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Engineer realises impossible dream

Afghan refugee Ali Mohammad Haidari, who is a Fulton Hogan Site Engineer, enjoys a life he once thought impossible. Ali’s family fled to Iran after his father was killed by the Taliban. While working as a child labourer there he decided he wanted to be an engineer.

Ali has shared his story with Fairfax NZ, saying he considers himself to be the “luckiest” man because New Zealand opened its doors to him and his family during their darkest hour. He got the chance for a new life because he was joining his eldest brother, who was among refugees granted asylum in New Zealand.

“Once we fled Afghanistan due to war we lived as unrecognised refugees in Iran with no hope of a better future under harsh conditions.” To make matters worse, his mother died and as a child he went to work on a construction site.

There was a civil engineer who would often visit to oversee the work. “He’d look at what we were doing and go away. I thought, one day, if I get the opportunity, I’ll be an engineer… But when I was a kid there were no thoughts about the future, on a daily basis it was just whether you were going to live.”

Ali says as soon as he arrived in Christchurch as a 14-year-old he enrolled at Hagley High School. “I had to fill in a form, there was no second thought, I said I wanted to be a civil engineer. The guy was like ‘do you know how to spell it?’ Engineering was the only word I could spell.”

He studied hard, finished high school and went to Auckland where he studied civil engineering. “I graduated in 2012 and started a job in Christchurch with Fulton Hogan. My first job was with SCIRT as a design engineer working on different sites of the rebuild, doing wastewater, stormwater, horizontal infrastructure.”

This year he has been working on the CNC Alliance, the Christchurch Northern Corridor. “You want to pay back, by graduating, by becoming someone in a society who is useful, to give back to the community. Now is your time to shine. A bright future is here.”

Photo courtesy of Fairfax NZ