Homes being set up for refugees' arrival

Volunteers are working hard this weekend to ensure five Burmese former refugee families have comfortable homes when they arrive in Palmerston North next week.

The families, some of whom spent 15 years in a refugee camp in Thailand, are scheduled to arrive in the city on Friday, having spent six weeks in an orientation programme at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre.

Joanna Marshall, outgoing relief volunteer supervisor for Red Cross Refugee Services, said Housing New Zealand houses had been secured for four of the families, and a private rental had been found for the fifth family.

St Vincent de Paul had found furniture for them.

"This weekend the furniture will be delivered by St Vincent de Paul, and the linen and crockery we [will] deliver. So the volunteers this weekend will be setting up the houses for the new families."

She said the families would leave Mangere by bus on Friday morning and arrive in the city late in the afternoon to be met by a welcoming committee.

"St Vincent de Paul will also provide the families with a lovely food parcel to take home and see them through the first couple of days before they do their first grocery shop.

"The community provides a welcome dinner for each family, either in their homes or in a community member's home. So we do our best to make them feel welcome on their first night."

Acting manager Sonja de Lange said Red Cross Refugee Services was always looking for volunteers to help resettle former refugee families. They did not all have to commit themselves to the standard six-month term.

"We know that sometimes it's a huge, huge ask, because six months is a huge commitment," she said. "But there are different ways for people to assist us. Often as soon as the former refugee kids arrive here, a week later they want to be at school, so part of the volunteer role is to enrol kids at local schools and then, because the families just get a partial benefit in the first week, it's getting stationery, lunchboxes and schoolbags."

She said other former refugees families would arrive in April, which meant there was still a need for donations of items such as furniture and linen.

Manawatu Standard