We’ll let her tell you why festivals like this are so important for Christchurch…Because learning is such an important part of human life and having access to learning opportunities and engaging in learning, regardless of how old you are, is so important for our wellbeing and mental health. Festivals like Learning Days create opportunities for us to highlight some of the formal and informal learning opportunities across Ōtautahi, ignite conversations about our formal education system and remind us all that learning happens in many other places and in many other ways. Ako Ōtautahi Learning City Christchurch is all about showing people that learning is possible for anyone in our community. Learning should be accessible, equitable and innovative, as we move through our exponentially changing world into the future of work and learning. I got involved because I love to learn myself, I am a lifelong learner! And I loved the team who were behind the festival and was keen to support them with executing their plans!
What was the coolest thing you did or learnt during the week?
I’m going to have to pick more than one because I had some incredibly cool, enjoyable and inspiring experiences!
In no particular order…
I had so much fun when I visited Plains FM, where I learned about how presenters ‘front sell’ and ‘back sell’ songs, got to try it out myself and get recorded.
I took part in cultural city walk led by Di and Sam from Mātauraka Mahaanui. The walking tour took us on a journey of 7 locations within Christchurch city to view key pieces of the work of Matapopore within the new Ōtautahi rebuild. It was informative and enlightening.
I joined a group who went along to the YMCA 4C Centre, where Clark had worked with 7 rangatahi (youth) over 3 days to help them design and 3D print Taonga Pūoro (traditional Māori musical instruments). The rangatahi told us about their experience, how it impacted them and shared some very moving stories with us. It was humbling.
The last one was attending a presentation by Dr. Mazharuddin Syed Ahmed at Ara, where he talked about Using Aroha (Love) to Dismantle Hate and listed the numerous random acts of love and generosity following the March 15 Mosque attacks. His work is inspiring and he has a goal to reach a 1,000,000 people with his message of aroha, which is incredible. (Listen to Plains FM’s recording of this emotional presentation here).
A quick search tells me you’re involved with a lot more than just this great initiative! How do you fill a normal workday?
There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ workday for me! Ha ha!
I have a portfolio of projects I am working on that generally all revolve around leadership, wellbeing and learning.
I love presenting, delivering workshops and facilitating group conversations and also, do quite a bit of individual coaching.
I genuinely believe that every human is awesome and has what they need within them to succeed, so my goal is to support those I work with to see and own how amazing they are, understand and apply their strengths and inherent resources to take action and be the best they can possibly be. This is both good for the individual’s wellbeing and enables them to contribute in ways to their community, family, school, organisation, team that maximises the impact of that collective. That excites me!
I also read that you volunteer for Lifeline, how important is that to you?
Hugely important to me. It very much aligns with the ‘why’ I outlined above – that I believe that every individual has something special within them and I consider it a huge privilege to hold the space for the people who call to share their story with me. Sadly, Ireland (where I’m from) has as disturbing suicide statistics as New Zealand and I knew so many young men who ended their lives in their teens, 20s and 30s. It breaks my heart so if I can support someone having a tough time, I will be there for them and hope that’s enough.
Judging by your gorgeous Irish accent (that we managed to capture and now have playing on air!) you haven’t always lived in Christchurch? Can you tell us a little about your journey to get here?
Oh thanks! I’ve been here just over 11 years now. Came here on a working holiday visa in 2011 with my, then boyfriend, now husband, James. The economy was in the toilet in Ireland so we thought we’d go for an adventure and well, it’s lasted for 11 years so far, and we have no plans to go anywhere now. We’ve been back to Ireland 3 times in that 11 years and the last time was 4 years ago when I was on maternity leave. Our daughter, Cara, is now 5 and is a very proud Irish Kiwi. We chose the name Cara because we wanted an Irish name that was easy to say and ‘cara’ means friend in Irish. While we don’t have blood relations here, we have whānau, or we call it ‘framily’, the friends that are family. Some are Irish too and we babysit for each other, other’s are not. We feel very lucky to have these people in our lives. And who knows when we’ll be able to get to Ireland again!
Are there many opportunities to connect with other Irish immigrants living in Christchurch?
Yes – there are. There are a number of gaelic games clubs that both James and I were very involved in when we came over first and we were part of the group who formed Christchurch McKennas GAA, a club named after Eoin McKenna, an Irish man who died during the earthquake. There is also an Irish Society, which is now being led by a good friend, Kieran, and he and his colleagues are putting in some great work to modernise the club and invite Irish people from across the community (whether Irish-born or 3rd/4th/5th generation or beyond) to come together. I’m also part of a Facebook group, with over 1,000 members which is targeted at Irish born women who are living in NZ. All of these groups have been an incredible support to Irish people here as the community is navigating the complexities of the pandemic and the impact that has on their wellbeing, welfare and work.
Many of us will be enjoying a nice long weekend at the end of this week. What’s your favourite way to enjoy a nice winter’s day in Christchurch?
A walk on the beach – I love New Brighton beach, it’s my happy place. A hike in the hills is another favourite. If it’s on a Saturday afternoon though, you’ll often find me watching football as my husband James plays and we go support him most weeks.
As a family, we love the city – Cara’s favourite place is Tūranga, the central library as well as Tākaro ā Poi, the Margaret Mahy Playground of course. After we do those together, we head to Riverside and everyone gets to choose what they want to eat. Cara will always choose the sushi train, which we find highly entertaining because both James and I grew up in rural Ireland, where there was certainly no sushi!
Finally, we would love to entice you back on the radio and know you are mulling on the idea! If you could just do a completely fun, self-indulgent podcast what would it be about?
I’m totally overthinking this ha ha! I love to talk about food, but also about quotes, song lyrics and poems…and then on the more ‘serious’ side, I would love to do a podcast about empowering women and interview lots of women to share their stories so that we can empower others to own their stories and create the lives they want. Something like ‘Empowered Women, Empower Women’? It’s not about heroes and perfection, it’s about reality and the flawed beauty of humanity and amazing women.
Maybe I could incorporate the food and poem/quote/lyric stuff into it too….who knows!
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions on a soggy Christchurch weekend Fiona!
Anyone interested in connecting with Fiona can do so through one of her social media channels: