Published on 21st July 2014
At VSA, we know there’s something special about Kiwi volunteers. They have a sense of fair play and respect for our neighbours in the wider Pacific. We know that stems from our cultural heritage – volunteers find that Māori language and culture often inform their assignments. Te wiki o te reo Māori (Māori Language Week) runs from July 21–27.
Sometimes it’s in small ways – volunteers, learning new languages and cultural practices, will find elements that are familiar. They’ll also respond with their own – we’ve had volunteers share te reo, waiata, even form kapa haka groups.
Other times it’s in much larger ways. Volunteers in Bougainville often say they’re struck by how knowledgeable locals are about Māori culture – when New Zealand hosted peace-brokering talks between Bougainville and Papua New Guinea in 1997, Māori protocol was blended with Bougainvillean ceremony to break barriers. Kiwi volunteers are still held in high regard because of that history.
Timor-Leste Programme Manager Diane Thorne-George, when volunteering as a preschool teacher in 2003, taught along the same lines as in a Kōhanga Reo, recognising the importance of linking children with their own culture and language.
Read New Zealand Sign Language teacher Jacqui Iseli's reflections on the important of learning and speaking a second language, especially the official languages of Aotearoa New Zealand.