Across Auckland, former refugee women are transforming their lives in enterprising ways. Last week over 100 people attended a special ‘friend-raiser’ event to celebrate International Human Rights Day and to listen to these women speak of their re-settlement journeys.
Through their participation in community projects run by Auckland Refugee Community Coalition (ARCC) and Auckland Regional Migrant Services (ARMS Trust) women are making great strides in their lives.
Eritrean-Sudanese Senet Abdu Mohamed, 53, told her story of fleeing from Sudan in 1977.
Living in a large refugee camp in Sudan for 25 years, Senet gave birth to seven children – five girls and two boys. When she and her family moved to New Zealand they spent six weeks at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre before moving into a house, but they were plagued with problems.
“It was not a safe area, we were robbed twice and the neighbours were not friendly,” she explains.
Housing New Zealand gave the family a house in Henderson but that too was burgled.
Senet found solace at the Massey WISE Hub, which she was introduced to by her daughter. She says: “When I arrived at the Hub, I found the people welcoming and there were people from different countries too.”
WISE staff taught Senet how to follow New Zealand recipes and crochet. She attended the Food Safety Handling course and passed the exam. Senet is now part of the WISE catering service.
“[WISE catering service] is my way of sharing my culture. I am very happy to have this opportunity to earn extra little income for my family.”
For Senet, the WISE Collective has given her more than just a path to self-employment and enterprise. “I have more confidence since coming to WISE Collective.
“I noticed a difference in my memory from crocheting a blanket, I was able to focus more. Coming to WISE Collective Hub has also increased my spoken English because I meet women from different cultures – so I have to speak English. I have made friends from different cultures.”
Senet and other members of the WISE Collective shared their stories at the friends-raiser held at Warnock House in Grey Lynn on December 10 – International Human Rights Day. As Abann Yor, Chair of ARCC, highlighted – “these are not just the women’s stories, but the stories of our wives, our daughters and our families…our women are no longer isolated and our children are in a much better position at school.”
Amid the buzz, people were able to connect over delicious food, heartwarming stories and inspiring speeches. Guestspeaker, Dame Susan Devoy called on guests to have the important conversations and to talk about their experience at the event with their friends and at their coffee groups. “We’re all New Zealanders. I want to be seen as a person who is here to contribute. That’s what this is about tonight”.
Guests left the event feeling a great sense of goodwill and excitement about these community partnership projects – WISE Collective and the Safari Multicultural Play Groups – run by the ARCC and ARMS Trust. Jaclyn Bonnici, member of the Partnership Advisory Board, was thrilled to see the way the sharing of special food broke down barriers and opened a gateway to start those important connecting conversations. Susan Hirst of Warnock House was moved by the sense of community: “Seeing all the women from different backgrounds working together and preparing their different food, that sense of community knows no barriers”
Guests got to sample the WISE women’s delicious ethnic cuisine, purchase handmade blankets and jewellery, hear more about future plans for these projects, and find out how they can become involved in supporting the projects. “We need the goodwill that’s in the room tonight, to go to the rest of New Zealand” said Dame Susan.
These community projects rely on wider community support to continue making a difference in the lives of former refugee families living in Auckland.
“While funds help, it is being able to gather up more supporters or friends that is really priceless,” says ARMS Chief Executive Mary Dawson.
One of The Tindall Foundation’s focus areas is to support Migrants and Refugees. We have given donations to both Auckland Refugee Community Coalition and Auckland Regional Migrant Services, as well as funding for capacity building.