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When she was just 19 years old, Leina Isno’s father explained to her that he had educated her to the best of his ability but it was now time for her to leave their home in Vanuatu and move to New Zealand.

Speaking at Plimmerton Rotary on 19 September, Leina recounted how different and challenging were those early days in NZ. “I was completely on my own when I first arrived here. New Zealand is so different from Vanuatu. Time is irrelevant in Vanuatu. Ours was a subsistence lifestyle, organised along tribal lines. We grew our own crops and caught fish from the sea. Women were subservient to men. We women worked in the gardens and weaved baskets.”

After arriving in NZ, Leina felt drawn to the nursing profession, as a reaction to the sub-standard health practices in Vanuata. “Witchdoctors are common at home. Many of them know little or nothing about medical matters, but they are trusted by the locals.” Leina earned a scholarship to Otago University and has since become a competent and sought-after theatre nurse.

Giving back to the community has become a major part of Leina’s life in recent years. “I love volunteering. Recently I took part in a movie fundraiser in aid of the children of Vanuatu. The project has won ten international awards and was part of the NZ’s International Film Festival.”

In 2015 Cyclone Pam ravaged many Pacific Islands. Leina helped to co-ordinate aid from several organisations including Red Cross and Rotary NZ (“You guys were just great!”)

More recently Leina had helped organise another movie night at the Lighthouse cinema in Petone, to raise funds to build safe houses for at-risk women in Bougainville.

Leina is currently a member of the “Friends of Pataka””. She is helping to showcase Melanesian culture at the museum. “Our recent display was reported on page 2 of the Dominion Post!” She is a member of the Wellington Vanuatu Community organisation and also provides a voice for Melanesians throughout New Zealand through her membership of the Pacific Advisory Group,

A project currently receiving her support is the “Treaty times 30”, through which the Treaty of Waitangi is to be translated into 30 languages.

Leina describes herself as a real estate investor. She willingly mentors young real estate buyers.

She also finds time to be a marriage celebrant.

“I have this hunger to be part of the community, to pay it forward on the international humanitarian stage!”

Melanesian Miracle

 
 
 
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