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Unlike my earlier columns, today I am going to introduce you to one of those voices that seek to facilitate a union of the ethnic Indian community with the mainstream. Several other social workers are also on the same mission, but Shyam Grover, Social Worker in Schools (SWIS) employed by Family Works Northern, begins his mission at the school level. Schools are, after all, one of the primary nodes of contact for a newly-arrived immigrant.

The Department of Labour Migration Trends Key Indicators Report shows India as the main supplier of skilled migrants to New Zealand, between July and December 2014. This increase in Indian migration means this community may require support as they adjust to their new life. Through Grover, the often isolated South Asian migrant families facing cultural and language barriers, are finding their voice.

Deputy Principal of Manurewa Central School, Janice Lindsay, says, migrant Indian families approach Grover for advice on a variety of issues such as understanding the New Zealand education system, developing parenting skills, strengthening family relationships and dealing with abuse.

Originally from New Delhi, in India, but having lived in New Zealand for the last 20 years, Grover set up Chat and Chai, a monthly parenting and support group for parents, grandparents and their extended families. “Chat and Chai helps families meet like-minded people and gives them a safe place to ask questions and discuss tough issues,” says Grover.

“They are here in isolation. Some migrants can live in New Zealand for more than 10 years and have not made friends,” he says. “We work with them to build their confidence and educate them. The majority of people don’t know where to find resources. They don’t know what is support is available. We want to inform the community about the resources and networks available to them.”

By helping them “build networks within their communities”, social workers like Grover “are providing these migrant families with a platform to raise their voice.”

In spite of an understanding of how the NZ system works, does Grover ever feel segregated because he belongs to a non-mainstream community? He replies, “Yes, because of the language problem. There is a feeling of stigma and shame attached if you report any injustice to authorities, so many people bear injustice in silence. Often, they lack the knowledge of what community resources are available and they don’t have a local contact, from their own community, who they can trust and get confidential advice.”

At the crossroads of culture, the concerned authorities need to decide how to overcome these barriers to assimilate the various communities within the multicultural nation it wishes to uphold.

Questions that Grover is often asked:

  • I have been in New Zealand for the last 10 years and have no friends. How can I make friends?
  • I do not know how to handle children at home (questions about discipline).
  • We do not know where to take children during school break. What’s the best way to spend quality time with children?
  • My husband is an alcoholic and I do not know what to do. What kind of help can I avail of?
  • My husband hits my children and shouts at me. I am sick of that and do not know where to go for help.
  • I want to know how to develop a good relationship with my children’s school.
  • I cannot speak English at all and want help to liaise with my children’s teacher (or school).
  • I am having relationship problems with my husband/ wife. What kind of help can I avail of?
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