”I know what it feels like to be an outsider trying to fit in.”

Diana Omuoyo, who volunteers with New Zealand Red Cross’ Wellington Branch, is used to being “the odd one out”. This modern-day adventurer courageously left her home country of Kenya as a teenager to study in the United States of America.

Diana moved to New Zealand three years ago to work in software/performance engineering, an industry that is typically male-dominated.

Organising and assembling Welcome Packs for former refugees arriving in Wellington is how Diana “pays forward” the many acts of kindness she received as a new arrival in both the United States and New Zealand.

“I’m now always conscious of reaching out to others. It’s a no brainer,” she says.

Welcome Packs are one of many ways New Zealand Red Cross supports former refugees arriving in a new and unfamiliar place. Wellington Branch members raise funds to buy the pack items then assemble them.

The packs contain basic things such as toothbrushes, soap and tea towels to help get former refugees started in their new homes. They are tailored to the age and number of people in each family. The branch also supplies other essentials, including bus passes.

Kiwis may consider them everyday basic items but Diana knows that to people arriving with nothing, they can mean everything.

Diana enjoys shopping for up to 250 items that go in the packs, although on occasion she has had to dash back to the shop when the toothbrush count went astray. She’s also learned to manoeuvre a convoy of overloaded shopping trolleys across a busy street and into Red Cross offices for assembling.

The teamwork involved in working with other branch members to produce the packs is another highlight.

Diana used to worry her contribution was not enough, but hearing former refugees speak of their experience settling into Wellington reassured this big-hearted new Kiwi that the little things can make a big difference in people’s lives.

The combined voluntary efforts of all Red Cross members add up to create something of great benefit to others.

Learn more and get involved with New Zealand Red Cross’ Refugee Programmes.