A Refugee’s Journey by Luke Mading

Published on Tuesday, 22 June 2021, 11:02 a.m. Print Article

Luke is an outstanding young man who works as a Bilingual Tutor at Selwyn College whilst also attending University.  He has written this moving piece about his experiences.

It was very dark and cold.  We had no torchlight, and we were not allowed to use one either.  I can still remember walking in a river, holding my mother's hand and my sister's.  The water was almost reaching my head, and I had no shoes on.  Every time I took a step forward, I could feel the sharp edges under my legs.  Even when the sun was up we would always walk across the jungle somewhere between Thailand and Burma.  We had no choice but to keep going because we were illegal immigrants in Thailand.  When it gets dark, we would still be walking just after a few hours sleep.  But why and how did I end up being in this situation?
My name is Luke.  I am from Burma.  I know this is not the most excellent way to start a story.  My father passed away when I was only seven years old.  So my mum struggled alot as a single parent.  I grew up in a small village full of Burmese soldiers.  The relationship between our people (Kachin) and the Burmese government was terrible at that time.  The soldiers would come into our village and take whatever they want, do whatever they want.  The people from our village were not safe at all, especially the women.  So my mum had to take a big risk for her children's future.
One day my mother told us that we are going to another country.  As a 7 year old kid, I was excited when I heard about it.  As soon as we left Myanmar, the journey wasn't easy.  I thought we were going on a vacation, but I realised it was one of those nightmares that I never want to have.  We planned to go to Malaysia illegally because we had no chance of applying for a passport in Myanmar.
When we arrived in Malaysia, my sister and I had to stay in an orphanage because my mother couldn't afford the living expenses.  However, I was delighted because life there is so much better than when I was in Myanmar.  It was like a single drop of water in a desert.  However, after a few months I started working to support my little sister and family from Myanmar.  I worked illegally in a restaurant as a guy who washes the dishes.  The job was challenging because of my weak health.  I could quickly get sick for a week just from a bit of a cold.  By that time, I was only 12 years old.  I can still remember the happiest day of my life when my mum told me that we were going to New Zealand next month and I thought she was joking.  I could feel some butterflies and earthquakes going on in my heart.  Not only that, but I couldn't sleep the whole night.
A few years later, I am much happier because I have become a New Zealand citizen.  This country is one of the safest in the world.  Also, we have every single human right.  We have so much more opportunities, fresh air, sheep and plenty of milk.
Despite all the bad and good experiences, I learned my biggest lesson as a refugee and a human.  In life, a bigger reward comes with a bigger risk, and no risk means no reward.  We never lose until we give up.  Failures are just some little lesson for us to learn.  Thomas Edison once said, "I have not failed.  I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
Now that we are here in New Zealand, we should have no excuses but to achieve our goal for life and help other people who don't have the opportunity. 

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