Saturday, April 26, 2008

New batch of refugees arrive

Source: Manawatu Standard

There were plenty of smiles yesterday when Palmerston North's newest refugees - the first from Bhutan - arrived in the city to cries of welcome from volunteers and supporters.

In all, 17 people were greeted during the day and whisked away to new homes, which were for some their first in many years.

The Koirala family, who arrived at Palmerston North Airport shortly after 2pm, fitted that category.

Parents Bedamani and Tikamaya, both teachers, spent 17 years at the Sanischare refugee camp in eastern Nepal and now with their children, Kamal, Neera and Anu, are looking forward to a fresh start.

They won the chance to move to New Zealand in a United Nations' co-ordinated ballot and are fresh from six weeks of orientation at the Mangere Reception Centre.

Their next task is to settle into their new home, furnished with donated goods, and become familiar with the intricacies of their new city.

Volunteers will help them with such tasks as finding doctors, getting jobs, dealing with government agencies, using the city bus system, English language training and assessment, where to buy familiar foods, and exploring possibilities for further education.

Mr Koirala is optimistic about his new life.

"I am a teacher, but I don't know what I will be doing here yet," he said. "It depends on what use I can make of my skills. We are the first Bhutanese refugees to come to New Zealand."

Last night the 17 refugees attended a communal dinner arranged by supporters. After that, the next stage of their adventure begins.

While they were settling in yesterday, a similar group was doing the same in Christchurch.

RMS Refugee Resettlement volunteer programme co-ordinator Lorna Johnson, one of the greeters at the airport yesterday, said she thought the Koirala family was likely to settle in quite quickly. But that won't mean Refugee Resettlement's job is done.

"There is another group arriving in Palmerston North in June and we are looking for more volunteers to help them," she said.

"Actually, we are always looking for volunteers."

Mrs Johnson said anyone interested in helping the families (training is provided) should phone Refugee Resettlement on 355-1415.

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