Originally from Zimbabwe, 40-year-old Tawa Zengeni, has worked for the North East Autism Society since 2004.

“Before working for NEAS I had been living in the south and had been doing a variety of jobs from customer advisor in B&Q to a school caretaker… but I had a passion to make a difference, to care for people, and that led me here.”

Starting his NEAS career as a care support worker, dad-of-five Tawa, said he immediately knew the work wouldn’t be easy but the reward would be great.

He said: “It is challenging working with anyone in the care sector, but in my case helping adults with autism and learning difficulties was, of course, difficult at times but so, so rewarding.

“I found that when I got used to things I developed a passion to see people – every person – as equal, all with the same rights to a fulfilling life, all with the same need to enjoy new things like holidays and new experiences. That drives me forward even now.

At the end of the day I go home to my partner knowing that if I’ve done my job well I’ve helped someone have a better life. It’s a great job!

Having worked across The Society in various roles, Tawa is now the manager of one of the Society's adult residential homes, with 27 staff as well as service users under his care.

“It sounds huge when you say it like that but really it was just me trying to do a good job wherever I was, trying to never settle for ‘they can’t do this,’ or ‘they can’t do that’, instead always believing for more for the people entrusted to my care. But I couldn’t have done it without the support and encouragement from the managers above me.”

Making full use of NEAS’s learning and development support and internal career path, Tawa wants to encourage others to take that first step into the care sector.

There’s not many jobs out there where you know that every little thing you do is part of a bigger picture to change lives. When I started all I knew about autism was from having a cousin back home in Africa. I’ve learned on the job and even having English as a second language hasn’t stopped me progressing.

“If you are motivated, willing to learn and you want to make a difference, then a career at NEAS could be for you," Tawa says.

Senior Manager of Care for NEAS, Brian Stoker, said:

Tawa is probably one of the nicest people I have ever worked with. When he says he has a passion for people he’s right. His dedication to the people we care for and their families has seen him progress in the Society. Like all of my managers, this is more than a job. They know the paperwork, the training, the hard work is all worth it because together we make a difference. Together we change lives.

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