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Migrant women savour success

The collaborative efforts of several community organisations, combined with the “hard work and courage” of a group of women from Wairarapa’s Ahmadiyya and migrant communities, have culminated in a celebration.

The Wairarapa Women’s Centre worked alongside the Red Cross, Neighbourhood Support, and Masterton District Council [MDC] Welcoming Communities advisor Arti Kadian to help 10 migrant women complete a food safety course.

The graduates of the course, funded by the Wairarapa Women’s Centre and facilitated by Sarah Thompson from Innovative New Zealand, were presented with certificates at a small ceremony last Monday, attended by friends, family and supporters.

In the audience was evidence of other projects active in Masterton to help welcome and settle new migrants and refugees. This included the WeConnect programme, which pairs newcomers to the region with local volunteers to address their specific needs, as they navigate living and working in a new country.

One graduate of the food safety course and participant in WeConnect, Epti Rusdi, hosted a special lunch for her buddy, Sue Tennent, and her wider neighbourhood, showcasing homecooked “delicious Indonesian dishes”.

Tennent praised the spirit of Epti and her fellow graduates for participating in the course – in a country that has only recently become their home, and conducted in a language some are only just learning to speak.

“I’m not sure I would have had the courage that you women have to step forward and do something different in a totally different environment,” Tennent said.

Masterton mayor Gary Caffell, too, applauded the women’s achievements.

“You are all going to contribute marvellously to our town and we thank you for that,” he said. “I hope I see a lot more of you all in the future.”

Caffell also paid special tribute to the work of the Wairarapa Women’s Centre in promoting the course and sourcing the funding, and took the opportunity to highlight Masterton’s tradition in welcoming refugees, including those from the Ahmadiyya community, to the district.

In 2022, Masterton became the twelfth location in Aotearoa to become part of its refugee resettlement programme since it began in the 1950s.

“We are absolutely thrilled with that – because the opinion of our council is that the more diverse your community, the better it is,” Caffell said.

“And we are very fortunate here in Masterton that we now have a widely diverse community.”

Kadian, who helped translate for the participants throughout the one-day course, acknowledged the role the qualification could play in their futures.

“And who knows, maybe in the future, one of you will start your own business and contribute to the economy of our region,” she said.

“That is what our Welcoming Communities programme is all about – to empower our communities and empower individuals, so you feel welcome and you feel included.”

In the spirit of providing ongoing support, Kadian has teamed up with Cathy Cameron from Neighbourhood Support to apply for funding to run a business 1-0-1 course.

“The course won’t just be a one-off session and ‘off you go, and do your stuff’,” Kadian said.

“We will be doing the full research, and we’ll be working collaboratively with different departments within the council – licensing, bylaws, regulations, and providing food control plans templates, for example. We’ll work out what needs to be done.”

Pooja Soham Taskar, who arrived in Aotearoa in January, and Rizwana Parvin, who has been here for one year, were among those awarded certificates.

They said they enjoyed the course, which covered topics such as food hygiene, cross-contamination and safe refrigeration.

“We were made to feel very welcome,” Pooja said.

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