Sylvia and her husband moved to Aotearoa New Zealand to be close to family. Her two sons had moved here from American Samoa in search of work and a good future for their children. Sylvia missed them and her only grandchild and so, with her husband, chose to join them in Aotearoa. Now New Zealand citizens and both earning wages, they sometimes still find it difficult to survive financially, especially with the recent rapid rise in the cost of living.
My husband has New Zealand citizenship because he’s from Tokelau but I’m Samoan. So, the plan was for my husband to come here as a New Zealand citizen and for me to follow on later. Getting visas is expensive and so, after my husband had been here for three months, I came over using a visitor visa.
Sylvia had been to New Zealand several times before when she was single. This time it was different. She had family here and wanted to make this her home, but it wasn’t easy.
The first house we lived in didn’t work out. The landlord wanted us to move out because we had family staying with us. He didn’t seem to understand that that’s how we live in Samoa; we live as family and support one another closely.
My children contacted WINZ to see if they could find a house that would work for us, and we were allocated an emergency house in Belfast [in Christchurch] where we stayed for three weeks. Then they moved my husband and me to a two-bedroom house.
Sylvia and her husband assumed this was another WINZ property but soon found out it was a Visionwest Community Housing Canterbury home. They’d never heard about Visionwest before but soon came to value the support they were receiving.
We are here because of the love, service, and kindness of Visionwest. They are so good to us. They even allowed my son to stay here for a while as a favour. It was just for a short time, and he’s got a flat now, but it was hard for him because he had to pay a bond and couldn’t afford it for a while.
Moving to Aotearoa New Zealand and becoming a resident was Sylvia’s greatest wish but it the path to residency isn’t easy, first she had to prove that the bond between her and her husband was a bona fide husband/wife relationship, and the paperwork took some time. In the meantime, her husband found a job, but the pay is not great.
We are very strict about budgeting carefully and spending money only on the things we really need. It’s still tough though and we sometimes have to get help with food. Our Visionwest tenancy manager arranges that for us and brings it from local foodbanks. If it wasn’t for that and the support we get from Visionwest, we would not be able to survive; we would have to move back to Samoa, away from our family who we love.
Everything is so expensive these days. Even though my husband is working, it’s not quite enough money by the time we pay for food, bills, petrol, and everything else. That’s why we appreciate the help from Visionwest so much.
The hardest thing is that, even when we budget, things can go up so quickly and you’re just not prepared. We find winter especially tough. The cost of power goes up so quickly all the time. Sometimes we can only pay half the bill and save up to pay the second part later. Other times we must choose which bills pay. It’s great that we keep good health and don’t need to go to the doctor very often because that can be expensive. Fortunately, when we do need to go, we can go to the Aged Pasifika clinic. They are very good and cheaper than a lot of other doctors.
Click here to read Ruci’s Housing Story – More than Just a Roof.
Despite the financial challenges which have been exacerbated by the recent cost-of-living increases, Sylvia loves living in Canterbury. She now has a work visa and a part time job in the local Trade Assist store and is looking forward to gaining her residency.
We don’t have a lot but what we do have, we thank God for. The next step is for me to find fulltime work. I’d like reception-type work but would also love some sort of community work – that feels like my calling.
Sylvia and her husband are like many people in Aotearoa New Zealand today. They are working and yet still find things tough at times. First the financial challenges associated with Covid and now the cost-of-living rises have impacted them like they have impacted the finances of many working New Zealanders.
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