Novica Blazeski was working with youth in his homeland of Bosnia, when war broke out and dramatically changed the course of his life.
He escaped the chaos with his wife Ana and young daughter Nina, arriving in Australia in 1996 unable to speak or read a word of English.
The Illawarra’s coastal lifestyle beckoned yet it was hard to secure work – especially with the downturn in the steelworks where many of his countryfolk had sourced jobs.
He tried his hand at many roles – signwriter, carpenter, handyman to name a few – but it was a suggestion from a friend that led him to a career in aged care.
His commitment to that role has now landed him national recognition – and he’s the first male winner of the National Caregiver of the Year award.
“I’ve always had a passion for helping people,” Mr Blazeski said.
“When I was younger I spent all my time working in youth organisations, as I was young myself and understood young people’s problems.
“Now I am getting older I understand the issues that matter to older people, and that’s why I’m enjoying my new career in aged care.”
It was a friend who suggested that Mr Blazeski’s kindness and compassion for others may see him suited to aged care and in March 2015 he made his move.
He joined Home Instead Senior Care Wollongong and has since logged over 6000 hours of care.
Director Su Middleton said due to Mr Blazeski’s commitment, he’d been placed with clients with very high needs, ranging from palliative care to those living with dementia.
“From the first phone call with Novica, we instantly knew we had found someone special,” she said.
“His warmth, compassion and eagerness to work in the in-home care industry shone through. It was clear that he wanted to make a difference to peoples’ lives.”
Ms Middleton said he was the first male winner of the national award from Home Instead Senior Care.
For Mr Blazeski, it’s confirmation that the change in direction was the right one.
“There’s no place like home, and that’s why I’m passionate about caring for people in their homes and helping them stay there as long as possible,” he said.
“So I’m incredibly proud to have won this award, because to be recognised for your hard work nationally is a really great achievement.
“And it’s an achievement that is not possible without the really great team at my office.”