WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Compassion for the stranger

Sr Rachel Moreno

One of the delights of working with refugees is being able to share their joy at welcoming family here.

I work with several refugee families as part of my mission as a Sister of Compassion. Earlier this year I joined an Ethiopian family I have been involved with at the airport to greet their family whom they had waited seven years to bring here.

I am part of a team at the Suzanne Aubert Compassion Centre, known as the Soup Kitchen. Our mission is to know and express the compassion of Jesus Christ.

Because my mother was a Polish refugee at the age of 10 and often talked of her horrific experiences leaving Poland and her time in refugee camps in Siberia, I feel called to this aspect of ministry. ‘I was a stranger and you made me welcome’ [Mt 25].

My task in this ministry is to befriend, support, empower, encourage, act as an advocate, develop skills for self-advocacy and provide practical help with household goods and accommodation.

Helping with the socialisation process for new refugees entails time and energy. Building friendship, trust, empathy and understanding are part of this process – there is a lot of ‘being with’ people, listening to their stories. Many of the refugees I work with have lost family and friends, and suffered political and social persecution, physical and/or mental torture and trauma.

These distressing experiences continue to trouble refugees when they come to New Zealand and can stay with them for a long time. They find it difficult to settle, knowing that loved ones remain in refugee camps or similar appalling situations. Their thoughts are always with their families back home, and many suffer from psychological conditions including depression, sleeplessness and eating difficulties.

The Refugee Reunification Trust helps refugees in Wellington with finance and applications for visas for immediate family members to join them in New Zealand.

The trust helped my Ethiopian friends as did the Sisters of Compassion, St Francis de Sales Parish and St Anne’s School. An individual donation topped up the $10,000 that was needed.

Now the work continues to help the new arrivals settle in to life in New Zealand. I believe that reuniting families in this way is key to successful resettlement of refugees in New Zealand.

My mission as a Sister of Compassion is one of care with compassion and I do this through my ministry and outreach.