Refugee settling-in volunteers sought

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Stories of international support for refugees were the inspiration for two Dunedin flatmates to help with local refugee resettlement efforts.
Andrea Knight and Petra Fersterer signed up to help a family of former refugees settle in to their new life in Dunedin, an opportunity Ms Knight described as “fantastic”.
Ms Knight said she had been reading about countries around Syria supporting the refugees, but New Zealand had felt “far away” – but then “suddenly, Dunedin was a resettlement area”.
Although prior commitments prevented the pair from assisting earlier in the year, they became resettlement volunteers in December, supporting a family of seven to settle into Dunedin, Ms Fersterer said.
She said the differences in schedules between their team of five volunteers meant they could help out at different times and for different roles during the week, with some assisting during weekdays while others helped out at weekends or in the evening.
Ms Knight said the role involved helping their family schedule and get to appointments, learn where to buy things they needed and how to use the bus system, enrol at schools and find their way around Dunedin.
Ms Fersterer said the training provided by Red Cross had been “really helpful” and it was important for volunteers to understand they were always supported within a team of volunteers, as well as getting support from Red Cross staff and other organisations.
“The training was really good.”
Dunedin Red Cross volunteer co-ordinator Belinda Le Lievre said the seven training sessions covered everything from culture to education and the refugee journey and included a variety of guest speakers, including past volunteers and Ministry of Education representatives.
With six intakes of refugees a year, there was an ongoing need for new volunteers, she said.
Red Cross was especially looking for residents interested in their February training sessions, which would support refugees arriving in March, Ms Le Lievre said.
Dunedin Red Cross will host two volunteering information sessions at 4pm and 6pm on Tuesday, January 31. For more information visit www.redcross.org.nz.