Bike gives refugee ticket to ride
A small donation has opened up the city of Hamilton for a Burmese refugee.NICOLA BRENNAN-TUPARA
Leaving all his belongings, former refugee Ah Kar fled his homeland Burma to avoid persecution or forced labour.
He spent 15 years living in a refugee camp in Thailand, before being accepted as a refugee to New Zealand this year.
In May he arrived in Hamilton - alone - not knowing a soul in the city.
But one small donation has made a huge difference to his integration into the community - a donated bicycle.
The bike, given to him by Refugee Service within two weeks of his arrival, has allowed him the the independence to travel to his english classes, do his grocery shopping and visit other Burmese refugees in the city.
''It's made a lot of difference,'' he told the Times through an interpreter.
Money that might have been used for the bus, could now be spent on other things. And he didn't even mind the Hamilton rain.
''I have a jacket. It would be very nice if other refugees could also get a bikes like mine.''
And that's what Refugee Services, with the help of Hamilton City Council, are hoping to do.
Refugee Services Waikato Manager Rachel O'Connor said having a bike could make a world of difference to a new immigrant, especially the Burmese who were used to riding a lot in their homeland.
The idea came about two years ago when a wave of Burmese refugees first started arriving.
There are now 20 Burmese families living in Hamilton.
They put the word out and gradually bikes started to be donated.
She said the bikes had been ''fantastic'' at making new immigrants independent and part of the community. Plus the bikes were a lot cheaper to run than a car.
Council neighbourhood sport and recreation coordinator Andrea Timings, said they had a number of second-hand bikes needing some work before
they could be roadworthy and donated to refugee families.
This year alone 16 bikes had been donated.
''A Refugee Services' volunteer did all the work on them and spent many hours getting them roadworthy,'' she said.
The efforts of that volunteer, like many others, made a huge difference to the immigrants integration.
But Refugee Services needed more. The next Volunteer Support Worker course starts next month and they are looking for new members.
A volunteer must undergo a training course, which covers a range of topics, including the refugee experience, the role of the volunteer support worker, teams and teamwork, refugee health and well-being, refugee education, support services and culture.
Anyone wanting to know more about the service can contact Ms O'Connor on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07 853 2195.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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