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Building a future in Ashburton

Building a future in Ashburton
The Ghaznawi family from Afghanistan are building a new life in Ashburton. From left: Habib, 11, aunt Najiba, Shafiq, 12, dad Bismillah, mum Yalda, Amin, 17, Horiya, 13, Sara, 11 (front).

After seven years of waiting in Indonesia for a country to call home, the Ghaznawi family from Afghanistan are embracing life in Ashburton.
World Refugee Day, marked today, is a time to think of those who have sought shelter far from home because of war, persecution and human rights abuses in their homelands.
Top of mind for 17-year-old Amin Ghaznawi is the plight of the refugees still stuck in limbo.
“There are many boys who are like me in Indonesia, but they haven’t even learned to read or write.
"Not just from Afghanistan, but other countries like Somalia. The world must not forget them.”
The family, including parents Bismallah and Yalda, and Bismillah’s sister Najiba, arrived in Ashburton in March.
The five children, aged 11-17, have been settling into school, the younger ones at Borough School and Amin at Ashburton College.
Everyone is making plans for the future with building featuring strongly in career options, and it seems a family construction business may well be on the cards.
There are aspiring engineers, designers and builders, there will be a doctor and a restaurateur in the family, as well as a future physics professor and luxury sports car dealer.
Bismillah has his eye on becoming a builder. He is working on improving his English and the Red Cross is helping him put a CV together.
In the province of Ghazni, where the family is from, he was the owner of a gym. The family had to flee their country as their lives were in danger after threats from the Taliban because the gym allowed women.
They had no idea where they would end up and found themselves in Indonesia, living in the metropolis of Jakarta and also for several years in the city of Bogor, where language barriers, a lack of money and support led to more hardship.
Yalda speaks of finding it very difficult to even buy bottled water.
The adults were not allowed to work in Indonesia but found ways to survive., one being through Yalda’s cooking.
She would make meals and sell them to other Afghani families.
Bismillah and Yalda well-up when thinking of those difficult times and make it clear that it is their future they are concentrating on.
Yalda has her sights set on opening her own restaurant.
Eldest son, Amin, is full of ideas and aspirations – he is one of the family’s future builders.
“I am so happy to be here. I feel like my future can begin,” he beams broadly.
Despite only living in Ashburton for three months Bismillah is already considered a leader of the Afghan community.
“We have received help and been welcomed here and we also want to give back.”
Yalda has been welcomed by many including women from the Afghan community who greeted her in the new family home. She has been attending the Learning Centre and having driving lessons.
It is all about building on their newfound independence and it’s often the seemingly little things that contribute to that, like learning about the nuances of shopping.
Bismillah said using an Eftpos card was new, having only ever used cash before.
He and Yalda are relishing the Mid Canterbury farmland and the rivers surrounding Ashburton.
“It is quiet and safe.”

  • By Julie Moffett