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