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Loss of van a set back for refugee kids

ROSE CAWLEY
Last updated 05:00 22/08/2014
stolen van
Rose Cawley

NO WHEELS: Mesganaw Bitul’s had his van stolen and now he can’t pick up the youngsters who rely on him to get to the Ethiokiwi Homework Centre.

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Thieves stole more than a van when they robbed an Avondale man - they stole the opportunity for young Kiwis to improve their education.

Mesganaw Bitul was a common sight in his white Toyota HiAce, picking up youngsters to attend the Ethiokiwi Homework Centre at Wesley Intermediate.

But not anymore; the van was stolen from his driveway in Avondale earlier this month.

Bitul is the manager of the Ethiopian Sports & Cultural Club NZ, a not-for-profit community organisation that provides activities and support services to migrants and refugees in New Zealand.

Bitul and teacher Kristy Lorson opened the homework centre earlier this year to fill a gap within the Ethiopian community.

A good education is a must to help children and families adjust to life in New Zealand, Bitul says.

"It's very important for these kids to attend because of their family backgrounds and having limited educational experiences."

Every week about nine children depend on him to get to the centre after school.

Because of parents working, or limited transport within families, those children will now struggle to get the extra support they need to succeed at school, he says.

With the van missing and no insurance the end result is very hard for him to come to terms with.

"It is an unforgettable lesson - car insurance is very important. But it is sad because now I can't help these kids," Bitul says.

He has done his best, he says, to organise a private car to pick the kids up but it's not a long term solution.

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Teacher Kristy Lorson says the group will overcome the hurdle.

"It is just frustrating because we've only really just started and it has put a pause on things."

"Hopefully we can do some fundraising and in the long run we can get a van back."

The centre is open to all 8 to 12-year-old school children.

For students interested in attending the homework centre or those interested in making donations of education materials and resources, call Ethiopian Sports & Cultural Club manager Mesganaw Bitul on 828 9942 or 021 058 6134.

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