Festival celebrates diversity

Moving to a new country, with a different culture, climate and food is never easy, but Tongan immigrant Malia Foliaki Tapueluelu is one example of how, with some effort and determination, you can make a success of it.

Malia moved to New Zealand in 2004 with her two children, initially settling in Wellington. However, she soon decided that she wanted a smaller town in which to raise her children and moved to Blenheim, where she has a sister.

Living in a foreign land was made that much more difficult by the fact that her husband, Rick, was only able to move over three years later.

"It was very difficult, but it has been worth it," says Malia.

For her, one of the biggest helps for settling into New Zealand life was the Marlborough Migrant Centre, which she learned about through the annual multicultural festival.

"I am so grateful to them because they have really helped me and my family integrate into the community. They helped us get together with other people, meet new people and really become part of the community."

She has been taking part in the festival each year since and really looks forward to it.

"We are doing a dance this year," says Malia.

"We are really excited for it and have been practicing since before Christmas - the festival is a great event."

The migrant centre has helped her learn about the cultures of others living in the region. She even found close similarities between the Tongan and Philippine cultures that she didn't know about.

Something that helped her was the close ties between Tongan and Maori culture and language.

"We appreciate that New Zealand recognises our culture and all the other cultures that live in the country. There are really so many with so many different people living here."

She feels that giving back to the community is the right thing to do, and for Malia, a qualified health care assistant working at Springlands Lifestyle Village, becoming more skilled and being good at her job is the best way to do that. She is currently working towards a diversional therapy qualification through Career Force.

"I want to give back and the way I could think of to do that is to learn more skills so I can be better at my job. Here in New Zealand people really love their elderly and it is important the get good care. It's the same in Tonga."

She volunteers as a translator for Whitney Street School and Malia and and fellow Tongan immigrant, Salote Mila, also volunteer on the Tangata Pasifika Trust.

Marlborough Migrant Centre community relations office and field worker Margaret Western says the region is home to many more cultures than most realise.

"Marlborough really is a melting pot of cultures. It is too small for them all to just stick together in their own communities, which is one of the reasons we have the multicultural festival to highlight all the different cultures and get people together," says Margaret.

The festival will be held for the eighth time on Saturday at Pollard Park, Blenheim between 11am and 4pm.

"The festival provides the opportunity for Marlborough to celebrate its cultural diversity with entertainment, ethnic foods, crafts and information stalls," adds Margaret.

The Marlborough Express