Originally from Idlib, Rami made the decision to leave after he was detained and tortured.

The family escaped to Lebanon where they called Beirut home for the next one-and-a-half years.

It was an unhappy time for them as Rami and his 15 family members were forced to live together in a three bedroom house. They were unable to find work and had few educational opportunities.

Rami experienced even greater tragedy during that time; his wife was in a car accident while pregnant with their second son. Doctors managed to save the baby but couldn’t do anything for his wife.

The baby is now a cheeky two and a half year old named Karam who is full of energy.

Life in limbo

Following the accident, Rami was approached by UNHCR and registered as a refugee.

He refused to leave without his parents and siblings’, meaning it was a long and drawn out process to find a resettlement location for the family. Medical records had to be retrieved and security checks made.

The whole process took over a year to complete. It was a difficult time as the family was unsure what the future held for them.

The silver lining was that Rami met his second wife Mariam during this period. They fell in love and got married.

Eventually the family received the call they’d been waiting for.

“We were told we’d be going to Germany,” says Mariam, “then we got another call saying we’d be going to Norway.”

“Then they called to say there was no more room in Norway and we were asked if New Zealand would be ok.”

No one in the family knew much about New Zealand but they were happy to be leaving Lebanon.

“It was like a huge burden had been lifted from our shoulders as soon as we left the airport,” Rami says, “we could finally start our new life.”

Rami Abduljawad and his children, Abdulrahman (5), Karam (2), and Mohammad (6 mths)

Rami and Mariam are excited at the prospects their life in New Zealand holds.

Their youngest child is just six months old; they proudly show-off his New Zealand birth certificate and say they want to get it laminated.

“I am happy because my children will have a good future in New Zealand and be able to learn English,” says Rami, “I’m looking forward to getting into the workforce.”

The English lessons aren’t easy for Rami but he’s persevering and wants to find a job as a mechanic or barber.

Mariam, who was pregnant when she arrived, could only start English lessons in early October. She’s advancing well, having learned English back in Syria. The Kiwi accent is proving a little difficult though.

Rami and Mariam are happy to have their extended family nearby too, saying it’s made settling in much easier.

“New Zealand feels like home now,” says Mariam, smiling broadly.