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Happy in his work . . . Dunedin Housing Maintenance Contractors brush hand and former refugee Mohammed Ali paints a state house in Halfway Bush. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

A former refugee is painting a brighter future in Dunedin.

Dunedin Housing Maintenance Contractors brush hand Mohammed Ali is part of a team giving a state house in Halfway Bush a fresh coat of paint.

The former refugee from Palestine arrived in New Zealand with his family – father and mother, three brothers and sister – about 18 months ago and began working for DHMC in Dunedin about six months ago.

After arriving in Auckland, the 33-year-old, who was born in Iraq, was deployed to Dunedin with his family.

“I’m happy here in Dunedin. I like everything, including the weather, which is different to Iraq, which is too hot in summer and very cold in winter.”

He found the job with DHMC with help from the Red Cross Pathways to Employment programme.

“I’m happy, so happy, because it’s fun to work for DHMC,” Mr Ali said.

DHMC foreman Rhys Dougherty, of Dunedin, said Mr Ali had learned “Kiwi slang” on the job.

“When he first started he wasn’t used to our sense of humour – we’d make a joke and it would go straight over his head – but now he laughs along with us.”

DHMC operations and quality manager Gerry O’Connell, of Dunedin, said he would recommend employing former refugees to Dunedin businesses.

“Mohammed has done really well and we are happy with his work.”

Red Cross Pathways to Employment team leader Jarrah Cooke, of Dunedin, said the programme began after the first former refugees arrived in Dunedin in 2016.

The programme was funded by the Ministry of Social Development and was designed to help people achieve their career goals.

For most former refugees, the programme included English language study and pre-employment training, such as obtaining first aid certificates and creating CVs.

Of the 160 former refugees of a “working age”in Dunedin, 40 had obtained work through the programme.

About 35 of the former refugees were studying at Otago Polytechnic or the University of Otago, he said.

Mr Cooke thanked the Dunedin employers who had supported the programme and the door was open for more.

‘We are always looking for employers to offer positions – former refugees bring a resourcefulness, adaptability, resilience and a new perspective and they are motivated to make the most of the opportunity they have in Dunedin.”