Lam bridges the gap

Central Leader - - NEWS -

Song Lam reck­ons if you help peo­ple, it’s akin to help­ing your­self.

The Queen’s Ser­vice Medal re­cip­i­ent was taken aback to be se­lected for a Ki­wibank Lo­cal He­roes award.

The 64-year-old came to Auck­land from Hong Kong in 1990 in search of bet­ter ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties for her sons.

Lam worked as a bilin­gual fa­cil­i­ta­tor be­tween school staff and Chi­nese par­ents and stu­dents for almost 15 years.

In Hong Kong par­ents don’t go to school un­less their chil­dren are in trou­ble, she ex­plains.

‘‘They were scared to go to par­ent-teacher meet­ings.

‘‘They thought maybe their chil­dren had done some­thing wrong.’’

She ex­pe­ri­enced a few cul­tural mis­un­der­stand­ings of her own when she first ar­rived.

‘‘My neigh­bour in­vited us to bring a plate to their party. I didn’t know what that meant so I just brought an empty plate. I felt very em­bar­rassed.

‘‘Luck­ily I lived next door so I went home and got some food.’’

For 18 years, she’s volun- teered her time as co­or­di­na­tor of the East­ern Lan­guage Cor­ner.

She set up free English classes for Chi­nese mi­grants after she had met lots of par­ents with limited English-speak­ing abil­ity.

Lam is also the sec­re­tary of the Chi­nese New Set­tlers Ser­vices Trust in Pan­mure (which is sim­i­lar to the Cit­i­zens Ad­vice Bureau, she says).

She’s also writ­ten 10 books in Man­darin, in­clud­ing The Maori of New Zealand, first pub­lished in 1998 and again this year.

She took an in­tro­duc­tory course on Maori cul­ture at the Univer­sity of Auck­land as part of her re­search with help from Maori friends.

There are many sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the two cul­tures, in­clud­ing the im­por­tance of fam­ily and re­spect­ing your el­ders, she says.

Pro­lific au­thor: Song Lam has writ­ten books about New Zealand and Maori cul­ture.

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