Girdhari Kadariyah

Portrait of Girdhari Kadariyah

The first thing I can remember is the day my mother, sister and me dragged the motionless body of my brother across the Bhutan/India border. The memory is still painful.

In my family there are five people, my mother, father, sister, brother and me. I was closest to my sister who was only 27 months older than me. Our life was difficult. We had to walk for two hours to go to school and besides this we had to help our mother with household work and farm work.

My refugee story starts when I was 12 years old and our family was forcefully expelled from our native land, Bhutan. We were made to sign a paper without reading it then unconditionally released at the border without any food or a penny to our name. As well as this, we had the burden of my unconscious brother. We crossed the Indian border with many tears, but in India we got food and shelter for one night with love and affection. The next day we woke up early and caught a bus to a relative’s house. There we stayed for a month. After one month all the homeless people migrating to Nepal took our last option for survival. Even though we had no money to pay for the bus, we were fortunate because some people were very kind and helped us get to Maidhar in Nepal. There we found that people like us had just set up a refugee camp on the river bank. We lived there for few months, thereafter dismantling the camp there and setting up seven other camps. Finally, we were relocated to the refugee camp in the Morang district and stayed there for 20 years.

During that time our life was very hard because we did not have enough food for several months, and had to beg like street children. I can never forget our miserable living conditions. Hundreds of children died of hunger and hundreds of pregnant mothers too. I remember the tears on the face of a very old grandfather who had to live day by day with very little food. I felt like a poor street dog with no reason for living. Everything about life in the refugee camp was miserable.

After 20 years in the camps, IOM and UNHCR found a solution: we were to be re-settled in different countries taking into account family needs and composition. On these criteria my family got visas to come to NZ.

I will never ever forget the day we left the camp. We had to pack all our stuff and we were worried about the future because everyone was being separated from their friends and relatives.

It was long, long way from Nepal to Auckland, but when we arrived we were so excited to see everything so bright and beautiful, in spite of the weather being very cold in contrast to Nepal. We heard the different types of voices of the different people in New Zealand Immigration. We smelled different smells. I soon tasted Kiwi food for the first time.

Outside the airport everything was green. Then there was warm welcome at the Mangere Refugee Centre. Finally our hearts were full of joy.

Now I live in Christchurch with my family and friends. In the future I want to work in an organization helping the welfare of migrant communities.