Families making new lives

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It’s been almost a year since Ashburton welcomed its first Afghan family to town as part of the refugee resettlement service.

Today there are seven families, 21 adults and 14 children, making a new life for themselves here and more set to arrive over the next few months.

Ashburton refugee settlement support team leader Kathy Harrington-Watt said there had been a great deal of learning and adjustments for everyone over the past 12 months.

“When we started preparing for the arrival of our former refugee families we often used the phrase will take a village’ to provide a safe and secure place for our new families.

“It has certainly been a village approach that has helped to make the settlement experience of our families a positive one,” she said.

While her team had been directly involved in addressing the settlement and daily needs of families, a lot of hard work had also been put in by other agencies, services and members of the public.

Mrs Harrington-Watt said the Afghan community in Ashburton had experienced some important religious and cultural milestones recently with their first Persian New Year in New Zealand and more recently the important month of Ramadan, and the celebration of Eid.

With every social and cultural event, the community built stronger connections with each other, which helped to establish a sense of place and belonging in Ashburton.

She said some of the former refugee adults are getting closer to being work ready after progressing with their English studies, while their children are at various schools and being well supported.

“The feedback from the families about Ashburton is very positive, they often comment on how friendly the people are.

“The generosity of the Ashburton people has been outstanding.”

There are a number of opportunities available for people to support the families here in Ashburton, including as a volunteer for the Refugee Settlement Support Service, or as a prospective employer.

Anyone interested in employing a former refugee can contact Wossen Agnew from the Red Cross Pathways to Employment Service (027 213 7793.) Donated blankets, bedding and kitchenware for families can be dropped off to St Vincent De Paul.

-By Mick Jensen