Leita Hassan from Sudan and Ansha Mohammed Adem from Ethiopia tell their stories
(picture caption: Ansha Mohammed Adem; credit Steven Wong)
They are supported by the WISE Project, which is run under a unique partnership between the Auckland Resettled Community Coalition and the Auckland Regional Migrant Services Charitable Trust. The project supports refugee background women to develop the necessary knowledge, skills, confidence and resources to start-up or contribute to activities for generating income for their families. More than 800 women have engaged with the WISE Collective Project since its inception five years ago, and come from 18 different countries.
I am Ansha Mohammed Adem. I came to New Zealand to join my daughter in February 2008. At that time, I had to leave my 10 months old son back home. I felt I had lost my life; I felt no hope for the future. The happiness of joining my daughter could not really cover the sadness and pain in the deepest part of my heart.
The whole environment was completely new to me. I did not speak English; I did not know how to drive. I was all alone at home every day as my daughter was attending school. I was crying almost every day. The only way I felt I was alive and useful was cooking and cleaning for my daughter. Yet I knew I had to do something to start a new life here. So I attended an English course as I wanted to learn the language as the first step.
After studying English for a while, I was happy realise I could still learn. Slowly, I gained courage to think about studying a skill and employment. I attended an Early Childhood Care Certificate course and did well in my study. Unfortunately, I was sick and had an operation and had to rest for a long period of time. My lonely days started again; and I was not sure when I would feel the joy of learning again.
To my happiness, my son joined me in New Zealand 2013. I was so happy to have him beside me. It gave me lots of happiness and hope for life. I was recovering slowly and I was looking for a new start for our life.
A friend of mine, talked about the Wise Collective and suggested I join in. I loved the Wise Collective from day one. The staff are friendly and supportive. They made me feel like part of them straight away. I thought I came to the right place. And I am correct.
They introduced the WISE Collective workshops and community activities to me. I have attended these on a regular basis. I experienced what it is like knitting, screen printing, making embroidery, and catering. I enjoyed learning and tried to find my own interest. I am interested in making embroidery on table clothes, beddings, and other household stuff. If my situation allows, I would like to open my own business based on this skill in future.
By saying that, I am so grateful to the WISE Collective that through providing opportunities, it changed me from a shy, stressed, unconfident woman to an open-minded, happy and confident woman, to the point that now I can even think of having my own business.
Another interest of mine is catering. The WISE Collective helped me to develop these skills. They introduced me to a Food Handling Certificate course where I learned lots of new things about food preparation. The WISE Collective also provided several chances for me to practice my skills at big events.
Once I performed preparing traditional Ethiopian coffee. I was so happy that all my coffee was sold out. People enjoyed it. Another time I was asked to sell finger foods at a community event. People were queuing to buy my food.
Seeing this I was so excited. “I am alive, I am living” I kept saying this to myself throughout the event and all the way back home. That excitement is still fresh in my memory and it always gives me hope and encouragement. Many thanks for the WISE Collective for bringing such a huge change in my life. Without the support and opportunities from the WISE Collective, I could not imagine myself being so hopeful about the future, “Thank you WISE Collective: you are giving life to me”.
I am Leita Hassan. I came to New Zealand with my husband and two children on March, 2014. We stayed at the Mangere camp for six weeks before moving to a rental house in Mt Roskill.
My husband was looking for a job, and I was a housewife looking after the family. My daily routine was cooking and cleaning for my family. I seldom went out because I was too shy. I also did not feel that I could do anything outside the house.
My only connection with community was through Auckland Refugee Community Coalition. My husband attended community activities there as a representative of the Sudanese community. Whenever he went, he asked me to come as well. And I went along with a plate of food I have cooked. I did so because I am good at cooking and everyone liked my food.
At one activity, we met a WISE Collective staff member. She liked my food and made positive comments about it. She also asked me if I would like to join the WISE Collective where women from refugee backgrounds get various sorts of support. It sounded good but I was not sure what I would do there. Still I visited WISE Collective. I received a warm welcome and came to know that they have many activities for the women. I was quite interested in selling ethnic food at the New Lynne Night Market. But I hesitated because I do not have any experience in such activity and also did not know any food handling rules. .
The WISE Collective encouraged me to make good use of my strength in cooking. They gave me all the support I needed to become skilled and confident. The staff are patient and encouraging. They helped me to get familiar with all the details of running a food stall. They also arranged me to have Food Safety Handling training. As a result, in a short time, I was ready to run a stall at market.
I am so happy that I have got such a chance. Every week, I look forward to the day to arrive. I love to meet my customers. They like my food. Yet, they are more than just customers. We sometimes have time to talk to each other while we do business. Such friendly talks really give me lots of encouragement and a sense of being part of a bigger community.
I also enjoy working with other WISE women at the market. We act as a friendly team. We help each other to set up the stalls and clean them at the end. We share our experiences about running food stalls because that is how we improve together.
I would like to call the Night Market day as my ‘Lucky Day’, because it brings me the luck to be able to practice what I am passionate about, to feel friendship, and to grow with the support of WISE Collective.
Besides the Night Market, WISE Collective also gave me a chance to be part of the catering team and run food stalls at events around Auckland. I would never imagine myself being involved in big activities like that, but I have successfully managed it several times. I am so grateful to the WISE Collective which has enabled me to learn and practice, and be confident in what I am doing. My success is due to the support and encouragement from WISE Collective.
My family is very pleased to see me improving. They are happy that being part of WISE Collective has made me more confident and make good use of my potentiality in cooking. Therefore, they are very supportive of my activities. My husband has always made himself ready whenever I need transport to my ‘Lucky Day’ and other WISE Collective activities. As such, we appreciate that WISE Collective has embraced me and has given me chances to grow.
This, as the title suggests, is ‘Your Corner’. Simply put, these are stories of migrants in their own words. How they came to New Zealand, and then slowly, brick by brick, how they built their lives here. We don't edit this section. These are stories of new Kiwis, as they feel like telling it.