Determination of a war refugee

* (GENTLE MUSIC) Captions were made with the support of NZ On Air. Copyright Able 2020 (PEACEFUL MUSIC) When I came first to Dunedin, it was, like, cold, and, like, I just said to myself, ‘I can’t live here.’ But by days and days, I got used to the weather. It’s a free country, and it’s a safe place. It’s cold, but it’s good, yeah. My name is Kasem. I’m 13. I live in Dunedin. I’ve been here for, like, three years and a half. So, I came from Syria to Lebanon, then all other country, then here. Syria is where I was born. It used to be a safe country. (ATMOSPHERIC MUSIC) In Syria, I was sitting, like, outside the house, playing with my brothers, and people came into the place that we were sitting on. They have masks on, and I don’t know what their faces look like.

After that, a bomb dropped to our place. When the first bomb dropped not that far from us, it didn’t damage us. My dad was like, ‘Let’s go to our neighbours, down,’ because they have, like, under house, place — safe, like it’s more safe than being outside. I didn’t go. I just wait with my mum, until the all other bomb drop in my dad’s back. When I ran to my dad, before I ran, like, the bomb came. And my leg just get cut, and… yeah, my arm. Yeah. (SPEAKS ARABIC) TRANSLATOR: 8th of August 2014. It was Ramadan. I was preparing the fasting food for my family, when suddenly we heard some bombing around the house. I was living with my husband, two daughters, Kasem. When I left the house, I did not see my husband. I did not see my daughter. I don’t know what is there, what happened to them. I just saw Kasem lying on the floor with his leg cut, and his arm also was attached with very, very small, thin nerve. And I saw also the son of my sister beside him, both of them crying and asking me to carry them. I was shocked. I did not know what to do.

I cannot carry more than one. I carried Kasem. I took his leg. I just put his arm like this. Then I told the son of my sister to catch my clothes, and we start running. (POIGNANT MUSIC) I was not thinking about anything else. All my mind was focussing on Kasem’s situation, because my expectation about my husband and my two daughters, maybe they were hiding somewhere, maybe they had gone somewhere. My main focus was on Kasem. KASEM: My mum picked me up and just go to our neighbours, and they get me to the hospital. NISRINE: I just went to emergency first aid. From that point, I ask many people if they can look for my husband, as I don’t know what to do about Kasem. His father has to be with me, to take that decision. One guy came carrying my small daughter. She was 2 years. One more car came, carrying many dead bodies. I just removed the cover. I saw my second son, and his stomach open. From that time, I fell down and I did not know what happened to my husband and second daughter. KASEN: They all died. Two sisters, one brother and my dad. If I had gone with my dad, I was… I was just dead with them. (SPEAKS ARABIC) TRANSLATOR: My elder daughter and Kasem. I was six months pregnant with Hammoud. It’s a picture of all of us. This is my mum, this is me, and this is my brother. KASEM: I couldn’t remember anything. Yeah, I was in hospital for a long time, and I did a lot of surgeries — like, 17. (SPEAKS ARABIC) TRANSLATOR: I was thinking everything is OK after fixing his hand and cutting his leg. I start feeding him. And this point only, I understand and realise that he has something wrong in his stomach. Xem them gui hang di trung quoc cua Viexpress tai day

I called the doctor. When he examined him, he found that there is still some danger regarding his stomach and digestive system and urinary system. I signed many papers, and they took him to surgery to fix as much as they can. They did a cutting for the leg two times, because whenever they cut, they find the acid which inside the bomb was making corrosion to the metal, so twice they cut, until it became higher. Also the same for the hand. They had to make, again, some removal — more than two times. I don’t have muscle in my arm. They already took off, because this arm was about gone — like, cut and gone. But it didn’t, because there’s a lot of… doctors made, like… The bones — I used to look at my hand, see the bone. After, like, a couple of months, Mum helped me to get up and stand on my leg and get me crutches. It took long to learn how to walk on crutches and run, because it hurt under your arm. But if you get used to them, you won’t feel it any more. All good now. (SPEAKS ARABIC) TRANSLATOR: I lived all my life in Syria. I moved to Lebanon in 2015. And once I reached there, I applied through the United Nations to come to New Zealand. And due Kasem’s disability, the approval has come after two years, beginning of 2017. Moving to Dunedin was a safer place, but actually leaving your country was not easy for me. In the beginning, I was feeling I am alone. I used to cry every day for almost two months. But later on I found everybody around me supported me, especially Red Cross. – Come on in. All right, so let me give you the worksheet, the reading. – People do sometimes have a bit of an idea that as soon as people arrive, everything’s great. But it takes a really long time to actually feel comfortable.

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You can imagine what it’s like to have to come to a new country and bringing what you have experienced back home. If you’ve gone through a traumatic event, you can’t expect that as soon as you resettle elsewhere, then that’s all going to go away. – This is ‘Spanish’, and this is ‘spinach’. – Spinach, Spanish. – So, which is the eating one? Which one do you eat? – The other one. – Well, this is from the country. This comes from Spain. And this means the food. – The resettlement programme here in Dunedin started in 2016. I was the settlement social worker, so that’s how I started working with the family. With Nisrine, I actually did end up working with a little bit longer, because Nisrine was a single parent. We just needed to provide a bit more ongoing support for her. And there were also a few extra barriers for Kasem, and obviously the language barrier. – Where? Where? – And Nisrine? – In the summer. In the summer. In the summer. Thank you. The first year of resettlement, for all families, it’s really tough, I think, particularly this family, because of Nisrine being on her own, takes a really long time to actually be able to understand and navigate the system — how things are done, in regards to society and how people work together and live together. It’s a completely different culture, and I think that takes quite a long time. And I don’t think Kiwis really have an understanding of that. And I think the first year is only the beginning. (GULLS SCREECH) (GENTLE PIANO MUSIC) KASEM: The Red Cross are helpful. Like, we just tell them about things, and they will help. So, Kelly, at the Red Cross, I told her that I like horses, and I want to ride a horse. She said OK, and it didn’t take long time. She just told me I already got a place to go. For some time, he’s actually mentioned that he used to ride horses, so I know there was something that he was quite interested in pursuing. So there’s a person here who’s actually connected with Riding for the Disabled. Straight away, he was into it. It really cool to be part of that. It’s a pretty awesome programme, actually. – All right, what do you say? – Walk on. (CLICKS TONGUE) – OK. – When I told her to walk on, when you have the lead, she won’t, because you have to, like, walk her. It’s what she thinks. I think so. – Right. – What do I do with this? – OK, see those? – Yeah. – Do I have to? – Yes, you do. – Do you think you can do that? Are you comfortable with that? – Yeah. – OK, cool. Bring her around. That’s it. You right? You got your balance? OK. – That was a sharp corner, Kasem. – That was really good. – It was hard to ride the horse. – Like, it’s hard to control the horse with one leg. Like, if you turn around, you feel you’re gonna fall. – Can you get that one? Good work. – See? Look at that. – Amazing. You’re doing well. It’s not easy to hold that crop as well. Good boy. That’s it. See if you can just— Use your stomach muscles for your balance. – All right. Bring her in. – Whoa. – Whoa. – And now you’ve got that, you’ve got to go to the other side. But by days and days, I get used to it. So now I can ride a horse normal. (CLICKS TONGUE) Walk on. Walk on. Walk on. (CLICKS TONGUE) – Good. – Yeah. – There you go. Good. Nice and steady. Lovely. – When I was little, I used to go to my grandmother. They have rabbits, chickens. They have a lot of animals. Because I used to like animals a lot. So I just like playing with animals all the time. Yeah, we used to have horses, used to have like four or five. After we are allowed to go back to Syria, I want to go to my grandma. We talk to her and we talk to my mum’s sisters — all her… all my… we talk to all our family. – Are you going to put your whole hand in there? KELLY: Having family and friends still back home, being separated from them, it’s really tough. Nisrine, right from the beginning, wanted to get things going and to start a new life. But because of technology, nowadays, families are really connected, so she’s hearing about what’s happening with your family overseas. (SQUEALS) That’s something that’s really difficult to have to manage, that you’re over here, but you’ve still got your friends and family that are still experiencing difficulties. Some of that stuff is always going to be there. But it’s a combination of different things, the type of person that you are, who you’re connected to, in regards to support. And so we depend heavily on volunteers in the general resettlement side of things. KASEM: A volunteer took us to, we see seal, and the big seagull. It was so big. Like, his wings was taller than me. His head was about this big. It was scary. The seagull, I said, ‘What the hell is this? I’ve never seen these birds.’ I used to like them a lot like. But after we go to the garden, like a thousand of them, it’s like, oh my God, it’s so annoying when they… when they go like, when they do this noise. (GULLS SCREECH) (GENTLE PIANO MUSIC) – Hi! – Hello, Nisrine. How are you? – Hi. I missed you. – Good to see you again. – Good to see you too. – What are you doing today? We’re going to pack these bed packs today and make up another couple of other ones. – Do you want to take your jacket off, or are you still cold? – Oh, no, cold. KELLY: The wider community we really depend on for support, with regards to volunteering and donating, all the community agencies that will work with families on a long-term basis. Yeah, it’s a big team effort. Nisrine works alongside Sue. So when donations come in, they’re sorting through everything that’s been given to us. – Did you find anything that you needed immediately that you didn’t have? – Cos that’s what we like to know. – Yeah. There’s been a real influx of a lot of our families wanting to be part of it and to do volunteering — that sort of feeling of being able to give back. I guess part of it is about integrating with the wider community. And with Nisrine, it’s really great to see how much she’s progressed to there, in regards to her confidence. She’s got goals to eventually want to become a nurse. And I think she’ll be fantastic at it. We’re really there as a starting point to welcome families and get them started on the rest of their journey. – What we do is we try to provide each refugee family with a complete home pack, so that they’ve got all the basics they need when they first arrive. And volunteers set up the house so that when they come in, there’s everything they actually need. This is bedding, towels. And this is the bits and pieces, the mops and buckets, cushions, coat hangers. Electrical stuff. And this is a completed house pack, all ready to go. Yeah, come. I got my pillow over here. We got my mum’s… teddy. Oh, this is my mum’s, and that’s mine. We’re in the same room, but different beds. KELLY: Nisrine being a single mum, and then Kasem, the extra challenges that he has to also deal with. But because of their personalities, who they are as people, what they’re like as a family, has made a difference to how they’ve been able to manage and where they are now. (GENTLE MUSIC) I remember one of the first few home visits, when I was leaving the house, Kasem jumped on his bike and started biking next to me while I was driving off. And that made me sort of think, ‘Man, like, this kid is really cool.’ It just showed how resilient he was, and he just wanted to get on with his life. I guess that sort of moment, I kinda thought, ‘He’s going to be OK.’ (SPEAKS ARABIC) TRANSLATOR: In the beginning, he was very supportive for me. He was telling me, ‘Mum, don’t worry, I will be strong. ‘If one leg has gone, still I have the other one.’ But I’m feeling that, how he would ride the bicycle? From that point, I tried to teach him how to ride the bicycle. Luckily, I succeeded in this one. KELLY: He’s a pretty active kid. I know that he’s always been into his bike riding. He got an electric bike through AccessAbility. KASEM: She showed me a photo of bikes, and I liked that bike, and she said, ‘OK, give me one month, and we’ll get it for you.’ And she did. My bike get stolen. My brother was in the school, and I just go pick him up, and I just opened the door and get out, and there’s no bike outside. I just look around under the tree. There’s no bikes at all. And I just… I have a photo of my bike. I just take it to the police and just tell. And after one day, actually — they get it after one day. That was a good feeling because, like, the police just knocked on the door, just saying, ‘Surprise!’ That was good, yeah. (GENTLE PIANO MUSIC) QUIETLY: Kasem. Kasem. Kasem. Kasem! So, I am in Logan Park High School, year nine. I don’t like to go, sometimes. – (SPEAKS ARABIC) (KNOCK AT DOOR) – Good morning. – Hi. – How are you today? – Good. But school, like it will make you something… the future. Bye! – (SPEAKS ARABIC) – Yeah, I’m out of here. (GENTLE MUSIC) KASEM: Social Studies and English — my best classroom. I just like to be there because, I like what we’re doing there and the work, and the teachers are good. English, sometimes we just… so, we see photos of, like, things, we guess, like what’s the story about? Like what do you think is the story about this photo? – And the teacher has been to our country before. – Really? – Yeah. He speaks a little bit Arabic. Just a few things. When I first came here, yeah, it was hard to, like, talk and find the phrase and, yeah, but days by days, I just get how to talk and meet friends. – Is it easier now? – Yeah, it’s more easier. (GENTLE PIANO MUSIC) I don’t hang out with my friends a lot. I stay at the gym all the time. Every day, I go to the gym, lift weights. It’s cool. KELLY: Kasem mentioned it was a real struggle for him, having a disability in Lebanon It wasn’t supportive. Bullying and being treated differently was a real challenge for him. And I think that’s definitely something that was quite different in New Zealand. People were really open. There was a lot of disability support services out there. Even just at school, it was pretty amazing, the support that they offered for him as well. There’s always going to be hurdles, but he’s just that type of kid, no matter what trauma or grief and loss that he’s experienced. I also think it’s got a lot to do with his mum, Nisrine, as well, because she’s quite a strong character. (BOYS SPEAK ARABIC EXCITEDLY) Kasem! (BOTH SPEAK ARABIC) Kasem. – (SPEAKS ARABIC) TRANSLATOR: Whatever Kasem likes, I will like. I want to see him improving, improving and building his personality and to be able to achieve whatever he wants. I will not mind anything he wants. KASEM: I like to swimming so much. I don’t feel like I don’t have a leg. It’s just normal. That’s what I feel. When I was in Lebanon, we used to go to the pool, but I didn’t know how to swim. But now I can. I just, like, do anything I want. I don’t want people to say, like, he can’t do anything. I can do anything I want. I can do things that people… can’t do. Mama. (SPEAKS ARABIC) (REFLECTIVE PIANO MUSIC) (GULLS SCREECH) And… your shop, he has everything same Syria. I like if we eat vegetarian. (CHUCKLES) Kasem, he likes rice and chicken. But Hammoud, no, he doesn’t like meat and chicken. (SPEAKS ARABIC) TRANSLATOR: The future for the kids is here. I want to secure them — even if Syria come back as before. But I want to visit my family, just to go and visit them. But for settlement, I don’t think one day I will go back and settle in Syria, because I feel and I’m sure the future for my kids will be in New Zealand. (SPEAKS ARABIC) (SPEAKS ARABIC) TRANSLATOR: Life here is much better than I was expecting. I’m happy here. I settle finally. Kasem, many people looking after him and caring him. I study now at polytechnic. I enjoy, really I enjoy my life here. – Syria was the best country, because it’s my country. It’s where I was born. I like Syria. But now I like it here. Yeah, it’s a good spot. It’s a good place. Captions by James Brown. Captions were made with the support of NZ On Air. Copyright Able 2020

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