Exchanging the gift of time

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THERE is still time before the first group of refugees arrives in Invercargill – and one community group has been making the most of it to prepare for their arrival.

The Murihiku Time Exchange held a refugee brainstorm meeting at the Invercargill Public Library last Sunday.

The Murihiku Time Exchange is a not-for-profit group of about 40 people who exchange time, knowledge and services with one another.

Event organiser Geraldine Pene said the aim of the meeting was to brainstorm ideas for how the group could help, welcome and meaningfully integrate refugees in Invercargill in practical ways.

“When [the Murihiku Time Exchange] comes together and works together as a group it strengthens us, and, in the same way, if Invercargill comes together to help the refugees it will strengthen the fabric of our community,” she said.

Immigration New Zealand announced in May that Invercargill had been selected as a refugee resettlement location.

Mrs Pene said about 30 people attended the meeting and about as many ideas were generated. Of the ideas put forward, four were selected to be further developed.

Going forward, the group intended to help Southland schools create in-class projects raising positive awareness and understanding around refugees’ experiences, she said.

Others in the group would assist the Red Cross prepare welcome packs and help the Southland Multicultural Council organise and promote its monthly social days.

Volunteers would be paid in hours banked in the Murihiku Time Exchange’s time bank.

Mrs Pene said the group also hoped a marae welcome and pot-luck dinner could be arranged for each new group of refugees.

Murals and posters with positive messages welcoming the refugees may also be painted and posted throughout the region, she said.

Dozens of people wanting to help had contacted her following the meeting and she hoped other community and church groups would get on board as well, Mrs Pene said.

The group’s next meeting will be held at the Invercargill Public Library on Sunday, October 1, 2pm-4pm.

For more information, go to murihiku.timebanks.org.

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