Refugee success story – finding freedom in New Zealand

finding freedom

Finding freedom in New Zealand after years on the run is a success story that’s left Esraa Al-Hoot (pictured right) wanting to do more. More for her new hometown, Timaru. More for New Zealand.

Presbyterian Support South Canterbury helped a lot. Still does, in fact.

Until 2010, her Middle East country of Yemen was very peaceful, Al-Hoot says. Then in 2014 civil war broke out.

She escaped the country for Malaysia with her young son and parents the following year, leaving everything behind.

It took her five-and-a-half worrying years to be recognised officially as a refugee.

Finding freedom

Then she was asked what she thought about New Zealand and did she agree with its immigration rules? She said she did.

“My Mum didn’t accept it at the beginning, she was very worried, but my Dad was the opposite. He said New Zealand was a nice place, the Government supports multicultural people, different ethnicities and religions.”

After spending time at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre she moved to Timaru. A massive crowd was waiting to welcome her and her son.

“I saw a big welcome sign and a lot of people that just came to say welcome, and we hope you have a great life here.

“I met so many people – about 20 people, and they were very nice.”

That was two-and-a-half years ago.

Settling in

Al-Hoot now helps former refugees settle in the community through the Presbyterian Support South Canterbury service.

She also has work with Presbyterian Support as a cultural adviser.

This week the community celebrated 100 former refugees settling in the Timaru District, where Al-Hoot cut a cake to honour the occasion.

Now she’s settled and happy, she wants to show others that they could do what she has done.

Many people and services have helped her maintain a positive attitude, she says.

“I’m very grateful and very fortunate for the services here. The government support and the community are really generous and lovely people.

“I hope to do more for this town, and this country.’’

She has family – including her parents – living in Malaysia and she’s able to talk to them each day.


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News category: New Zealand, Top Story.