor to team supervisor. The benefits the role had on her life, she says, cannot be overstated.
“It continues to have a knock-on effect to other things in my life, like this job [Kaibosh].
“Having that experience, and getting involved in that work, really made me realise that there was something that I could offer.”
With her fears of graphic design’s superficiality put to bed by positive experiences with workmates – “they weren’t like that at all” – Noush went back to Massey and completed her final year with renewed focus. She dedicated the year to a project looking at gender stereotypes in the media, and the effects these can have on the young. The interactive project encouraged young people to challenge these stereotypes, and look elsewhere for role models. It caught the eye of Youth Week organisers, who asked her to re-fit the project with youth stereotypes. It was her first real design job, and led to a full-time role at design company Moxie.
The work, she says, was satisfying – the company worked with organisations such as Plunket, and took on projects that fit easily with her values. After four years, she left Youthline. “I wanted to leave before I started feeling burnt out, because it was a really great experience, and I wanted to remember it that way.”
She left for Melbourne in 2007, with the intention of living there long-term, but was back in two months – she had contacted a fellow designer before she left, who she thought might be the right person to take over her job. They immediately embarked on a relationship, which became long-distance after three weeks. When Noush returned to New Zealand, they moved in together almost straight away, and, five years on, share an apartment in the Wellington suburb of Mount Victoria.
In 2010, Noush and her partner moved to London for two years. She was, as first, resistant to the idea. “I didn’t want to go. I thought it would be a horrible concrete jungle and I would hate it.” London won her over – she saw more than 100 bands play live while she was there, and ended up as lead designer for London Transport Museum exhibitions – but was also happy to come home.
“Wellington’s it. I just think it’s got a lot of charm.”
Since being back in New Zealand, Noush has combined her work at Kaibosh with freelance design work. Under her company +64, which she and her partner created to make administrating their freelance work easier, she has worked for clients such as the Amani Institute, which educates professionals interested in social-justice-based careers.
She also worked on the ubiquitous portable Metlink timetables – “I’ve had this weird transport theme run through my career” – and on media for Downstage productions. She is currently working on creating a new look for inner-city health clinic Evolve.
With a tendency not to plan for the future – “I’m pretty much happy to just go with it’ – Noush’s only plan is to keep living her life in a way that she finds meaningful. “I think if I was in a full-time job where I wasn’t doing any of that [social work] and I wasn’t volunteering, I’d probably be quite miserable. I just wouldn’t really feel that proud of my life.
“I just think that we all have a responsibility to look after each other. I don’t believe in that ‘everyone for themselves’ kind of logic.
“I think communities are really valuable, and I think a lot of the time that means helping people who are less fortunate than you are.”
She sees these values in Tapu Te Ranga Marae in Island Bay, who will happily take in anyone who needs help.
“They’re just a really warm community. They just want to give people a hand – maybe if you’re going through a rough time and you want to make your life better, they’re quite happy to help with that.”
There’s not much more to a meaningful life than that, she says. “I just believe in being good to people.”