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UK To HB: What A Year For New Bay Family

Shahin and Juber Hafiji with their family at Havelock North Village Green, from left: Ayesha (6), Rayyan (11) and Zayn (7) on January 4 - exactly a year on from their move to Hawke's Bay.

The Hafiji family could not have known it at the time, but their move to Hawke’s Bay from the United Kingdom on January 4 last year could not have been better timed given the arrival of the global pandemic.

“It was incredible really that about eight months earlier Shahin and I had made the decision to move here with our three children for a better quality of life,” says dermatologist and specialist skin cancer surgeon Juber Hafiji on the first anniversary of their arrival. “We could not have known, given the trajectory of COVID-19 in the UK, just how much better it would be.”

It is bitter-sweet though, as they worry about family, friends, and colleagues working in the health industry back in the United Kingdom – some of whom had suffered from the virus. “Family is incredibly important to us and we had plans for them to visit us and for us to go back to see them in 2021, but that is unlikely to happen in the near future. Thank goodness for the digital connections we have in this day and age,” says Shahin.

Despite those worries and now settled in Havelock North, the whole family is enjoying everything Hawke’s Bay has to offer.

Asking them to list their favourite things about their new home brings a pause – only because there are so many and picking the top few is difficult.

For both parents, their top pick is just how much their children have developed over the year, increasing in confidence and resilience. “I don’t need to be a helicopter parent over here. We feel so safe, everyone is so friendly and there is so much space and room for the children to explore,” says mum Shahin.

“There is no way we would have let our older son walk to a friend’s home in the UK; here we are very comfortable – as long as we get a text from him when he gets there to let us know he has arrived,” says dad Juber.

And then there are all the new activities that are so much more accessible in a region with little traffic and such great weather. Eleven-year-old Rayyan is on a canoe polo team and has taken up surfing and swimming. And all three, including younger two, Zayn (7) and Ayesha (6), are new converts to taekwondo.

Much-improved work-life balance is high on Juber’s list. “With my public and private clinics, I’m just as busy at work here as I was in the UK but in Hawke’s Bay it is so easy to take a few hours to spend time with the family at the beach or the park – and I’m home to spend time with Shahin and the children every day. “Between the distances I needed to travel and the traffic, that just did not happen in the UK.”

And their favourite things to do? For Shahin, it has been making new friends to have coffee with and walking up Te Mata Peak; for Juber, it’s spending time at the beach (Waimarama and Ahuriri are favourites), and spending time in Napier city. “The atmosphere is wonderful. It feels like I’m on holiday every time we go over there.”

And Rayyan has nominated a day at Maraetotara Falls, jumping from the famous swing rope, as the best day of his life so far. “That’s despite the fact that he has travelled all over the world and stayed in some amazing places with us – so that’s pretty high praise,” laughs Juber.

So, what does 2021 bring for the Hafiji family? The children will enjoy their summer and then head back to school, while Juber will finish setting up his new private dermatology clinic and specialist skin cancer surgery in Napier, while continuing working in public health, with the support of Shahin. “We couldn’t be happier to be here and, like everybody after the year we’ve just had, we’re looking ahead to what this new year brings,” says Juber.

© Scoop Media

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