Phuong Nguyen – Multi-skilled processor
When she first started working for Sealord, Phuong relied on a handful of English language words to help her get through her shift.
More than 20 years later, Vietnam-born Phuong still works for Sealord as a multi-skilled processor in the Coated Factory and is a proud Nelson homeowner.
Phuong grew up on My Tho where her family owned a small confectionery factory employing about 30 people. On a holiday in New Zealand, she took a shine to Nelson and decided to stay a little longer, working the hoki season in Sealord’s Wetfish Factory.
Phuong was amazed when she saw the size of the factory and how clean and tidy it was.
“I was very happy, and the supervisor showed me what to do and I just followed. They always helped me if I needed it. That’s still how I feel even now!” Phuong says.
“At smoko I was the only Vietnamese person so couldn’t really talk to anyone, but the Kiwis always tried to involve me in what they were saying, which was really good.”
Today, Phuong enjoys being able to use her phone and English language translation apps that she didn’t have handy 20 years ago.
She feels lucky to work at Sealord and says that her family are happy too. Early on, when they expressed concern about her living in New Zealand without speaking English, Phuong reassured them by explaining how supported she felt in her new workplace. They were also pleased to hear that she had Vietnamese workmates and friends in the factory.
The COVID-19 pandemic was another concern for Phuong’s family but again she could assure them that she was safe.
At the start of the first 2020 lockdown Phuong felt scared about coming to work but says everything was put in place for employees, as essential workers, to feel safe. “Sealord looked out for us, with temperature checks, screens, masks, hand sanitiser and even meals while we were at work.”
Before COVID-19, Phuong returned to Vietnam most years, and she’s looking forward to being able to see her family again after more than two years of closed borders or restricted travel. But when she doesn’t have family close-by, in between visits, Phuong leans on her Sealord whānau. She says the people she works with feel like her Nelson family and there are many who have been with Sealord as long as she has, forming lifelong connections.