Early in her medical career, Wellington-based Psychiatric Nurse Sailosa Kabireira experienced the memorable moment of being able to speak with a patient in her native language of Kiribati.
It has stuck with Sailosa because she saw how speaking in Kiribati helped to break down barriers.
“I felt proud to be able to help my people where I work,” Sailosa says.
“It was a great honour and rewarding to help someone who was vulnerable and needed assistance.”
A member of Pasifika Medical Association (PMA) and Nurse at a mental health regional forensic and rehabilitation unit in Wellington, Sailosa reflects on the incident, during Kiribati Language Week, which concluded on July 18.
Sailosa is so passionate about her culture, she took the entire Kiribati Language Week off work, so she could promote the Kiribati language within her community.
The theme of the first official Kiribati Language Week, supported by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) was Ribanan te Taetae ni Kiribati e Kateimatoa ara Katei ao Kinakira.
In English, it means Nurturing Kiribati language promotes our Cultural Identity and Heritage.
“We started the week celebrating at mass by singing hymns in Kiribati and I was also involved in a flag raising ceremony of the Kiribati flag at Porirua Council,” Sailosa explains.
“I’ve also helped with workshops and storytelling sessions in the language – it has been very busy.”
Sailosa came to New Zealand in 2004 to study and eventually moved here with her husband and their six children.
“We decided New Zealand is a good place for our family, in terms of education, good health systems and the clean environment.”
Like many Pacific people who move to New Zealand, Sailosa has had to sacrifice being away from her homeland and culture.
That is why it is so important to celebrate one’s language, to retain traditions here in New Zealand, she says.
Sailosa has also kept her culture alive at home by speaking the Kiribati language to her children.
“We encourage this at home just so our children understand where they come from.
“I love the Kiribati language – it is simple and very beautiful.”
Kiribati Language Week was the third of nine Pacific Language Weeks scheduled for 2020. Cook Islands Language Week is next, from August 2-8.
Visit MPP for more information and language resources.