From Afghanistan to Aotearoa: A determination to start again and thrive

20 June 2023

Leaving everything behind and starting again can be challenging for everyone. It is more difficult for those who flee their homes in no time. Fahim Mazuri is one of those millions of people who leave their home countries to start again and thrive in their new communities. 

World Refugee Day pays tribute to the millions of refugees around the world who, like Fahim, have had to flee their homes and start again. This year the global theme was hope away from home – a world where refugees are always included.    

In Christchurch 15 months on, Fahim feels much more comfortable in this new culture and society. Gaining meaningful work has been a major factor.    

“I’m an engineer, and my profession has the same language across the globe. So having a job that is your passion and profession is important when you are settling in a different country. People at work are friendly. I’m proud to be part of the team.”    

He arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand with his father and two siblings on an emergency visa. They were among 1,729 people, including some New Zealand citizens, evacuated from Afghanistan after the Taliban took control in August 2021.   

Many people arrived with just the clothes they were wearing when they fled. Fahim had to leave Afghanistan in a rush because of his father’s association with New Zealand Defence Force. 

Fahim Mazuri sitting in a chair

Fahim Mazuri

A young and ambitious civil engineer, Fahim is among those former refugees who without further study, are working in the same areas as they worked in before they left their homelands. Fahim is now working as a computer-aided design drafter at Kordia. He says his initial job-seeking days weren’t easy, but not impossible. 

“There were a lot of people saying you can’t find a job here in New Zealand unless you study here but if you have skills and dedication, it’s possible,” he said.

“In my search for work, New Zealand Red Cross' Pathways to Employment team has been a great help – from introducing me to a mentor to preparing my CV and cover letter and matching my skills to the right job.”

Our employment services team in Christchurch supported Fahim throughout his job search and preparations to begin work.  

“We not only help former refugees in their job-seeking journey, but also to adjust to the workplace and find a way that leads them to integrate and thrive in employment and the community,” said Pooja Thakkar — Pathways to Employment Manager.

Meaningful work allows a person or family to move towards independence, be included in society, and it’s a boost to their wellbeing.  

Pooja helped Fahim connect with Alex Leo, a Senior Associate Engineer at Beca.  One of Asia Pacific’s largest advisory, design and engineering consultancies, Beca is headquartered in Aotearoa New Zealand and has supported a number of former refugees in recent years. Mentors such as Alex offer a mix of voluntary and Beca-funded time to help former refugees identify and settle into new roles. Mentors offer former refugees one-to-one advice and guidance on finding employment and realising their potential in their chosen field.  

“Mentoring Fahim was a very positive experience. His proactive attitude helped him to stay on track and maintain the momentum.  Fahim’s personal drive and energy has been a great contributor to his success."

"NZ currently has a shortage of engineers, with many employers seeking to recruit from overseas. Fahim is a great example of the talent that can be unlocked within our borders with the right support from the engineering industry,” said Alex.  

Inspired by his own experience of being mentored, Fahim now wants to mentor other refugee background youth, so they also can use the qualifications and skills they have brought to Aotearoa. 

Growing up in a different country and living in a different country can sometimes pose an identity crisis. “I feel like my soul and identity are connected to Afghan culture, but that doesn’t mean I’m soulless here. Aotearoa New Zealand is my new home.”  

Fahim believes that positive gestures from the community can mean a lot for former refugees as they settle into their new community. He thinks refugees are the bravest people on earth. “A person needs courage to leave family, friends, and everything behind and start from scratch. A sense of inclusion is what enables us to thrive in the community.” 

Supporting refugees to settle well is at the heart of our migration work. We’ve been providing refugee settlement support since 2012. In the last year, we’ve supported more than 800 refugees from at least 19 different countries settle in eight locations around the country. Our Pathways to Employment service has helped 822 former refugees, and over half of whom have gained employment or work experience.

What is World Refugee Day

Marked every year on 20 June, World Refugee Day acknowledges and honours the millions of refugees around the world. In Aotearoa New Zealand, it’s an opportunity to celebrate the achievements and contributions new New Zealanders make to society. 

It’s also a time to recognise the huge mahi of our members and volunteers, who play a huge role in welcoming and supporting former refugees settle. They provide support from when people first arrive and connect them to services in the local community, helping them to feel included. 

Refugees are ordinary people who’ve faced extraordinary circumstances. People from refugee backgrounds are Members of Parliament, sportspeople, chefs, teachers, skilled tradespeople, mothers, fathers, and friends. They come from many different countries and religions and have experiences and skills from which we all can learn. 

More information  

How you can help 

There are plenty of ways you can get involved with former refugees in your community.

  • Become a refugee support volunteer. Our volunteers are extraordinary community helpers who welcome new Kiwis. 
    Refugee support volunteer 
  • Give a former refugee a job opportunity. Our teams work with refugee background job seekers who have a vast range of skills, qualifications, and employment histories. 
    Employing refugees
  • Partner with us. Business partnerships are critical to our work helping people in New Zealand and overseas. Explore different ways your business can support our work and make an impact.
    Information about partnering with us

How we can help

  • Pathways to Settlement supports former refugees in New Zealand when they begin their settlement journey. 
    Refugee settlement 
  • Pathways to Employment helps people from refugee backgrounds to work and supports employers to increase diversity in their organisations.   
    Finding a job

Lead photo: (Left to right) Pooja Thakkar, Fahim Mazuri, and Alex Leo.