Building a better life for migrants and refugees

Refugee and migrant resettlement

Situation

Hamilton is an increasingly diverse community that includes many migrants and refugees. There are over 70 ethnic groups in Hamilton now. The St Andrew’s Presbyterian parish has supported refugees and migrants as part of its mission since the late 70s, when services for refugees were not as comprehensive as they are now. 

A Presbyterian who worked with the local migrant services agency (Refugee and Migrant Service) made a general appeal to various parishes in Hamilton, highlighting the potential to advocate for this sector of the community through the Churches mission programme.

As the needs of the refugee and migrant community have changed, so too has St Andrew’s mission response.   Historically, the focus was on resettling refugees; today, the focus is on enabling new migrants to integrate into the community, including the provision of English as a second or other language classes.

What was/is the objective of your campaign?

To assist refugees and migrants settle into the Hamilton community.

Who was involved in the campaign?

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Hamilton. St Andrew’s earliest efforts were with helping Vietnamese and then Cambodian people. Two couples responded to the initial RMS appeal for assistance. One of the couples has just been renovating their house and offered their extension for use by Vietnamese refugees for 6 mths, and told their own family they would just have to wait a little longer for the new rooms! Over a short period of time about eight parishioners came to have key roles in sponsorship, and motivating the congregation.

What did the campaign achieve?

  • Several outcomes were achieved including:
  • Meeting a real need in the community for services that weren’t provided by government and other agencies
  • Furniture, accommodation and other necessities were sourced for refugees
  • Fellowship between refugees, migrants and congregation members
  • Refugees’ families were reunited in NZ 
  • Parishioners becoming involved with the Waikato Migrant Resource Centre (established later on) through volunteering and as Board members
  • An increase in the number of migrant families attending St Andrew’s Church (although this wasn’t a primary goal, it has been one of the outcomes)

What things did the parish do to help achieve its goal?

  • Acting as official “sponsors” (accountable to government agencies) for specific refugee families, and being friends and mentors to them
  • Sourcing furniture, accommodation; transport
  • Providing fellowship for new migrants and refugees
  • Providing interest-free loans to assist with family reunification (this on the basis of recommendations made by Migrant Service officials)
  • Delivering English as Second Language classes
  • Having combined multi-lingual church services on a regular basis, approximately 6 times a year. St Andrew’s has operated for the past 12 years as a single congregation (with one budget and one Parish Council), Kiwis and Koreans together. (The “Kiwis” comprise all the non-Korean folk in the parish, for ease of description!)

How did people from the congregation get on board with the project?

This is a long-standing face of mission within St Andrew’s, having started in the 70s and continuing to this day.   In the beginning, having photo display boards in the parish, and people seeing the results, were enough to get the congregation motivated to be involved. Efforts snowballed.

Information for this case study was provided by Lance Kendrick, Convener of the Social and Ecumenical Action Group of St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Hamilton.

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