Wairarapa welcome for refugees

By Emily Norman emily.norman@age.co.nz -
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Newly arrived refugees and Wairarapa Anglican parishioners enjoy a ride on the Mini Train in Featherston last year for "A Day in the Country". PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Newly arrived refugees and Wairarapa Anglican parishioners enjoy a ride on the Mini Train in Featherston last year for "A Day in the Country". PHOTO/SUPPLIED

More than 70 refugees are expected to board a train bound for Wairarapa for "A Day in the Country" on Saturday, March 12.

It is a regional Anglican initiative which has been run annually for at least five years.

Welcoming strangers with open arms is the inspiration behind the day, Archdeacon May Croft said.

Beginning at Featherston, and as they travel up the line to other Wairarapa towns, groups get off the train and are met and hosted by the respective church for the day.

"I think we're very conscious of the plight of refugees and how difficult it is for people to be uprooted from their own home," Ms Croft said.

"It has to be pretty bad if the only choice you're left with is to leave your own country behind."

Ms Croft said she remembers a young refugee last year who showed her a picture of her hometown before and after it was devastated by war.

"She said, 'this is what my home looks like now' and showed us a photo of her town. There were bodies. It's very sad," she said.

"You look at refugees and they're just like you and I. The big thing is that they feel safe here and they think Wairarapa is beautiful."

One of the outcomes of the day for the refugees is that they are taken to opportunity shops and community stores in Wairarapa to pick out some clothing and household goods to take back home on the train.

Ms Croft said the refugees who come along are generally families in their first year of settlement in New Zealand and they are are chosen by the Refugee Migrant Centre in the Hutt.

"We don't really know yet who we're going to be getting and there may be some Syrians with these people but if it's too soon for them, we intend to run another day later in the year and hopefully get them to come as well," Ms Croft said.

"We're just wanting to be like Jesus really.

"To be accepting and respectful of where they've come from and their culture, and to just make them feel that they're welcomed and valued here in this country."

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