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Tuesday, 23 April 2019 12:02 am

From Pinochet’s Chile to front of house in creative education

May 6th, 2018 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News




Vero Harwood always has a bright smile for her student charges.

Growing up in a terrifying South American dictatorship is a far cry from Veronica Harwood’s job looking after everyone who walks into Te Auaha.

Living in New Zealand gives Veronica, known to all at the New New Zealand Institute of Creativity as Vero, a sense of security she never experienced as a child in Chile during Pinochet’s reign of terror.

Veronica was born in 1973, the same year Pinochet took power in a military coup that saw thousands disappear or openly murdered by his security forces during his rule.

“Everyone had curfews when I was growing up. My uncle was held in a stadium and tortured by Pinochet forces. A friend’s parents just disappeared,” she said.

“Life was very Catholic too, and we couldn’t talk about politics.”

“People in New Zealand don’t know how lucky they are, not having had to literally run for their lives,” she said.

Vero has a rich and varied employment history since leaving university in Chile over 20 years ago.

“My first job was working in public relations for the oldest TV programme in Chile,” she said.

After 18 months her boss pushed her to “go see the world” so she left there to become an air hostess with Lan Chile, Chile’s national airline – now known as Latam.

Vero says the most interesting place she ever travelled to while working for Latam was Israel.

“Israel is just amazing, it’s emotional and historical, every faith is there, in its own areas. I met friends there and I’d love to go back.”

It was while on a break in Rotorua in 2003 that she met and fell in love with David Harwood, an Englishman who lived in Auckland. She and David married in 2007 and their only child, Sophie was born in 2011

Vero has worked for Whitireia on and off doing administration since 2008.

In-between she has studied and set up her own part-time photography business.

The amalgamation of Weltec and Whitireia’s creative courses into one building at Te Auaha saw the creation of two new roles –building hosts.

Te Auaha hosts Priya Bhana, left, and Vero Harwood.

Vero and her fellow host, Priya Bhana, are the go-to people for everything – from compliments and complaints to questions from students, staff and the public, sometimes enquiring about hiring spaces within.

They deal with complaints too, some of which Vero has found to be entirely beyond her scope of practice and that of Whitireia.

“We should know most of the answers to questions, we are the hosts,” she said.

“We’ve got good at faking it and then finding the answers later. We do always get back to people in that situation.” she said.

“One man kept coming in and complaining about something that neither I nor the institutions could do anything about.

“Eventually I offered him a free haircut and he accepted. He went away happy and has been back for a second cut.”

Vero loves seeing the students come in shy and nervous and watching them grow and develop as they get further into their courses.


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