Giving refugees a home in New Zealand | ELPNZ

Giving refugees a home in New Zealand

22 September 2014


For new Kiwis arriving with little English, our volunteers are a vital lifeline.

Mohammad was in his early 20s when he fled Afghanistan. He was rescued by the Tampa, a ship that picked up over 430 refugees from a boat in distress off the Australian coast. 
After several years in Nauru, Mohammad was welcomed into New Zealand, arriving in Wellington in 2004.
Mohammad believes help from selfless volunteers like Margaret Allison gave him the support he needed to settle here.
“I met Margaret the day I arrived. She was part of the group that helped me to get onto my feet, with tasks from paperwork to shopping.
“I could speak some English, but the main challenge was to find a job. Margaret and her family helped so much – once she even sat up until 3am writing my CV. I was prepared to do whatever it took, and I found a job working in a hotel kitchen.”
After helping Mohammad learn these vital skills, Margaret knew he needed to improve his English to get the jobs he was more than capable of doing.
“Mohammad would come to dinner every Saturday and we would do some English afterwards. I felt I needed more guidance so I went to English Language Partners and trained as a tutor. That gave me resources and support.”
Mohammad’s worked hard to ensure he is not a drain on the society that welcomed him.
As well as working in the hotel (now promoted to Night Manager), Mohammad took a second job in tailoring, enrolled in ESOL classes at Massey and did a one-year foundation course at Victoria University, working nights to fit around his studies.
In the meantime, his English lessons with Margaret became focused on a very important element – his family.
When Mohammad escaped the dangerous situation in Afghanistan, he left behind his family. Unknown to him they had also fled, to Pakistan. 
By an incredible coincidence, another refugee Mohammad befriended on Nauru moved to Karachi, and one day he overheard an Afghan couple talking about how they didn’t know the whereabouts of their eldest son.
When he asked the name, they said “Mohammad Ali Amiri” and he handed them a home-made card, with their son’s e-mail address, that Mohammad had given him on Nauru. 
After 10 long years apart, Mohammad’s parents and brothers and sisters joined him in New Zealand.
Helping Mohammad improve his English may seem a simple solution – but it’s had a huge impact on his life – and it’s also good for New Zealand’s economy.
As well as working at two jobs, he’s giving back – as a Justice of the Peace, as a community volunteer with New Zealand Police, with Red Cross and on our Ethnic Advisory Group. Mohammad was recently given a ‘Safety in the City’ award for his countless hours of volunteer work. 
Last year, volunteers like Margaret helped 6,600 people throughout New Zealand. But we just can’t reach everyone who needs us. Right now, there are 1,500 learners on our waiting list who need help. Please donate - you can help build a better future for newer Kiwis in their new home – New Zealand.