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Refugees are ordinary people who have faced extraordinary circumstances. Here in New Zealand, people from refugee backgrounds are MPs, sportspeople, chefs, teachers, skilled tradespeople, mothers, fathers and friends. They come from many different countries and religions and have experiences and skills from which we can all learn.
The terror attack on March 15 against the Muslim community in Christchurch - many of whom are refugees or migrants - was unprecedented in New Zealand's modern history. The impact of this senseless act continues to be felt widely and deeply by communities across the country. Now more than ever, it's important that Kiwis reach out to former refugees in their community so that they know they are safe and welcome here.
Reach out on World Refugee Day
The smallest gesture can make the biggest difference to someone new to the country. Whether that’s having a cup of tea with a former refugee neighbour, chatting over the fence or donating items to furnish houses, there are plenty of ways Kiwis can make people with a refugee background feel at home in Aotearoa.
That includes becoming a New Zealand Red Cross refugee support volunteer. In 2018 more than 1,000 New Zealand Red Cross refugee support volunteers helped settle 1,000 former refugees around the country. Since the Christchurch attack we have seen a surge in the number of people becoming volunteers; in some areas interest has almost doubled. Let’s keep this momentum of community involvement going.
Watch refugee support volunteers Bob, Frances and Emma set up a home for a former refugee family:
Other ways you can help new Kiwis settle in include:
- Donating small, household items that will help turn houses into homes for former refugee families. Donations of goods can be made at any Red Cross Shop.
- Donating through the Red Cross website to support our work with new Kiwis from refugee backgrounds and our work with vulnerable populations overseas.
- Giving someone with a refugee background a job, a key part of the settlement process. This can be arranged through our Pathways to Employment programme.
We also all have a responsibility to stand up to racism in all its forms, which includes challenging our own prejudices and those of our loved ones. The racism and hate that led to the Christchurch tragedy have no place in our society and we all have a role to play in eliminating it.
World Refugee Day events
We would also encourage you to seek out or organise World Refugee Day events in your community.
Please contact your local New Zealand Red Cross service centre to find out what events they are planning.
Please feel free to download and use these World Refugee Day resources: