Helping others with new life

Former refugee Lama Tarawia and son Jawad Mattar (7) with their young kitten at their home in Kew...
Former refugee Lama Tarawia and son Jawad Mattar (7) with their young kitten at their home in Kew. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Now she’s settled into Dunedin, former refugee Lama Tarawia is helping new entrants adapt to New Zealand life.

Four months ago, Mrs Tarawia secured a job through the Ministry of  Education and Wild Things Dunedin hosting a play group for Arab former refugee families.

For a few hours every Friday,  the parents, usually mothers, use the time to talk and help each other with any problems they might be facing.

Problems could be anything from struggling with English, to getting a driver’s licence.

Mrs Tarawia’s main role was teaching the children.

"I spend time with them, speak with them, teach them the alphabet.

"They are improving in not only English, but they [are] opening their minds about how to work as a group, and letting new children play with them."

Mrs Tarawia is Palestinian by nationality, but has never visited the region.

She was born in a Syrian refugee camp and lived in the country most of her life until she fled to Thailand when war broke out.

Mrs Tarawia arrived in Dunedin in March last year, with husband Mohammad Mattar and son Jawad Mattar. They live together in a house in Kew.

The city was a great place to live, she said.

"The air is clear here. Also the weather is similar, which is nice. People say it’s cold, but in Syria it gets much colder."

One struggle, common to many former refugees, was the inability to see family back home.

"I’ve tried to get my mother here on a visitor’s visa, but it was denied. They’re worried she will stay," Mrs Tarawia said.

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