Afghans given civic welcome

'We want to be ambassadors for Afghanistan'

CHRIS HYDE
Last updated 07:54 21/06/2013
Hongi
David Unwin/Fairfax NZ

SHARING A BREATH: Wiremu Kingi Te Awe Awe greets Hossain Baqeri with a hongi at a civic welcome for the interpreters at Te Manawa.

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With the sharing of song and a single breath, Afghan interpreters and their families were officially welcomed home.

All 10 men have already been presented with the New Zealand Operational Service Medal and the New Zealand General Service Medal Afghanistan in recognition of their service to the New Zealand Defence Force in their home country.

At Te Manawa yesterday - a week after their arrival in Manawatu - they received a full civic welcome to Palmerston North.

The welcome included a powhiri, speeches from city dignitaries, an exchange of waiata and the breaking of bread together.

One of the interpreters, Hussain Sayed, said that although the interpreters could not translate much Maori language, working with soldiers had taught them a lot about Maori culture, especially haka.

Now that Mr Sayed was in New Zealand he wanted to experience everything the country had to offer in the way of culture.

During the next month he would be searching for a job and would also like to expand on his Diploma in Management by studying in the city in future.

Mr Sayed said the families wanted to be model citizens to show Palmerston North the positive side of their home country.

"We want to be ambassadors for Afghanistan so that we can extend ties between our countries. Then when things settle in Bamiyan, New Zealanders will go there too and they will see it for what it is."

Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway told the families they were a new and important part of the city's diversity.

"You will be in good company in a community that knows all about setting up life in a new place."

Rangitaane kaumatua Wiremu Kingi Te Awe Awe told the families they would not have to work too hard to become model citizens.

"Just make sure that when the All Blacks are playing, turn the TV on and there will be no problem."

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- Manawatu Standard

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