Lydia's story: from Myanmar to Aotearoa

Lydia's story: from Myanmar to Aotearoa

By Elisha Watson

Lydia's story: from Myanmar to Aotearoa

Lydia discusses her journey from a small village in Myanmar to working at Nisa and studying nursing.

Hi everyone my name is Lydia. I’m 21 years old. I was born in Haikhawl, a small village in the north west of Myanmar. In Myanmar, there are 8 different ethnic groups and many different languages. I am part of the Chin ethnic group, and my first language was Falam, the language of the Chin people. Growing up in Letpanchaung I also had to learn Mizo, because lots of my friends and other people in the community spoke this language. To make things even more complicated, I had to learn Burmese, the official state language, when I went to school. 

At school, there was no internet. We just learned from a textbook, and we didn’t have that many resources so we couldn’t learn much outside of what was in the book. As a kid I loved my village - I knew so many people and everyone was really close.

We left Myanmar when I was 14. There was religious conflict in Myanmar, and my family was Christian (Myanmar is Buddhist country). We had to leave, and the only place we could get to was Malaysia. Life in Malaysia was really tough - I had to work to support the family. I worked in a jewellery shop, but I couldn’t really speak Malay so I got into trouble very often. The working hours were also hard - I worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, for just over $400NZD per month. I couldn’t go to school, which made me sad. It was also scary there - I would leave work in the night, and be so afraid that I would run home.

I was 16 when I found out we had been accepted as part of the refugee quota system in New Zealand. We were flown to Auckland, and we went straight to Māngere resettlement centre. A new building had just been built there, and it was so beautiful! We already had family in Wellington, so after a few months in Māngere we went down to join them. It was amazing to be reunited with the rest of our family. 

I was crazily nervous about starting school though. I couldn’t speak much English, and I found writing very difficult, so I didn’t know how I would cope in a classroom with other Kiwis. In the beginning I didn’t know the names of so many things, it was quite confusing to be in an environment where you can’t understand what’s being said. It did get better though - I spent time with the other international students and I learned from them, and I made some Kiwi friends.

At the end of high school, I decided to study nursing. Back home in Myanmar, everyone says being involved in medicine is the best career, so I grew up thinking I would do something in that field. Nursing made sense because I could study this in Wellington - I didn’t want to be separated from my family. 

While I’ve been studying, I’ve been working part time at Nisa. My aunty Olivia works there too, and got me the job! It’s been really nice working here - everyone is so friendly and understanding. The staff have similar backgrounds, which makes you feel really comfortable and safe. I fit in here. 

Now I’m at the end of my nursing studies, and I’m working full time at Nisa until I get my first nursing job! I’m quite nervous waiting for my exam results though. I’m really excited to join the nursing profession and use what I’ve learned to help people.

13 comments


  • What a inspiring story. Thank you for sharing. How wonderful is God’s grace and mercy. We are so blessed to have you and your wonderful family here. Welcome to NZ Lydia. Kia Kaha!

    Maureen Griffiths on

  • Tena koe Lydia
    Thanks for sharing your story – your bravery & resilience to get through all those challenges is inspiring. Best wishes in your career as a nurse. I hope your future is full of laughter & happiness with your whanau & friends.
    Aotearoa is lucky to have you.
    Kia kaha.
    Mauri ora.

    gerald dysart on

  • Lydia, thank you for sharing your story. And thank you for joining our Health Service – we are desperately short of nurses and I am sure you will enjoy being part of such a revered occupation. What patient couldn’t feel better when they see your wonderful smile! The very best of luck. We appreciate you coming to Aotearoa.

    Shona on

  • Lydia, thank you for sharing your story. And thank you for joining our Health Service – we are desperately short of nurses and I am sure you will enjoy being part of such a revered occupation. What patient couldn’t feel better when they see your wonderful smile! The very best of luck. We appreciate you coming to Aotearoa.

    Shona on

  • Hi Lydia, thank you for sharing your story. I have so much respect and admiration for you and your family – it must be so difficult and sad to have to make the decision to leave your home country and so hard going through the refugee process with all that uncertainty and stress. We’re so lucky you came to us. Thank you for chosing nursing as a career in these difficult times.

    Anne Williams on

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