Helen's story

Helen's story

Helen is the newest member of the Nisa sewing team and is working with us this summer.

Hi, my name is Helen.  I’m 17 years old, and I’m from Ecuador.  I was 9 years old when I left Ecuador and arrived in Auckland at the Māngere refugee resettlement centre.  My mum (who is from Colombia) told me that they wanted us to have a good future and finish our studies, and we couldn’t do that in Ecuador.

I liked my life in Ecuador, and I didn’t want to leave.  I wanted to stay behind with my grandma, but understandably my mum said no.  It was scary for me on the plane - I screamed and cried as this was my first flying.

I was taught a bit of English in Ecaudor, but mainly just the names of animals and simple things.  Arriving in Auckland was a strange experience - there were so many people from different countries at the Māngere resettlement centre.  It was like a global village. There were two other families there that spoke Spanish, so I could talk with them. It was difficult not being able to speak English - my mum still struggles with this after 8 years.

Going to school in NZ was good - I made lots of new friends.  In year 9, we had to choose elective subjects, and soft materials (essentially sewing) was one of the options.  I chose it without knowing what it was, and I realise that I loved it! I studied soft materials throughout high school.  I decided to study fashion because it was the subject I was the strongest at. In my spare time all I do is sew, sew and sew some more. It's fascinating how fabrics come together to make beautiful clothes.  When I have finished sewing something, it feels so good because I can see what I’m capable of constructing.

I signed up to go to New Zealand Fashion Tech when I was 16.  I left school early because I had moved schools and found it hard to make new friends there.  I’m one of the youngest people in my class at Fashion Tech - I will be finished my degree by the time I’m 18.  It’s funny hanging out with people that are older than me, but I really like the course.

I applied to work at Nisa over my summer break.  Elisha got in touch with me to have a job interview, and I felt so happy! Coming in for the job interview I was really nervous - I had never made underwear before.  Elisha offered me the job at the interview, and it felt so good to hear that. I had finished my course early and was just twiddling my thumbs, so it was perfect timing.

Working at Nisa is great.  Everyone works together and helps each other.  They have lots of interesting machines for making underwear that I’ve never seen before.  I also enjoy making the underwear - it’s fascinating how a little mistake at the beginning can make a large difference to the finished product.  Every single step matters. It’s also amazing how much we can make in such a short amount of time. Everyone is so skilled at what they do.

My mum was really surprised when I got the job.  She said it was a great opportunity for me to start my career.  I definitely agree with my mum.


  • Judi Mccallum on

    Sounds like Helen is a great match for you Elisha at Nisa. ..congrats both of you for finding each other 👍

  • Sophie on

    Thank you for sharing your story Helen. I look forward to getting to know you a bit more at Fashion Tech next year.

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