From April 16-20, 16 volunteers from the Waikato University Catholic Club (WaiCath) used their university break to run a holiday programme for children from refugee backgrounds.

The programme, which was run at Frankton Primary School in Hamilton, is a project of the Refugee Orientation Centre and has been running every school holiday for more than 7 years, but this is the second time that WaiCath have been involved.

Bearing in mind Pope Francis’ call to embrace migrants and refugees on this year’s World Day of Peace, the volunteers from WaiCath saw this as a wonderful opportunity to do something concrete, albeit small, to assist refugees trying to make a new life in New Zealand.

Preparing an activity were (from left) Sarah Wilson, Rose Devine and Crispina Menezes.

The volunteers were ready every morning at 8.30 for the 35 or so children of refugee families coming principally from Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan.

Many different activities were organised, including crafts, games and water sports, which were particularly popular with the children.

As well as being a lot of fun, the holiday programme was an eye-opener to the problems facing refugee families in New Zealand, with many having limited English and resources.

Rose Devine, a first-year student at the University of Waikato, said that “you would think that their problems would be over once they had escaped the country, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Once they arrive in New Zealand they have to deal with new challenges: culture shock, learning the language, making friends and just losing their home”.

Many of the volunteers found that they got a lot out of the programme themselves; Michael Kilkelly, also a student at the university and the president of WaiCath, said that “it felt like I was actually doing something that made a difference in more than a superficial way, because it required me to go outside of my comfort zone and to use a lot of my time and energy”.

WaiCath is very grateful for this opportunity and is looking forward to running the holiday programme again in April, 2019.

To contribute towards helping WaiCath with the running costs of the holiday programme, please email