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Trevor Strohfeldt is your quintessential Kiwi bloke, a little bit gruff but with a great sense of humour and a heart of gold. He’s also one of Red Cross’ most experienced Refugee Support Volunteers.
He was inspired to start volunteering when he met a couple and their child who were living next door to him. The family had migrated to New Zealand and he helped them out with bits and pieces as they settled into their new lives. He enjoyed helping the family so much that he decided to become a Refugee Support Volunteer.
“It’s become a significant part of my life and it’s better than sitting at home,” says the retired carpenter.
Over the past eight years he’s helped settle 18 families from Myanmar and Bhutan and empathises with people having to adapt to a new way of life.
“It makes you feel good inside knowing that you’ve helped somebody adjust to a new life. I would hate to put myself in the same position as them - going to a strange country, not speaking the language, and having nothing.”
It’s the visible change in people that keeps Trevor coming back, from the moment they step off the aeroplane to six months down the track, he says the difference is huge.
“I don’t pry too much and let people talk if they want to. It’s really positive to see how people open up after a couple of months and their whole demeanour changes. It’s beautiful to see, it really is.”
Trevor has become firm friends with a lot of the families he’s supported and often sees them around the community. He’s also attended citizenship ceremonies, which he says are always an emotional and important occasion.
“I even put long trousers on for a change,” says Trevor, who is known around town for always wearing shorts and jandals, even in the depths of winter.
The volunteering has not only given him something to do but also changed Trevor’s temperament somewhat.
“I’ve learned to be a little bit more tolerant than I was, I was known to have a short fuse but it’s matured with the process,” he says with a laugh.
How to help
Our Refugee Support Volunteers are a key part of the refugee settlement process and are often the first friends former refugees make in New Zealand. If you’d like to help out, get in touch with your local team here.