Isaac Poharama

By Hayley White

Reading time: 10 minutes

Isaac Poharama has always known he wanted to travel. As a young man from South Auckland, he says that he will always love New Zealand and it will forever have a special place in his heart. But it’s just a bit too small.

When Isaac started Bible College, he befriended a few English interns during his studies and ended up looking into the internships that were offered over in England. The idea of going there sat at the back of his mind for a while, so he decided to talk to his parents and his pastor, and prayed about it until he really realised that it was what he wanted to do.

Isaac arrived in England at the end of August in 2019 to do a year-long internship with Equippers Church. His internship started in September of that same year and saw him doing various things as part of it. This included working at a coffee shop which was owned by the Church, helping with a creative band, and working in different youth

By Hayley White

Reading time: 10 minutes

Isaac Poharama has always known he wanted to travel. As a young man from South Auckland, he says that he will always love New Zealand and it will forever have a special place in his heart. But it’s just a bit too small.

When Isaac started Bible College, he befriended a few English interns during his studies and ended up looking into the internships that were offered over in England. The idea of going there sat at the back of his mind for a while, so he decided to talk to his parents and his pastor, and prayed about it until he really realised that it was what he wanted to do.

Isaac arrived in England at the end of August in 2019 to do a year-long internship with Equippers Church. His internship started in September of that same year and saw him doing various things as part of it. This included working at a coffee shop which was owned by the Church, helping with a creative band, and working in different youth ministries on Sundays.

“After that, in September I moved to New Malden and now I’m living with a couple who pastor one of their locations here, and I’ve been helping them out as well,” he tells me.

“So I just help out wherever they need it really; packing in on a Sunday morning – because we have our Church in a school hall just down the road; painting the flat; and buying gear for us. I support them however I can.”

Since he has been in England, Isaac has moved around a few places all within the Greater London suburb of Surrey. “I have lived in a few different houses,” he says, and continues: “I started in a place called Cobham. Then I moved to Ashford, and from there I went to a place in New Haw for a bit and now I’m in New Malden and have been here the longest amount of time out of all the places I’ve lived.”

About seven months into his internship, right on Anzac Day, Isaac had the sudden feeling that he was going to be staying in England for a little while longer. He had all his flights back home booked for September 2020, but on April 25th he realised he didn’t want to leave England. “I was in my room listening to the New Zealand national anthem and then at the end of it – I guess it was God – I just got the sense of ‘I want to stay another year in England’,” he tells me.

“I messaged my mum, like, ‘Hey, I think God wants me to stay another a year in England’ and she replied not too long after, saying: ‘Firstly, I agree. Secondly, I think it would be good for you; and thirdly, we’re gonna miss you’.”

But even though he’s been in England for nearly two years now, he still gets caught out on cultural differences between England and New Zealand, and not just the funny accents and eye-level street signs. “I still get caught up on what they call different things, you know? Like pants – they call them trousers, and just picking up all the different lingo in that sense,” he laughs.

“It’s also how the youth act. Because I’m involved with youth ministry, the whole culture is different. In Papakura, where I was doing youth ministry, there were a lot of Māori, Pasifika, and white youth in our group; and because I’d grown up in Māori culture and understood it I was able to get along with them quite well,” he says.

“Moving here, I had no idea how they operated and it was difficult for me to find connections with the youth because they talk differently; they have different slang and are interested in different things. Their humour is different as well, so that was difficult.”

When it came to his youth ministry, he says that he understood a lot of the kids because of their background, but that it was still a struggle to connect and be seen as more than an outsider.

“We meet in a place called Gogmore Park in Chertsey and work with these types of kids that are from broken homes. Drugs are very prevalent in their world; so is alcohol. I can connect with their whole culture and where they come from because some of my family are drug users and alcoholics. But the way they operate is so different from how my family handle things. It’s difficult to get along with them because they just behave on such a different level,” he tells me and adds: “That kind of culture has taken me longer to get used to and be able to fit in with.”

While he says connecting with the youth culture in England has been a struggle, he uses a few ways to stay in tune with his Māoritanga, his Māori culture, one of which being music. “I’ve got a playlist just full of songs that are fully into Te Reo Māori. I just sing along to those and stuff like that,” he says. He has multiple playlists he listens to, of which one is called Island Feels.

Aside from also saying a karakia (prayer) in Māori before bed, possibly the more unorthodox way he practises the language is in road rage. “When I get road rage, I scream at people into Te Reo Māori,” he bursts out laughing. “’Cause most the time I’ll have my windows down and I don’t want them to understand me. I’ll be saying in Māori: ‘It’s 30 [miles per hour], not 20, it’s 30 hurry up!’ so yeah, that’s another way I use it and integrate it.”

But the disconnect from his culture and being away from his homeland was a bit of an adjustment. Because of England’s multiculturalism, he says it’s important to make sure you stay connected to your own culture and not get sucked away from it although he does tell me that seeing the Romani culture, commonly known as Gypsies, around England has been different from anything he has ever experienced. “They kind of just do whatever they want, however they want, and they don’t really care about anyone,” he laughs. “And so, they will go through town on their horse and carriage kind of thing and use the drive-through at McDonald’s on their horse and carriage and not give a crap about anyone.”

Isaac says the biggest growth he experienced was from the struggles of moving away from home. Moving to a foreign country and not having his parents to guide him, for their source of wisdom, was definitely another adjustment. “Coming to England was the first time I was living outside of my house and home, away from family. So, getting used to looking after myself in that sense was a big grow thing for me,” he says.

Isaac tells me that the homesickness he felt when he knew he was not going to see his family for another year was tough. Without the Church, he does not think he would have stayed as long. “Being part of a Church and being with such awesome people who just want the best for me has been awesome. Having that family here was really helpful. If I hadn’t been part of the Church and the support they gave me when I came here, I don’t think I would have lasted as long as I did,” he claims.

Isaac believes that everyone should travel. The world is so big outside of New Zealand that you’d be silly not to.

“I love New Zealand and New Zealand will always be my home, but I think it’s good for people to get out of their own country and see the world because it is massive. So, I think, however long you can get, just leave the country. Explore the world; see and experience things because it really is good for you and it can change your life.”

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