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The nets at Star-University Cricket Club are filled with the thwacks of cricket balls hitting wood. Outside it’s pouring with rain but that hasn’t stopped these club members from making it to practice.
Among the group are Qais and Omer Qasim. The brothers are talented cricket players who are originally from Afghanistan, although they remember nothing about their birth country. Before either of the brothers could talk, their family fled to Pakistan and spent the next 24 years there, living as refugees.
It was in Pakistan that the brothers learned about cricket.
“When I was a child I was watching it on the TV and said I will start it too, so I started [playing],” says Qais.
The brothers played informally at first before eventually joining domestic teams in Pakistan. When they were accepted to New Zealand as refugees in 2017, one of the first things they asked about was playing for a local team.
“I like cricket, it’s my passion,” says Qais. “I want to be playing cricket professionally.”
The duo eventually settled on Star-University CC in Hamilton, a club that has welcomed them and their talents.
“Everybody knows them and they have conversations with people,” says Jarrod Braddock, team captain. “We make a special point to try and include new people and build that family feel as quick as possible.”
Qais and Omer have both felt welcome and enjoy the multicultural feel of the club.
“The people in my team are from all different countries,” Omer says.
“It is a good team and they are good guys. Life in New Zealand is good for us, there has been lots of help for us and we are happy.”
How to help
You support former refugees in New Zealand by forming part of the welcoming committee for new Kiwis in your community. We’re recruiting for refugee support volunteers in seven locations around New Zealand.