Eyob and his sister, Mahlet, were reunited with their mother in January 2018 after arriving in New Zealand under the family reunification programme. Their mother had fled Ethiopia 17 years earlier and was forced to leave her children behind. She was overjoyed to see her son and daughter safe and flourishing in their new home in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Less than a year after he first set foot on Kiwi soil, Eyob secured a scholarship from Beca to help finance a Bachelor of Building Science at Victoria University of Wellington. As one of Asia-Pacific’s largest independent advisory, design and engineering consultancies, Beca’s scholarship sought to connect Eyob with industry professionals and provide him with the opportunity for work experience as his study progressed.

Two years on

Two years on from Eyob’s successful scholarship application, Beca continues to support his development as a young building science professional. He is on track to complete his Bachelor’s degree by the end of 2022, majoring in building science and project management.

Eyob has been in regular contact with his Beca-provided mentor, Shaan Cory, over the past two years. He credits Shaan and their mentor-mentee relationship as a vital component of his educational journey.

“When I [first] came here, the study culture was very different,” he says. Shaan noticed Eyob was struggling to find his place in an unfamiliar education system, so he took the time to help him understand how everything worked, and how he could best adapt and integrate into the New Zealand learning model. “If it wasn’t for Shaan, I wouldn’t have survived.”

Through his studies, Eyob has discovered his ultimate passion lies in project management. He wants to focus on this area during his final years of study, while simultaneously completing his building science major so that he has an in-depth understanding of the skills and tools required to work in this field.

Eyob receiving his scholarship from Beca Regional Manager (Central), Christopher Dunlop, in Wellington.

For Beca, Eyob’s ongoing success as a scholarship recipient is a big ‘win’. What began as a simple conversation between co-workers about how Beca could give back to the wider community has now grown into a wide network of sponsorships and community support initiatives.

“For us, it’s about introducing something else into our communities,” says Christopher Dunlop, Regional Manager at Beca. “It’s about introducing diversity into our communities. It’s also about filling skills gaps, so where there’s an opportunity to make those two things work together it’s a real win-win. For somebody like Eyob, who has a passion for what he’s studying, if we can, we’re going to support that. It’s a skillset that’s in demand, and it’s a skillset that we need in our business.”

So, when borders reopen and New Zealand’s refugee quota resumes, will Beca want to be looking for more scholarship opportunities for former refugee?

“Yes. Absolutely,” says Christopher.

As for Eyob, he’s just waiting for the day he graduates so that he can start giving back to the people and organisations that have supported his growth so kindly.

“I want to say ‘thank you’ but I just want to make my ‘thank you’ in reality,” he says. “I just want to finish my work and want to support Beca like Beca is supporting me. And Red Cross as well. That’s all I can say.”

“My next goal is to be here – Beca.”

An inspiration to others

Eyob’s journey from Ethiopia to New Zealand was long and arduous. To see him flourishing and following his educational dream is a real point of pride for Red Cross’ local Pathways to Employment team.

“Part of what we do at Pathways to Employment,” begins Cris Mirkin, Employment Assessor Advisor at New Zealand Red Cross, “is staying in touch with clients and following their journeys. My colleagues and I are always interested to hear what stage Eyob is at and how we can support him.”  

Cris and her colleagues often find that they are able to use Eyob’s story as an example for other clients to see what their journey could look like in a few years’ time. “He’s actually a role model for his own community,” she says.

“Telling stories is always the way to get people back to dreaming, because their lives have been in limbo for such a long time that they haven’t had the opportunity to dream. When they come and join Pathways to Employment, part of what we do is make them think, ‘What do I want to be?’ and ‘What do I want to do?’ We don’t only focus on vocational goals, but educational as well. A lot of the time they can do it alongside each other, like Eyob is doing.”

How you can help

Our Pathways to Employment programme helps former refugees to navigate the New Zealand job market, supporting new Kiwis into work. If you or your business are keen to get involved you can find out more.