Tammam Tamim says the Manawatū Refugee Voice members are opening their hearts to the people of Palmerston North in return for the love and support shown to them.

Newly elected MRV president Tamim says the 12 different cultures in the city want the locals to know them.

He's breaking down any barriers that stand in the way of understanding each other.

Tamim belongs to the Palestinian Syrian community and says the MRV's plan is to engage with the wider community.


"We are inviting everyone to our World Refugee Day on Saturday.

"We will talk, and we want to know what you want from us."

Tamim places his hand on his heart as he speaks of his family feeling safe and surrounded by love.

"Our responsibility is to go to the community, to do activities and visit them at home."

Tamim says fear holds people back.

"We are not going to be closed, we are going into the community.

"I shake your hand and hongi.

"We can do more as we share our food, you are part of our family and we are you.


"This is my new home and I need to take care of it."

Tamim and his family have been in Palmerston North now for three-and-a-half years.

He feels strongly about whanaū, building community, and the aroha he says that enriches community.

"If you want to fix anything in the community, you have to start with yourself."

But he remembers the displaced people who live in refugee camps; 60 per cent of the children were born in these camps.

This memory stays with him, but he has a job to do.

Tamim said his family spent five years in Thailand before coming to New Zealand.

"First, we had to understand their culture and what we could and could not do."

When they arrived in New Zealand Tamim said he wanted to learn about the Māori culture.

"We love to learn and want to know about the New Zealand culture."

His older son Mohammed, who is a Palmerston North Boys' High student, speaks Arabic, English, Thai, French and is learning Māori.

Tamim says Mohammed's career choice is to be an ambassador for New Zealand.

The MRV will be promoting two programmes.

One is education in English, maths, science and physics, and the other is health which encompasses a dental programme.

+World Refugee Day, 1pm-4pm, Saturday June 22, Barber Hall.