New Multicultural Social Group

​Connections made as new group launched

The inaugural meeting of the Rotorua Multicultural Social and English Conversation Group started at Rotorua Library on Wednesday 29 March. 

Organised by Waitsu Wu from Rotorua Multicultural Council, the group meet at the library on an informal basis on the last Wednesday of every month from 12-2pm to share lunch, socialise and practice their English in conversation.

As the 30 group attendees introduced themselves, the diversity of the group was apparent. Amongst the home countries of those in the room were Poland, South Africa, China, India, Wales, Japan, the Philippines and New Zealand. Their stories of immigration were varied with some coming to New Zealand 40 years ago and others arriving just 2 months ago. Some came directly to Rotorua while others made Rotorua their home after settling in other cities and towns initially. 

Despite the diversity, there were many shared experiences of establishing a new life in New Zealand. For many, language and cultural differences had made some aspects of everyday life difficult. 

Rotorua Multicultural Council President Dr Margriet Theron spoke at the meeting about the benefits of a social multicultural group of this nature.

“New migrants and residents have the opportunity to meet with locals who can provide specialist services to the multicultural community. This helps break down language barriers and provides relevant information about services that they may not realise are available”.

As well as learning about specialist services, group members are able to make connections with each other and promote their own businesses. 

One Rotorua Multicultural initiative is connecting leaders of multicultural organisations with the New Zealand Fire Service. Firefighter Shane MacKay addressed the group over lunch to raise awareness of the importance of smoke alarms in homes. The New Zealand Fire Service offer to visit homes and install smoke alarms for members of the public but the uptake of this service can be impaired by language differences.

“Speaking at this group is a great opportunity to reach out and say what we can offer to the community” says MacKay.

Rotorua Multicultural Treasurer Alexis LewGor explained that new migrants can be very vulnerable and that the Multicultural Council had the experience and the links to be able to support the multicultural community at a grass roots level with education about New Zealand systems and service referrals where required.

Green MP Denise Roche also attended the lunch. As Green Party spokesperson for Immigration, Pacific Peoples, Ethnic Affairs, Roche has visited every Multicultural Council in New Zealand in order to ask what could help new New Zealanders settle in better. She has been fascinated by people’s settling in stories and has found that a lack of services for immigrants in the past has challenged those people to go on and create services and networks to help others.

Each group will have a similar format but will be hosted by a different person each time. Last Wednesday’s group was hosted by Eden Ross a member of Rotorua Multicultural originally from China. She spoke about her experience in coming to New Zealand 20 years ago and the decision to move to Rotorua and brought spring rolls and dumplings to share with the group.

“It’s a fantastic group.  Everyone is so friendly and interesting and there is a chance for real personal attachments” says Ross.

The next group on Wedenesday 26 April will be hosted by Lily Joy Al Omari. Al Omari is originally from the Philippines but spent 24 years in Saudi Arabia before moving to Rotorua just over a year ago. She is opening the new restaurant, TEAL, in three weeks and will be sharing Mediterranean cuisine with the group when they next meet.

New members are welcome to come along and can bring their own lunch to eat or some of their traditional food to share. For further information and to register your interest visit our events page.

Page reviewed: 30 Mar 2017 5:31pm