Patel says NZer of the Year Award will give her voice

Sunnyhills resident Ranjna Patel is one of the three finalists in the New Zealander of the Year Awards. Times photo Wayne Martin

How does it feel to be one of the three finalists in Kiwibank’s New Zealander of the Year Awards, Ranjna Patel’s granddaughter asked her nana? “Did you ever think you would be one of the top three?”

Apart from the congratulatory messages from every corner of the country, it is a question the visionary has been repeatedly asked.

On March 1, an announcement was made of Patel, co-founder and director of Tamaki Health and social entrepreneur, being a finalist in the prestigious Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year 2021 Awards.

The other two finalists are Farid Ahmed, a Muslim community leader who became the face of forgiveness after the March 15 terror attacks in Christchurch and Dr Siouxsie Wiles, microbiologist and science communicator.

Patel is also a finalist in the Trade Me Innovator of the Year category.

Talking about the award that celebrates and honours extraordinary Kiwis who inspire, give hope and lead, the Sunnyhills resident says she feels very privileged and fortunate.

“This has given me a voice at so many levels where I can talk about diversity and inclusion.

It has opened many doors to be heard, given me a platform. I am aware there is a use-by date that goes by quickly and I intend to make the most of it,” says Patel, who has won several awards.

These include winning Westpac Women of Influence – Community Hero in 2020; IBA Best Businesswoman of the Year, EY Entrepreneur of the Year – Master Category and the Deloitte’s Top 200 Awards – Visionary Leader.

Yet Patel admits that it feels a bit hollow being bestowed such an honour considering so many people have contributed to her journey.

The third generation Kiwi-Indian is quick to acknowledge those who have been instrumental in establishing Gandhi Nivas, an innovative early intervention and prevention, residential facility for perpetrators of domestic violence.

“I am going to acknowledge them at the awards night on March 31 starting with Sucharita and the Sahaayta team of counsellors; the young constable Gurpreet Arora who pushed for the idea of Gandhi Nivas. All this wouldn’t have been possible without the support of deputy commissioner John Tims, a true enabler; as well as National Engagement manager NZ Police, Rakesh Naidoo for moving government rank in Wellington. All I did was look outside the square and do my bit,” she says.

The result of a five-year study on the efficacy of Gandhi Nivas (a partnership with ACC, NZ Police, counselling and social services) by Massey University, found that by working with perpetrators of family violence, Gandhi Nivas had prevented almost 60 per cent of the men from reoffending.

Patel is equally grateful to the “amazing team of doctors, nurses and staff at Tamaki Health,” New Zealand’s largest independent healthcare group.

“We started our first clinic in Otara by borrowing 110 per cent. I was the receptionist, accountant and cleaner while my husband Kanti treated patients. Today I’m proud to say that if I ask our team with a positive, can-do attitude, “can you jump for me, they will ask how high?” says Patel.

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