The next meeting is expected to be a normal face-to-face meeting at 6.00 pm on Monday 13th September 2021. Given the restrictions of the Covid Lockdown, we cannot yet confirm the Havelock North Convention Centre. watch this space on the live page… UPDATE 10-SEP-2021 – There will be a normal meeting at the Havelock North Convention Centre. We have to scan in on entry plus have a register to record attendees. Pure Catering will provide service. Masks are not mandatory as we will be eating and drinking.
Guests were welcomed to this zoom meeting including two Rotary Friends, Peter Roffey, and Bill Robinson. Other guests included 39 logins and other friends and family, raising the number to 60 individuals watching the zoom meeting. Both Grace and Two Minute Talks were deleted from the schedule.
SERGEANTS SESSION – No sergeants session, given we had gathered on Zoom.
GUEST SPEAKER – Likewise, given another zoom situation, our guest speaker, Abbas Nazari (pictured above) who had been invited to share with the Club to share his inspiring story, was welcomed by Ian Holford, who advised the Club that as a 7-year-old rescued with his family from Afghanistan, fleeing from the Taliban, then rescued from a sinking fishing boat by a Norwegian cargo ship, then finally brought to New Zealand as refugees.
Abbas spoke to Rotary members and friends from his home in Christchurch. He was born in a small village in Afghanistan in 1990 in the middle of the Russian war. Ethnic groups were constantly fleeing from dominating authorities for almost all of Afghanistan’s history. Over the last 100 years, Afghanistan has never known peace, always at the behest of foreign powers. He was born in the mountains where his family had fled to because it was lush and peaceful, but living there was harsh and hardworking as castaways, but in between 1996 – 2000, the Taliban took over the mountain area. essentially to kill all opposing groups. At the time of Taliban involvement, the western world was generally sociable but the Taliban motivation was more about control and authority.
Hazaras (Abbas’ genetic people) are of Central Asian origin and speak the language of Shea Sect Muslim people, different from Afghanistan’s. Many of the Hazara people were massacred in the city of Malistan before they were able to move out into the mountains. It was 2001 when the Taliban broke up the Buddhist Hazara villages, with brutal massacres. Abbas’ family realised it was important to remain free, therefore necessary to move west to Pakistan. His father obtained a truck and drove his family to the city of Hunderhal, where they boarded a very old fishing boat to sail across to Pakistan where hopefully they may find a place in a refugee camp. At this point, Abbas’ parents discussed whether they should stay or continue the journey. The family then heard that there might be a way to get to Australia. Gradually the option became a reality and they made their way to Indonesia with the plan to stay in some old military barracks. The family made their way onto the crumbly old boat in the middle of the night which was going to Jakarta. It was a rickety old fishing boat with lots of refugees boarding to the point it was overcrowded and the parents wondered if they were doing the right thing. Abbas quoted his father: ‘Dad said it might be a slightly slithering trip but it would be one more step to a safer future, Mother was doubtful’.
24 hours into the ocean, and the engine failed and a storm grew, people smugglers didn’t care about the storm when it arrived that night, nor did they care about the condition of the passengers. Abbas remembers the sound of the boat collapsing and the feeling of being tossed and turned by the waves. However, when the sun rose at dawn, they were rescued by a Norwegian cargo ship called “Tampa”. As the ship arrived alongside the fishing boat, it was so high and so huge, it blocked out the entire horizon. A ladder was lowered from the Tampa to the fishing boat and the Norwegian sailors assisted each refugee, numbering the hand of each person – 438, including 5 crew.
Finally, after days of sailing on the Tampa, with empty containers used as hostels and others used as toilets, they sailed into Australian waters at the time of the Australian elections and the President-Elect decided to defer the arrival of the Tampa, which meant all the passengers were taken to prisons in the Pacific Islands. Later, Helen Clarke, New Zealand Prime Minister offered to take the men, women, and children, saving 133 people, bringing them to New Zealand. On 28th September 2001, the remainder who were sent to Nauru came later to New Zealand or Australia. or chose to go back home.
In New Zealand, as new entrants into the country, including Abbas and his family, were trained as New Zealanders, then he and his family went to Christchurch to live. Abbas and his family felt the privilege of being in New Zealand, however, it was a challenge learning a new language, gaining an understanding of community and daily life. Once he turned 13 Abbas went to Burnside High School, then to Canterbury University where he studied International Relations, then worked in Wellington.
Abbas believes Afghanistan communities had never know unity. The communities always worked well with one another, supporting the same religion and the same values. He also commented that a complete USA Military presence couldn’t have gone on forever, and he is now unsure if Afghanistan’s future holds home for the Taliban, indicating that the Taliban must acknowledge its mistakes, and even if they have made some promises there was a need to wait and see if the Taliban sticks to its word. Abbas and other rescued refugees are now regularly trying to convince the New Zealand Government to increase its support. Many of his friends are genuine and would support others if the opportunity was there. It wasn’t that New Zealand hasn’t got a complete plan to welcome refugees – there has been no progress, but there are plenty of resources and abilities. This link will open a recording of the presentation by Abbas Nazari…
Abbas was thanked by Gerry Townsend who praised him for his amazing presentation and noted that he (Gerry) had found it difficult to understand the level of trauma Abbas and his family coped with to finally find a new life in New Zealand. Gerry invited members and guests to purchase a copy of Abbas’ book “After the Tampa“, contacting Louise at Wardini Books
At a former meeting:
DUTIES: Please note these arrangements: If you are rostered on for duty but find you are unavailable it is your responsibility to arrange a replacement for yourself. Once this is done, email Stephen Randal at firstname.lastname@example.org and advise him of the change.
|13th September||20th September||27th September|
|Badges, Grace & Parting Thought||Lavelle||Graham||Jopling|
|Vote of Thanks||Fergus||Giddens||Konig|
Editors comment: Abbas’ story was inspiring and equally as amazing as he grew up to become a Fulbright Scholar, highlighting the plight and potential of all refugees. He has to be admired given his very frightening and insecure childhood in Afghanistan and travelling to a different country, then to open his heart and mind to all the opportunities New Zealand offered him. His exceptional journey, shared with his family was so heartening.
The opinions expressed in this Bulletin are not necessarily those of the President or Directors or of members of the Rotary Club of Havelock North Inc.