My name is Lulu Sinnan, originally from Myanmar, which is also known as Burma. I am specifically from the Northern part of Myanmar, within Kachin State. I am from the Kachin ethnic group, among the eight main ethnic groups in Myanmar. We, Kachin people, have been suffering from the constant battles between the Myanmar army and ethnic armed groups, for many decades. This is one of the reasons I had to flee Myanmar to find a place where I could experience growth in my life.
The 4th of July 2017 was when I arrived in New Zealand with my two daughters through the UNHCR Refugee Quota Programme. I worked and lived in Malaysia for over six years while waiting for UNHCR to send me to a developed country. I got married and had two daughters there. It was a struggle living in Malaysia as a person with no status in the country because I just held a UN card. My husband suddenly passed away before my younger daughter was born. After two years, I had a chance to come and live in New Zealand and call it home.
I stayed at the Māngere Resettlement Centre for about six weeks when I arrived here. I felt very lonely when I arrived, as I do not have any family or friends that I know of in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Back in Malaysia, I lived with my friends in the same apartment, but there were only 3 of us here. However, the service provided within the camp was good. They did health screenings for all of us, including my younger daughter, who has been suffering from lymphoma since she was born. They provided a referral and connected my family to the Auckland hospital. We were assigned to live in Wellington; however, the Government arranged the housing right away in Auckland due to my daughter’s health condition.
There are many challenges I have faced as a new arrival in this country, where everything is new for me to learn. Because of my younger daughter’s immediate surgery and long recovery process, we stayed at Auckland Hospital for about three months, only two weeks after we got out of the Māngere Camp. The first house we were put in was not suitable for my daughter, who had just had surgery, because she needed to live with a breathing machine in her neck. I did not feel safe in the neighbourhood and could not sleep well at night due to fear. With the support and help from Family Options NASC – Healthpoint, we were able to move to another house, where we have been living until now. God already prepared everything ahead of time for my daughters and me, as the neighbour across the street is a volunteer who helped me as I settled in this new environment. We became friends and still have a good relationship now. Family Options NASC – Healthpoint provided a carer for my younger daughter, who came and slept with us every night, which also helped me recover from loneliness. Despite all the challenges I faced, I made a self-help plan/list of what I should do and learn in this new country, such as driving and learning English. I pushed myself to try hard to fit into this new life.
What I like about Aotearoa/New Zealand is the local people and service providers, such as social workers and volunteers, who have been helpful in different ways. Providing volunteers for the new arrivals was very helpful. I feel safe in my neighbourhood because I am surrounded by good neighbours.
What I don’t like about Aotearoa/New Zealand is that some of the service processes take a long time to provide a solution or answer.
Even though I became a New Zealander on the day I was given Permanent Residency, I still think of myself as from Myanmar, where my origin is. I keep reminding myself that New Zealand is my home now, and I need to feel and live like I am at home.
For new arrivals to Aotearoa/New Zealand, I would like to say that no matter what background you came from or what challenges you faced in life, don’t give up, don’t be depressed, please find a way to live on and move on from your past traumatic experiences. Try to think positively in the life that you are living now.
I am deeply grateful to all the local Kiwis I have met throughout my settlement years here in Aotearoa/New Zealand, who have been very helpful and encouraging towards me, and always gave me a warm welcome.