Many cultures helping community

SVEN HERSELMAN
Last updated 07:09 05/12/2012

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New Zealand is a highly multi-cultural society and Blenheim is no different, with the Marlborough Migrant Centre having 29 different ethnic groups on their database.

It is therefore encouraging for Volunteer Marlborough to have large number of foreign nationals offering their time and skills as volunteers.

Today is International Volunteer Day and Volunteer Marlborough manager Deb Remacha is encouraging the community to embrace foreign volunteers who are keen to do their part for Marlborough.

"We have a large number of these foreign volunteers, many of whom are highly skilled, who want to give back to the community that has supported them," said Deb.

"It is also a good way for them to get into the community and meet people."

Romanian immigrant Lucian Nistor moved to Blenheim with his wife and two children from their home city of Iasi six months ago, and although he worked as a pharmacist in Romania he will have to do a three-year qualifying course to be able to work in New Zealand. His wife, who is also a pharmacist, has however qualified and is working.

"I want to get involved with the community, to meet people and learn the culture, which is very different to Romanian culture," said Lucian, who only learned to speak English two years ago, but is already very proficient.

"It is important for me to learn the system in New Zealand and at the same time I want to help out where I can."

He is no stranger to volunteer work and spent three years in his home country organising fund- raising initiatives to raise money for cancer and HIV medication for those who did not have access to it.

He would ideally like to volunteer in for an organisation where his medical knowledge and skills can be used and had been in contact with St John and Red Cross. He added that he and his family were very happy in Marlborough, with the region being very much like his home with the same climate and prolific viticulture industry.

Another volunteer, Miwa Berry, is originally from Japan, having moved to Blenheim seven years ago. She has been involved with volunteering since she arrived, although she admits her family life when she first arrived limited how much time she could give.

"When my children were younger I didn't do a lot, but now that they are grown up I have more time and can volunteer more," said Miwa.

She too saw volunteering as a good way of integrating into the Marlborough community while giving something back at the same time.

Even though she is now no longer new to Blenheim, Miwa has continued with her volunteer work, giving of her time as she can.

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She praised the work of Migrant Centre and Volunteer Marlborough for creating opportunities where people can get involved in volunteering programmes.

"Marlborough's ranks of volunteers are the real treasures of this region.

"These volunteers, and the work they do, make Marlborough an enviable place to live," said Marlborough District Council mayor, Alistair Sowman.

"For newcomers to our region it's important to know that this voluntary sector is there to help. "But it's also a way that new citizens can become part of our community; working alongside others, offering skills or talents to others is a time-honoured way of getting to know and understand your new community."

- The Marlborough Express

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