‘We found the peaceful life we came in search of’

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Sasi Syed Niyamathullah

What is your ethnicity? Where did you come from?

I am originally from Jaffna in Sri Lanka. We moved to Chennai in India when I was eight years old due to ethnic problems in my home country. I was educated and married in India. With my two girls I moved to NZ in 2013.

A couple of years ago, I visited my hometown in Jaffna with my girls, but we couldn’t find our house – cant recognise anything there. The army is still there and only trees. Some people were constructing new houses there.

What brought you to NZ?

After 2009, when the civil war ended in Sri Lanka, there was no reason to go back. We wanted to look for peaceful living options. NZ is well-known for being peaceful, people are friendly and good for my girls’ education. Besides, my sister was already in NZ by then. It seemed to be logical to move to NZ. So I arrived here with my two girls.

How do you feel about your decision to come to NZ? Why?

The initial two to three months were tough. I was alone with my girls and I didn’t know how to drive and had no job. Then, I came across WISE and Safari Multicultural Playgroup. I volunteered and attended their workshops. Got my first break with WISE.

After some time, I got a part-time job, found a house and got into a driving school. Then, my husband joined us.

People have been kind to us and we have found the peaceful life we came in search of. Our PM says: ‘Be kind to all.’ I see it in my daily life. A clean and nice place, in spite of a COVID-19 situation. I made the correct choice.

With the Duchess of Cornwall, Wesley Community Centre, November 18, 2019 in Mt Roskill, Auckland. (Photo by Amy Driver)

One good thing that has happened to you since you moved to NZ.

Many good things have happened. One thing that’s really good is that we are living a happy and peaceful family life. I love where I am working. This is not my job, it’s a part of my family.

My older daughter finished high school. I am achieving my goals one by one. I wanted to support communities and I do that through my work.

In India and Sri Lanka, due to the lockdown, a lot of people lost jobs and their families suffered. I try to help them in whatever way I can, especially women and children. I can do this only because I am in a good country like NZ.

One experience you had since you moved to NZ that could have been avoided.

Maybe somethings could have been avoided. They were mistakes that became learnings. I used to drive a scooter in India. After coming here, I realised how difficult it was to not know how to drive. I didn’t have enough money to take public transport to drop my girls at school and back. Even going to the supermarket was so difficult. Also, driving in NZ is very difficult from driving in India. I could have come prepared.

What would be your golden advice to a new migrant to NZ?

When we move to a new country, it is not easy to settle down. Employer’s ask for local work experience, making it difficult to find an opportunity. I would say, don’t give up. Connect with your community as well as other communities. Get in touch with organisations like Belong Aotearoa. They run different workshops and trainings where you get to meet people. There are also English language workshops and driving lessons to help with employment (by other organisations, we don’t run them). Try to volunteer in these organisations and get work experience.

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