Dr Hashem Slaimankhel’s legacy endures

Migrants and refugees in Aotearoa are attracted to E Tū Whānau because our Māori values are similar to their own. To mark World Refugee Day (June 20), we’re highlighting an Afghani Kiwi family working to fulfill their late father’s dream of a multidisciplinary medical clinic to help New Zealanders of all backgrounds and faiths.

Pharmacist, Kamal Slaimankhel (L),  his sister, optometrist Halima Slaimankhel and her husband Hasibullah Zurmati with  Kamal’s three-year-old daughter Ayesha outside the family medical practice in Avondale, Auckland

When Dr Hashem Slaimankhel was killed earlier this year in a bomb blast in Afghanistan, his children were determined to honour his lifelong dream to become a doctor and run his own hospital.

Hashem qualified twice as a doctor, once in Afghanistan and again in his first place of refuge, Pakistan, but was unable to work in his chosen profession when he and his family finally reached the safety of New Zealand. He became a Refugee Health Worker instead. His passion for this work had a major influence on his children, nieces and nephews, especially those who chose careers as health professionals.

Repaying the welcome

Hashem was revered by the 5000-strong Auckland Afghani community, and by people from all kinds of backgrounds, for his determination to do all he could to repay the welcome New Zealand had given his family. His son Kamal, a Dunedin based pharmacist, and his whānau of fellow health professionals, have taken up that wero.

Dr Hashem Slaimankhel

Two months ago, they bought an existing medical practice adjacent to the pharmacy Kamal owns in Avondale, Auckland. His sister Jamila also works there as a pharmacist. Their sister Halima is an optometrist. One of their cousins is a podiatrist and two others are training to be midwives. The Slaimankhel whānau share a vision of a multidisciplinary medical clinic from which they can all practice. Buying the Avondale Family Doctors practice is the first step.

“My father was always thinking of how best he could serve those in need and we, the generation that followed, were hugely influenced by his example,” Kamal said.

Careers of all kinds

Like many who came to New Zealand as refugees, the Slaimankhel family are all busy carving out interesting careers.

Hashem’s youngest son Yahya, a University student, is following in his father’s footsteps by working to support other young people as part of the PALMS network of tangata whenua, migrant and refugee youth. Hashem’s nephew, former Warriors player Omar Slaimankhel, chose a different path and has created a hugely successful international career in rugby league.

At the time of his uncle’s death, Omar described him as “the kindest man, who put everyone else first and helped wherever he could.”

For many years, Hashem worked closely with E Tū Whānau to combat family violence. He played a major role engaging men in the solutions, saying in an interview in 2015,

“We were like trailblazers – making it okay for men in Muslim communities to stand up against family violence.”

His legacy endures.