What does being a refugee support volunteer involve?

We make sure the house is fully furnished and services like the internet and power are set up. We help with school enrolments, doctor registration and connect former refugees with local shopping, transport and services. We help them make friends by linking them to the local community. Refugee support volunteers are part of the awesome Red Cross family, where good humour and professional support are close at hand.

What inspired you to volunteer?

My mother is originally from Lebanon and I spent time there working with an organisation helping families in Syria. I was back in Dunedin when the conflict began but I wanted to help beyond donating money. The opportunity arose when Red Cross put out the call for volunteers. I knew that Dunedin had a lot of hospitality, opportunities and quality of life to offer the former refugees, and I wanted to be part of that. 

What do you know now that you didn’t know when you first started volunteering?

I didn’t know the amazing extent of people’s generosity. People have donated everything from guitars and pianos to clothes and food. One stranger approached us in a shop and gave a former refugee family a twenty-dollar note. A sheep farmer offered us a bunch of lambs.

What’s your favourite part about being a refugee support volunteer?

Hearing former refugees talk about how hopeful they feel about their future in New Zealand, seeing the smiles on the children’s faces and how excited they are about school. Holding birthday parties for the kids is a big highlight. It’s very rewarding to be able to form relationships with people by being there at the start of their new lives. Also, Syrian food is amazing, so it’s pretty awesome when they invite us around for a feed!

I’m interested in volunteering. How do I get involved?

Find out more about the role, then sign up online.