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The Vangs’ house is buzzing on a rainy Saturday morning in Porirua. Their seven children are in and out; running next door to their grandmother’s place, helping their mum carry in the produce she got at the markets, and making coffee for the guests.
In the midst of it, Felicia Edgecombe and her husband, Ken, move about with ease, looking like part of the family.
The duo has been supporting the Vang family’s resettlement in New Zealand for almost a year as Red Cross refugee support volunteers. The experience has broadened their understanding of what it means to be a refugee and forced to flee your country.
“I used to just assume that New Zealand was a great place to come and live but it’s [volunteering] made me realise that for people who live on the other side of the world there are huge difficulties to overcome,” she says.
“I have so much respect for their courage in being able to face those challenges.”
Felicia, a retired teacher and long-term Porirua resident, lives close to the Vangs, which has been incredibly helpful when it comes to connecting the family with their local community.
The Edgecombes, along with their co-volunteers Helen and Max Stevenson, have shared their local secrets with the new Kiwi family, showing them the local veggie markets, which have become a family favourite, and the best attractions and activities nearby.
It’s been a fulfilling experience for the couple and sharing their New Zealand with a new Kiwi family has been exciting for them.
“I’ve enjoyed learning about other parts of the world and the experience of people who have been displaced,” says Felicia.
“I am in awe of our Vang family who are so cooperative, so committed, so hard-working and resourceful and who I know will be a great asset and example in our community in the years to come.”