Walk marks start of preparations to host refugees in district

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A group of 31 people participated in the Walk a Mile Campaign in Ashburton on Saturday, which marks the start of preparations for the arrival of refugee families in the district.

The walk was organised by the Refugee Settlement Support Service and Canterbury New Zealand Business Association and participants were invited to join the walk because they had shown a particular interest in assisting refugee families when they arrive to Ashburton.

Among the walkers were Rangitata List MP Jo Luxton and Ashburton deputy mayor Liz McMillan.

The group walked through the domain and were joined by former refugee Marian Hussein who left her homeland of Somalia as a refugee and was part of a resettlement programme to Christchurch in the 1970’s.

Mrs Hussein spoke about her refugee journey informally on the walk and then in a presentation at Ashburton Museum, where she answered questions and participants enjoyed morning tea.

Ashburton Refugee Settlement support team leader Kathy Harrington-Watt said Saturday’s event and Mrs Hussein’s talk had enriched an understanding of what experiences and challenges refugees overcome on their journey to resettlement in a new country.

Refugees were strong, resilient and survivors and they have a lot they can teach us.

Ashburton is still a confirmed settlement location and when the government decides it is possible to recommence the refugee settlement process, the district will be informed well in advance.

“We are planning to run various events that will enable members of the Mid Canterbury community to become informed and involved in the settlement of refugees in Ashburton,” she said.

Anyone interested in being involved in supporting or assisting refugee families when they arrive in Ashburton contact Kathy Harrington-Watt at Safer Mid Canterbury.