Lesley Hooper, Director, Catholic Social Services, Wellington
Over the last two months the team at Catholic Social Services has worked alongside the Anglican Diocese and Red Cross to prepare to welcome about 90 refugees – mainly from Syria – to their new homes in Wellington, Porirua and Lower Hutt.
A call went out to the Catholic and Anglican parishes to help prepare the houses and the response has been overwhelming. On Sunday 21 February over 70 Catholic and Anglican parishes and other organisations delivered over 2,000 household items and 24 pantry packs to the Anglican Cathedral’s Loaves and Fishes hall in Wellington.
Goods ranged from television sets, microwaves, vacuum cleaner, towels, sheets, pots and pans, to chopping boards, pegs, toys, games and more. Throughout Sunday and the next day a group of volunteers spent time checking that we had everything we needed to set up 24 houses, including basic food items to set up a pantry in each house.
Every electrical appliance was checked thanks to St Vincent de Paul. They also provided the use of their van to help with the move. Challenge 2000 also helped with transporting items.
On Monday evening, 22 February, about 90 volunteers in teams of four or more met at Connolly Hall, next to Sacred Heart Cathedral in Thorndon, for a briefing about how to set up the houses.
The next step was to head down to Loaves and Fishes to collect the household items. Then on the Thursday evening the volunteers gathered again to take everything to the houses, make the beds, fill the cupboards and turn each house into a home ready for the families to arrive.
It has not just been our parishes who have responded to the call to help welcome refugees into our community. ANZ bank staff also volunteered to help on the Monday with sorting the household items and about 30 staff helped set the houses up on the Thursday. Weta Studios donated over 70 backpacks donated all ready for the children who will be arriving.
Last September, Cardinal John Dew called us to action to welcome refugees into our community. Over the last few weeks parishioners, businesses and community members alike took up the call with overwhelming generosity.