On Saturday 9th June, we held our most multicultural event of the year so far! Working closely with the local Syrian and Muslim communities, the UHMCC team opened up the doors of St Joseph’s School Hall (it is worth noting this is a Catholic School!) to celebrate the end of Ramadan with the diverse people of the Hutt Valley.
We were quickly putting out extra seats as there were over 150 people visiting, which was over double what we had expected, and the exciting dishes everyone had brought began to fill up the tables! There was a wonderful mix of people, including a number of ladies from the local Chinese and Luo (African) communities, as well as long time Hutt Valley residents, and of course the Syrian and Muslim communities. We also had a few special visitors, from the Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy, to E Tu Whanau Director Ann Dysart, local MPs Chris Bishop and Carolyn O’Fallon, and the new regional Diversity Engagement Advisor from OEC, Elaina Lauaki-Vea.
Before we got into the food, we took some time to acknowledge the exceptional progress the women in various migrant communities had been making over the past 6 months: Both the Chinese and Luo ladies had participated in Wahine Toa’s self-defense courses, aimed specifically at empowering women to handle themselves both physically and non-violently in stressful scenarios. A number of Syrian women had just graduated through the first round of the programme UHMCC had been piloting with MSD, the Pathway to Successful Settlement and Employment, with spectacular results, and it was a sincere pleasure seeing their pride and happiness as they got up to receive their certificates from Ann Dysart. Before moving on, we asked the men of the Syrian community if they would like to go through a similar course, and were answered with a resounding YES, so we know what our next steps are!
We also had some Community Awards to present on behalf of NZFMC, to acknowledge some of the individuals whose efforts often go unrecognised in the community – the fact that Upper Hutt alone took home three of these awards is something to be proud of, so congratulations to Mike Ryan from Upper Hutt City Council, Tony Morrison from Sportzone, and to our Executive Officer Rebecca Leete.
We were lucky enough to have Sadeer Mohammed, a young Iraqi man who had been volunteering to run the event in his spare time, share his story of life in New Zealand as an Iraqi family who strive to honour their roots and honour their new home, and we followed his story with a feast in true Eid style! There were many intriguing dishes and flavours, with one of the Syrian ladies, Amahl, providing us with an incredible staple dish of “Maklooba“. It was a wonderful sight to see such a diverse crowd come together as a family for one afternoon to chat and laugh and share food and make friends, and we look forward to next year very much.
Thank you to all who came and participated, with special thanks to Arwa Ziad, who did a spectacular job of MCing in both English AND Arabic, and to Sadeer and Monier Mohammed for your volunteer efforts before and after the event, you did a great job