Hamilton has become home to 23 year old Maryam Bakhtiari, who arrived in the city in 2015 as a refugee from Afghanistan.
Although this was an incredibly difficult and challenging experience, Maryam has found a place for herself through volunteering to help other refugees.
She says Hamilton has been very welcoming to her: "Hamilton is a special place for me. It has been my first home in New Zealand; my family and friends are all here. I have many valuable memories and experiences from living in Hamilton."
Since moving to the city, Maryam has dedicated much of her time to volunteering and helping other refugees arriving here. She has had a strong association with New Zealand Red Cross, training as a volunteer and supporting newly arrived refugee families. She is a trained interpreter with Decypher, an organisation providing interpreting assistance for refugee and migrant communities in Hamilton.
Maryam has found her volunteer work has enabled her to find her place in a new community, and also share her culture with others.
"One of my biggest achievements since coming here has been working as part of a group who try their best to help others," she says
"I have been able to help open doors to new refugees to Hamilton, and adjust to a new life here."
Maryam's experiences have given her a good insight into what the challenges can be in adapting to life in a new country. One of the projects she has been involved with is establishing an Afghan mother's playgroup to support mothers and children, which has created better social connection between the mothers, but also to the wider Hamilton community. She has plans to continue with tertiary education in the futurem alongside her volunteer work.
Maryam recommends other young people become involved in their communities to help others.
"You have the power to bring change to a person's life, to a family and even to a community. I have the experience of both receiving help from others and helping others and I know that small acts of help can make a big change to the life of someone in need. Many drops of water together make a river."