Building connections at Wellington Zoo

14 October 2020

They come from as far as Myanmar, Syria, Colombia and Somalia, and in the holidays these mums and dads got to take their kids to meet giraffes, tigers, and capybaras.

Rangers Anna and Zach welcome a group from ChangeMakers to Wellington Zoo, next to the otter enclosure.
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For the school holidays Wellington Zoo gifted 20 free passes to ChangeMakers Resettlement Forum, a non-government organisation representing more than 17 refugee background communities in the greater Wellington region.

The group were welcomed next to the otter enclosure by rangers Zach and Anna. Zach explained how the otters were living the dream, being fed six meals a day and taking regular naps. 

The group then went on to the Tiger Talk and roamed the zoo grounds at their own leisure.

Faiza moved to New Zealand from Somalia in 2008 and enjoyed the day out with her three sons.

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“For me it’s important to bring communities and cultures together. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, which religion you are. I believe it’s important to come together, learn about each other, teach each other – it’s important for humanity.”

It was the first time Bafrin (pictured below), from Iran, and her daughter had been to Wellington Zoo. Bafrin said her daughter was having such a good time spotting birds and penguins that she had asked if she could stay the night.

Bafrin, who is originally from Iran, wearing a bright pink top standing in front of the penguin enclosure at Wellington Zoo, smiling at a small boy looking down wearing a dinosaur jersey.

It was through ChangeMakers and Wellington City Council’s LeisureCard scheme partnership that the free zoo passes were arranged.

The Community Partnerships Team manages the LeisureCard scheme, with Lead Project Specialist Alexi Trenouth saying the scheme was recently reviewed to ensure it was reaching the members of the community who would benefit most.

“Now we partner with organisations like Red Cross, The Salvation Army, and ChangeMakers who can issue the LeisureCard. This makes it easy to obtain for people who would benefit most from discounted access to our facilities like pools and gyms, as well to Wellington Zoo and Zealandia.

“It aims to improve the health and wellbeing of Wellingtons’ marginalised communities by providing knowledge and opportunities to become more active.”

ChangeMakers Community Development Worker Tracey Read says the organisation plays an important role.

“Advocacy and community development are a major focus of our work at ChangeMakers. We want all those in our communities to have access to services, facilities and information so that they can fully participate in all that Wellington has to offer.”

An otter at Wellington Zoo standing tall on its hind legs, holding a piece of driftwood under its chin as it looks on into the distance.

She says six families enjoyed the zoo outing, which was one of three activities arranged by ChangeMakers for children and their parents to take part in over the school holidays.

Wellington Zoo’s Community Engagement Manager Jude Turner says it was a privilege to support Changemakers and the work they do for the region’s refugee background communities. 

“We loved welcoming this group to the zoo and especially enjoyed watching how much fun the children – and adults – had when they saw the animals.

“It’s very special to be able to offer them the opportunity to see and learn about Aotearoa New Zealand’s native wildlife and hopefully we’ve sparked some budding conservationists amongst them!”