It was so for my family, who immigrated here from China 14 years ago. It is so for the refugees we provided workshops for, who left their homelands of war, violence and oppression.
I was at the Centre to observe my colleagues from Asian Family Services holding regular workshops to educate the refugees of gambling in New Zealand.
The refugees spend their first six weeks in the country at Auckland’s Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre, for reception and education. The Centre, redesigned and opened just last year, was modern and spacious. Kids holding crayons and notebooks waved energetically to us, and headed for a session to familiarize themselves with the style of New Zealand schooling.
Although many countries around the world receive refugees, this kind of resettlement program is uniquely found in New Zealand. The benefit of better preparing them for their Kiwi lives was clear— many of them came from countries where gambling is illegal, so legalized gambling is a fresh new concept, possibly appealing to many. Moreover, like many other newcomers trying to adapt into an unfamiliar environment, they are more prone to experience mental stress, with heightened risk of finding gambling as a mental outlet.
Our workshop group that day had around 30 refugees and was facilitated by an interpreter. The refugees, with kids in their arms and sitting next to their spouses, were eager to ask questions on gambling after statistics on the harm it caused were presented to them on the screen.
Realising that I had taken legalized gambling for granted, I was immediately questioning myself this too.
My colleague Hoang have conducted numerous similar presentations, and was experienced at explaining concepts from the refugees’ point of view. “Why did you all come to New Zealand? Because this is a free country. That means, you are free to choose the way you want to live your life. You can choose to live a happy life with your family, or you can choose to gamble all your money away.”
“Gambling will destroy your family!” one woman called out, concern written all over her face, her baby boy sat on her lap, playing with the dice we used for a game to help them distinguish the difference between gaming and gambling.
I understood the worries she had. Everyone upon arriving to New Zealand experiences both the motivation to work hard and build a beautiful life, and feelings of fragility and uncertainty, from the challenges and unknowns in a completely foreign country. Seeing them familiarized with the systematic ways of protecting themselves from gambling, and having shared with us all their questions and doubts, I was glad that we could empower them with more confidence to face gambling, one such uncertainties, along their journey.
On that note, me and the refugees left the workshop room, hopeful and driven to work harder for the futures of our families, our communities, and this country that we call, or are about to call, home.
(To find out more about the refugee resettlement program, visit:
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