You can spot Luis Carlos Godoy Cabezas’ smile a mile off. Even hidden behind his tools and safety gear, he radiates joy.

Part of that joy comes from his position at RT Joinery, which recently took Luis on through the Red Cross Pathways to Employment programme for former refugees looking for work.

Owner and manager, Robert Fekete, heard about the programme through a friend at around the same time he was looking for a new staff member.

“I’d never been involved in any part of the refugee programme before,” he says.

“But one day I came across it and was interested, so I got in touch with someone from Red Cross and received more information. I was quite blown away learning the details and what it takes to help others.”

Luis was employed as a general labourer for the business, which focuses predominantly on handmade pieces of furniture and antique restoration, and Robert says he has some big plans for his future.

“He’s really switched on. He’s catching up, and I don’t really have to show him things twice. As soon as he improves his English language skills, the plan is to put him through an apprenticeship programme to get his qualification as a joiner.”

For Luis, this plan makes him incredibly happy. The father of six wants to buy a house for his family and knows that this is a step toward his goal.

“This job is my first opportunity and it’s very important, Robert is a good boss and I think he likes me,” he laughs.

As for Robert, he’s open to the idea of using Pathways to Employment again if he’s looking for new staff.

“I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be part of the programme and I’m definitely encouraging other people to do the same thing. Louis is proving pretty good, but regardless of that, the chance to give an opportunity to someone in need, I think, is a good thing.”

How to help

Red Cross works with hundreds of former refugees across Aotearoa who can bring a diverse range of skills into Kiwi businesses. If you’re looking for staff or would like to know more about the programme, get in touch with the team here.