By Claire Farrelly
Neighbourliness is part of kiwi DNA, as experienced by 22 year old migrant Roanna. Having a good relationship with her neighbours was critically important to her settling into life in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
‘Friendly’ and ‘welcoming’ are the terms used by 22-year-old migrant Roanna in describing New Zealanders upon her arrival in New Zealand more than four years ago. Such descriptors are a true testament to the Neighbours Day campaign belief that neighbourliness is simply a part of the kiwi DNA. For Roanna, Auckland’s multicultural make-up in itself provided an immediate sense of belonging.
Self-conscious and shy to be begin with, Roanna explains that adjusting to life in NZ was initially a little daunting. Loneliness, isolation, language barriers, and a struggle to know who to turn to for help could have made Roanna’s transition to New Zealand a difficult one. Fortunately for her she found that her eagerness to assimilate, combined with the generosity of spirit she encountered in both her local community and her church, made making New Zealand home considerably easier. It meant that every day encounters were opportunities for connection, such as her daily visit to the local bus stop.
However, Roanna understands that for many migrants the transition to life in New Zealand may not be quite so smooth sailing.For this reason Roanna is particularly sensitive to the needs of migrants. She points out, that for migrants, having a good relationship with their neighbours is critically important. This is especially true when it comes to seeking support for every day issues – Roanna believes that migrants would much prefer to speak to a friendly neighbour than to seek assistance over the phone from someone that they don’t know.
For many migrants they simply need to know that the help is available for them. It is because of this need that Roanna urges kiwis, regardless of their origin, to go out of their way and introduce themselves to those that are new to the area. Roanna goes as far to say that it is worth keeping an eye out for ‘for sale’ signs, and then making a point to meet the new occupants.
Roanna has become what can only be described as a passionate advocate for neighbourly connection. She is a part of a community group aimed at strengthening local community and happily promotes the events run by the group by door knocking in her immediate area. The reception she receives is very positive with an increasing number of people attending the events. Roanna states that the group aims to prioritise street-based events in the future, because as Neighbours Day has demonstrated, it is at the street level that community well-being is enhanced.
Roanna’s enthusiasm for local community is infectious. You cannot help but be energised by her call for everyday kiwis to be ‘the driving force’ in their local communities. Roanna believes that Neighbours Day Aotearoa provides the perfect opportunity for kick-starting such efforts. For her, it’s easy, it’s fun and it’s well worth the effort.