"In 2005, I arrived in Auckland, New Zealand. I came with my two daughters and my lovely wife, Mary. We stayed in a resettlement centre for six weeks and received an orientation programme organised by the New Zealand government. When I moved into the community, I realised that things were not going to be as easy as I thought. I was faced with the reality of resettlement challenges. It was very hard to understand and navigate basic resettlement issues, such as neighbourhood connections, networking and access to available services. Fortunately, there were government and NGOs support services such as NZ Red Cross volunteer programmes to deal with some of the these challenges.
The place that made me love New Zealand was Mangere Bridge Mountain. I used to go to this mountaintop every day, to enjoy the views of Auckland. I loved it because it gave me a sense of belonging and I knew I wanted to stay in New Zealand.
I had previously lived for some time in Damascus, Syria, and I was Secretary General for the South Sudanese Community and Chairman of the Shilluk community. I came to New Zealand with the same spirit. I actively engaged the South Sudanese community members to create activities that could reduce isolation and loneliness in the community and encouraged others to get to know one another.
The first administrative work I did in support of community members was to organise a World Refugee Day celebration on June 20, 2006. It was a very successful event, which saw the establishment of the Auckland South Sudanese Soccer Team. It was because of such events that South Sudanese community members saw the need to continue engaging with one another. I was chosen to lead the community, but I chose to serve in the capacity of deputy chairman on the grounds that I was new to New Zealand. As a deputy chairman I established a lot of networking with the Auckland Resettlement Sectors. Our community became a member of the Auckland Resettled Community Coalition (ARCC) in 2006. We received funding and I ran a parental program for five years, as well as introducing a “healthy eating and healthy living” campaign and youth programmes.
In 2011 after graduating with a graduate diploma in non-for-profit management, I worked as a youth worker for nearly four years with the Resettlement Youth Action Network (RYAN). My roles there were to help young people find jobs and to help them with appropriate education plans (Pathway). Then in 2013, I was elected Chairperson of ARCC. Currently, I am the General Manager, of ARCC after four years of positive development from a volunteer organisation to one that can pay staff.
I am now considering studying again for a Master’s degree in community development. I want to keep my father’s dream alive; he wanted me to get a quality education before he departed this earth. I want readers to learn something from my story. I want to advise those who are struggling with jobs and life in general to pause and check the missteps. Help yourself first in order to find someone else who can help you. At this point in my journey, I am proud to have achieved successful outcomes throughout my struggle for a better life. I feel that I am indeed walking in the shoes of my father and keeping his dream alive."
*Extract of story originally published in the book BEYOND REFUGE – from the Auckland Resettled Community Coalition prepared by Abann Kamyay Ajak Yor.