Pupils learn about plight of refugees

A group of Highlands Intermediate pupils showed an understanding of the problems faced by refugees during a presentation to mark World Refugee Day yesterday.

Taranaki Red Cross programme co-ordinator Candace Noyes spoke with students about the struggles faced by refugees in New Zealand and throughout the world.

Miss Noyes read a first-hand account of life as a refugee written by a Rwandan woman now living in New Zealand.

In 1994 the woman's life was turned upside down when the civil war in the East African country arrived at her doorstep.

Separated from her parents, she spent the next two years making her way "from home to home, city to city, country to country", until she reached her new home in New Zealand in 1996, almost two years later.

"Anyone can be a refugee, it doesn't matter what race, religion or occupation they are," Miss Noyes said.

The children followed up with questions that demonstrated empathy for the problems faced by refugees.

Language problems, adapting to a new culture, customs and foods were all topics of discussion, as well as what happened to asylum-seekers who were turned away by countries.

One pupil asked Miss Noyes what had made her want to help people.

"I worked at the SPCA in Vancouver, and when I came home [to New Zealand] I decided I wanted to help people in the community I came from and loved," she said.

This year the New Zealand Red Cross is using World Refugee Day to call for volunteers.

Susan Strongman is a Witt journalism student.

Taranaki Daily News