My name is Roi Jar Maran. My country of origin is Myanmar, formally known as Burma. My hometown is in a very rural area in the Northern part of Myanmar, within Kachin State. I am from the Kachin ethnic group, among the main eight ethnic groups in Myanmar. There has been a constant battle between the Myanmar army and Ethnic armed groups for many decades. We have been victims of those battles. Because of the socio-economic and political situations in Myanmar, I had to leave all my immediate family and flee to Malaysia as soon as I had a chance.
I arrived in New Zealand on 31st August 2007, through UNHCR referral under a humanitarian visa to Aotearoa, New Zealand. This was through the Refugee Quota Programme. When I arrived in New Zealand, I stayed at the Māngere Refugee Resettlement Centre (MRRC) for about six weeks, where I received great support. Learning English made me reflect on what my English level was, which encouraged me to improve my language skills. I am grateful to have full health screening and referrals for further check-ups, especially for my eyes. I was introduced to the banking system, and emergency services (e.g. fire, police, etc).
Housing arrangements were provided right after I left the Māngere Resettlement Centre and arrived at a settlement location in Auckland. The thing I liked the most about the service I received at the MRRC was learning the road rules for the driving theory test in my own Language, Burmese. Because the test was taught in my language, I understood it fully, and it helped me a lot when taking the restricted license test. I remembered all the road rules when I started actually driving on the road.
I have faced some challenges through my settlement and integration process in this new country. I did not get volunteers who could help me with accessing different services. Fortunately, I did receive help with WINZ services, school enrolment, etc. from a caseworker from Refugee and Migrants Services (RMS). However, she could not be available as a volunteer, so I had to step up and do things on my own. Even though I sometimes had a hard time going through these challenges, I liked the challenges, like learning how to drive and accessing the support and services I needed on my own, since they drove me to become a stronger and more capable person.
I was given a Permanent Residency right away when I arrived in New Zealand; I then became a New Zealand citizen five years later. However, I struggled with confusion about where and whether I actually belonged. Even after receiving New Zealand citizenship, I still felt like a guest, because the lifestyle and culture were different.
Only around ten years of my settlement in Aotearoa, New Zealand, did I actually feel like I was a New Zealander and say that this was my home. One thing that helped me to eventually become a New Zealander was getting a job. I have learned a lot more about the policies of New Zealand. I also have supervisors and colleagues who look after me, and I receive fair and equal treatment at work.
I especially like the weather in Auckland, which is not too cold or hot. I also love living here in safety, without fear. I like the local Kiwis around me because they are friendly, and I get equal opportunities at school and work.
I don’t like that New Zealand does not have a variety of Food. Expenses are higher than the Benefit or income. For example, bus fares are expensive and not covered by Benefits. When I attended English class at UNITEC, I had to take a bus from my Blockhouse Bay house. If I missed a bus, I had to walk for about an hour to get to school. Because the bus fares are expensive, I could not take the bus to school every day. If I had, I wouldn’t have enough money to get through the week, as I did not have any other income besides the Benefit. The system itself is good, but it took some time to get familiar with it and was difficult to adapt as a person with a language barrier.
What I miss the most about my country of origin: my immediate family, childhood friends, and Myanmar traditional food.
I want to encourage new arrivals to see the challenges they face as opportunities and be positive. Be thankful to the Government for bringing us here from our challenging lives, and be a good citizen to this country by living accordingly to the rules set out by the Government.
I am thankful to the local New Zealanders, as they let us come and live in their country. I hope that local Kiwis also benefit from having us as part of the local New Zealand community. Please be welcoming to new arrivals; either refugees or migrants from different walks of life.