Jihad is from a town called Al Zabadani in south-western Syria. The area was completely destroyed in 2015 when airstrikes caused, what the United Nations described as, “unprecedented levels of destruction” and death.

After fleeing the country with his wife and three children, The Al Laham family arrived in New Zealand in March 2016.

Having been a successful painter in Syria, Jihad was keen to find similar employment in his new country as soon as possible and pursued his ambitions through every avenue available to him. 

It was Red Cross volunteer, Rachel, who proved to be the key to success after she put his name forward for a painting job her friend needed done.

Three months later, Jihad is working full-time at the Porirua-based painting company and enjoying every second.

Beginning employment in New Zealand

Red Cross Pathways to Employment team supported Jihad after he accepted the job. They explained the Kiwi systems and how to navigate IRD, Work and Income, sick leave, and holidays.

There were still some challenges in the beginning though.

“It was hard because I didn’t know the names of the tools and different types of paint,” Jihad says.

“I’m trying to learn quickly. Sometimes I want to tell my colleagues something but can’t think of the words so I just stop talking. It’s still a problem but it’s getting easier.”

The other employees are happy to have Jihad on staff and make jokes with him as they get their photo taken. It’s clear he’s getting the hang of the Kiwi sense of humour and laughs along with them.

“He’s a pleasure to work with,” says Clive Nicholson, one of his colleagues, “we want to do everything we can to make sure he succeeds in this country.”

“They are very nice people, they love me and I love them very much,” says Jihad.

Jihad enjoys working with his new colleagues  

Jihad’s background means that he has plenty of old skills that he’s looking apply to the new job.

“I have ideas I’ve brought from Syria that I’d like to implement in New Zealand,” he says.

“Once I’m more confident in my work, I will take the ideas to my boss.”

For now though, Jihad is happy he and his family have been welcomed so warmly.

“I feel like New Zealand is the kind heart at the centre of the world. The country has accepted us and the people are so friendly. It’s such a peaceful and nice country.”