Speaking up for rights
Asylum seeker Khurram Malik knows first-hand what it's like to live in fear without freedom of speech.
The 37-year-old is from Pakistan where he was influential in fighting against harsh penalties enforced by the country's blasphemy law.
Malik, who now lives in Henderson, was appalled to see citizens sentenced to death or life imprisonment for going against Islamic beliefs and he worked hard to "stop misuse of the law".
He received constant taunts for standing up for what he believed in and says angry extremists once tried to shoot him.
Malik fled to New Zealand in 2009 and his wife and three children followed a year later.
He completed an English diploma and national certificate in mental health at Henderson's Unitec and is now a community support worker for IHC Auckland's Timata Hou.
His role at the New Lynn-based organisation encourages intellectually disabled Kiwis to live an independent life and uses his background as a platform to give them freedom and a voice.
"People have rights here in New Zealand and we're teaching them to speak up if they're not happy about something," he says.
"It's about enforcing a positive lifestyle and helping people achieve goals by taking them shopping, applying for jobs or obtaining a drivers licence. It's rewarding and challenging."
Malik understands how difficult it can be to find the independence to live a stable life.
He slept in night shelters and ate at the Auckland City Mission before finding a job as a dishwasher and mopping floors at a restaurant.
He later volunteered with refugees in Mt Roskill and Mangere and at the Salvation Army.
Offering others a better quality of life has been his focus for the majority of his career.
He used his homeopathic medical science background to establish the globally recognised organisation Hope Worldwide Pakistan in his homeland in 1998.
Marginalised citizens were encouraged to aspire to greater things through free medical camps, education and Sunday school classes.
The organisation had 25 staff working tirelessly across Pakistan by 2005.
It sent medicine, clothes, food and supplies from blood banks to victims of the Kashmir earthquake that wreaked havoc later that year, resulting in 75,000 casualties.
Malik is now 12 months into completing a three-year social practice degree at Unitec.
He says studying in New Zealand and Pakistan has given him an understanding of the different cultures and systems.
"Learning here has been a good pathway to work with New Zealanders," Malik says.
- Western Leader
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