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Saturday, 20 April 2019 12:17 pm

Wellington to welcome New Zealand’s first Syrian refugees


Volunteers needed: Molly Kennedy from Red Cross says without volunteers, refugees wouldn't have the support they need.

Volunteers needed: Molly Kennedy from Red Cross says without volunteers, refugees wouldn’t have the support they need.

WELLINGTON’s first Syrian refugees need the help of volunteers to show them the Kiwi way.

More than 100 Syrian refugees displaced by conflict will arrive in New Zealand from November.

The Red Cross, which is working with the Government, says it will be welcoming the refugees as part of New Zealand’s 750-refugee quota.

Refugees will be relocated to Wellington Central, Porirua and Lower Hutt to begin their new lives, with the help of the Red Cross resettlement project.

The Red Cross became New Zealand’s leading refugee resettlement agency in 2012, providing practical and social support for the new residents.

Molly Kennedy, Red Cross refugee settlement manager, who started out as a volunteer says Wellingtonians who witness the atrocities happening in Syria and feel helpless can now offer practical help.

“It’s a great opportunity for Wellingtonians, now there is something you can actually do. You will see immediate change.”

Volunteers will have three weeks of training outside work hours where they will be equipped with cultural knowledge, experiencing the tastes and sounds of Syria, and how to interact with the refugees.

Refugees will be based in Mangere for the first six weeks where they will learn the basics of New Zealand life says Mrs Kennedy.

“They’ll be taught simple English, and other things, such as when we say ‘bring a plate’, we don’t literally mean ‘bring a plate’,” she says.

Refugees will then be relocated to Wellington where volunteers will help them start their new lives and setting up their first Kiwi home.

Pots, pans, bedding and furniture will be sourced by volunteers as part of the practical side of their role.

Volunteers also show refugees how to use public transport, enrol children into school, how to use an ATM machine and what Kiwis do in their day-to-day routine.

“It’s often the things we don’t think about in our daily lives that volunteers will help with,” she says.

Volunteers spend three to six months helping, however Mrs Kennedy says volunteers tend to develop strong friendships and stick around longer.

Anyone can be a volunteer. All that matters is that “you’re here and you care”, says Mrs Kennedy.


Red Cross and becoming a volunteer

If you would like to become a volunteer for Red Cross, visit its website or directly e-mail a co-ordinator.

Click here for their website

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