"We work in clans, and the Wong Doo clan has been here a long time, doing what good we can."
Thomas Wong Doo III is the patriarch of a thriving network of well educated and driven Wong Doos the world over.
As a sixth generation New Zealander, his latest commendation is in the form of a Good Citizen Award from the Hobson Community Board.
From his Orakei home, lined with photographs of family and himself alongside a veritable "who’s who" in Chinese politics, he speaks about the importance of immigrants being properly
integrated into communities.
Mr Wong Doo’s family has upheld the ethics of his grandfather who arrived in New Zealand in 1884, and settled with the intention of doing what good he could.
"Our family was involved in the earliest days as interpreters. We became involved on so many levels, helping people to integrate into New Zealand. I believe it is wrong to arrive with the attitude that you are whatever culture you are and therefore superior. If you arrive here, you must adapt to this country and give back to it," he says.
There are personal recollections of times that some may never have known existed such as Auckland opium dens, and first-hand accounts of being part of drug squads, helping with communication in times of police raids. Sometimes, identifying bodies. A lot of the sort of work then was not pretty or easy.
"Luckily, Chinese people are hard-working and those who arrived worked day and night to properly educate their children. So very quickly, families have been able to improve.
"In some cases, those who worked the fields and markets produced children who were lawyers. In two generations their options were immeasurably better and able to contribute to their new country."
The 84-year-old grandfather is one of the founding members of BoysTown in New Zealand.
BoysTown helps disadvantaged children and young people up to 25 years to connect with the community.
It helps those with life challenges that include physical and emotional abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, homelessness, low levels of literacy, long-term unemployment and mental illness.
"I must help my people become better citizens in their new country, but it is as important to give to the country itself and non-Chinese communities," says Mr Wong Doo, who was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for public services in the 2002 New Year honours list.
His family arrived as Chinese food merchants and textile importers and have faced their own losses and growths over many years.
He describes the death duty taxes on property as savage, and says that in a period of seven years he and his family lost their grandfather and father.
"With death duties at 45 percent each time, you can say that we lost everything with them. It took 10 years of endless days and nights to rebuild our family’s security," he says.
"I am a self-made man," he says, "who as a boy, was told that I am a lucky charm. My family would walk me through houses they wanted to clear or businesses they wanted to do well in."
In October this year the entire Wong Doo family will congregate for their first major re-union since 1997.
Mr Wong Doo says he feels lucky to be here to see that.
- East And Bays Courier BY KAREN KOTZE
Last updated 05:00 04/09/2009
Thomas Wong Doo III
Photo: AMELIA JACOBSEN
GOOD CITIZEN: Thomas Wong Doo III has been recognised for his work in the community.