My name is Miragha Sarwary, greatly known as Haji. I identify myself as an Afghan New Zealander and a proud citizen of NZ. I and my family are originally from Afghanistan. I faced a challenging resettlement journey before I became a New Zealander, it began in 1987 when I was forced to flee from Afghanistan due to the ongoing war, I lost my brother in the war, a lot of relatives, and also some of my classmates were among those who lost their lives, there was no hope left for us in our war-torn home- Afghanistan.
My family and I fled to Pakistan for safety and protection. It was during winter and it was snowing, there was ongoing conflict and it was very unsafe, the journey involved lots of walking, what would be a 5-hour drive between 2 towns we traveled by foot through a warzone for 5 days, with our lives at risk, the landmines and fighting along the way, and only supplies for 2 days this was a real struggle, however with God’s will and hope We got to neighboring Country Pakistan. We were in Pakistan for a few years before we arrived in New Zealand in 1990 and became NZ citizens in 1994.
I love the way how New Zealand gave me and my family hope, the opportunities it has provided for us to live a peaceful life, gain a world-class education and work towards a great future. My kids have all, grown up and studied in New Zealand, graduated with university degrees, and now working and giving back to society.
New Zealand is a country with lots of opportunities, it has an excellent education system, health system, peaceful society and a great friendly culture. Since becoming a New Zealander I have worked in different areas, Some of my work involved starting up an afghan grocery shop, driving a taxi, operating a second-hand shop all alongside voluntarily helping the community.
Through my personal experience and knowledge of both cultures, I have helped many families make a new start in New Zealand as I know how hard it can be. It has always been our passion to help people and we have invested our time in volunteer work, greatly supporting families through resettlement by helping with every step of the journey, educating them about New Zealand, enrolling them in school, registering with GP, finding accommodation and work and teaching driving so they could achieve their goals and become a valued member of the society.
With the growing community we started an Afghan community for which I was the secretary, we have now developed the first Afghan organization- named Afghan funeral services, AFSC providing full funeral support services for families through hard times. There are also language classes for youth teachingthem the mother tongue-Dari and sports, one of the top playing volleyball teams-PAMIR. I had volunteered with the New Zealand Red cross for the pathways to resettlement programme, and helped families in the resettlement process, then red cross-referred me to ARCC for a driving programme they were providing, this is where I was introduced to Abann and started off with ARCC as a volunteer driver training mentor, teaching people how to drive, I managed to teach a few people and they all have their license now. I am currently the ARCC Vice-chairboard member and proud of the work we do in supporting the communities.
I miss my homeland, Afghanistan. I miss the beautiful country it once used to be, the high mountains, the breeze, the seasons which you could feel the cold snowy winters and hot summers, the fresh and natural foods and fruits especially the pomegranates, the Kabuli pulao, the culture and of course all my friends, families and people that are back home.
The challenges I faced through settlement in NZ about 30 years ago were learning the language and adjusting to the culture. There were not many people from my community back then only about 4 families. The way of life, the culture, language, food everything was new and different from what I was used to. I had a young family and faced very difficult days, we didn’t have a car for the first 2 years and walking was our way of getting around. I enrolled in an English course to learn the language about the culture and prepare myself to get my license so I could get a job then which I could work towards my new life here in NZ.
Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.