A Forgotten Story 

One of the forgotten stories in the face of the current pandemic is the plight of refugees we have only just welcomed to New Zealand. Many of them arrived less than eight months ago. The doubled refugee settlement quota will welcome 1500 refugees each year. As of March 2020, we had received at least half of these, with 797 arrivals, the majority are from the Rohingya region of Myanmar.  Arrivals by country and NZ resettlement locations were:
















 At CNZBA, our campaign, “Walk a Mile with a Refugee” has helped ordinary New Zealanders to get alongside and speak with refugees, hearing their stories and understanding their histories and beginning to journey with them to understand how we can better support them. We take a pragmatic approach to refugee resettlement by connecting these special people to the wider community from whom we ask engagement and direct support.  As an association, we are also advocating and looking forward to working with the central government on the development and implementation of a micro-enterprise scheme to support refugees, especially  women.  

With refugee resettlement during the pandemic, it is perhaps an interesting time to talk to refugees, because unlike us, they have already undergone periods of isolation from family, sudden changes in lifestyle and dealing with the shock of trauma and the emotional upheaval that come with  fleeing from political conflict.  

They have a lot to teach us in terms of coping with tragedy and dealing with dramatic unexpected changes that are often scarring. When refugees are displaced by conflict or disaster, life as they once knew it, abruptly ceases. Their jobs, their homes, their dreams, and plans are all gone. Alessandra Morelli, one of the United Nations field workers for Refugees (UNHCR), whose key role is to help them rebuild their resilience, writing in a UNHCR newsletter on April 26th – she said “I believe that some of what we have learned from our fieldwork can be helpful for us all in this current crisis:  

  1. Stay Connected 
  2. Learn New Skills 
  3. Keep Hope alive”  

Are you apprehensive about getting back to work, or maybe suffering emotional and mental distress from the lockdown? These coping strategies could be employed in connecting with refugees as a really good way to come out of the shadows and from our own traumatic experiences. It will enable us, like refugees, who must learn to cope and build new skills, to rebuild our own lives. Their journey reflects what we will be doing as a country, and the idea of keeping hope alive, of finding a new way of coping. Viewed in this way the disruption of our everyday lives means we will be enabled to adapt to our new reality moving forward.   

CNZBA will run free online coaching sessions based on cross-cultural understanding for those wanting to work with refugees. For those interested, sign up on our contact form, subject: Cross-Cultural Training –

 The Strategies you will learn are from Sheryl Takagi Silzer and Leslie Foster cross-cultural competency manual. Leslie is an NZ based Language and Culture Learning Consultant – they define culture as ‘the everyday way of doing things. 

Culture includes:   

  • how you respond  
  • how you make decisions  
  • how you go about doing the daily activities in your life.   

These are very important concepts we can apply to help us cope with the rapid changes we are experiencing, but also equip us to be more effective in helping refugees.   

The Association will be also offering free counseling to refugees and coaching for women to cope with the changes.   

In return, you can help connect with a refugee family by joining the association and donating goods or money to assist with our campaign  


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