Ex­hi­bi­tion high­lights refugees’ brav­ery

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - VIR­GINIA FALLON

The first time Maung Lu and Paw Chit were of­fered set­tle­ment in New Zealand they turned it down.

The cou­ple were so afraid of ar­riv­ing in a new coun­try with­out speak­ing the lan­guage they chose to re­main in a Thai refugee camp, despite the dan­ger they lived in.

Muang Lu had been there for 16 years, his wife for 13 and their four sons were born there.

It was too dan­ger­ous for the chil­dren to go to school.

The sec­ond time they were of­fered to come to New Zealand they de­cided to be brave. They came.

Porirua refugees - or new Ki­wis - will pair home photos with their life sto­ries in the Jour­neys to Set­tle­ment ex­hi­bi­tion in Porirua on Wed­nes­day to mark World Refugee Day.

They are sto­ries of hor­ror and heart­break; they are photos of smiles and hap­pi­ness.

Maung Lu and Paw Chit’s boys are go­ing to school now, some­thing they were too scared to do in Thai­land.

Their par­ents learned to speak English, Maung Lu did so well he was able to get a job.

English Lan­guages Part­ners Porirua man­ager Jac­que­line Wil­ton said the ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tured 15 for­mer refugees and would give the wider com­mu­nity a greater un­der­stand­ing of what they had been through. Visi­tors would also be able to chat with the new res­i­dents and their teach­ers.

Fea­tured is San­dra and Ro­drigo who fled Colom­bia with their three chil­dren due to the po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence, in­ter­nal con­flict, and boom­ing drug trade.

Af­ter six years of strug­gling to sur­vive in Ecuador they were given the op­por­tu­nity to come to New Zealand.

The pair were model stu­dents and so de­ter­mined to learn English that, as well as learn­ing at school and at home with a tu­tor, they spent hours at the lo­cal li­brary, their teacher said.

San­dra said it was a huge change for the fam­ily and she now feels safe.

‘‘I am ex­cited about my life and fu­ture and the life and fu­ture of my fam­ily.

Also tak­ing part in the ex­hi­bi­tion was Ce­sar, whose 14-yearold brother was killed in the cross­fire of Ecuador gangs who then hunted the rest of his fam­ily, forc­ing them to spend years on the run.

Now safe in New Zealand, the 26-year-old and his fam­ily are work­ing to bring his elder sis­ter and her chil­dren to join them.

He is learn­ing English and wants to join the po­lice.

‘‘I would be proud to serve this coun­try that has helped us so much.’’

Jour­neys to Set­tle­ment: June 20, 10.30am till 2.30pm, 17a Hartham Pl South, Porirua.

MAARTEN HOLL/STUFF

Ma­her, left, Yassin and Mazen en­joy a spot of fish­ing. Their photo and story will be part of an ex­hi­bi­tion in Porirua this week.

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