Capturing the journeys of new New Zealanders

01 November 2021 | News

LU lecturer Dr Hafsa Ahmed is behind a new video project documenting the stories of New Zealand immigrants in an effort to highlight people's similarities, rather than their differences.

Immigrant Journeys includes 24 video stories that focus on people who come from a multitude of different countries.

Along with her husband, Razi Syed, Hafsa was part of a small crew that spent about seven hours capturing the journeys of various participants, including Lincoln alumni and staff members, as well as individuals from Hafsa’s family.

The immigrants talk about why they came to New Zealand, as well as sharing aspects of their lives.

The idea for the project originated from Razi, following the Christchurch terrorist attack on 15 March, 2019. 

Hafsa said the video stories aimed to show that immigrants enrich communities, and have normal lives like everybody else.

We all need to talk to each other and build stronger communities. Compassion and kindness are inherent qualities in all of us.


Each of the featured journeys highlights both the challenges experienced by the immigrants but also the kindness they’ve received from the people of Aotearoa.

One participant is Lincoln lecturer Dr Mohini Vidwans, from India, who said in her video that she was "reborn" when she came to Aotearoa nine years ago to start afresh after ending a "difficult marriage".

"A single woman stepping out for first time needed a country where she could feel safe and respected," she said.

She saw Aotearoa as that place.

"New Zealand has been incredible. I have never felt unwelcome."

Mohini is now embracing the New Zealand culture by learning Te Reo. 

Another participant is Lincoln alumnus Juan Pellegrino, who came to New Zealand from Argentina in 1997.

During his time at Lincoln, he met his wife, Virginia, from Uruguay. 

Juan and Virginia said it was not easy to leave their families behind, but they had made their home in New Zealand and were delighted that their children were growing up as Kiwis.

Izzie Guo, from China, whose story is also featured in the video series, studied for Lincoln University's Master of Tourism Management. 

Her father visited Aotearoa frequently as a businessman and returned home with stories that inspired Izzie to follow in his footsteps.

She now works for Christchurch NZ, specialises in social media and is involved in promoting Christchurch to the world.

Izzie expressed appreciation for all the people who helped her when she came to Aotearoa, including her "hosting mum", with whom she lived for six years. 

She said she had learned to embrace differences as strengths and believes New Zealand is like a mini United Nations, where you meet people from all over world.

Razi and Hafsa said in their own story that living in New Zealand was a blessing. They moved from Hyderabad, India, 15 years ago to start a new life in Aotearoa.

Razi described New Zealanders as "down to earth" and always keen to help.

The couple pointed out that coming from a different country offered a different perspective and Hafsa believes it gives her "an attitude of gratitude". 

As a child, she was inspired by Mother Theresa and her selfless giving, but it was only after coming to Aotearoa that she found her purpose. 

"I feel I am here to serve and make a difference," she said. 

Immigrant Journeys is part of that – a project focused on weaving strands together.

Lincoln University is home to around 80 nationalities, with students, and staff from around the world.

Read more on about the project on Stuff.

PHOTO: The Immigrant Journeys film crew (left to right) Janneth Gil, Hafsa Ahmed, Zahra Sayyeda, John Sellwood, Hussain Syed, and Razi Syed.