On 10 September 2015 around 3,000 people attended a candlelight vigil outside Parliament in support of welcoming more refugees to New Zealand. They generously donated $2,259 to the Refugee Family Reunification Trust. The vigil was organised by Amnesty International, Action Station and Doing Our Bit, and was a wonderful expression of support for refugees. We thank them for choosing the Trust as the recipient of the donations.
One sunny Friday afternoon in August, on the panoramic 24th floor of HSBC Tower on Lambton Quay, four refugee children happily biked around the Simpson Grierson boardroom on their new BMX bikes. For a deaf 9 year old Syrian boy, twin 7 year old girls from Ethiopia and a 10 year old Colombian boy, it was the first bike they had ever had. As part of the firm’s scholarship interviews, the law student candidates took part in a team-building activity involving assembling the bikes and then giving them, with helmets, to these children who had recently arrived in New Zealand.
Thank you to Simpson Grierson for its continuing support for refugees.
Wellington-based charity, the Refugee Family Reunification Trust, has now raised over one million dollars since its inception in 2001. The milestone was officially reached this week, thanks to a symbolic donation made by the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR.
Richard Towle, Regional Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, made the donation this week during a visit to his home country, New Zealand.
Towle said that the amount of money raised by the small charity over the past 12 years was a clear endorsement of the importance of its work in bringing back together families separated by war or persecution.
The Trust is run on an entirely voluntary basis, with no salaried staff and no premises, so 100 per cent of donations go to refugees. The organization helps fund the costs, including immigration and medical fees and air fares, of reuniting refugees with family members already in New Zealand.
Towle said he was delighted to be able to support the Trust in achieving its fundraising milestone, and hoped generous New Zealanders would continue to support its work.
“Despite the barest of resources, the Refugee Family Reunification Trust has achieved – and continues to achieve – exceptional results, helping reunite more than 150 families, many of whom have been through terrible trauma before reaching New Zealand.”
The Trust was launched in 2001 by Amanda Calder, a qualified lawyer, who became aware of the plight many families find themselves in, while providing free legal advice to help former refugees with immigration applications for family members.
Last year it assisted with 52 applications, providing $152,000 towards such costs, including paying airfares to New Zealand for 30 adults and 34 children.
It has helped reunite many married couples, and children with their parents – including a newborn baby girl who was left behind in Ethiopia, and twin girls now living with their mother after six years apart.
Amanda, who still chairs the Trust, said that many had been living in appalling situations in refugee camps.
“Not only do the family members here face language difficulties in negotiating the immigration process, the fees required by Immigration New Zealand, costs for medicals, and the airfares to bring their relatives here are simply beyond their means,” she said.
“It just seemed so very wrong that because of these costs people could not bring their close relatives, including their children, to New Zealand.
“Right now, we have more families we are fundraising to help in this way, so we really appreciate the support of the donors and fundraisers who contribute so much to support our efforts.”
Sincere thanks to Elite International School of Beauty and Spa Therapies, located at Level 2, 265 Wakefield St (by New World, Chaffers St), which kindly chose the Trust to receive proceeds from its 2012 student client sessions. In December 2012 a cheque for $12,352.06 was presented to the Trust – so please support them for all your beauty treatments at great prices, including facial treatments, manicures, pedicures, waxing, electrolysis and massage.
“Amanda Calder is a former lawyer and chair of Refugee Family Reunification Trust – she received the QSM in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours. Ranka Margetic-Sosa, orginally from Bosnia, is a registered psychotherapist who works with refugees.”
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 accumulated under the tree! 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.