Volunteers helping refugees settle in

Carolyn Hollings, right, and daughter Jasmin.
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Carolyn Hollings and her daughter Jasmin have discovered arewarding way to help out in the community,

They are volunteers with Safer Mid Canterbury Refugee Settlement Support and have been assigned two families to assist.

Carolyn said she read about it in the paper and thought it was something her and her daughter could do.

‘‘We’ve hosted a lot of Japanese soccer players and we enjoy that sort of thing, and it lead on from that.’’

She said they like to visit the families weekly and it doesn’t necessarily involve an activity or outing.

‘‘It’s just friendship, you’ve got to have a sense of humour cause man we have some laughs.

‘‘Sometimes we take them grocery shopping, or just visit – they enjoy sitting and talking building their English skills.’’

The pair have been volunteering for around a year and in that time they have noticed a change.

‘‘They improve all the time you can see they are definitely improving, especially when they have school age kids because they come home from school with a lot more English,’’ Carolyn said.

Jasmin is 23-years-oldand younger than the average volunteer.

Refugee Settlement Support volunteer co-ordinator Wendy Hewitt said they didn’t have very many volunteers Jasmin’s age, and because most of the families have children it is good to have some volunteers in a similar age group.

‘‘It’s really nice have younger volunteers like Jasmin,’’ she said.

Jasmin said it was very rewarding, ‘‘just to have those friendships, and they think of me as family as well.’’

Carolyn said they would recommend volunteering with refugees to anyone.

‘‘It is so rewarding, you can see the difference you’re making with them, they are so pleased to see you, we know they appreciate us as much as we appreciate their friendship,’’ she said.

Carolyn works as a teacher aid and Jasmin is training in early childhood, so it is important the volunteering work can fit around their life.

Carolyn said it was entirely up to a volunteer how much time they put in.

‘‘Which is good for us because we’ve got other things happening, if you’ve only got an hour to spare that’s better than nothing.

‘‘They are so so appreciative of everything that you do for them, they couldn’t be kinder, you go there and get lavished with tea and food.’’

The refugees are from Afghanistan and the mother and daughter team have been learning about their culture.

‘‘They think Mid Canterbury is beautiful,’’ Carolyn said, ‘‘and they love the people here, everyone has been really kind and friendly to them.’’

Wendy tries to match families with the volunteers.

‘‘It is a balancing act, part of it is location and part of it is who needs a volunteer next and also a big part of it is what age group would this family like to be with.’’

There are three more families arriving from Afghanistan in July, so Wendy needs more volunteers.

She said it is good having mother and daughter teams like Carolyn and Jasmin, and having more volunteers Jasmin’s age would be abonus.

‘‘And we need men, we’ve got two male volunteers one is with the families, the other is a handy man,’’ Wendy said.

Carolyn said anybody who signs up to be a volunteer will not regret it.

‘‘It is so rewarding, it really is life changing for everyone.’’

If you would like to know more about volunteering email: [email protected]