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Race unity hui coming to town

Sheryl Chand with the other winners at the 2021 Race Unity Speech Awards. PHOTO/FILE

Anisha Satya

Solway College’s Sheryl Chand will lead a Race Unity hui in Masterton this weekend. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

It’s been a busy few months for Solway College’s Sheryl Chand.

The 16-year-old has spent six weeks planning a regional discussion on behalf of Race Unity Aotearoa.

That planning will pay off when her hui runs this Saturday at Solway College.

An event for college students, the Race Unity Masterton hui aims to “provide a safe space” for attendees to discuss issues of racism and bias.

The police commissioner and several other guests will appear over the four-hour affair.

Planning began mid-June, on the heels of her success at the Race Unity Speech Competition in May. She was one of seven competitors in the national final and received the Hedi Moani Memorial Award for advocacy.

Sheryl spoke of her experience as a Fijian-Indian immigrant and encouraged the audience to “combine [their] differences together” in the pursuit of unity.

“Hearing people’s personal stories was really inspiring,” she said.

“Afterwards, I wanted to connect with others, especially those in the Wairarapa.”

Race Unity Aotearoa, organised by the national Bahá’í community, offered each finalist the means to run a hui [Maori term for a gathering].

Sheryl accepted without a second thought.

She was connected to local Bahá’í members Leyla Neilson and Stella Vokia-Scarlett, who will help her run the event.

The Bahá’í assembly of Masterton, and businesses Printcraft and Countdown, have supported the team and helped “make the hui happen”.

“Race Unity connected me with them, we made a plan, and now we’re here.”

Will New Zealand ever be free of racism? Sheryl seems hopeful, saying she can “see things getting better.”

She said by engaging with other cultures, we begin to break down our biases, and she views the hui as a step in the right direction.

This is the first time in Race Unity’s 20-year history that a Masterton hui has been held.

It will run this Saturday, August 14, from 10am to 2pm at Solway College.

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