Friends, family, community

When cultures come together

Ooi and Rosalind showing a Pua Kumbu, a traditional Iban skirt made by Rosalind’s great grandmother over 100 years ago.

Rosalind Mangserga, 55, may have been born and bred an Iban in Sarawak but is today the matriarch of the Ooi family of Penang.

"Anywhere in Malaysia is my home and my family has no trouble blending in, anywhere as we believe that no matter what our race or religion is, we are all essentially the same," she said.

This gentle housewife has three children with her Penangite husband Ooi Teik Liang, and she thinks it is a blessing that her children grew up appreciating others for who they are and not judging people based on their skin colour or religion.

One of her daughters married a Malaysian Indian while another married a Malaysian Chinese. And that’s not all, it is very much a norm for many of her close family and relatives to have inter-racial marriages. Rosalind said it is because of their Baha’i faith that they all believed that humanity is one single race, thus the word racism does not exist for them.

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Meditation on the death of my mama

{josquote} In a couple of weeks, I will be 50 and 9 years expelled. I can't remember now what it was I was expelled from.{/josquote}

I am leaving the world of reason. Already, I can see its horizon behind me. I can see the hopes and dreams I pinned on it - the hope to change the world, the hope to change the Baha'i community, the hope to find love, the hope to find a place of work and the hope to study - all subverted. Baha'u'llah says we are to detach from the world and live in his sanctuary of peace. I am on my way, even though I strain to pray, to meet him in his paradise. I can barely get myself out of bed sometimes, much less find it in me to reach out to him. I ask him for his grace and favour but feel a fraud. What right have I to ask for that?

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Russ and Gina Garcia Speak on the Inevitability of World Peace

John Haines

This Voices from the North interview was recorded with Russ and Gina Garcia in 2007. At the time this amazing couple had been married for 54 years. Russ is a world renowned composer, arranger and conductor who has worked with the likes of Fred Astaire and Louis Armstrong. Today, at 92 he is still working (although Russ hastens to say it isn't work for him). Gina, is a professional singer, author and lyricist. Together Russ and Gina still do human values work with students in three Bay of Islands schools each week. Talk about tireless and inspirational servants of humanity.

Russ and Gina speak of leaving the Hollywood life for their six year odyssey on the Dawn Breaker that eventually brought them to New Zealand. They speak of their Baha'i life and the wisdom they've gleaned and shared in full, joyful lives dedicated to creating a peaceful world for all humans. The underlying theme is the strength of their relationship, out of which has flowed the love they share with everyone they meet.

Russ and Gina Garcia, interviewed by John Haines

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Honours List: Kids' smiles outshine Tinseltown

Russell Garcia has composed music for Hollywood movies and even befriended the stars.

He has also been awarded an honorary doctorate by Changchun University in China.

But the expat American, who calls Kerikeri home, and his wife, former Hollywood professional singer Gina Garcia, feel that teaching children is one of their "greatest gifts".

The couple have been given Queen's Service Medals for their services to music.

Photos of Professor Garcia working alongside Charlie Chaplin and jazz musicians Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Oscar Peterson grace the studio at their home on the outskirts of Kerikeri but he and Mrs Garcia remain extremely humble.

"It's us trying to do some good," she said of their work.

The couple, who follow the Baha'i faith, teach a course called Life Skills and as well as giving their time, contribute financially to music and the arts.

{josquote}I've never worked a day in my life. I write music and they give me money for it.{/josquote}

"We teach [kids] to be trustworthy, honest, not prejudiced," Mrs Garcia said.

"But we teach them with songs and raps and stories and games in a creative experience - and the kids love it.

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Honours List: Varied career began with song and dance

Mabel Wharekawa-Burt won her first talent quest aged 4 at the Waihi Soundshell.

"I sang a song called Mahi's Making Eyes at Me and can still remember the dance to accompany the song," she says.

Born in Katikati, the rural town where she still lives today, the 61-year-old has had a variety of roles including actor, television and radio presenter and producer, theatre director, coach, umpire, anti-domestic-violence advocate, chairwoman, agony aunt and arts administrator.

But she is better known as Auntie Mabel from the TV programme Ask Your Auntie.

Now she can add member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to performing arts and

the community to her repertoire.

"I can't understand why I'm more worthy than the thousands of people who made me what I am," she says.

"If I am an awesome individual it's because of the thousands of people in my life who made me what I am."

{josquote}She has acted in films including Whale Rider...{/josquote}

Ms Wharekawa-Burt credits the seaside soundshells in the 50s and 60s, her marae upbringing (she is of Ngati Ranginui and Ngai-Te-Rangi descent), a strong association with Catholic communities "with their love of pageantry", her whanau and the Baha'i faith as her great inspirations.

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