From Isolation to Empowerment

June 8, 2023

Sharhram performs with his fellow mixers as part of Mixit's creative arts programmes.

After arriving in New Zealand from Afghanistan, Shahram found solace and strength in Mixit. Through Mixit's creative arts programmes, Shahram improved his English, gained confidence, and formed lasting friendships. Now, he is determined to empower other young newcomers and make a positive impact on their lives.

Shahram is 14 years old. He and his family arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand from Afghanistan. Originally from Bamyan, their relocation journey to a safe haven passed through Kabul and then Iran. He reflects that it was hard in Afghanistan and his father tried to get his children access to education but the fees were overwhelming and the context of war made it a challenge to learn consistently.  When he arrived in NZ it was the beginning of new struggles. It was hard speaking no English, he had no friends and as a young Muslim boy his new home was foreign and isolating. He wanted to find some way to connect socially.  Then someone brought him, and his younger brother Mohammad, to Mixit.

When I came to Mixit I felt there was good people there; young people who could be my friends but also the teachers were very supportive and they welcomed me. Mixit became my second home and I was able to learn English in a safe place. I got back my life – from having no friends I got lots of friends, a new language and it helped me transition from one country and culture to another. Mixit helped me with everything I needed and I was encouraged to try things. This was scary at first but it made me stronger and unafraid. I got confidence and was able to start to communicate better. It is so joyful and I’m getting all these opportunities.

He reflects how this is helping with life beyond Mixit.

I can now take my confidence to school and I feel stronger to speak up and contribute. School used to be so confusing for me. I didn’t understand the study choices. In Afghanistan, it was all about books but here there’s technology and computers and lots of different kinds of options. I didn’t understand these before but Mixt has helped my confidence to give these things a go. It is having a great impact on who I am and how I can move forward in NZ. I am feeling like I’m getting back on track and when I come home from Mixit I feel stronger and able to support my family better.

Shahram loves football and he’s interested in a possible career in business. But he’s also motivated to give back to those coming behind him – children and young people. He knows he has to focus on building his life but always wishes to help others and recognizes how important it is to be around positive people to keep learning and grow into a strong person himself so he is able to empower others. Especially young people who are new arrivals into a strange country.

I have to figure out how NZ life is and Mixit is really helping me do that. Then I can help others. Being a part of Mixit has changed me and Mohammad’s lives. It is the best place that I have met in NZ.

Words and images supplied by Mixit.

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