What we offer
We offer enjoyable, accessible and fulfilling group-based music activities
that unite people of all ages regardless of their talent, backgrounds,
challenges and abilities. It is about giving people permission to play
musical instruments, to dance and to sing in a safe environment.
Where we deliver
Our regular band practice takes place on every Sunday from 2 - 4 pm in
Pakuranga Intermediate, Reeves
Road, Pakuranga in Auckland. Here we would like to thank the School
Principal Stuart Myers, Trish Stacey and their team for their support.
Make somebody happy, make somebody strong
The SmoothStream community band or Musically-driven Mental Health Promotion
initiative is showing us real promising results everyday in terms of
establishing informal social support networks, which seems to be the most
important resource for positive mental health. The band participated in cultural
events and community festivals.
- The harmony we created was mental healthiness, happiness and well-being.
- The melody we composed was all about ‘community identity’,
‘community-esteem’, ‘community empowerment’, ‘community resilience’ and
This is what the mental health promotion is meant to be. A long-term
longitudinal study of the project outcomes is also underway. One of the success
- ‘back to the basics’ in this world of high technology, market economy
and globalisation where our social norms have been changed.
- The SmoothStream community has re-discovered and adopted a century-old
close-knit rural community lifestyle in this modern society.
- We also use ‘music’, which is truly universal and time-tested in the art
of creating community and in the science of promoting mental well-being.
The SmoothStream keeps singing those harmonies and melodies in pursuit of
happiness, which is a new domain of public health in the 21st century. And
start, for once, to think about the power of music.
- Enables migrants to cope successfully with their stresses
in a new country and to be able to integrate ‘SMOOTHLY’ into host society as
a ‘STREAM’ by utilising the power of music and the power of mental health
- Academically, we call it "Musically-driven
Mental Health Promotion"
We chose music to promote mental health:
Music, English playwright, William Congreve observed, “has charms to soothe a
Meanwhile cellist, Yo-Yo Ma once commented, “Healing? I think that is what music
is all about. Don’t you?”
The Power of Music (Hanson, 2004)
- Music-based group activities which are carefully set up to be enjoyable,
accessible and fulfilling
- The main purpose is well-being and enjoyment of the participants, not an
artistic or aesthetic outcome
- Does not emphasise on exemplary performance, but on fun and relaxation to
benefit the whole person
- By focusing on the whole person, improved quality of life, health and
well-being, happiness and a sense of accomplishment will be achieved
- It is about enjoying the whole process wherever it takes
- Our band leader is not the best and most talented musician
- The sense of bonding and community spirit are the most important factors
contributing to health
Our ultimate goal is the quality of life.
Migration and mental health
I was asked by so many people on the formation
of SmoothStream Band again and again and they complained that they cannot get
the info from our website. Then now I decided that it is the right time to
tell you a story. Please listen well when I tell you this.
Wrong info given to migrants
It was in the month of August. And it was
very cold. As soon as I arrived in Auckland International
Airport on 23 August 1996 with my son and my father (the second trip to New
Zealand and the first trip to settle), my handbag was stolen in the Arrival
Lounge. I was totally surprised because my immigration consultant said
that New Zealand is the safest place in the world, and clean and green; if you
hang your precious brand name coat at the bus stop at 0900 AM it will still be
there even when you come back from your work at 1700 PM (inaccurate
My handbag was full of my essential documents (three Taiwan
passports, three air tickets), one video camera, one cellular phone and my house
keys. I opened a “theft” case in the Airport Police and the case was still
in the Police files (File number 960823-3970) (Airport Police, 1996). The
stress started from that point. How could I enter my house? How
could I make a pot of hot water for my son’s milk? No kettle had been
purchased at that time. No friends and families were around us. I
hired a van to take us to our house. I could not understand the driver’s
English which was very different from BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)
English that is usually my learning medium. I asked for a cup of hot water
from a neighbour to make a bottle of milk for my son who was so hungry.
called the real estate agent who facilitated the purchase of our house from that neighbour’s phone. Johnny, the real estate agent, helped me to call a
locksmith to break the key of the entrance door. Finally, we were inside
the house. No food, no utensils, no furniture, no telephone and no
electricity were available in the house. The one and only help I could get
in New Zealand was from Johnny including for our transport from him (I did not
know where else I could get help). In short, I bought a car after three
weeks (public transport is not efficient) and all essentials such as a fridge, a
washing machine and a set of dining table and chairs. After staying one
month in New Zealand, we went back to Taiwan.
I said to my wife that I gave up New Zealand
residency because nobody cared us on arrival and settling needs. My
qualification was not recognised either in the job market or in the professional
body which surprised me because I was told that my qualification was as the same
level as New Zealand graduates at the time of lodging my residency application.
I could not apply for jobs in my profession. I was not well-informed about
that. There were four items increasing day by day during my one-month stay
in New Zealand and they were bills, “your application for the job was
unsuccessful” sort of letters from different employers, stresses and depression.
Two items were decreasing and they were social status and financial situation.
We locked the house and we all went back to Taiwan on 22 September 1996.
Neighbours are as important as family members
I received sympathy from my families and friends
in Taiwan and we decided to try a second attempt to settle in New Zealand for my
children’s education. My wife, my son and my daughter came to New Zealand
on 30 November 1997 (the last date before expiry of their returning resident’s
visas). I looked after her Pharmacy when I came back from my work.
Barbie, my neighbour in Auckland, said that she and her family could be my
family and relatives in New Zealand. My pre-existing stress level was
reduced to zero by that saying from Barbie.
Unemployment and Astronaut Family
My family was lucky enough this time because
they had a car in the garage, kitchen things in the house, and a telephone on
the bench and so on. Only one thing was missing; her husband or their
father (my daughter was only 8 months old at that time). I was still
working in Taiwan to complete a research in my surgical field and my contract
while supporting my family financially. I lost my residency because I
could not stay enough time (180 days per annum, consecutively for two years) in
New Zealand. We suffered the bitter experiences of “Astronaut family” in
which husbands are working in their home countries to support their wives and
children financially because they cannot find jobs in New Zealand and immigrant
families cannot get social security benefits within two years of arrival.
Language barrier and culture shock
I regularly visited my family in New Zealand
every two months and eventually became the highest-ranked membership in Air New
Zealand’s frequent flyer programme. My family’s honeymoon period in New
Zealand ended uninvited when my son fell ill with urinary tract infection from
phimosis (acute or chronic inflammation of the lining of the prepuce or foreskin
of the penis)(Mann & Russel, 1992). My wife’s English was not good enough
to access information on healthcare and she did not have friends and family
here. She did not know where to go and what to do. The colleagues in
my hospital in Taiwan advised that my son should come back to Taiwan to have an
operation called “circumcision” (the only treatment for phimosis is
circumcision)(Mann & Russel, 1992) which usually takes the waiting period of six
months in New Zealand told by a General Practice.
He suffered three repeated episodes of high
fever, called bacteraemia – spread of infection to the blood stream (Edwards &
Bouchier, 1992), from the infection and the risks of hydroureters and
hydronephroses (dilatation of the whole or part of ureters and kidneys due to a
partial or intermittent obstruction to the outflow of urine)(Mann & Russel,
1992) before his operation finally took place in New Zealand after five months
of waiting period, and we decided he should not come back to Taiwan in fear of
losing his residency status because his resident’s permit expires when he leaves
New Zealand (New Zealand Immigration Service, 1998). My son was given
heavy antibiotics to combat the infection during the waiting period. We
know the consequences of not treating the actual cause of infection but just
treating the infection only during the waiting period and of consuming
broad-spectrum antibiotics. He became emaciated compared to his strong
body in Taiwan. He does not like New Zealand food. My father (my
son’s grandfather) cried when he saw his grandson too thin (his weight loss was
very significant medically and might be due to eating disorders) in the
photograph. He took care of my son in Taiwan and my son was his heart and
soul. My father health has been deteriorating since then.
I was also diagnosed as depression with suicidal
thought due to family separation by a highest-ranked senior psychiatrist of Shin
Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital Taipei and given intensive anti-depressant
I completed my contract in Taiwan on 30 April
2000 and got on the plane to New Zealand (the third trip to settle) on the next
day of my contract’s completion 1 May 2000. I had a dream of family
reunion and hope for my new life in New Zealand after selling our property and
Pharmacy. Since then, our financial situation has never been sound again.
Anger on declining social status, unemployment, and financial situation neatly
falls on my wife and children by way of family feud, domestic violence and
smacking children. Wine and beer filled my cupboard; honestly they have
never been in my house before. How many bottles consumed was dependent on
the number of “unsuccessful reply” letters from the employers.
While experiencing our declining social status
and economic situation in New Zealand, I reskilled myself in Tricia’s Total
Coordination in Auckland City by taking a computer course where I met with my
friend who advised me to take an interpreting job in South Auckland Health.
Now I was an interpreter. I met with so many people who were stressed as
immigrants or refugees in New Zealand. I have been working as a
professional interpreter speaking four languages in courts, Police departments,
immigration, prisons, hospitals, General Practices, clinics, Land Transport
Safety and clients’ homes since then. I got back my identity and feeling
of being a part of my community. I took several courses such as Bachelor
of Business from the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, multimedia courses from
Carich Computer Training Centre Limited, and Bachelor of Business and
Information Management, Post-Graduate Diploma of Public Health and Master of
Public Health all from the University of Auckland to learn new skills with the
dream of one day I would be employed in a health field.
Being a part of the community
I have been a part of New Zealand Overseas
Doctors Association Inc., a committee member of Auckland Post-Polio Support
Group Inc. (I have been suffering from Post-Polio Syndrome since two years ago),
a performer of Auckland Portable Keyboard Society, a bass guitar player and a
committee member of Pakuranga Concert band, and the leader of the Blue Star band
in Auckland during these two years.
Immigration status can affect mental health
Participation in various community activities
relieved most of my stresses but not all. My residency application was
declined twice; one in Taiwan office and the other was in New Zealand office.
I worked in New Zealand with Work Permit but still felt very stressful based on
the fact that my residency status (one of the main sources of stress) in New
Zealand was insecure. Eventually, on the mercy of the former Minister of
Immigration Hon. Lianne Dalziel, my residence permit was granted on 8 March 2001
under Ministerial Direction Category (I had an opportunity to thank her in
Alumni Dinner, the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences on 27 September 2003).
Our family was happy across the Pacific (Taiwan and New Zealand). I felt
that I became healthier after getting back my residency because of the happiness
related to it.
By the way, my daughter adapted very well
because she came to New Zealand at her very young age and she is happy so she is
healthy, she does not lose weight. Now my son regained his weight.
There is a family story usually told in our extended families that my son lost
his weight due to missing his grandfather, and he totally forgot his first
language when he came to New Zealand where he did not have any contact with his
grandfather and grandmother. In Taiwan, he could speak three languages
fluently but in New Zealand he cried and he was severely depressed when he was
forced to learn our first languages (Burmese, Mandarin and Taiwanese).
The journey of migration did not end still. I
hope one day I will get a meaningful job in my profession. To rebuild my
career is my ultimate goal, at least in health promotion field where I can
promote health for the whole community, not just treating a person at a time as
A meaningful job = happiness
I met a friend in the University of Auckland
called Dr. Benjamin Soe who loves music like me. Because of music we have
been close to each other since then. One day, he rang me to apply a job in
Auckland District Health Board. Then I applied it. One day I
received a call from my employer saying that I was successful in a full-time,
permanent job in the biggest healthcare organisation in Auckland. Many
international calls were made to talk about the job with my family members.
It is a meaningful job for me which will definitely change my life into a new
dimension. It is obvious that getting this job will not stop me from
feeling stressed in future, but at least, all of my family members are happy and
the intensity of stress that I suffered was reduced. I smiled and said to my
wife at the doorstep before I left on the very first day of work:
“You will see your husband happier and healthier than before”.
My wife could not find a job at that time.
We were struggling to re-establish social support networks in New Zealand.
We participated in a community band called “Pakuranga Concert Band” (now called
“Eastern Stars Concert Band”) three
years ago. Quite amazingly, we could cope migration-related stresses
(partly because of music which gave us some fun) and secure employment within
one year of participation in the concert band. We wonder if we
participated in other kinds of community activities rather than music the
results would be different. And now both of us are working and happy, and
we could re-establish informal social support network, which seems to be the
most important resource for positive mental health (Willinsky, 1999).
Got the idea to help migrants
The supporting evidence came from the personal
experience in Taiwan. Taiwan's largest Burmese-Chinese community lives in Chung
Ho, Taipei, Huaxin Street, which is the center of the community, the place where
Burmese-Chinese go to eat familiar foods, and chat in the "old country's"
language (Lax, 2003).
Me and my friends founded a ‘music-lovers group’
when I arrived in Taiwan in 1985. The group met very frequently to share
knowledge and help each other. We sang, we danced, we cooked and we
enjoyed our traditional foods and we helped each other to find a decent job.
We went to job interviews together. The group had about 40 members.
Some were Koreans. Some were native Taiwanese. My wife had been
invited to join the group before we married. We were so happy and could
cope our migration-related stresses.
A sense of community, a sense of
belonging and community spirit were very strong. The glue between us was
‘music’. Our migration-related stress was relieved by both music and
social support networks gained from the music-lovers group.
SmoothStream - a public health approach
I learned that music could create community and
has therapeutic value. I thought I could use that kind of music group in
New Zealand to help fellow migrants not to repeat our tragic story by developing
a community where they can grow to their full potential. And it should be musically-driven.
especially rhythm, is a universal language and everyone can participate and
express themselves regardless of anything. So I formed this SmoothStream
Band. So, SmoothStream means it enables migrants to cope successfully with
their stresses in a new country and to be able to integrate ‘SMOOTHLY’ into host
society as a ‘STREAM’ by utilising the power of music and the power of mental
health promotion. Academically, we call it "Musically-driven Mental Health
We do not emphasise on aesthetic or artistic
value. Rather, we allow everyone to make music in a safe and supportive
environment. We help each other. We drink together. We eat
together. We celebrate together on our achievements. You can call it
"Recreational Music Making".
Brief history of SmoothStream Band
At that time in 2004, mental health issues for
Asian ethnic minority groups such as Burmese, Vietnamese, Indonesian and
Khmer/Kampuchean/Cambodian are the greatest concern, because they are more
vulnerable to culture shock and higher degree of social isolation (Ho, Au,
Bedford, & Cooper, 2003). So, I tried to help Burmese by recruiting them
into the band. You will see a lot of Burmese names in 'Our
Sponsors' page where you will see their generosity.
Since the beginning of 2006, faces have been changing in
the band and it is more and more like a salad bowl with different textures and colours. However, SmoothStream still keeps rolling and singing
to pursue happiness, which is the new domain of the 21st Century
Public Health. I would say our band is to make somebody happy and to make