My name is Nang Khin Khan. I am originally from a country in Southeast Asia called Myanmar. Due to the political situation in Myanmar, I fled to Malaysia, and worked and stayed there for about four years until I had the opportunity to immigrate to Aotearoa, New Zealand. I immigrated through the UNHCR referral under a humanitarian visa to Aotearoa, New Zealand, through the Refugees Quota Programme.
I arrived in New Zealand in August 2007. I was put in the Māngere Refugee Resettlement Centre (MRRC) for about six weeks to learn English, attend classes for learner driving license, etc. As soon as I arrived here in Aotearoa/New Zealand, the very first challenge was that I didn’t get to eat rice during my stay at MRRC. It might sound funny, but it is definitely hard not getting any rice at all, for a person who grew up eating rice for every meal. I thought of myself as a New Zealander as soon as I was given a permanent residency before boarding the plane at Kuala Lumpur Airport in Malaysia to travel to New Zealand.
I faced challenges when I moved to a settlement location in Auckland from MRRC. Firstly, I don’t understand English day-to-day communication due to my language barrier. Having a volunteer to help settle in a new environment was much appreciated; however, it was only short-term. The banking services and WINZ services were helpful for me. I still remember that I had to live without any benefit or income during my first year of settlement. I received StudyLink support while I studied English at UNITEC. During summer school break, I did not receive StudyLink support anymore. Then, I had to go to WINZ and apply for the Hardship Benefit. I had to wait one month for the Benefit to come through, even though StudyLink support had stopped already. It was surprising to me that WINZ and StudyLink don’t coordinate their services to make it easy for students like me who don’t know how the system operates. There was a gap in different services provided by different government agencies. My own community group did not make much effort to reach out to me, so I did not have any network or connection with my own community group or other organisations. When my family went through hardship, I did not receive any support or assistance from community organisations or settlement-focussed service providers to resolve the problem; for example, when I was looking for a lawyer or community advocate services.
What I like about New Zealand is how safe my neighbourhood is. I feel secure staying at my house or out in the community. There is safety at the workplace and in public places. New Zealand provides a safe place for new residents and resettled people from forced migrant backgrounds (former refugees); looks after them, provides for them, and supports them. It is a country of opportunity, but sadly, I do not know how and where to look for and take those opportunities.
What I do not like about New Zealand is discrimination against ethnicities such as Asians or Africans, or discrimination against different skin colours or statuses, such as labelling and name-calling refugees or migrants. The system itself does not tolerate any form of discrimination; however, it still happens in reality. I also do not like that the rules we all have to follow are based on Western-style parenting culture. I have a hard time parenting my son, who is taught different cultures and rules at school. I am not able to mould my own child. I still could not find the balance between my own culture and Western culture when disciplining my son.
There are quite a few things I miss about my country of origin. I miss my family the most all the time since I resettled here in Aotearoa, New Zealand alone. The second thing I miss the most is the variety of Myanmar traditional food which I could not get anywhere in New Zealand. Because of Customs restrictions at the border, I could not bring certain Myanmar food here.
I would like to encourage new arrivals to make an effort to learn the English language and improve their language skills by attending English classes. It will help you be independent when accessing different services such as WINZ, clinics, etc.
I would like to request that the local community to be considerate of what we have gone through as forced migrants or people from refugee backgrounds, trying to settle down in a whole new environment. I would ask that they be welcoming of the new arrivals to this beautiful country.