Kumari Timsina says it is not an option to be a refugee.

With her parents and brothers, Kumari lived in a Bhutanese refugee camp until the family resettled in Nelson in 2009.

"I really wanted to come to Palmerston North."

However, the resettlement came too late for her asthmatic mother Dilmaya Timsina who was 54 when she died in the camp from breathing the charcoal fire smoke.


Kumari attended primary and high schools and went out into Nepal where she studied for a bachelor of business.

She says in the 17 years the family lived in the camp she did not eat a whole apple at one time.

And it was not until she came to live in Nelson that she experienced a birthday celebration.

Kumari knows about cultural and language discrimination. Her native language is Dzonka which they could not speak in the camp.

She can however speak Nepali, Hindi and English. It was hard growing up in the camp, Kumari said.

"I started to have feelings for my home. It was hard as a teenager."

The family had to leave their home. Walk out, close the door on their life and never return.

But, there is not an ounce of sorrow when Kumari speaks of what the family have lost. She says they are very lucky to live in New Zealand.


Her happiness is also for the acceptance by those in her community, and her new home in Palmerston North where she met and married her husband Tula, also from Bhutan.

The couple have two children.

Kumari now works as a settlement case worker at the Red Cross Palmerston North branch.

"After doing English language classes, I joined Red Cross as a settlement case worker in 2016.

"At the beginning, I only started working with my own Bhutanese community because we speak the same language.

"But slowly, Jenny my supervisor, started offering me different ethnic groups to work with – helping them to settle into their new place."


Jenny Papworth is Pathways to Settlement manager.

To enhance Kumari's practice and her ability to support her clients, Red Cross enrolled her in the Apprenticeship in Social Services programme with Industry Training Organisation, Careerforce.

This was a self-paced programme with online learning and on-the-job assessments with the support of a Careerforce Apprenticeship adviser providing pastoral care.

Being a mother of two young children aged 7 and 9, the programme worked in well with Kumari's other responsibilities.

The New Zealand Red Cross supports refugee background families during their first year of arriving in the country by connecting them with different services and helping them integrate into their new community.

Jenny Pepworth says Red Cross has a team of social workers, case workers and cross-cultural workers who connect refugee background families with English classes, enrolling with a GP, signing up with Work and Income, and providing some orientation to the local community.


Palmerston North-based Careerforce Apprenticeship adviser, Warren Hastie, feels privileged to have been able to support Kumari through her apprenticeship.

"It was a privilege to support someone with her level of integrity, insight, empathy and dedication.

"I know it means a great deal for Kumari and her family for her to have gained the NZ certificate in health and wellbeing (social services) level 4 and she is extremely grateful for being offered the opportunity to gain a professional qualification here in her new home."

New Zealand resettles 1500 refugees annually through the Refugee Quota Programme, being part of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) alongside 37 other countries. UNHCR is the international organisation responsible for protecting refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people - and assisting with their repatriation, integration or resettlement into another country and seeking durable solutions for them.

Here in New Zealand they are resettled in eight regions across the country including Auckland, Waikato, Manawatū, Wellington, Nelson, Blenheim, Christchurch, Dunedin, and Invercargill.