Moving to a new country, where the culture and language are unfamiliar, can be challenging. A friendly welcome can make a huge difference, so Red Cross in Auckland has connected with a local marae to help former refugees settle in.

Red Cross recently organised a pōwhiri at Ruapotaka Marae in Glen Innes to welcome new families to Auckland.

Red Cross social worker Celia Brandon says the pōwhiri was an inclusive way to introduce former refugees to New Zealand life and Maori culture.

“We were keen to ensure Auckland families were formally welcomed to the city and connected with the tangata whenua. We talked about manaakitanga (hospitality, kindness) – the welcoming being an important aspect.”

The group, which includes Iraqi, Ethiopian, Myanmar, Palestinian and Sri Lankan families, joined Red Cross volunteers and staff and local residents for the pōwhiri.

Families were welcomed on to the marae by the local kaumatua and, following the pōwhiri, the group shared a meal of Iraqi food.

One of the families at the event said it was a great experience to be inside a marae, to be part of the ceremony and to meet new people.

Community orientation sessions, which enable former refugees to discuss their resettlement journeys and share important local information, will continue during the next few weeks, as the families settle into life in the city.

The Auckland team now plans to hold a pōwhiri as part of the community orientation sessions for all new arrivals, Celia says.

Every year, New Zealand Red Cross welcomes 1000 former refugees and supports them as they resettle in communities across Aotearoa. With the help of 120 trained staff and 600 volunteers, we support families for up to 12 months after their arrival.

If you’re keen to get involved and welcome new Kiwis in your community, find out more about volunteering and sign up today.