The Hamilton-based Afghanistan Hazara Association of Waikato is only in its second year of existence. Yet, already it is a hub of culture, celebration and language for the Waikato Afghan community.
The association was formed in April 2015 after several Afghan families settled in Hamilton. Among them were the families of several Afghan interpreters who had served with the New Zealand Army in Afghanistan. The army veterans were offered resettlement in New Zealand after their service ended.
Vice President Hassan Beigi says, “Although there was already an established Afghan community in the Waikato, there wasn’t a cultural association. We saw the need for such an organisation to form a heart for our community, and to help keep our culture and language alive in our new home.”
The association’s membership is now close to 300 people. Most members have come to New Zealand as refugees, although Hassan says that several of the more established Waikato residents have also joined.
One of the association’s most popular activities is its Dari language classes. Boys and girls aged 5 to 16 attend the weekly classes, which are so much in demand that their hours will soon be extended.
Other popular activities include a youth football team, mentorship for Afghan people seeking their driver’s licence and resettlement support for new refugee families.
A celebration of the New Solar Year in March 2016 attracted a diverse and appreciative crowd who enjoyed a cultural performance, speeches, games, and the kebabs and other food traditionally eaten at this time of year. (New Solar Year marks the first day of the Afghan spring.)
“The celebration was a great opportunity to introduce other Hamiltonians to Afghan culture,” says Hassan.
The association is now looking forward to welcoming a new intake of refugee Afghan families to the Waikato within the next year.
Trust Waikato was pleased to donate $4,000 in 2015/2016 towards the activities of this newly formed but necessary organisation.