“The best thing about having my own business is feeling independent,” says Joseph Ishak, owner of Joseph Painters Ltd and member of the Assyrian refugee community in Wellington.

Having arrived in New Zealand as a refugee in 1991, Joseph is no stranger to hard work and dedication. After spending five years as a painter learning the trade, Joseph, with help from his former boss, started Joseph Painters Ltd in Wellington in 1996.

Now as a business owner, he’s paying it forward, supporting other former refugees on their employment journeys.

“It’s good money if you work hard and know how to achieve your goals and dreams,” says Joseph, who credits his former boss for training him well and providing him with the knowledge and skills he needed to start his business.

“Now I can have employees from refugee backgrounds and help them to be able to live independently and to start a career in their life to support their families and grow up financially.”

For Ninous Jabbo, one of Joseph’s employees, working with Joseph’s company has been a life-changing opportunity.

Ninous arrived in New Zealand in March of 2012 with his parents and three brothers. When he first arrived, he focused on learning English and was soon offered the chance to become a full-time painter with Joseph’s company. He accepted the job right away, working hard to earn money to establish himself in his new country.

“I am very happy in my work now because it will help me in the future to save some money to study in university and become a qualified accountant,” says Ninous, who is also grateful for the opportunity to be able to support his parents through his work.

Working for Joseph Painters Ltd has helped Ninous feel more confident and independent and has enabled him to plan for his future, but it’s been the very nature of New Zealand that has supported Ninous the most in building his new life.

“For me the thing I like most here is the safety and peace.”