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A warm welcome from Kirikiriroa to newcomers

9 September 2022

As a Hamilton City Council public facility, Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga O Waikato is proud to be taking part in Welcome Week 2022 to collaborate with, and celebrate new migrant and refugees to the city, as part of the Welcoming Communities programme.

Welcome Week is a global initiative when cities host events in collaboration with their community groups to celebrate and welcome new migrants and refugees.

Council has been working for several years to make the city - and Council - more open and inclusive while aiming to be part of the Welcoming Communities programme. Late last year, Council adopted a Welcoming Plan and approved $75,000 in the Annual Plan to enable our community groups to help deliver it.

Community Committee Deputy Chair Councillor Kesh Naidoo-Rauf says this programme and being part of Welcome Week are things that will help grow Hamilton into a strong, supportive community.

“This week of events designed to welcome our newest residents will help us make sure that they feel supported, welcomed and part of the community. The wellbeing of our residents is so important, and that includes of those that are new to the city.

“This is a great opportunity for anyone – whether you’re a new arrival or have been in Kirikiriroa for a few years already – to come a long and get involved in open and honest conversations about yours and other cultures to help us all feel at home.”

Economic Development Analyst Sija Soman discovered just how much Council has our people’s welfare in mind when she made the move from Dubai to Aotearoa New Zealand three years ago.

Ms Soman came to New Zealand to find new challenges and learn new perspectives. As a new immigrant in a foreign country, she quickly discovered a supportive community both at Te Whare Wananga o Waikato (the University of Waikato) where she was studying towards her Master’s in Business Management, as well as at Te Kaunihera o Kirikiriroa (Hamilton City Council) where she now works.

Leaving behind a successful 10-year corporate career, Ms Soman packed up her world and arrived in Kirikiriroa Hamilton ready for a new adventure, with her husband and two-year-old daughter set to follow shortly after. But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the world shut down, leaving her in a foreign country with no support network.

Ms Soman said she found a whaanau (family) in some of her fellow students and staff at the University, who greeted her with a hongi (Maaori greeting), asked after her family and even invited her around for Christmas while her family was overseas.

In order to stay in the country, she now calls home, Ms Soman applied for a job at Council. She was taken under the wing of members of the team who lead their Welcoming Communities programme, as well as their Diversity and Inclusion group.

She appreciated how open and welcoming the team was.

“There have been so many people that have made me feel included and valued. The team really care about making newcomers feel heard and included.

“One of my colleagues booked weekly coffee catch ups into my calendar just to see how I was going and making sure I had everything I needed. Another gave me a handy Hamilton guide that Council had created for newcomers as part of the Welcoming Communities programme which had a lot of really useful information.”

Welcoming Week will run from Friday 9 September to Sunday 18 September and include a series of mostly free events designed to welcome new Hamiltonians to the city as well as educate existing Hamiltonians on how we can become more open and inclusive.

Event at Waikato Museum