Education builds link between cultures

By Alison King


When Laytee George's children were subjected to calls of "ching chong" while walking in Ngongotaha she knew she had to do something.

Her answer was education - in 2005 the Rotorua branch of the New Zealand Chinese Language Association was set up.

Mrs George moved to Rotorua from Malaysia with her husband Thomas 22 years ago - it was their city of choice. They married soon after arriving at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in traditional Indian dress in a congregation that was mostly "elderly New Zealanders".

"The minister introduced us as foreigners who had just arrived and our marriage ceremony was an Indian tradition. There was a lot of assumption that we didn't speak English."

That couldn't have been further from the truth - they had both learned English and had lived in Western cultures before moving here. They didn't encounter any racism until the Ngongotaha incident.

"People didn't know where my children came from - they looked neither Chinese nor Indian. That informed us as parents that we needed to educate the community about us.

I was in a privileged position of being a Chinese language teacher, to be in a place where I can educate and inform and be the bridge between two cultures.

"Today in Rotorua we're really proud to say that our city has over 2000 students learning Chinese in schools from Year 1 up to university level. We're in a unique position compared to other cities. Rotorua is hailed as a model for Chinese language growth and development."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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