Everyone deserves to be treated equally: Ugandan refugee stuff nation

Moving to a new country offers refugees a fresh beginning and the opportunity to become a bigger and brighter person, ...
Unicef NZ

Moving to a new country offers refugees a fresh beginning and the opportunity to become a bigger and brighter person, says Krishna Ogwaro.

Krishna Ogwaro was five years old when she left Uganda for New Zealand with her grandmother. She says that while racism is alive in New Zealand, everyone deserves to be treated equally.

I left Uganda because of my grandma.

My grandfather had gone into exile in Sudan long before I was born. From Sudan he went to Ethiopia and then finally to New Zealand. He was in exile in Ethiopia for nearly 20 years and then the UNHCR organised his resettlement to New Zealand. Then he decided to bring my grandma over to New Zealand in 2003. Because of the strong family culture in Uganda, my grandmother adopted me.

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It was my grandma who had raised me since I was a baby. Basically I had become her child. She didn't want to leave me behind. She asked my parents if she could bring me along with her and they agreed.

I remember standing at the airport with my dad on the day I left. He was crying. I didn't understand why because I was so young.

We came under the refugee quota. I made friends from South Sudan at the centre when we first arrived, till this day we're still friends and go to the same school.

The first impression I had when we arrived in New Zealand was how different things were. The people, the tall buildings and lots of cars driving about. I came from a small village called Erusi and village life was really different from city life.

The food was different, too. I hated sausages at first, honestly hated them. The food back home is amazing, but I've grown to love Kiwi food as well.

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My grandma would still wear traditional African clothing, made from cotton which is particularly popular with Africans, which we call the kitenge. I would wear regular clothing and very quickly adapted to the Kiwi fashions, shorts, T-shirts and clothes like that.

I think of refugees as people forced out of their countries because of hard or dangerous circumstances. They didn't choose to get out, but they were forced to leave their loved ones and jobs to move to a safer place.

It also means a fresh beginning and the opportunity to become a bigger and brighter person, and hopefully to live a successful life.

Racism is alive and well in New Zealand. I remember walking down the street in Naenae. A group of Māori kids called out "you black monkeys, go back to where you come from".

Thank God I had just come back from church. I was in my right mind and just kept walking. It makes me feel angry but what can you do? If I reacted it would only have created a bigger scene.

We're all one people, no one is better than anyone else and everyone deserves equality. You should treat others the way you want to be treated.

I consider myself a Kiwi now, but I'm still Ugandan at heart. In 2010 I went back for the first time and I remember walking through a shop where I smelled a familiar smell. It was these banana pancakes and the smell had stayed with me all those years.

I also got to see my parents, my brothers and sisters, and friends from when I was very young. It was the nicest experience.

It breaks my heart when I see refugees on the news, especially the little kids. They don't deserve to suffer as much as they do. It's not fair and I feel that we as New Zealanders need to do much more to help them.

As told to UNICEF New Zealand with the support of Changemakers Refugee Forum. This article was supplied as part of Stuff's partnership with Unicef NZ.

 - Stuff

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