Solano Family from Waikato

17 June 2022

From danger in Columbia to waiting in Ecuador to a new place called home in Hamilton – the Solano family finally feel safe.

New Zealand Red Cross is celebrating our thriving new Kiwis for World Refugee Day on June 20. The global theme this year is everyone has the right to seek safety.

Elkin and Yecenia fled Colombia in 2014 with their then 8 year-old daughter and 2 year-old twins. They lived as refugees in Ecuador for six long years before finally being offered a home in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Initially supported by the New Zealand Red Cross Pathways to Settlement team, the family is adapting to New Zealand life.

“We feel lucky and blessed to be in New Zealand” Elkin says

Elkin and Yecenia have busy lives – both with jobs and volunteering. They volunteer with a local Colombian organisation regularly.

Earlier this year, our Pathways to Employment programme put Elkin through an 8 week interpreting training course with Decypher and within a week he was given a casual contract as a Spanish speaking interpreter. Independently, Yecenia secured a role teaching Spanish to Colombian children with Earth Diverse, an Adult and Community Education NGO in Hamilton.

The couple are also doing well in their English language studies at Wintec. “We know how important it is to work hard on our language and understand the kiwi culture so we can make more friends and connections,” says Elkin. They’re glad to have Colombian friends around them and are also working to build friendships with other Kiwis.

Both have their sights set on opening businesses in the future. Elkin, a keen guitarist, hopes to open a guitar tutoring school one day. Yecenia wants to run her own beauty salon.

New Zealand Red Cross assists former refugees to rebuild their lives in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Refugee settlement information