"My message is, look at me. If I can do this you can do even better."
This is Ibrahim Omer's call-out to former refugees living in Palmerston North.
The Labour list MP came to New Zealand as a refugee and worked as a cleaner and union organiser. He has a bachelor of arts in politics from Victoria University of Wellington.
Omer was in Palmerston North last Thursday learning more about the city's refugee resettlement and welcoming communities programmes. He was impressed with what he learnt, in particular the collaboration taking place.
He said his first six months as an MP had been surreal, hectic and a privilege.
He was still in disbelief someone can come to New Zealand from Eritrea with very limited dreams and education and now be a Member of Parliament.
"I still question myself, 'Am I good enough, do I deserve to be here?'. I suppose it's human nature."
However, that he is New Zealand's first African MP and the second to have entered New Zealand as a refugee tells a story about what kind of country Aotearoa is, he says.
It also demonstrates Labour is a party that gives everyone the opportunity to be themselves, to shine, to try.
"That's the Labour Party and that's why I've chosen to join ... it's a party for everyone."
Omer, who fled Eritrea - a country "controlled by an oppressive regime" - as a teenager to Sudan, says being a refugee means you leave everything you have known in life to come to a country where everything is new.
"That's a huge challenge and often people feel down and struggle to get through, to get by, to get integrated, to be part of the society. My message to them is that if you keep your mindset positive and if you believe in yourself, that you can work hard, you can change and then just keep working hard. I'm a walking example of that."
When he arrived in New Zealand in 2008, he had limited English and didn't know anything about the country. He didn't have a single dollar. The next day he was given $21 for pocket money and bought a calling card to call his family. After six weeks at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre, he moved to Wellington.
Omer encourages former refugees to open themselves up and to make friends with people from all backgrounds: "Every day I learnt from people, I still do."
At Freyberg High School he met with former refugees and asked them what they love about New Zealand.
"They all agreed about one word - safety. 'We are safe here.' It breaks your heart but also warms your heart as well."
Omer, who speaks six languages and is Muslim, can relate to this saying - he too was looking for safety when he came to Aotearoa.
"Since 15 years old I've been looking over my shoulder."
New Zealand does have issues with racism but people with those views are the minority.
"Racism is like a disease, we have to fight it. We are fighting it but March 15 brought [out] what's best in New Zealand, five million just came out and wrapped their arms around the Muslim community. We have to keep that spirit, we have to keep fighting."
He said Palmerston North was lucky to have Tangi Utikere as its MP.
"Everything he does, he does with empathy."