Help for new mi­grants

New Taupō res­i­dents wel­comed

Taupo & Turangi Weekender - - Front Page - Lau­rilee McMichael

Ab­dul Nishar knows only too well how hard it is to be a new mi­grant in a new land.

He says while he had it rel­a­tively easy when he moved from Fiji to New Zealand 15 years ago for post-grad­u­ate study, he missed friends and fam­ily and ad­just­ing was still dif­fi­cult.

Now a geospa­tial sci­en­tist at Con­tact En­ergy and a New Zealand ci­ti­zen, Ab­dul re­alised two years ago that new mi­grants to Taupo¯ were fac­ing sim­i­lar, and of­ten more dif­fi­cult chal­lenges.

In his first year in New Zealand, Ab­dul lived in Auck­land where there was plenty of sup­port for mi­grants.

“Auck­land has a long his­tory of mi­gra­tion so that tra­di­tion has been quite well es­tab­lished,” he says. “Then I moved to Kerik­eri which has quite a big mi­grant pop­u­la­tion. But when I moved to Taupo¯ eight years ago, I didn’t feel that.”

Ab­dul says while peo­ple in Taupo¯ were wel­com­ing, it was a hard place to make new friends.

“Taupo¯ is quite tran­sient to be­gin with and so peo­ple wait a lit­tle bit be­fore they make friends with you or think you’re go­ing to move on. I found that there was a lack of [a mi­grant] com­mu­nity, and that was sim­ply be­cause there wasn’t the num­ber. You need to have a sus­tain­able num­ber in the com­mu­nity to make it func­tion, so I thought I won’t start a com­mu­nity, but I’ll start a sup­port group.”

Ab­dul ap­proached Jun Seas­tres, the chair­man of the Taupo¯ Filipino As­so­ci­a­tion, a well-es­tab­lished Taupo¯ com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tion and to­gether the pair co-founded the Taupo¯ Mi­grant Sup­port Group. Its vi­sion is to see an en­riched Taupo¯ through mi­grants sup­port­ing mi­grants to achieve their as­pi­ra­tions of a bet­ter life.

In 2016, the pair set up a Face­book page as a source of in­for­ma­tion for new mi­grants. Peo­ple can also mes­sage re­quests for in­for­ma­tion di­rectly. It quickly took off, and last month Ab­dul was named a Ki­wibank Ro­torua/ Taupo¯ lo­cal hero for his con­tri­bu­tion.

Ab­dul says while there is ex­cel­lent gov­ern­ment sup­port for new mi­grants, some­times peo­ple just need to speak to an­other per­son, and an­other mi­grant ask­ing if they are okay can make all the dif­fer­ence.

“Imag­ine those who don’t have fam­ily and sup­port, what they must be go­ing through. My aim is to give them a bit of com­fort.

“The first thing I do is try to find some­one who speaks the same lan­guage be­cause that’s an in­stant con­nec­tion with some­one.”

He says the two most com­mon dif­fi­cul­ties are find­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion and im­mi­gra­tion queries. Ab­dul says they are of­ten able to find peo­ple some­where to board while they get set­tled and look for a place of their own, and while the group can­not of­fer le­gal ad­vice, it pro­vides up­dates and in­for­ma­tion in re­la­tion to im­mi­gra­tion is­sues. Most of the con­tact is via Face­book but the group is also start­ing to pro­vide more face-to-face sup­port.

Ab­dul is cur­rently work­ing on sev­eral new ini­tia­tives, in­clud­ing im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy ses­sions run in Taupo¯ by Im­mi­gra­tion NZ of­fi­cers, plus a Taupo¯ New Set­tlers’ Guide which will will pro­vide ad­vice, in­for­ma­tion and con­tacts for peo­ple new to Taupo¯. Ab­dul says he and Jun are grate­ful for the sup­port of Ro­tary, Lions and the Taupo¯ Dis­trict Coun­cil for help­ing get this off the ground. Next year they are con­sid­er­ing start­ing a so­cial group such as a dance group, where Taupo¯ lo­cals as well as im­mi­grants can come to­gether.

“We want them to in­te­grate into the com­mu­nity and be part of the com­mu­nity.”

Ab­dul says de­spite the dif­fi­culty of set­tling into any new coun­try, Taupo¯ is not a hard place to be a new im­mi­grant.

“It’s a very lovely, nice place to be for an im­mi­grant. The peo­ple who are al­ready liv­ing here are very ac­com­mo­dat­ing. It’s big, but small enough to quickly get ac­cus­tomed to the place and it’s so beau­ti­ful that you want to be here . . . it’s just wher­ever you might be as a new per­son, the first few days and months can be very chal­leng­ing and that’s why we’ve been step­ping in.”

Ab­dul says while run­ning the group is a lot of work, it is worth it when some­body thanks him for the group’s help.

He has also be­come a JP and says help­ing other mi­grants is his con­tri­bu­tion to the com­mu­nity.

Tiny Deane says it was a neardeath ex­pe­ri­ence 19 years ago that led him to where he is to­day.

Tiny, 50, a truck driver for 31 years, had to give up driv­ing for health rea­sons and it was when he was won­der­ing what to do next that he be­gan notic­ing how bad the home­less­ness prob­lem had be­come.

So, us­ing his own money, he cre­ated a drop-in cen­tre for Ro­torua’s home­less. But more was needed. Tiny now runs two overnight shel­ters in Ro­torua and one in Taupo¯ through his Vi­sions of a Help­ing Hand Char­i­ta­ble Trust.

Last month, he was named one of 10 Ki­wibank Ro­torua/ Taupo¯ Lo­cal He­roes as part of Ki­wibank’s 2019 New Zealan­der of the Year Awards.

In 1999 Tiny suf­fered ter­ri­ble in­juries in a car ac­ci­dent and was in hos­pi­tal on life sup­port. Think­ing his chances of re­cov­ery were nonex­is­tent, Tiny’s fam­ily de­cided to turn it off. In­stead, Tiny woke up. That ex­pe­ri­ence led him to where he is to­day.

“I keep think­ing ‘man, I’m on this earth for some­thing’.”

Tiny re­cov­ered and af­ter a cou­ple of years was able to re­turn to work although he needed reg­u­lar time off to al­low his body to re­cover. But last year his sur­geon told him he was too fat, had di­a­betes and would have to have his leg am­pu­tated if he car­ried on the way he was.

Tiny jokes he was go­ing to go home and do noth­ing but wife Lyn­ley pushed him to find some­thing. Tiny had done a bit of char­ity work be­fore and while he was read­ing the lo­cal pa­per he dis­cov­ered Ro­torua was the sec­ond-worst city in New Zealand for home­less­ness.

“I’d never seen a home­less per­son be­fore out on the street, not that I had no­ticed them . . . all I’ve ever wor­ried about is my fam­ily my kids and my wife.”

When Tiny did start look­ing at the home­less prob­lem in Ro­torua he was as­tounded by just how bad it was. He says while it is not as dire in Taupo¯, it is still an is­sue.

“It’s not as bad but it’s bad. In Ro­torua, it’s lu­di­crous. In Auck­land, it’s off the planet.”

Us­ing his own money he leased a build­ing for a drop-in shel­ter and started giv­ing away food. Be­fore long, they were feed­ing 300 peo­ple per day. Then Tiny saw there was a need for a safe place for women and chil­dren to go. He sold his rental house and used the money to set up a shel­ter. Now he has three: one in Taupo¯ which has 20 women and chil­dren liv­ing in it, a 68-per­son shel­ter in Ro­torua for women and chil­dren and a 48-bed night shel­ter in Ro­torua with 120 rough sleep­ers reg­is­tered. It is not free, but the weekly charge is funded by the Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment. Tiny em­ploys man­agers, coun­sel­lors and so­cial work­ers and set up a char­i­ta­ble trust.

While Tiny hopes the trust will even­tu­ally break even on its costs — is­sues like com­pli­ance and fire safety have been ex­pen­sive — at present it is run­ning at a loss and he was only able to open the shel­ters by us­ing his own sav­ings.

He says he learned quickly that hav­ing shel­ters with­out sup­port from coun­sel­lors and so­cial work­ers was just a waste of time if home­less peo­ple were to change their lives.

“The only thing you need to change is their mind and then they can make bet­ter de­ci­sions be­cause’s that’s what they need to be do­ing.

He would like to see wrap­around ser­vices for home­less peo­ple that will even­tu­ally give them the skills and re­sources they need to be able to move into their own home.

Now he’s been asked to repli­cate his for­mula in Auck­land and is work­ing to set up a 180-per­son shel­ter for home­less peo­ple in Nel­son St.

Asked how he does it, Tiny says he doesn’t know.

“It’s some­thing that has just hap­pened. It’s been pretty un­canny. It’s never been a life­long dream. The only thing I know was that I had to do some­thing and I put my hand to this.

“I just love help­ing peo­ple that re­ally need it be­cause some of them, they re­ally, re­ally need it.”

Tiny says peo­ple be­come home­less for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons but it is of­ten part of a cy­cle they be­come caught up in.

“They make some bad choices in their life be­cause they don’t think that they de­serve bet­ter.”

Photo / Lau­rilee McMichael

Ab­dul Nishar, pic­tured with daugh­ter Aiza, 2, was nom­i­nated as a Ki­wibank Lo­cal Hero for his work sup­port­ing new mi­grants to Taupo¯.

Photo / Lau­rilee McMichael

Tiny Deane out­side the Taupo¯ shel­ter that pro­vides emer­gency ac­com­mo­da­tion for home­less women and chil­dren.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.