Abdi | Addington, Canterbury

“I think probably the biggest challenge that I’ve had to face is I’m from a refugee background, and I think that in itself has probably been my ultimate challenge growing up. Just understanding the fact that I’m from a whole different kind of system, compared to what it is over here, and having to learn to adjust and give kudos and mana to both sides of who I am.

So really learning how to navigate that parallel of the Western system versus the more traditional African upbringing. 

The battle of the both sides. I sort of learned to adjust, you become very adaptable and you learn very quickly how to move in ways that are beneficial to both you and also the things that you want to do. It has helped in my career path as well, because the fact that I went through all those things back then, I came to a point where I felt like I was really settled. I was going to university and I was adjusting very well into the system after years and years of trial and error. I think that has really helped in creating a pathway for me in my career, to help other people navigate that system and getting an input into the system that really helped raise me. As someone that works in the refugee sector, as an NGO, I can now input my understanding of it, and give my piece to the system that really brought me up. That’s the way that I’ve rationalised and tackled those issues of resettlement and growing up here in New Zealand.

There are times where you want to be able to do as many things as you can to help as many people as possible and I think having that mindset has really helped with my personal journey, and being able to be in an environment where you’re getting input from so many different people that have resettled at different ages and in different ways. It has really helped in my knowledge and understanding of it, and helped me grow, and learn. That would probably be my biggest takeaway, is to always be learning from other people. So the fact that I’m in this environment, and the mana that I get to have just being a resettled refugee, is just really, really amazing. I don’t take that lightly. I’m very thankful and very appreciative of the help that I get from everyone else around me.

I’m originally from Somalia and we resettled here in Christchurch in 2000. I think I remember the day that I resettled. It was a rainy Tuesday in December and we came here in the early 2000s, I was about five years old at the time, so I don’t remember that much. All I remember is that it was raining. I grew up in Linwood for a wee bit. I went to Shirley Boys’ High School, and now I’m at Canterbury University. 

I was very lucky that I was quite young and adaptive coming in, and so I was able to go to school with everyone. I didn’t really miss that much. I didn’t go to Kindergarten, but I really didn’t miss that much education-wise, and so that really helped in forming who I am. I really got involved in volunteer work for the refugee sector and I’m currently the Community Developments Manager for the Canterbury Refugee Resettlement Resource Centre. So, that’s a little bit about the journey that I’ve taken. I went through the whole schooling system, and then I realised that the thing I wanted to do most was help people, and I realised the way that I could help people the best, is to share my story, and get their side of things, and see how we can create a system that is best when it comes to resettling and growing up here. So, that’s my ultimate goal.

My own perspective is I think there has to be a certain amount of knowledge both ways, and so I think there needs to be a really open dialogue between all three parties. Tangata whenua especially, also Western systems, and where you live currently has to be discussed. So, we’re really just trying to push the narrative of refugees from the refugees’ perspective, but we’re also trying to bring the culture and the customs of here into the refugee community, so that we can create a decent dialogue. We’ll be able to learn from each other. That’s the best way to approach that issue, is collaboratively and with a whole bunch of resources.”

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