Every inch of the soil behind her brand-new home in West Auckland is sprouting fresh produce; neat rows of kale, onion, spinach and courgette are all thriving under Kabonye’s eager green thumb.

Growing food is in Kabonye’s blood, having grown up on a farm in the Democratic Republic of Congo where her family lived on the food they produced. She has been a gardener since childhood, honing her skills and quickly adjusting to the vastly different New Zealand climate when she moved here as a refugee several years ago.

Through her friend and translator, Mary, Kabonye explains she is very happy to share her vegetables with her new neighbours. She is very grateful to have a vegetable garden again, having lost hers during the Auckland Anniversary floods earlier this year.

“I was living in a different Kāinga Ora home nearby with six of my children and a big vegetable garden that I loved. On the day of the flood it was just raining normally then all of a sudden the carpet started to lift up with water. Within a few minutes it started to lift the chairs up.”

With her children safe away from the rising water, Kabonye was carried outside by her son and nephew.

“It was very frightening - I have never experienced anything like it.”

The whānau was thankfully unharmed, but could no longer live in their much-loved home and moved into temporary accommodation while a permanent home was found.

It was a rough few months, but now Kabonye’s family is settling into their new Kāinga Ora home  in plenty of time to celebrate Christmas together.

“It is a big relief to have got this house,” she says. “I am so happy to be here.”

On Christmas Day, after attending church in the morning, Kabonye and her children will return to their new home for music and a feast of fish, chicken, rice, and of course, the freshest vegetables in town!

“My friends will come, and my children’s friends too. Everyone will come to this house – our home.”

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Page updated: 30 November 2023