Community Volunteer at the Palmerston North City Council.
“When I arrived in Palmerston North, there weren’t many large-scale cultural events taking place here, but now the council is doing an important job organizing a diverse range of cultural activities, which are helping communities to get involved with each other and get to know about one another.”
Priyanka volunteers for a number of charitable organizations and initiatives in Palmerston North City, New Zealand. She explains: “Palmerston North gave me so much after I came here — a sense of home — and now I want to give back to the community.” She volunteers as an ESOL Home Tutor with refugees at English Language Partners, she is the Marketing Coordinator & Vice President of Network of Skilled Migrants Manawatu (NSMM), and is also a Digits Tutor and Trustee at Digits Charitable Trust.
Priyanka met Stephanie Velvin at the Welcoming Community advisory meeting. The Welcoming Community team invited all of the Indian community associations in Palmerston North and members of the Nepali, Bhutanese, and other communities to co-create the Diwali (Festival of Lights) celebration. Following this very successful collaboration, Priyanka volunteered on another Hindu festival—Holi—known across the world as the Festival of Colors.
“Individual Indian associations don’t have capacity to organize large-scale festivals, so having a council with a much broader reach take that role means that everyone gets to know about the event and feels invited. Newcomers often organized around small groups or associations, which usually only reached out to their own members. [..] Every group wanted to present specific aspects of their culture during the celebratory event. It was crucial that we all met in one place and collectively came up with the festival’s program, so no one felt excluded.”
“Last year was the first time that we celebrated [Holi] with other New Zealanders. It’s such a good way to bring all the communities together to understand each other’s cultures. I did Henna on the hands of people who I hadn’t met before; I watched performances that come from my culture with them. There were heaps of activities and I felt really happy that someone was thinking about me, embracing my culture, and showed it to other communities in New Zealand. It felt really good!”
“Normally you would not feel comfortable approaching a stranger, whereas in the Festival of Colors people are enjoying themselves. They dance together with people they didn’t know before, they have conversations with them, they put colors on each other’s faces. They are so happy to know about your culture: they were even learning to say a few things in Hindi.”