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Refugee Family Reunification Trust Newsletter

Refugee Family Reunification Trust
P.O. Box 27342
Marion Square
Wellington 6141

No. 10 – November 2011

Cardinal Thomas Williams
Dame Fiona Kidman
Niborom Young
Kim Hill

Amanda Calder Chairperson
Therese O'Connell
Ismail Ibrahim
Brigid Feehan
Philippa Meachen


This year marks a significant milestone for the Trust - we have now been helping refugees for more than 10 years.

In that time, the Trust has approved 230 applications for assistance from refugees in Wellington needing help with the costs of bringing their families to join them here. Some refugees have needed assistance on more than one occasion, for example, at the beginning of the immigration process (with the cost of application fees and medicals required by Immigration New Zealand), and then with the cost of the airfares - the final step in reuniting a family. This has resulted in 181 different refugee families being helped. It is very rewarding to see so many families reunited after such long separations from each other, and to know that the Trust has played a vital part in this outcome.

The total number of refugees benefitting through the Trust is even greater than these numbers indicate, as most refugees assisted by the Trust have brought out more than one family member. For example, this year 14 applications for funding resulted in the Trust paying for airfares to bring 36 refugees - including 23 children - to join their families in Wellington, at a cost of about $75,000. To date, the Trust has paid for airfares to bring over 340 refugees - many of whom were children and young people - to re-join their families in Wellington. Without the help of the Trust, many of these families would not have been able to begin the immigration process or, at the final stage, been able to pay the high cost of the airfares.

In the past year, there has been a significant increase in the number of refugees seeking assistance from the Trust - with 47 applications (totalling approximately $103,000) being approved for funding. This represents the greatest demand for our help in any twelve month period.

Since the Trust was established in 2001, we have raised well over three-quarters of a million dollars for refugees. We are particularly proud of this achievement, as not a single dollar of donations has been used to generate this income. We do not pay for advertising, fundraisers, salaries or rent - so that 100% of donations can be given to refugees. No remuneration is paid to the Trustees, and the Trust does not receive any government funding. Separate funding is obtained specifically for necessary administration costs, and we are able to keep these to a bare minimum due to the Trust's reliance on unpaid volunteers.

By nationality, the families who have been assisted by the Trust were originally from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Liberia, Sudan, Myanmar, Colombia and Banda Ache. Many of these families were living in refugee camps in Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan.

Although it is constantly a challenge for the Trust to raise money, it is even more difficult for refugees to do this for themselves. We will continue to do our best to raise enough money to help all refugees in Wellington who are eligible to be reunited with their families.


Mohammad's Story - an update

In our last newsletter we told Mohammad's story, and reported that the Trust had approved $11,000 towards the airfares to bring his parents and six siblings to join him in New Zealand. They finally arrived in Wellington in January 2011, and have settled here remarkably well. The younger three siblings attend Onslow College, and another is at Wellington High. Although they had never been to school before, they are thriving. The older two boys have started work in the Brooklyn Bakery, and also have English lessons with their parents every morning. They have found a lovely house to rent in Khandallah, with beautiful sea views.

Te Papa's Christmas Tree

In December 2010, Te Papa Tongarewa selected the Trust as the charity to receive the gifts donated to it at Christmas time. A beautiful Christmas tree was set up in Te Papa's foyer, and a wonderful number of presents soon appeared! It gave us a great deal of pleasure to deliver these gifts to refugee families throughout Greater Wellington.

Those families came to New Zealand from as far away as Burma, Afghanistan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Colombia. They were all surprised and delighted to receive these gifts, and the children in particular were very excited and happy. Our sincere appreciation to all those who donated gifts to Te Papa - your kindness and generosity gave a great deal of happiness to some of the least fortunate in our community.

Fundraising Concert

In August 2011 we held a very successful fundraising concert by Marist singer/songwriter Father Chris Skinner at St Joseph's Church in Mt Victoria, raising a total of $3,553. The Trustees are very grateful to the Wellington Catholic Social Justice groups for organising the event, to Father Skinner for his wonderful performance, and to Nadifo and Etsegenet who provided a beautiful Somalian and Ethiopian supper. We truly appreciate the effort that made this concert so enjoyable, and thank everyone for their support.


The Trust's Chairperson, Amanda Calder, received a Queen's Service Medal in the Queen's Birthday Honours List 2011 in recognition of her work as an advocate for the refugee communities in Wellington, and for facilitating the successful resettlement of refugees in New Zealand. As well as running the Refugee Family Reunification Trust, Amanda has been a volunteer at the Wellington Community Law Centre for more than 13 years, and was instrumental in setting up the Refugee Immigration Legal Advice Service. Upon receiving the award, Amanda commented that

"It is a real privilege and honour to work with refugees, and it gives me a great deal of satisfaction every time a family is brought back together again. I have been given a lot of support, for which I am very grateful."

Another Award

In October 2011 the Trust received a "Recognition for Achievement and Service Award" from Wellington Refugees as Survivors Trust for an outstanding contribution towards the services and programmes successfully delivered to former refugees during the 2010/2011 year.


We remain extremely grateful to all our donors, who are ultimately responsible for the successful reunification of so many deserving families. We hope that you are able to continue your support, as each donation – whether by way of regular automatic payment, or a one-off gift – is a vital contribution towards getting a family back together again.


A number of individuals and private Trusts, who wish to remain anonymous, have made very generous donations to our Trust. Other significant donors over the past year include Caritas, the Thomas George Macarthy Trust, The Catholic Foundation, St Joseph's Parish (Mt Victoria), St Catherine's College and Queen Margaret College. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Many volunteers have kindly given their time. Special thanks to Chris Brimer for keeping the accounts. English Language Partners Wellington support us in a number of ways, including by the use of their box number. We would also like to thank the Trust's auditor, Peter Scholtens. We are very grateful to Phil Dyer for taking photographs for the Christmas card and for this newsletter, and to Lesley Hooper for helping to manage the database. David Colls again generously donated his time to format this newsletter. Sister Rachel and Nathan Smith both provide wonderful support to new families after they arrive in Wellington.

About Us

The Refugee Family Reunification Trust is a charitable trust incorporated under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957 and registered under the Charities Act 2005. Donations of $5 or more can be tax deductible.

The pure of the Trust is to financially assist refugees in Wellington to bring immediate family members to join them here. Reuniting these families greatly improves the lives of those refugees already living in New Zealand, and is critical to their successful resettlement and integration.

All money raised is used exclusively to help refugees pay for the expenses directly related to bringing family members from refugee situations. This includes application fees charged by, and medical reports required by, Immigration New Zealand, and the cost of airfares to bring approved family members to New Zealand.

How You Can Help

By Post – Send a donation to the Refugee Family Reunification Trust, PO Box 27342, Marion Square, Wellington 6141.
By Automatic Payment – Telephone us at (04) 475 7994 and we will send an automatic payment form to you to complete and return to us.
By Telephone – Telephone us to discuss any fundraising event you are organising that may be able to contribute towards the Trust.
By Email – Send a message to
By Internet Banking – contact for details

Refugee Family Reunification Trust
PO Box 27342, Marion Square, Wellington 6141.
Telephone: (04) 475 7994 or (04) 384 1992
Fax: (04) 475 7934
Website: refugeefamilyreunificationtrust.org.nz

For privacy reasons, refugees' stories and photos are not included on our website.