Global Women Team volunteer day: Red Cross refugee barbecue

Barbecue and salads, searing sun, shady totara and cabbage trees, picnic blankets and a lolly scramble: this was the taste of Kiwi culture given to refugees from the Mangere Refugee Centre in Auckland and their NZ Red Cross volunteers, as part of the Global Women office team’s annual day of giving back to the community.

The refugees who took part in last Friday’s Totara Park barbecue in Manurewa had fled Afghanistan, Eqypt, Iraq and Iran to late last year spend six weeks at the Mangere Refugee Centre. They had all left the Centre December 11 2015 to begin their new lives in New Zealand.

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NZ Red Cross Pathways to Settlement Volunteer Programme team leader/co-ordinator Heidi Cripps says this time of the year is not the easiest for newly-arrived refugees.

“It’s a rough time for them because they moved out of the Refugee Centre at a time when Auckland closes down. It’s a challenge for volunteers to keep the children occupied since it’s the school holidays. Usually they’re at school within the first or second week once they leave the Centre.”

The volunteers spend this critical integration period connecting families with things they need – establishing relationships with Work & Income to apply for grants for household items such as a fridge and washing machine, English classes, and enrolling them with a GP.

NZ Red Cross client services team leader, Celia Brandon, says a team within NZ Red Cross, Pathways to Employment, starts working with the families to find them employment at week five or six of being in the community. If they have the right skills and there’s good availability of employment, some families will gain employment from the third month onwards, but more often than not it takes a longer – the process of seeking and gaining employment in New Zealand may be different to what they’re used to in their home country.

For example in New Zealand, the CV and cover letter is the gateway to employment, and newcomers also need to understand the standard these must meet in a competitive job market.

“Our employment team help out with that, but it’s also about managing their expectations – some refugees assume getting into the police force, for example, would be easy because that’s where they came from back home, but it’s obviously more complicated,” says Brandon.

Other refugees might have a career plan that they need to get training for, so the NZ Red Cross volunteers would connect them with the right training organisations.

Global Women managing director Faye Langdon says giving back to the community is integral to the values of Global Women as an organisation.

“Activities like this – pulling together the barbecue – are also important for building team culture, especially when working for a values-driven organisation like Global Women.”

Global Women training and development manager Jessica Connors co-ordinated the day, and adds that aside from making a difference in the community, having your workforce run a volunteer day can build skills that are instrumental in a business environment – such as problem solving, mentoring and communications.

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