Pots and pans, blankets, rice cookers, and crockery are piled high in the back of the Red Cross Shop in Stoke. But these items aren’t for sale; they will be given a new home when Nelson receives its next intake of former refugees.

It’s part of a new agreement between refugee programmes and Red Cross Shops in the region.

Traditionally, finding the items that make a house a home for a former refugee family has been the responsibility of refugee support volunteers.

In the weeks leading up to a family’s arrival, they will source donations of small household items and prepare the house.

Sandy Hodgson is the manager of the Red Cross Shop in Stoke and saw a need in the community for retail to step in and support the house set-up for former refugees.

“I think everyone needs to do more in the community for all vulnerable people and this is something that Red Cross Shops can do,” she says.

Sandy is told the demographics of each household three weeks before the families arrive in Nelson. She has a list of what each group needs and tries to fill it from the donations the shop receives.

It can be a challenge without knowing the specifics of each family, but the information she’s been given does help.

“Obviously if it’s a 16-year-old boy, I won’t give him a Thomas the Tank Engine duvet cover,” she laughs. 

Most of the donations have been given specifically for former refugee families, with additional stock coming from other Red Cross Shops in the region. Even then, Sandy sometimes finds it difficult to source all the items she needs and particularly struggles to find blankets, large pots and serving dishes, and containers with lids.

The quality of donated goods also varies and Sandy stresses the importance of good quality or new items, particularly when it comes to duvets, sheets, and pillows.

“I select the best of what I’ve got to make it a nice home,” she says.

Having Red Cross Shops involved in creating the household packs has also been welcomed by local volunteers. Heather Colling has been supporting former refugee families in Nelson for more than 10 years.

She was a tad sceptical when she first heard that Red Cross Shops would be doing the house set-up, worried that there wouldn’t be enough stuff and the shops wouldn’t be able to cope.

“I’ve been really impressed though,” Heather says.

“I thought the way everything had been put together was great, there were all the little extras that made a house into a home.”

How to help

If you have items you’d like to donate to help former refugees, you can contact the Red Cross Shop in Stoke, Nelson on (03) 547 7115.

If you’re in another location in New Zealand, you can find out about donating to your local Red Cross shop here.