A life-changing advertisement | ELPNZ

A life-changing advertisement

29 January 2017









Marinela Muniz was watching television at her home in Uruguay when she saw an advertisement promoting New Zealand.

"I knew that’s where I wanted to live,” Marinela says. “I told my husband when he came home from work that we were moving.”

And they did. Husband Luis arrived in New Zealand 11 years ago. Marinela and their three daughters, the youngest just three years old, followed a year later. 

Luis had secured work on a dairy farm in Ngarua on the rim of the Hauraki Plains. The family lives there still, with Luis now the farm manager. 

In Montevideo, the couple were journalists hosting a regular radio show, and Marinela also had an early childhood degree.

Luis had a smattering of English from school, and the girls had picked up a little; Marinela spoke none. But as part of her residency requirements, she paid English language fees to Immigration New Zealand. This pre-purchased tuition, called English for Migrants, is contracted out to a range of providers, with English Language Partners the only nationwide provider of one-to-one lessons. 

Waikato manager Jo de Lisle says for migrants like Marinela, when living in remote areas, it can be difficult to get to an English class.

“Taking private lessons through our English for Migrants programme means people like Marinela are able to access English lessons. The lessons are also a great way to learn more about New Zealand and how we Kiwis do things, which helps the whole family to settle in more easily.”

Trudy Stockley, Marinela’s teacher, has a Level 5 TESOL Certificate and has been teaching English for 16 years. 

“Marinela’s come a long way with her English,” Trudy says. “The Kiwi accent is a hard one to understand, so we’ve worked on that, and we’ve also covered business language, as Marinela had a goal to open a business. A fast learner, she was motivated.”

Marinela was driven to have her own business, and she’s done that, but it has been a long and steady slog. 

“Once I got my work permit, my first job was washing dishes in a restaurant in Te Aroha. I never said ‘this is not for me’, because we chose a new life and knew we would have to start from scratch.”

In those early years, Marinela took on several cleaning jobs, including the Wallace Corporation plant at Waitoa, banks and schools. 

“Always I’d work at night. Luis would come in from the farm, I would go to work, returning home at 4am to sleep for three hours before getting up and getting the girls off to school. I think I coped because I knew I wouldn’t be doing it forever. But one day I was cleaning a school in Matamata and I said ‘I’m tired of this’, and that’s when I started thinking about setting up my own business.”

Trudy proved a useful ally. “She arrived for my lesson one day when I had my sewing machine out,” Marinela says. “I’d done pattern making back in Uruguay, and I was taking sewing lessons at a local fabric shop. I’d also done an online course, but I needed to learn more, like how to follow pattern instructions.”

Trudy phoned Annah S in Morrinsville and asked if they had any piece worker positions – machinists who focus on a particular sewing task. 

Trudy says Annah S’s manager was concerned about Marinela’s English. “But I told them she understood English quite well and was a darn good worker.” That was enough to secure an interview and a short time later, when a position came up, Marinela had a job.

“I stayed there a year and that experience really helped me build up my sewing knowledge. I couldn’t have done it without Trudy. She is more than a teacher, she is a friend and I’m very grateful to her, because we have a lot of conversations about life. We both have three children, we are both grandmothers and we can share life experiences.”










Marinela still works part-time as a cleaner at a Matamata motel, she teaches Spanish at the local Manawaru primary school and she has her own creative fashion business. It’s called BonitodressM and she sells online through her Facebook page, at markets and expos. 

“I had a lady from France who bought two of my dresses. From France, can you imagine! Someone in France is wearing my dresses.”

The business is growing slowly. But Marinela is focussed on using ethicallyproduced fabrics or organic materials and she works with a no-waste philosophy, creating styles that have little or no fabric left over. “It’s not the cheapest way to produce garments, but that’s the way I’ve decided to do it,” she says. 

Her eldest daughter, Daniela, is 21, lives in Te Aroha and has produced the family’s first grandchild. Camila, 17, and Catalina, 13, both attend Te Aroha College where, last year, their mother taught an elective class in fashion design. 

“They weren’t sure about my accent on the first day, but by the end of the term they were used to me and excited to show off their work.”

Most recently, in their lessons, Marinela and Trudy have been working on small talk.

“She’s trying to sell a product,” says Trudy, “so she has to be able to draw people in, get them talking and hopefully leave with one of her dresses, or at the very least, make the encounter memorable so people go away and talk about her and her clothing.” 

Marinela says she is so much more confident with her English now. “I still find verb conjugations a challenge, but wherever I go, even to the accountant or the bank manager, I don’t feel intimidated.”