Compassion and empathy for the refugee community has been put into action by a class of ‘‘small young heroes’’ from Central Otago.
Roxburgh Area School year 7 and 8 pupils raised $2000 to buy winter bedding and footballs for refugees settling in Dunedin.
The pupils had been studying a unit on the plight of refugees and teacher Sarah Moore was keen for a practical element to cement the learning.
‘‘It’s one thing to hear about their stories and to read about them, but [another] to actually do something practical,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s a heavy topic.’’
On Monday the pupils visited the Red Cross Dunedin Refugee Settlement Centre to deliver the goods and hear stories from former refugees.
Red Cross supports former refugees settling in the city, finding housing, welcoming them at the airport and allocating volunteers to each family to act as a support.
They also assist with enrolling families with a GP, connecting the adults to English Language partners to teach literacy for their new life and enrolling children in school.
It was a ‘‘powerful’’ experience for the pupils to see results of their work and the impact it had, Ms Moore said.
‘‘To hear stories of some of the workers, who themselves were refugees, I think for [the pupils] to hear that . . .For them to actually meet [refugees] and hear them in person has been fantastic and something they’ll remember — so it’s been great.’’
Year 8 pupil Todd Abercrombie (12) said it was a ‘‘reality check’’ to hear stories from the people who had lived them.
‘‘We’re very fortunate here in New Zealand to actually have a safe home and to be accepted for who we are as a person,’’ he said.
Thirteen-year-old Talya Ballschmiede agreed.
‘‘It’s really given us a perspective of [refugees] . . . They’ve been through so much . . .Now we are probably more caring and stuff like that,’’ she said.
She felt ‘‘really proud’’ to be able to support refugees settling in Dunedin.
‘‘It’s really nice to know we’ve helped lots of people — hearing it from a book is nice to know and gives us a perspective of it, but hearing from actual people who have been thorough it made us really happy knowing [we have helped],’’ she said.
New Zealand Red Cross volunteer programme lead Mona Tavakoli, formerly of Iran, said she was impressed by the pupils’ efforts.
‘‘I was so surprised. I couldn’t believe the result — all the time and affection and effort they put in to support new Kiwi families . . .’’ she said.
‘‘The generosity of these small young heroes and that they put so much effort and heart and soul fundraising for us and new families — I’m speechless; I’m so grateful.’’