They scrubbed the bathroom and kitchen, unpacked donated toys and kitchenware and set up furniture. Bob, with an electric drill, toddler-proofed the kitchen cupboards and made a last-minute dash to the shops for extra supplies. Frances and Emma lovingly made up each of the beds, arranged the cupboards, chose toys for each bedroom and filled the kitchen cupboards with donated food.

Housing New Zealand finds housing for former refugees and New Zealand Red Cross helps to furnish them through donations.

“I hope to make them feel as comfortable, as welcome as possible here in New Zealand," Frances says.

"We are setting everything up so that when they come in, everything is ready to go. They have had a rough journey. Hopefully they can get some rest here.”

Frances moved to New Zealand from Ireland and knows what it’s like to be new to the country. “But I made that choice to come. These people have been forced into it."

Bob, who is from North America, says he became a Refugee Support Volunteer because he wants to give back.

“That experience of being an immigrant here – and how warm and welcoming the community was – I just want to share that and help others.”

Bob was living in Christchurch during the 2011 earthquake, which badly damaged his home.

“Bringing former refugees in again represents a rebirth of the city after the earthquakes. The city is open again; it’s back in business.

“We’re building up again. We’re getting stronger, more resilient. There’s an opportunity to share that with the rest of the world.”

Over the next three months, Bob, Frances and Emma will meet with the family regularly. They’ll provide them with practical assistance, and there will also be plenty of time for social visits and exploring Christchurch.

“There is a lot of stuff they have to do,” Frances says. “They have to register with WINZ (Work and Income New Zealand), with their GP, do a grocery shop. We need to show them the buses, get a metro card, show them how to read a bus route, and register with pre-school.

“But we also need to make sure they feel welcome and show them around the neighbourhood.

“I’m going to come around in the afternoons and bring the kids to the park or play with them while Mum and Dad have a bit of time out. Mum and Dad haven’t had any time out.”

Read more about the family they are supporting here.

Emma making up a bed for a former refugee

Become a Refugee Support Volunteer

Our Refugee Support Volunteers do an extraordinary job and are a core part of the services we offer to former refugees.

All volunteers take part in our comprehensive, multi-day training and are expected to attend each session. Training programmes are run in each of the settlement areas, at varying times throughout the year. Volunteers also receive mentoring and support throughout their placement.

Our volunteers are a friendly face and supportive guide. After training, volunteers begin their placement with a newly arrived family or individual. They work in teams to provide support and often find they become good friends with their team members. 

Teams are decided upon volunteer availability. We also try to match people with complementary skills.

Find out more about when training sessions in your region are taking place here.

Support former refugees in your community

There are plenty of ways you can get involved with former refugees in your community, including by donating goods to help turn houses into homes, becoming a Refugee Support Volunteer or giving a former refugee an employment opportunity.

Find out more about refugee settlement in New Zealand here.