New home for Hazem

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By Sophie Bond

For Hazem Abd Elkade, growing up in Egypt as an albino was a real struggle. In his own words the 28-year-old tells Sophie Bond how moving to Auckland has changed his life.

In Egypt there are no services or organisations for albinos. You can imagine in my city there was just me and four million black people.

When I started school it was terrible really, especially in the exams as I couldn't get large print. The teachers ignored me because it took too much effort. I would go home and do my own study to keep up.

After high school I thought, maybe the problem isn't me, so I took sociology at university to try and understand my community.I finished my degree with good grades and looked for a job. I failed because people think you're not able to do anything because you're albino.

I learnt Italian as I thought it would help me get a job in a hotel. It didn't. I opened a convenience store for two years but it was unsuccessful.

I had to deal with customers and I suffered.

Some people looked at me as a ghost.

In my language the word used for albinos translates as enemy of the sun.

Finally I decided to leave Egypt. I had tried everything, I couldn't continue. I read a lot about countries that open the way to migrants and I chose New Zealand.

I remember my first week here, an old lady stopped me and asked if I had sunscreen on because even though it's cloudy I could still get burnt.

In Egypt it was hard to open my eyes in daylight. So when I came here I felt something strange, I left the airport at midday and I could open my eyes.

I became a student of English. The teachers provided large print without me even asking. It was an amazing time in the school, better than I imagined.

When I finished the school, I decided, really I can't leave. I applied for refugee status but failed because I'm not recognised as a refugee. When it was declined, the interviewer from immigration told me, "you need a lawyer", so I got a very good lawyer who believed in my claim.

In September 2010 we made the application again. I applied in the protected person category. I was interviewed last month and now I'm waiting for the final decision. Also this year, once I got a permit I started searching for work.

In January I was interviewed for my first job, a housekeeping position at Waipuna Hotel. It was a really good atmosphere, I enjoyed it.

I went to an Albinism Trust meeting and I realised that all the albinos in New Zealand are professionals. I felt I could become a professional as well. It was the first time I met and spoke with other Albinos. They supported me so well.

I started working harder on my English. I became a member of the Association of Social Science Researchers and of the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind. I got NZQA so my bachelor's degree is now recognised here.

I was accepted to present a paper at the Sociological Association of Aotearoa New Zealand conference in December. It's on the financial crisis and how that impacts sociological policies.

I never imagined I would do that.

A position for an administration assistant came up at the Blind Foundation, two weeks at first. Then in June they offered me a three-month contract and I left the hotel.

I'm waiting now for the immigration decision and I hope they let me stay. My plan is to apply for my master's next year in human resources. I want to be a professor in the university.

The first time I ever got a salary was here in New Zealand. I even had a girlfriend. I can support myself and my research. I don't want to go back to Egypt, not even for a visit.

 

Albinism

One in 15,000-17,000 New Zealanders has some form of albinism. Albinos have reduced or no pigment in their eyes, skin and hair, and suffer some degree of visual impairment.

NZ Trust

New Zealand's Albinism Trust website has information about the condition and upcoming seminars. See www.albinism.org.nz

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