Nelson Red Cross volunteer Claire Hughes with a bag that was given to her by a family she has helped settle in the area. She is encouraging others to put their hand up to help settle refugee families in Tahunanui. Photo: Andrew Board.

Colombian refugees coming to Tahuna

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Tahunanui is set for a flash of South American flare when four Colombian families settle in the area next month and the Red Cross is hoping some locals will step forward to help them settle in their new town.

It is the first time Red Cross has settled Colombians in Nelson under the refugee quota. Around 15 people, from four families, will arrive at the start of December after a six week orientation at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre.

Red Cross community services manager Chris Stuart says Nelson has a “long and proud” history of successful resettlements.

“Nelson punches above its weight when it comes to resettlement and we know the town will band together to make these new arrivals feel welcome.”

Red Cross is now seeking refugee support volunteers to help make the new Kiwis feel welcome.

Volunteers play an essential role in the resettlement process; they are a friendly face and supportive guide for former refugees as they settle into New Zealand.

Claire Hughes is a volunteer currently working with a family originally from Myanmar. She says it’s incredibly rewarding and would encourage others to step forward.

“I’m quite new to Nelson, so it’s helped me form strong friendships and feel at home in the community,” she says.

“It’s also really nice to know that you’re making a difference to people’s lives and great to learn about different cultures.”

She says she helps them set up their house, take them to do their first shopping, help the children get their vaccinations, sort out school stationary and uniforms, and help in dealing with Work and Income to organise payments.

She says the toughest part of the role has been the language barrier. “But you kind of adapt and use lots of hand movements, and Google images has been helpful.”

There will be a public talk about Red Cross refugee programmes and how people can get involved on Wednesday, November 16, at 12:30pm at Elma Turner Library. Alternatively, people interested in volunteering can email [email protected]