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Gina and Lorraine are familiar faces around the Red Cross office. The pair pop in a few times every week to help with a mammoth task - sorting the mountains of goods donated by the Dunedin public.
Former refugees often arrive in New Zealand with only what they can carry — usually no more than a suitcase or two. Since Dunedin became a refugee resettlement location last year, locals have gone out of their way to make their new neighbours feel at home, Lorraine says.
“The response from the public has been amazing, it really has. We’ve had people donate brand new dinner sets. A woman in her nineties donated two beautiful knitted blankets — it’s taken her a year to knit these blankets.
“It’s just been amazing what people have done.”
The women have been volunteering with Red Cross for many years — Gina has been involved for more than two decades. But their work helping former refugees strikes a particular chord with Lorraine, whose partner’s parents arrived as refugees from Europe, fleeing the Nazi regime.
“It does make you realise we are so lucky in New Zealand. You look at Aleppo on the TV now and think it must be so hard.”
Their work wouldn’t be possible without the overwhelming generosity of locals, schools and community groups. And while any good-quality donation is welcomed, there are a couple of items that are always needed, Gina says. “We always need things like hotties, hottie covers, mattress protectors and floor mats.”
To help turn houses into homes for former refugees, find out what’s needed in your area by contacting your local Red Cross .
Items can also be donated to any Red Cross Shop, where they will be sold to support Red Cross’ work.