She has three masters degrees and a long history of working with other cultures, but Elizabeth ‘Minoo’ Verghese still found plenty to learn at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.
Minoo has just completed the Level 4 Manaaki Tangata Certificate in Bicultural Social Services programme at the Māngere campus of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and says it has given her a much better understanding of other cultures and people.
“Although I’ve been here for the past 20 years, my interaction with the indigenous people hasn’t been as much since we tend to remain in our comfort zones and stick to our own communities,” she says.
“I feel this course is excellent in terms of mixing around with people of different cultures, because what happens is you’re learning the culture of another on a one on one basis. And you also tend to understand that what is important in one culture is also important in other cultures, it’s the same, we’re not different. The basics are the same it’s just the way you depict yourself but at heart you’re core fundamentals are the same.”
Minoo is originaly form India but spent 10 years in the Middle East (Dubai) before coming to Aotearoa.
She has a masters degree in biochemistry, an MBA (both from India) and a Master of Professional Business Studies for Supply Chain (NZ) but says the certificate programme gives her the qualification she needs to continue her work in the community.
“I’ve always worked for the community in my spare time from my youth, but here in Aotearoa you need to be qualified, so for the sake of the paper I’m doing it, even though I’m actually involved with the community now,” she says.
But the course has given her much more than a simple qualification.
“It has actually given me a better appreciation of what I saw and expected. I thought I’m getting into something that’s run of the mill, but I’ve got so connected with everybody, totally connected with each individual and you can see and feel that aroha . Even though I know I’m busy and tired, I feel I have to get here and meet up with everyone, we have a connection.” '
It is her first time studying with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and as someone from another culture, Minoo says it can initially seem quite intimidating. “You come in and you think ‘oh my God, what am I doing’ but when you feel the respect, the culture, the understanding, it’s actually marvelous.”
She says the course has made her better prepared for working with people from other cultures.
“It lets me understand the bicultural nature in the community and why they do things the way the do – it’s different from mine, when I look at it from my point of view. But now because of this course and the way we’re nurtured and taught, I’m able to understand it better and get a much clearer picture.”