Lam bridges the gap
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.