Nga Puna O Waiorea

Red Cross Support Group

By Alix Jansen & Stanley Woodhouse | August 30 2006

The Red Cross Support Group at Western Springs College has been visiting the Mangere Refugee Centre regularly to help out with the Red Cross Day held for each new intake of refugees.

Every six weeks a group of around 10 students from the college join a clown, a face painter and the staff in creating something of a day off from the normal life of a refugee. For four hours the group plays games and activities with the refugee children, who are mainly from Myanmar (formerly Burma). Phil Clark, co-ordinator of the day, believes it is a very positive experience for the refugees, many who have spent almost their entire lives in refugee camps in places like Thailand. For the first six weeks in New Zealand the refugees live and attend schooling in the centre. The day is an attempt to break up the normal patterns and give the refugees some contact with New Zealanders who welcome their presence in the country.

The group has 15 main members but anyone is welcome to join, so long as they are keen to help out. The students that have attended the Red Cross Days see it as a fun way to be more involved in the community and learn more about the experiences of refugees coming to New Zealand. The days have been so successful in terms of the children that the group plans to set up a second day focussed around crafts.