15 March 2011

Christchurch Earthquake: Refugess Pitch in with Shovels, Food & Money

Social Services & Support Agencies work with all kinds of people who are at risk. During a natural disaster such as the recent earthquakes in Christchurch, those services must sometimes be stepped up to make sure these people are not marginalised or overlooked and the tragedy compounded.

Some people were able to leave Christchurch to stay with family or friends in other cities. Others were able to move in together with family in less affected suburbs. What of those without extended family in New Zealand? That would include any immigrants, but especially refugees.

Refugee Services reports, "In addition to the support being provided by government, Tāngata Whenua and the agencies and volunteers working with refugee background communities, refugee communities themselves are banding together to join the relief effort.

“In the days after the quake, families rallied together to support each other, and many of the ethnic group leaders have been working tirelessly to help their community members,” says Peter. “Many former refugees have told us that they want to give back to Christchurch, the city and its people who took them in and gave them a future in this country.”

A group of Somali former refugees put together food supplies to be passed through the fence to workers on the inside of the cordon. Numerous refugee background communities, including the Afar community in Hamilton and the Rakhine community in Wellington, have held fundraisers and donated the proceeds to relief efforts, and the Afghan and Somali communities in Christchurch have come together to help clear liquefaction, which has affected many Christchurch residents.

WebsiteLiquefactionTeamWhile many challenges still lie ahead as Christchurch and its residents recover from the quake, Refugee Services will continue to partner with other support agencies and refugee communities to offer whatever support is needed to former refugees. “Our primary goal at the moment is to ensure former refugees are aware of what support is available to individuals and families and to assist them to access that support,” says Heather. “We are working closely with other agencies and service providers and providing a link between them and the former refugees affected by the quake.”

As those affected by the disaster make decisions about whether to stay in Christchurch or relocate to other parts of the country, Refugee Services staff are providing up-to-date information that will ensure all clients are able to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

“For those who opt to stay, there is and will continue to be increased and targeted support specifically to assist earthquake victims,” says Heather, “and Refugee Services will do whatever we can to help clients to access that support. Our goal is to work with all former refugees to rebuild and re-establish their lives in Christchurch, if that’s what they decide to do. And for those who decide to leave, we will do whatever we can to link them with the appropriate support systems to start building their lives in a new area.”

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