“I felt like an alien” says Geetha Kutty as she recalls her first months in Taranaki. “When I came here there was nothing. There were no [migrant support] services. It was so hard for me to find everything I needed.” 24 years down the track Geetha has supported over 1838 fellow migrants through her community organisation Migrant Connections Taranaki (MCT), which started in 2014.
Racism, discrimination, bullying, unemployment, and immigration issues are just a few of the complex challenges migrants face when they restart life in a new place. Geetha has made it her mission to change that experience for the 5,000+ migrants who call Taranaki home.
MCT have been proactive in their efforts to support the migrant community here in Taranaki. They run regular workshops on topics such as Diversity in the Workplace, Treaty of Waitangi and Orienting as a Migrant. They also led the vigil attended by over 2000 people at Brooklands Bowl to commemorate the Christchurch Mosque Attacks. And of course, they continue to provide crucial tailored support to individuals and families who are navigating the many layers of language and culture within domestic violence situations, employment issues, and intercultural marriages.
“Without Simon’s help, this wouldn’t have happened. I still know that if I need any support or I’m stuck or need any advice I can go to The Bishop’s Action Foundation.” Geetha recalls fondly the positivity Simon from BAF shared during that first coffee where the idea of Migrant Connections took flight. From there BAF supported Geetha with building their website, governance workshops and general advice and helped build a robust and fully functioning organisation. Alongside BAF, Geetha recalls the integral support from Community Law and her own family too.
COVID-19 brought its own challenges and opportunities for MCT. Alongside the rising urgency to get government guidance out to a community of 24 languages, Geetha saw the opportunity to create a gift for the wider Taranaki community through a cookbook ‘Ethnic Flavours’, 133 recipes shared by 16 contributors from the migrant community. It is a celebration of the beauty found in diversity, bringing a taste of travel into the homes of Taranaki families.
Today, BAF continues to be a proud supporter and friend of Migrant Connections Taranaki, impressed by the reach and depth by which Geetha continues to advocate for easier integration for migrants Taranaki.
To follow Migrant Connections work, visit their website: www.migrantconnections.org.nz