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Waikato Uni students helping new residents feel more at home

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A group of Waikato University students is helping new residents feel more at home in Hamilton.

The students, mostly members of the University’s Golden Key Honour Society, have started a conversational English group in the city. They meet every Friday in the Garden Place Library.

Fourth-year social science student Jackson Jason-Mackay has worked at the Refugee Orientation Centre in Frankton and says he noticed there weren’t a lot of opportunities for people who don’t speak much English to have simple, informal conversations - a friendly chat, and so he hit on the idea of starting the sessions.

Hamilton City Libraries agreed to come on board, providing the venue and helping with promotion, and Jackson says he was surprised when more than 30 people turned up to the first event in July.

"They were from a wide range of countries including, Colombia and Uruguay, Burma, India, Saudi Arabia and Korea," says Jackson. "But with only eight students to host groups on the first night, it meant the discussion groups were quite large."

So Jackson put the call out through Golden Key for more students, so the groups could be smaller and people would get more opportunity to talk. The students responded and at the second session there were 16 students happy to be involved.

The Golden Key Honour Society is an international non-profit organisation for top academic students, committed to recognising and promoting academic achievement, and part of the society’s criteria is to also promote altruistic conduct through voluntary service.

"So while we’re providing a service that we hope people will benefit from, we’ll also be learning from the experience," says Jackson who’s completing his honours year in Demography. He’s originally from Wellington and chose to study at Waikato because it’s the only university in New Zealand that offers Population Studies.

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