Red Cross rangatahi

20 May 2024

It’s Youth Week! Meet two of the inspiring young people who are making a difference with New Zealand Red Cross. 

Yibeth Morales Ayala’s language skills were in high demand when she arrived as a 14-year-old under New Zealand’s refugee quota. She’d dreamed of travel and enjoyed learning languages, so she quickly found herself helping fellow Spanish-speaking Colombians communicate at the Te Āhuru Mōwai o Aotearoa – Māngere Refugee Resettlement Centre. 

“I was excited because it was the first time I’d ever felt very helpful to society. I always felt like a burden back in Latin America, so coming in I just felt like I could start giving back. It was really awesome,” says Yibeth. 

Yibeth met support teams from New Zealand Red Cross and stayed connected with them as her family settled in the Wellington area, getting involved in New Zealand Red Cross programmes for youth. She also continued putting her hand up to volunteer to translate between Spanish and English for other former refugees in situations like health appointments, driver license tests and complex meetings. 

Yibeth’s own family relies heavily on her to navigate everything from government systems and bills to avoiding online scams. 

A decade after she arrived in Aotearoa, this year Yibeth has joined New Zealand Red Cross as a Settlement Youth Worker. This role is part of the refugee resettlement programme we deliver in five areas across the motu. She works with youth from about 50 refugee families in the Wellington region. She meets with families as they arrive, organises youth meetups and activities, provides one-on-one support to rangatahi who are having a particularly tough time, and links young people with other programmes. 

Yibeth says, “Now it feels like my heart and mind and all the knowledge I’ve gathered over the years are useful for other young people. It’s actually my dream job. 

From something small, to bigger things

Like Yibeth, giving back to the new country that welcomed him is a strong motivator for Ronal Reddy. Ronal moved to here from Fiji as a high schooler, and first started volunteering with New Zealand Red Cross helping former refugees learn to drive in 2018. He’s also done lots of other environmental and social volunteering. 

“I was a migrant, and New Zealand’s done such great things for me. This is my way to give back, saying here’s my time and I’ll help in whatever way I can to make a positive difference in the community I’m in,” says Ronal. 

Ronal is currently a backup driver for our Meals on Wheels programme, which delivers meals for people who are unable to cook for themselves. He says most of the deliveries he’s made are to elderly people. “It’s quite cool because you’re not there just for the meal. They don’t feel as alone and left out, because they’re by themselves and want that connection to talk with someone,” he says. 

Ronal, who is now 29 years old, also joined his Area Council as a Youth Councillor last year. He was a coordinator for this year’s Annual Appeal and is now supporting the delivery of Young Humanitarians and Youth Psychosocial First Aid courses in his Area. He’s also bursting with ideas on how he can bring knowledge from his professional life as an educator and qualifications specialist to our programmes at New Zealand Red Cross. 

Ronal says New Zealand Red Cross volunteering is a great option for young people because there’s such a variety of programmes and activities all over the country, so not being sure exactly what you want to do or what skills you can offer isn’t a problem. 

"The whole thing about learning is you have to start somewhere,” he says, “so just give it a go, a small thing could lead to something much bigger with Red Cross.” 

Image of Red Cross Youth Councillors, 2023

Ronal Reddy (back row, far right) with his fellow Youth Councillors in 2023.

Together, we have it all  

Youth Week is a nationwide series of events to celebrate the talents and success of young people across the motu. This year, the theme is ‘Māwherangi a tama roto ka taka, kāpuia ake ka pūrangiaho’ – ‘We may not have it all together, but together we have it all’. 

These words resonate strongly with Yibeth. She points to the community of volunteers and other people who have supported her in her resettlement journey, much like how she reaches out to other young people now. Some even suggested she consider social work while she was working in hospitality and looking for a different career path, leading her to where she is today.

Yibeth also says she also sees echoes of this theme in her experiences with her community and other refugee groups settling in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

“The ones that have the hardest time are the ones that are working separately from each other. When you see communities that are united and work together to connect, those are the ones that thrive.” 

Ronal says when he’s working on things with his fellow New Zealand Red Cross rangatahi, there’s strength in numbers. 

“I get this theme. Sometimes we definitely feel like we don’t have everything going for us, there’s gaps in what we know, or the things we start alone don’t quite work out. So things are quite nerve-wracking by ourselves, but it’s when we come together as a team we can accomplish a lot.” 

More information

Lead image
Yibeth Morales Ayala speaking at a World Refugee Day event at Parliament in 2017.