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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 26 February 2021

Dubai pupil appeals to New Zealand's Prime Minister to be reunited with grandmother

Fynn Kelly sent a video message to Jacinda Arden asking if his grandmother could visit them in Dubai and received a response from the immigration office

The family hope to be reunited again soon but New Zealand has enforced some of the strictest travel restrictions and, as a result, has had very few cases of Covid-19 over the past few months. Courtesy: Surina Kelly
The family hope to be reunited again soon but New Zealand has enforced some of the strictest travel restrictions and, as a result, has had very few cases of Covid-19 over the past few months. Courtesy: Surina Kelly

A boy, who appealed to New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to allow his grandmother in Auckland to visit him in Dubai, received a heartwarming reply from the government.

Fynn Kelly, 7, and his sister have not physically seen their maternal grandmother, Robyn Mehra, for more than a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite living halfway around the world, Ms Mehra has been an integral part of their upbringing, spending large amounts of time in the UAE with the family.

“It’s been especially tough for Fynn because his grandma has been like his best friend from day one,” said his mother Surina Kelly, a New Zealand expat and a senior newsreader for the Arabian Radio Network.

“He misses her so much and there are nights where we’re putting him to bed and he’ll just start crying because he’s remembering her.”

New Zealand has enforced some of the strictest travel restrictions in the world with stringent rules dictating who can leave and enter the country. As a result, the country has reported very few new cases of Covid-19 over the past few months.

The restrictions have also meant that Ms Mehra, who is a cancer survivor, has been unable to travel to the UAE for over a year, nor have the Kellys been able to fly to New Zealand.

“One night Fynn just said, ‘It’s not fair - I want to talk to the New Zealand government and send them a video message right now,’” said Ms Kelly.

In the minute-long video, recorded on Ms Kelly's phone, a tearful Fynn says hello to Ms Ardern before saying he wants his grandmother to be vaccinated soon so she can visit the UAE again. He also expressed how much he misses her.

Ms Kelly sent the video to Ms Ardern’s publicly available email address and, four days later, received a personal reply from the government.

“Dear Fynn, I’m so sorry you haven’t been able to see your gran for a long time,” read the response from the office of the country’s Immigration Minister.

“Because New Zealand’s border is closed to almost everybody, it makes it very difficult to leave and enter the country. But the good news is that this means New Zealand is one of the best places for your gran to be in at the moment. I know she misses you a lot, but she is able to stay safe and healthy here while she waits until she can see you again.”

The response Fynn Kelly received from the New Zealand Government. Courtesy: Surina Kelly
The response Fynn Kelly received from the New Zealand Government. Courtesy: Surina Kelly

Ms Kelly said Fynn was over the moon when she told him about the reply.

“His whole face lit-up and he was almost in disbelief that they received his message and took the time to reply to him,” she said.

“But I think he was expecting a slightly difference answer, he told me ‘wouldn’t it be cool if they said ‘Go open your front door, and granny is standing there?’”

Ms Kelly said her story highlighted the challenges children have faced since the outbreak a year ago. Whether it is learning from home, dealing with a family member who contracted Covid-19, or not being able to meet a loved one, the pandemic has been especially difficult for them.

“It's best to be honest with our children about the possibility of seeing their loved ones and lay out the facts as is,” said Zahra Poonawala, a therapist at American Wellness Centre in Dubai.

“Once you notice the child has had the opportunity to express themselves fully, you might want to dive into problem solving.”

She said parents need to find ways to help their children connect with the loved ones by setting up video calls, writing emails, and pursuing projects together simultaneously from different parts of world.

“Even having virtual birthday parties and holiday celebrations can go a long way to reduce that emotional strain for kids,” said Ms Poonawala, who specialises in child psychology.

She said it is also important to be honest about a situation, instead of lying or making up things just to keep them happy.

“As parents, our natural tendency is to try to protect our children and sometimes our need to protect causes more harm than it does good,” said Ms Poonawala.

“Parents need to be honest and share information, rather than avoid or distract. Encouraging them to talk to you by letting them know that you are available to talk to them if something is disturbing them is essential.”

Updated: February 15, 2021 08:31 AM

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