Faces of Auckland: South Pacific journey for love

JENNY LING
Last updated 12:09 15/07/2014
Sunday Star Times

Faces of Auckland: Shoma Prasad

Shoma Prasad
Peter Meecham
LONG-DISTANCE LOVE: Shoma Prasad followed her heart to New Zealand.

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Auckland is one of the most multicultural cities in the world with more than a third of its citizens born overseas and boasting more than 200 nationalities living here.

Faces of Auckland is a series talking to those who have left all corners of the world to make their home here, reminding us why Auckland is so good.

A JOURNEY FOR LOVE

Love brought Shoma Prasad to Auckland.

Leaving Fiji to live here was always likely as she chased the dream of a better life for herself after seeing her mother struggle to earn a living to support their large family.

But it was her childhood sweetheart moving here during high school that caused Prasad to eventually follow.

 "We said that we'd keep in touch and see how things go for us.

"Then I concentrated on my studies and got a scholarship to move into uni."

Prasad completed her bachelor of arts in journalism and sociology at the University of the South Pacific.

For the next three and a half years she worked for two non-profit organisations; the Citizens Constitutional Form and the United Nations Development Programme - Pacific Centre.

During this time, she wrote letters and emails to her husband-to-be Arunesh Roneel and he visited her several times.

The whole family was involved in the decision for Prasad to join him in New Zealand.

"Once I finished uni the families talked about us getting married.

"His family came up with the proposal to settle in New Zealand."

Prasad and Roneel were married in a traditional wedding in Fiji in 2008 and Prasad joined him in Auckland soon after.

"I got into Auckland life straight away," the 30-year-old says.

"I knew I had to settle as soon as possible in order to start our new life.

"Auckland is quite welcoming. I didn't feel strange or alone."

Prasad also has a brother and uncle in New Zealand and her husband's immediate and extended family also live here.

"It wasn't a culture shock for me, I was pretty used to things here," she says.

 "The plan was always to move outside of Fiji to create a better life."

Prasad grew up in a single parent family in rural part of Nadi. Her father died when she was just 5 leaving her mother to raise Prasad and her two sisters and two brothers.

Her mother worked on a sugar cane farm and later in garment factories.

"I grew up in difficulty, coming from a single parent family," Prasad says.

"I've seen mum work so hard on farms and make sure that at least we got educated properly."

Prasad and her husband now live in Mangere with their 4-year-old son.

She works as the media coordinator at Auckland Regional Migrant Services in Three Kings.

She has regular trips back to Fiji to visit her mum, whose house has been converted into rental apartments to give her financial security.

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FIVE QUESTIONS

Is NZ tolerant of different cultures and are you able to express your cultural identity fully here?

Absolutely, yes. NZ is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Most cultures I know are here like Pacific, Indian and Asian.

Have you ever travelled in NZ outside of Auckland and where to?

We went up North recently for three days. We've been up and down the country and to Queenstown twice.

What is best about being an Aucklander?

The cultural diversity and the inclusion. The freedom to be who you are.

If I was Auckland's mayor I would...

Fund community groups to put in more programmes to welcome people to Auckland.

Do you watch rugby and do you support the All Blacks?

Yes. We're a rugby crazy family. I'll support the All Blacks but only when they're not playing Fiji.

- Auckland

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