New arrival on the airwaves

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Jeff Harford, Otago Access Radio community liaison

The distance between Syria and Dunedin is not as great as many might think, according to one of Otago Access Radio’s (OAR FM) newest broadcasters.
Muhammad Reda, whose family was among the group of Syrian refugees who arrived in Dunedin in May, presents his own show Arabic Minutes every Wednesday at 7pm. He says he has been made to feel welcome since relocating with his wife and two young children from Az-Zabadani, a hill station in southwestern Syria.
‘‘There is not a great difference between Az-Zabadani and Dunedin, but I think Dunedin is the best place in the world.
‘‘The people here give us all love and are very friendly with the Syrian refugees. When I meet a person here, their smile is very big.’’
Reda previously worked as a merchant in his hometown, buying and selling clothes and shoes. More recently, he worked with UN refugee agency UNHCR and several non-government organisations involved in helping Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Asked why he chose to train as a volunteer broadcaster with the community access station, Reda said he appreciated the opportunity to have freedom of expression and to give all people in New Zealand a taste of his homeland.
‘‘I have something I want to tell the people. With radio, I can do that.’’
Arabic Minutes included recitations from the Qur’an, information about Syrian culture and updates on the conflict in Syria, supplemented with music from Arabic artists.
OAR FM manager Lesley Paris said the station was delighted to be working with Reda on his programme, one of nine locallymade shows currently included in the Connecting Cultures Zone, which airs Monday to Wednesday evenings.
‘‘The support we’ve received from the Office for Ethnic Communities’ Settling In Fund has helped us broaden the diversity of our ethnic programming. In turn, it has helped people like Reda feel more connected with their community, which is a great outcome,’’ she said. – Arabic Minutes airs Wednesdays at 7pm on OAR 105.4FM and 1575AM, and live and podcast from www.oar.org.nz.