On March the 2nd, volunteers from a number of Anglican parishes unpacked furniture, made beds, set up kitchens and stocked pantries – for people they may never meet.
Christina Curley of St Barnabas, Roseneath, was one of many volunteers taking an active part in using donated household items to set up homes for former refugee families to move into when they arrive in the Wellington and Manawatu areas. However, due to the understandable need for privacy for these families as they adjust to their new lives, the volunteers may never get to meet those who benefit from their labour. “In Aotearoa New Zealand, we really prize manaakitanga [hospitality, taking care of people] as a national value – across all our cultures,” says Christina. “It’s built into who we are. It’s also about building whānaungatanga – helping them feel a sense of belonging in a new place, through what can be a difficult time of adjustment.”
So for Christina, volunteering in this capacity is never about seeing the gratitude of the families. “It’s important to do this because we want people to feel welcomed when they come to New Zealand and start their new life. [But] more important is the ongoing support – the Red Cross volunteers do a great job with that.”
Christina’s desire to help came from a frustration at recent world events, and a belief that one must start with one’s own backyard, knowing that every small act of kindness has a ripple effect around the world. “I’d been looking for small things I could do that would make a difference to someone else, and this seemed like a good opportunity to put my money where my mouth is.” Christina says that part of the impetus to help came from friends who recently collaborated with New Zealand Red Cross on a documentary website about refugee women in New Zealand.
Perhaps at the root of all her desires to be helpful, it was Christina’s faith that compelled her to step forward. “To me it’s a no-brainer. As Christians, we have a duty to care for others and steward the earth. So that means mitigating poverty and helping those in need.” Christina’s experience of living overseas has certainly developed her empathy for those whose circumstances lead them to make a new life in New Zealand. “I’d probably feel really overwhelmed to walk into a new home where you can open the cupboards and it has everything you need, including food.”
So what is Christina’s verdict on the experience? “This is the first time I’ve done this, but I’m definitely keen to do it again.” Good on you Christina, and good on the rest of the team involved!
To find out how you can help, email Rev Kay Webster. Parishes are invited to collect household goods, volunteer to sort and organise the goods, and/or volunteer to set up the house with training provided by the Red Cross.
If you live in Palmerston North, you can also help former refugee community organisations to complete applications for philanthropic and government funding. If you have experience in completing funding applications and are able to give some time over the course of at least a year, email Gail Munro or phone her on 027 340 8186.
In related world news: the Church of Ireland has launched a resource on Supporting Asylum Seekers and Refugees.
Image: courtesy New Zealand Red Cross