Joe’s parents were visiting Aotearoa New Zealand to visit their newborn grandchild – now six months old – when international borders started closing due to COVID-19. Due to the uncertainty of the situation back in Nepal, cancelled flights and expensive repatriation options, the grandparents decided to stay put. 

“It was really bad back home, so my husband didn’t want to send them back,” Sarah explains.  

Sarah, who has been living, working and studying in New Zealand for the past seven years, went back to her job at the local supermarket a month after she had her baby to help support her family. Unfortunately, soon after, she lost her job. 

“It was really hard for me after that. I was really depressed. Only one person in our family, my husband, was working,” says Sarah, who is in New Zealand on a temporary work visa.  

“When I lost my job, I went through a lot of trials. It's really hard to find a job at the moment. I couldn’t sleep at night. I was angry all the time. Only one person was earning and there were a lot of people here.” 

When Sarah heard about Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhuri, she tentatively applied.  

“I have spent seven years in New Zealand, and I’m close to getting my residency. I didn’t want Immigration New Zealand to say, ‘Red Cross is helping you with everything so you must go back to your country.’ So, I was really scared,” Sarah says.  

“But when I talked to [Red Cross] they said, ‘Don’t worry!’. They don’t share anything with Immigration New Zealand, and this support will not affect your immigration status. Apply for what you need.” 

A Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri team member with some recipients.

Sarah says the food vouchers and firewood they have received via the programme have been vital to get them through this uncertain time. 

“We have a big family, so it was really helpful for us. We don’t buy anything special, just the basics. We’re not spending anything on luxury stuff, just enough to live,” Sarah says. 

“I’m really against free stuff. It was a really desperate situation we were in that we took that food voucher." 

Sarah is pleased to say that she has now found casual employment, which amounts to about 25 hours of work per week.  

“Even though work is only a few hours, at least I can buy diapers for my baby. At least I can help with internet and electricity bills.” 

Sarah and Joe say they are invested in New Zealand, working towards getting their residency and buying a home. They say they are incredibly grateful for the temporary support they’ve received to help them through what has been an uncertain period.  

*Names have been changed for privacy reasons 

What is Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri?

Working with Te Tari Taiwhenua, Department of Internal Affairs, who is managing the New Zealand Government’s Foreign Nationals Impacted by COVID-19 Programme, New Zealand Red Cross is delivering in-kind assistance to help foreign nationals meet basic needs, such as food and accommodation. 

Find out more here.   

How can I apply?

People who are in need and on temporary (work, student, visitor) and Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) visas can check their eligibility and apply through foreignnationals.services.govt.nz. The programme will run for three months.

To find out what support you might be eligible for, head to https://covid19.govt.nz/business/covid-19-financial-support-tool/