However, the road to Mana was a long one for Zay Ya who fled the volatile political situation in his native Myanmar 25 years ago – first to Thailand and then Malaysia.

In Malaysia, Zay Ya supported his wife and children doing many jobs although he wasn’t legally permitted to work. They lived a precarious existence, sharing one small room and constantly fearing arrest.

After gaining refugee status with the United Nations, Zay Ya and his family were finally offered to resettle in New Zealand under the refugee quota programme.

As Zay Ya settled into life in New Zealand and again, to support his family he took a cooking job, but he knew he wanted to be on the road, so he began training for a commercial driving licence.

“I’ve always loved driving. When I was growing up, the only vehicle in our village was a wartime jeep and I’d pretend to drive it. In Malaysia my boss gave me an old car,” Zay Ya says.

His first attempt to gain his Class Two licence ended in disappointment when he was told his English wasn’t good enough – but with support from New Zealand Red Cross he persevered and was successful.

The Red Cross Pathways to Employment team made the introduction to Mana and helped Zay Ya with the preparation for gaining his passenger endorsement.

Preparing for the role was an onerous but crucial journey which Zay Ya never gave up on. Endless forms, interviews and applications – a difficult task for anyone, more so for a newly arrived Kiwi with English as a second language.

New Zealand Red Cross supported Zay Ya every step along the way, but say it was his tenacity that got him through and after passing the company’s assessment process, he began work in October.

Mana supervisor Ian Chudleigh says Zay Ya is a valued team member. “He’s extremely reliable and loves the job. We’re very pleased to have him.

“Zay Ya’s English has improved 70 per cent since he started. The programme is a great way to help people who are struggling to start new lives,” Ian says.

In his spare time Zay Ya is a Red Cross volunteer and helps people in his community learn the road code and teaches them to drive.

“The Pathways team have been like angels for me. I love my work and my passengers like me because I am always smiling.

“We enjoy New Zealand because it is quiet and safe. We lost our lives for many years, but here, life has started again,” says Zay Ya.