At just 16, Hussain Rezaie was captured by the Taliban while buying supplies in town.

He was faced with a heartbreaking choice – should he try to escape and run home, risking his captors finding him and harming his family, or flee Afghanistan completely, abandoning his mother, younger sister and brother?

He chose the latter.

His family’s safety was his biggest concern, even though he worried his mother could not provide for the family without his help. They’d lost his father to the Taliban just one year prior.

“The whole support of the family relies on a father or the eldest son. That’s the only means to feed yourself,” he said.

That day, almost a decade ago, was the last time he saw his family.

Rezaie managed to find a smuggler who said he could get him to Indonesia. But getting there was the first hurdle.

Surviving there, with no money and no way to work, was another. Rezaie eventually surrendered himself to a refugee detention centre in order to survive.

“It was basically a prison where criminals are locked up.

“I never knew when I could get out. I had started to lose hope,” he said.

Rezaie was detained for almost a decade. But he used his time to educate himself. He learnt English, he read books and he wrote down his story.

His thirst for knowledge would be his way out.

“I was looking for a community online where I could grow as a writer,” Rezaie said. And one day, he stumbled across an online writing course run by a woman living in New Zealand.

Devonport local Helen Sword remembers her first impression of Rezaie.

“He learned English from YouTube and started reading novels. Dickens – from his phone! I just walked into the kitchen, and I said to my husband, ‘We have to get him out of there’.”

So Sword set to work, researching how she could bring Rezaie to New Zealand. That’s when she found the Community Organisation Refugee Sponsorship Scheme. A pilot programme that allowed anyone with a company to sponsor a refugee. After months of form filling and waiting. They finally heard that they were successful. Razaie would be freed.

The 25-year-old arrived in Auckland a few weeks before Christmas. Sword found him a flat in Devonport. Rezaie was overjoyed, even though he did not have a chair to sit on.

Sword had a solution to that, too. A simple post on the Devonport community Facebook page to see if anyone had anything they wouldn’t mind donating. “I hoped a few people might come in with a few items, but what instead happened was within 48 hours, we had about 50 people who had responded with everything,” she said.

Washing machines, TVs, chairs, tables, cutlery, a bike, even a Lazy boy. Many of the items, Rezaie had never heard of, let alone used.

Fast forward 2 weeks, and Rezaie is feeling more settled in his flat. He proudly points out the items he’s been given and still admits he’s not used half of the electronics because he doesn’t know how to yet.

“It feels like home, but I am still adjusting. It will take a little while,” he said.

“Sometimes it feels like I am dreaming, and I have to go back to Indonesia. It will take some time.”

“Things are peaceful. I am grateful. Just thank you.”

Rezaie has many plans. He’s starting a course at University next month. He’s learning to drive. He’s finishing his book. He hopes to study psychology eventually, but right now, he wants a job helping other refugees.

“I think doing my best to help other people that’s the right way to give back.”

He hopes New Zealand will consider doing more to help refugees like himself.

He’s been able to speak to his family and found out his father returned home. He’d also managed to escape the Taliban and had been hiding in Iran. Rezaie hopes that maybe someday soon, his family can join him in New Zealand.

“I would just hug them. That’s the thing that’s missing from my life.”

An opportunity for them to experience the kindness strangers have shown to them. As well as the delights of living a peaceful life.

“I went to a New Year festival in West Auckland with some new friends,” he said.

“And it was funny. For the first time, I danced.”

Share.