Local dairy farmer Earl Magtibay says he can track his leadership role in the community back to an invitation to sing at a Christmas party.
Earl, who is now chairperson of the award winning Filipino Dairy Workers New Zealand (FDWNZ), says his first association with the group was when they learnt he could sing and invited him to perform at their Christmas party. He liked FDWNZ and the role it was playing in helping Filipino people to settle in Ashburton and decided he wanted to join “to be of more purpose to the community”. From simply volunteering he began to move into leadership roles until reaching his current position. “Being a leader has been a way for me to show my capabilities and has helped me find my place in the district,” he says.
FDWNZ began in 2006 when a small group of dairy farm workers from the Philippines started meeting in Rakaia to share stories and provide support for each other. When an increasing number of Filipino people began arriving in the district, FDWNZ became a more formal organisation and was registered as a charitable trust.
In 2017, FDWNZ won the supreme award at the TrustPower Ashburton District Community Awards. It will go on to compete in Queenstown for the national award this April. Earl said the response from the community to FDWNZ winning the award has been incredibly positive and has given the group a greater sense of inclusion. “It really recognised that we are contributing in the district,” he said. “ It is important to New Zealand to have good people who can help the economy and the social aspects of the community.”
FDWNZ provides voluntary support, runs multiple events and migrant information seminars, and has an active basketball league. The group was also successful in securing visits from the Embassy of the Philippines mobile consular service meaning local Filipinos do not have to leave the district to access the Embassy’s services. Earl says FDWNZ is working hard to involve the whole community in its activities. One of the ways it is doing this is by identifying common threads between what New Zealanders are passionate about and the activities it provides.
Earl says one of the most important lessons he has learned as a leader is to simply listen. “Many people forget that listening is part of communication. When you listen that’s when trust is built up,” he says. “
For newcomers working on rurally based dairy farms, early morning starts and long hours can be barriers to accessing the support or services they need. Earl says a focus of FDWNZ has been to learn about what is available in the community and how it can support existing activities to improve everyone’s quality of life.
“With what’s happening in the world right now, we need to start with ourselves, spread the good to others and try to all work together as one.”