Laughter emanates from a storage shed beside Nelson Airport. It’s cold outside, but inside the shed it’s warm as three women busy themselves creating household packs for some of the city’s newest residents.

This hub is a key component of New Zealand Red Cross’ refugee resettlement programme in Nelson. When former refugees arrive in their new homes, Immigration NZ finds a house for them and provides basic furniture needs.

What’s missing though are the little things that turn a house into a home; from kitchen utensils, to bedding, to gardening tools.

Usually it’s up to Refugee Support Volunteers to source these necessities but in Nelson a group of hardworking women have created a system that benefits everyone. Today Robyn, Pat, and Kathy are preparing housing packs for three families in the next intake, something they believe is essential to the resettlement process.

“If you envisage their journey, they’ve come to New Zealand with next to nothing,” says Robin Lambert. “The basic house set-up has furniture but nothing else. A lot of people are in tears when they see the house all set up for them.”

The group receives a list of what each new family will need and prepares the packs from items donated by community members. In this particular instance they are sifting through newly donated items looking for items that will complete the pack.

“There’s things we’re always short of,” says Pat Pettit, while looking through the boxes. “Things like can openers and casserole dishes, face cloths, towels, chopping boards.”

All three of the women started out as Refugee Support Volunteers and then moved onto this, which has turned into a fulltime project.

“I find it really rewarding and fun with the other ladies,” says Kathy Thomas. “I’ve loved spreading the word to my friends and families and seeing how excited they get about [giving donations].”

“One of the volunteers has said to me that what they love is seeing the transformation in the lives of a family in such a short amount of time,” adds Pat. “This project is an important part of that because we’re providing a welcome.”

How to help

If you have small household items that in good condition, you can donate them to support former refugees who are settling in New Zealand. Get in touch with your local Service Centre or drop them into any of our Red Cross Shops.