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Two peas in a pod . . . Friends Fatini Zulkifli (left) and Noor Laila Abdul Latiff have spent the past five months learning to garden. PHOTO: RUBY HEYWARD

A plot at the Waitaki Community Gardens has given two migrants the boost in confidence they needed.

Fatini Zulkifli and Noor Laila Abdul Latiff started volunteering at the gardens last October to grow both vegetables and their English language skills.

Both women agreed the experience had been a positive one for them.

Mrs Zulkifli said she used to be scared to go anywhere because of her poor English, but now she had more confidence to speak it.

“Before this I would stay in my room and not go outside.

“I now have the confidence, even if [my English] is not so good.”

Mrs Zulkifli and Mrs Latiff are both from Malaysia.

Their husbands work seasonally as halal slaughtermen at the Alliance Group Pukeuri Plant, north of Oamaru.

Mrs Latiff first moved to Oamaru in November 2019, and Mrs Zulkifli moved here three weeks before lockdown and had found it difficult to practice her English.

They had been unable to return to Malaysia because of border restrictions and had found it very difficult to be away from family.

Instead, they relied on the support of the Waitaki Multi-cultural Council’s Migrant Meet and Share group.

During the group’s visit to the Waitaki Community Gardens, site and volunteer co-ordinator Ra McRostie invited the two to join and made a plot available to them.

“Before we visited, we thought it was only for locals,” Mrs Latiff said.

The next week the women went together and Ms McRostie handed them seeds.

From then, they would tend to their garden each week after their migrant meeting, and had since achieved “great garden of the month”.

They had learned to grow everything from broccoli, lettuce and cabbage to onion, parsley and corn.

Mrs Latiff said the New Zealand climate was very different from that of Malaysia, so they had also learned how to grow for the changing seasons.

This was particularly important for growing chillies and lime leaves, which were very expensive and not as common in New Zealand.

Mrs Zulkifli particularly enjoyed being in nature and watering her plants, but Mrs Latiff was most excited to watch her vegetables grow.