why Ms Anita Mansell is my favorite Kinoy*

Kabayan and QSM awardee Anita N Mansell walks in their shoes.

Kabayan and QSM awardee Anita N Mansell walks in their shoes.

[Note : As always, this post about this remarkable person is long overdue.  Thanks to Ms Didith Tayawa-Figuracion, Ms Meia Lopez, and of course Ms Anita Mansell for the allowing the reposting of this article and Mr Craig Phillips for graciously allowing use of the photo.  Please visit the latest issue of KABAYAN Magazine (where the original article was published), the only newsmagazine of the Wellington Filipino community, at http://www.pinoystop.org/kabayan/, advance Merry Christmas to everyone! ]

THIRTY-ONE YEARS ago, we can’t be 100% sure, but Anita Nadera arrived in Wellington New Zealand on a typically windy, overcast day.  The migrant in her conditioned her to prepare for anything and everything, and it would be her constant source of strength for years and years.  It helped her adjust to the vastly alien life of being a new New Zealander, but it also helped her to be strong for her brethren, other new migrants.

Thirty-one years later, on another typically windy, overcast Wellington day, Anita Mansell (she has been happily married since then) she looks back with much introspection on half a lifetime of service and volunteerism.

She refuses to choose highlights in her career as a volunteer, and we believe her because she doesn’t even want to be called such, only someone who has been there for others.  She wasn’t a pioneer with the Mabuhay Filipino Association, but she might as well have been.  She joined a year after the Society was conceived, and she has not stopped helping newcomers, refugees and migrants first get settled in (physically and figuratively), then finding out her wards’ particular area of difficulty in adjusting.  Whether it would be the language barrier, getting around or finding a job, Anita would be there, and she didn’t limit herself to helping kabayan only.  Southeast Asians, South Asians, Middle Easterns, it didn’t matter to Anita as long as you needed help.

She believes that better-adjusted migrants are better able to show their pride in their cultures, showing her Kiwi hosts our native performing arts could help them better understand us.  Anita became more involved in both the Wellington International Filipino Society and the Hutt Multicultural Council, where Anita served as vice-president.
Time flew by so quickly that before Anita and her crew realised it, they had helped and eased into New Zealand society scores and scores of migrant families via the simplest of formulae : because she was a former migrant herself, she knew how it was to walk in their shoes.
Almost as an afterthought when asked how she had spent so much time in these migrant aid groups, she said : helping people is my passion.
In 2011 no less than the New Zealand Government, represented by the Governor General himself, conferred on our kabayan Anita the Queen’s Service Medal in recognition of her sterling efforts serving both the Filipino and migrant communities the last three decades.
Only two other Filipinos have received this honor, but Anita says the award itself is but a confirmation of the work she has done since she arrived in New Zealand, as a volunteer where the opportunity to help others is its own reward.
Inspiring words from the Cebuana migrant who jumped into New Zealand on that fateful windy day in Wellington 31 years ago with stars in her eyes, and ended up dedicating her life to helping others.
*Kinoy, a contraction for Kiwi Pinoy, is a non-racial term for Filipinos who’ve either been born or have migrated to New Zealand

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