Afghani-Kiwi proud to serve new nation
Even as Afghani refugee Gul Agha Alizadah flew into Auckland at the tender age of 8, he "knew" he had a future and a hope.
He little realised this might include joining parliament here while yet in his teens.
Now aged 17 and in his final year at Burnside High School, Gul Agha has been selected as Ilam's Youth Parliament representative, from a strong lineup of candidates.
Ilam MP, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee is delighted with his choice.
"Gul Agha knows the importance of having 'a voice', " Mr Brownlee said. "I'm sure he will give 100 per cent."
Rapt as Gul Agha is, no-one could be more proud than his parents.
"They just couldn't believe it. They supported me. All the sacrifice my dad had made, paid off. He knew what he had achieved was the reason we came.
"It's a great privilege, a fantastic honour to be given this."
Gul Agha will be studying for a degree in political science and economics next year at the University of Canterbury. Ultimately he wants to be a member of parliament. He also has a part-time job at a supermarket checkout.
"I'm passionate about politics and service to humanity, " he said. "I will be proud to get my degrees here and be of service to Kiwis.
"New Zealand has been good to me. I have got to know myself and my character, and formed my dreams. I feel it's an absolute privilege being granted New Zealand citizenship and I'm proud to be a Kiwi and receive a world-class education."
He has powerful memories of Afghanistan. His home province, Ghazni, is south of the capital Kabul, and as a minority Hazara region has been the target of relentless Taliban persecution.
He also remembers seeing foreign soldiers in Kabul - "they had a positive connotation for us".
"Some people interpreted the situation as an invasion of Afghanistan. However, most saw it as international support that was present to help the country and protect the people of Afghanistan."
Gul Agha, who speaks Dari, has a vision for himself and his compatriots here - "we young Afghanis want to grow as independent people and and grow into proud Afghani Kiwis".
"The best life you can have is not making a lot of money or having wealth, but it is to help and serve people."
"New Zealand means a lot to me. Had I been living in Afghanistan I wouldn't be enjoying all these privileges I have here. It would be hard to pursue your dreams and ambitions there.
"We always ask what is the purpose of living. Is a good life based on your bank account? We believe a good life is to influence others and bring improvements to their lives.
"You land in a country like New Zealand and you know there is a future for you. New Zealand truly is a multi-cultural nation. There are no barriers, no racism. It's such a great country that celebrates its diversity."
Youth Parliament 2013 will be held on July 16 and 17.