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Reunited at last: Antonio’s story

A kiss on the doorstep from his four-year-old daughter is the perfect way to end a working day on the farm for Palmerston North farm manager, Antonio Arcenal.

Frosty early mornings in Palmerston North are a long way from Antonio Arcenal’s homeland, but the Filipino farm manager wouldn’t be anywhere else, particularly now that his wife and daughter are by his side.

Four years ago, Antonio and his family made the decision for Antonio to move to New Zealand and, with help from The Regions, he did just that, taking up a position as a farmworker on Braeden and Caroline Whitlock’s farm, Braeside Dairies in Manawatu.

Although a tough decision to make, Antonio knows it was the right one. He has upskilled to become Farm Manager on the Whitlock’s farm, provided for his family back home in The Philippines, and now has two of his most important family members by his side – his wife, Amelita and daughter, Sophia.

“Working away from my family was not an easy task,” says Antonio. “One of the hardest things I experienced as an overseas Filipino worker was flying back to New Zealand and leaving my wife and daughter in The Philippines after my vacations.”

At home on the farm

Tearful goodbyes are now a thing of the past. Instead, Antonio gets to wave goodbye to Amelita and Sophia each morning and share laughter and conversation around the dinner table in the evenings.

“It’s a big change since I relocated my family to New Zealand. Before there was no excitement to go home after work because no one was waiting for me. But today, I can’t explain how happy I am that every time I come home, my daughter is on the doorstep waiting for me to come inside the house and give me a big hug and kiss.”

Pastoral care and family reunification

Family reunification is a key part of the recruitment and immigration process we deliver here at The Regions and was an integral part of The Stand Against the Stand Down we took last year.

“Part of the proposed policy change would greatly impact our ability to reunite families of work visa holders here in New Zealand,” explains Ben De’Ath, founder of The Regions. “As is evident by Antonio’s excitement at having his wife and daughter reunited with him, having that family support and being able to start a better life in New Zealand is incredibly important for the farmworkers we help emigrate from The Philippines.

“They are not just here to work, they are here to start a new life, to become part of the community and to provide greater opportunities for their children,” Ben says. “Family units are an asset to New Zealand’s rural communities and reuniting these families is something we want to ensure we can continue to do here at The Regions.”

Roselyn Climaco is responsible for pastoral care in Manawatu and Taranaki and helped Antonio and Amelita gather all the documents they needed for the reunification process, with Immigration advisor Victor Carpena assisting on the visa approval process.

To date in 2019, Roselyn, Victor and the wider Regions team have welcomed 28 families to New Zealand to be reunited with their husbands and fathers.

Experiencing a life of betterment

Antonio says having his wife and daughter with him every day after four years of being apart is a real highlight for him – a sentiment Amelita shares. Although yet to experience a Palmerston North winter, Amelita is enjoying life in New Zealand. “She is very happy that we are together now as a family,” says Antonio. “She likes the environment, the fresh air, no traffic and the peaceful country in which to live. 

“I can say I have a happy family in New Zealand and my life is absolutely wonderful.”

If you would like to find out more about our family reunification process, please contact our pastoral care team.


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