Sharing our stories – Saroja


Amid devastating family separation during COVID-19 last year, Saroja was subject to Malaysia’s strict Lockdown equivalent, MCO (Movement Control Order), whilst caring for her 5-month-old grandchild, Anish.

As soon as she could cross borders, she completed the interrupted immigration to Christchurch to reunite Anish with his Mum and Dad.  Helping them on their difficult journey to New Zealand to complete their family, Saroja and Anish have a tight, special, bond, that was only strengthened by their forced isolation together.

It is clearly evident to members of Woolston Playcentre, where they recently discovered a way to immerse themselves in the local community, whilst receiving “a lot of guidance and emotional support”.

“I’m very happy I came here, I chose the correct place. I felt my Grandson was not mixing with other kids, which he is now. We had to stay indoors, he was alone with 2 adults. We were in phase 4 and then we went to phase 3. It’s still like that, Malaysia is still in that stage. So he was not able to mix with kids”.

What is something you enjoy doing at Playcentre?

“Look at [Anish] mingling with the kids, doing his painting, these are all new, you know.”

“At home we speak Tamil, so English is something he is learning now. He’s adjusting himself to 2 languages. He understands what we tell him, but he can’t talk, really talk.”

What do you find hard in your life at the moment?

“Doing the Nana job is not difficult, but landing in this community, you know, getting used to your ways in your country. Overall. We have very close family friends, but still it’s a little hard… It’s OK, we will learn. I will learn.”

Who did Saroja say was helping her the most to get used to her life in New Zealand?  

“My children, of course! And the people here at Playcentre are very lovely, very friendly”.

What’s the nicest thing a stranger has done for you?

“First thing, when I came into this country with Anish, he was a bit fretful because of the long hours of flight. He got a bit upset at the Auckland Airport, and we were supposed to go into quarantine. The officers there were lovely, they just came in all the way to help, to see that I’m OK, you know, bringing a child and all that luggage. They were just lovely.”