Giving his first ever presentation in English, former refugee Hussam Alboghobeish thanked volunteers from Red Cross, church and community groups at an event on February 8 for the support given to his family to resettle in New Zealand.

Mr Alboghobeish’s family left Iran seeking safety, living as refugees for four and a half years in Indonesia before being resettled in New Zealand last year. “It takes courage, hope and prayer to move from one country to another, without any idea of what was going to happen to us,” he said.

But the family was delighted when they moved into a furnished, equipped home in Wellington, prepared by volunteers from parish and community groups in the Catholic and Anglican dioceses.

“Everything was clean, and there was no shortage of things. It was apparent that they worked hard to make us feel settled,” Mr Alboghobeish said when thanking volunteers at the appreciation event that had been organised by Red Cross to thank the church and community groups who collected items and set-up houses.

“On behalf of my family and myself, thank you from our hearts.”

Over the past two years, groups organised through the work of the Catholic and Anglican dioceses of Wellington, in partnership with the Red Cross, have set up 168 homes for 559 former refugees arriving in the Wellington, Porirua and the Hutt Valley.

In the Catholic Archdiocese of Wellington, the work has been coordinated by Wellington Catholic Social Services.

Accepting a plaque on behalf of the archdiocese and the many volunteers who have contributed to the work over the past two years, Wellington CSS director Dave Olivier acknowledged the work of church groups over many decades to welcome refugees.

“Cardinal John Dew and Archbishop Philip Richardson set us this challenge as faith communities in late 2015, when we were all spurred into action by media coverage of deaths of Syrian refugees trying to reach safety by crossing the dangerous sea,” Mr Olivier said.

“But we know that this need is not confined to one moment in time, or in history. The UNHCR tells us that worldwide there are currently more people displaced than at any previous time in history.”

The Catholic Archdiocese of Wellington is continuing to work in partnership with the Anglican Diocese of Wellington and the Red Cross to prepare homes for former refugees arriving in Wellington during 2018.

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