Hero photograph
Wafaa Haroura

Wafaa's speech to BOT

Mrs K Boomer, Dean of International Students —

This is the talk Wafaa, a former refugee, gave to the Board of Trustees yesterday. It is very moving and insightful. She is an amazing young lady!

(Good afternoon teachers, student and parents.

Before I start I want to thank Mrs Boomer for asking me to come and tell you my story.)

My name is Wafaa, I'm 15 years old, I come from Syria.

I came with my family. In my family, we are six members, mum, dad, a younger brother and two little sisters.

let me tell you a little about me. I'm the type of person who doesn't like to get into a fight or an argument or anything that causes harm.

I think of my self as an awkward, clumsy, curious and sometimes shy person.

I like to read, sometimes write, draw, food, my family and friends.

I like to help others. I feel like I would do anything to help anyone even if they didn't want my help, for example in the school if you want to find me at morning tea or lunch just go and look around for someone that holds the door for the whole school, any door in the school, yeah that's me, if you were on the other side of the school I will still hold that door.

I have been studying in Otago Girls for three years, I'm year 11, in these three years of high school were fine, absolutely fine, besides being the shortest in my class in year 9, 10 and some of my classes in year 11. Yup! they were great.

My subjects are English, English language or ESOL, Math, Science, Art and DVC.

I really enjoy ESOL because in ESOL there is a lot of students from around the world and that's what makes it enjoyable, I enjoy it because I'm curious about everything new especially when it comes to new people, I like to know new things from different cultures and countries around the world.

Like I said before I came from Syria, will I didn't exactly "came" but I was forced to leave my country, my home, my family and my friends.

We didn't have any choice but to leave, if we stay we get badly injured and if we run away we die but I thank God that I'm alive and my family too, will not all my family some of them got injured and I lost some.

I was nine years old when I left my home, do you know what a nine years old child will ask?

"what did we do to deserve this?" "Why is everyone yelling and screaming in pain and fear" "Where did this booms and guns come from?" "Is it over yet?" "Are we going back home?" "Why is everything destroyed?" "Why?" these question kept going in my head until know

After we fled, we went to Lebanon, Lebanon is next to Syria, I thought that people will welcome us, help us...but I was wrong.

People there didn't like us they always say "Why did you come here? Go back to your county!" they treated us as if we were an outsider as if we didn't have any feeling.

No matter how many times we tell them "There was no other choice" but they ignored us giving us the cold shoulder.

Do you know what we did? We kept quiet, every time we open our mouth and fight for our right they shut us up by saying "people like you Syrians are worthless why did you even come here to bring the war to our country too?"

It was hard for me to make friends at first, no one played with me and if they played they trick me and start to bully me telling me "HA! A refugee, what a big loser", I didn't like to be called a refugee it wasn't my choice but no one cared yeah I've been bullied a lot actually, I know you feel sorry in fact I don't want your pity I want people to treat me for the person I am not of what rumours said, you can not and I mean not know them without their story trust me because I'm one of them.

Everything changed when I came to New Zealand. I have been here in New Zealand for three years and let me tell you they were the best three years in my life, but like many stories, I faced a lot of new things. When I came here it felt like the world gave me a new chance to live. Everything was so new for me: the school systems, people, the houses. Everything was new to me. It felt as if I was from another world that made me feel like an outsider because I felt like I don't belong in here and if I try to blend in there's something pushing me aside. That thing was people’s point of view. They were afraid of me, afraid of the rumours that have spread around. Maybe you're wondering what did I do in the end? Did I start to change how people thought of us, me by showing them my true colour? I told them "you don't have to be afraid of me, I'm only a human, what you feel I feel" ….and here we are. From living in a war zone, forced to flee, getting bullied to changing other people’s point of view and show them who I really am.

Thank you for listening.