Many have been forced to flee their homes without the support of friends or family, and arrive in a country and culture completely different from their own. This is why our friendly refugee support volunteers are so important.

Our volunteers play a key role in the resettlement process, helping families into their new homes and supporting them with day-to-day tasks. They’re also often the first friends a family makes in their community. We’re always hearing about volunteers who have become like ‘family’ to those they are helping to resettle.

Alba Milena, who arrived in New Zealand with her young son in 2013, certainly thinks so. Her volunteers Karen, Shanti and Faduma have made the world of difference in helping her feel at home in Hamilton, she says.

“They are beautiful people. They always came around to visit. They have been helping me for a long time, and they are still helping me. They’ve helped me through good and bad times. They helped with so many things.”

Originally from Colombia, Alba Milena admits there were some challenges when she first arrived in New Zealand.

Language was a big one, and communicating with her volunteers sometimes proved difficult. The team quickly learnt there were problems with using Google Translate as a communication service.

“Sometimes I would translate something, and they would be reading it and it didn’t make sense,” she explains, laughing. “Then they would translate something and I would be reading it and it really didn’t make sense.”

Despite this, they persevered. Her volunteers have now become like family to her.

“Thank God for them. I’m very grateful to have all these beautiful people in my life. What more do I need?”

Karen, who works with former refugees in the health sector, explains that volunteering has been helpful for her work but has also offered her much more.

“I’ve really gained a lot from just being a volunteer and helping. It has been a fantastic experience. We had such a lot of fun - getting everything set up before Milena even got here, we had a great time.”

Shanti shares this sentiment, but admits that when she first signed up as a volunteer, she had no idea of what she was getting herself into. Thankfully, she explains, the training taught them a lot. She’s proud of what Kiwi volunteers offer former refugees, and encourages more people to get involved.

“I know New Zealand has a good heart - it’s a good place to be.”

We’re always looking for more refugee support volunteers to work with families like Alba Milena and Julio. No previous experience in this area is required, as our comprehensive training equips volunteers with the skills they will need. Interested? We’d love to hear from you.