New-immigrant support boosted

WELCOME: New Aoraki migrant support co-ordinator Rosie Knoppel talks to Asha, left, and Vali Patel.
WELCOME: New Aoraki migrant support co-ordinator Rosie Knoppel talks to Asha, left, and Vali Patel.

A new support worker has been employed to help the 2064 immigrants who have moved to South Canterbury since the 2006 census.

The Aoraki Multicultural Council has received a $15,000 grant from the Community Trust of Mid and South Canterbury to help it employ support worker Rosie Knoppel.

Timaru District Council citizenship analyses between 2007 and 2012 show most of the 436 new citizens have come from Britain, leading with 196, followed by 85 South Africans becoming citizens. India provided 24 new citizens, 22 were from the Philippines, 20 from Ireland, and 10 from Fiji. Not all immigrants are eligible to apply for citizenship and those who do become citizens must have residency.

Mrs Knoppel is based in Community House and supports immigrants by helping to provide access to resources and services, promoting multicultural events and interaction, and helping newcomers settle in the region.

She cannot provide immigration advice.

"When you see people come in and leave with a smile on their face, it is all worth it.

"I see people who are a bit shy or have a language barrier or come from a different religious background and help them connect with others.

"Sometimes they just want to talk to someone because they feel a bit isolated and want to meet people."

The newcomers group holds coffee mornings, walking groups and pot-luck dinners for immigrants.

Mrs Knoppel knows what it is like to be a newcomer, moving to the region with her German husband five years ago after seven years in Switzerland and 15 years before that in France, having been born in Germany. "It can be very isolating. We live in Clandeboye and the hardest thing for me was meeting people and I speak English, so I did not have that language barrier."

The role was developed after the release of the report, Settling In Aoraki, which gathered information from about 30 focus groups representing various immigrant ethnicities. Two big issues the report revealed were that new immigrants and refugees needed better access to information and services. The drop-in centre at Community House is open Monday to Friday, 9am till 1pm.

The Timaru Herald