There is no time to think. You have to move

Nazeh and Mirvat have resettled in New Zealand with their children after fleeing conflict in Syria. Photo Credit: John Williams/New Zealand Red Cross

Nazeh and Mirvat have resettled in New Zealand with their children after fleeing conflict in Syria. Photo Credit: John Williams/New Zealand Red Cross

Nazeh and Mirvat have resettled in New Zealand with their children after fleeing conflict in Syria. Photo Credit: John Williams/New Zealand Red Cross

Syrians Nazeh, Mirvat and their three children fled their homeland in 2012, literally running for their lives and being shot at as they boarded a bus for Lebanon.

They realised their lives were in danger when father Nazeh was accused of supporting one side of the conflict by helping injured civilians at a makeshift hospital in his home.

“You cannot stop and think, there is no time to think. You have to move,” he says.

When they fled they grabbed just what they could carry, leaving everything else behind, including family, friends, home and businesses.

After two and a half years in Thailand, where Mirvat worked as an Arabic teacher, the family was accepted to New Zealand under the refugee quota.

Sitting in their Wellington living room, drinking homemade cardamom coffee, a Syrian specialty, Mirvat tells of her relief. After some online research, she knew they would find safety in New Zealand.

“I thought if they have 40 million sheep, we are safe,” she explains.

As the primary provider of community refugee resettlement in New Zealand, Red Cross was on hand to support the family when they arrived – and to help them navigate the cultural differences. New Zealand Red Cross supports and empowers new Kiwis as they rebuild their lives, with everything from cross-cultural support to helping former refugees find work.

The family is settling well into their new home, and all three kids are excelling at school. Ahmed, the eldest, has dreams of one day becoming a scientist while Maria, their middle child, wants to be a ballerina. The youngest, Jinan, hopes to become an engineer. Walking around Wellington, she has been shocked to find there are no escalators to help them up the very large hills. Because of this her nickname is ‘little engineer’.

Nazeh says his family is one of the lucky ones. Millions of people remain stuck in Syria, faced daily with conflict and food shortages, and millions more are living as refugees in surrounding countries.