Along with their Excellencies, the official party included Official Secretary, Alice Ropata, Aide-de-Camp, Flight Lieutenant Rob Hutton and Government House staff.
Representatives from Presbyterian Support South Canterbury included Carolyn Cooper, Chief Executive, Liz Nolan, General Manager, Family Works and Tracey Miron, Refugee Resettlement Manager. English Language Partners (ELP) Aoraki manager Sheryl Jackson was joined by Waimate-based Cultural Language Assistant, Mr Hany Al Daher and Gail Tanabe, ESOL Literacy class relief teacher along with three volunteer ESOL home tutors.
Esra’a Al Hoot, a former refugee from Palestine, acted as interpreter for the party. Esra’a arrived in Timaru in 2021 and, having resettled successfully into a new life in Aotearoa herself, now works in various roles, helping other newly arriving former refugees navigate everyday life in South Canterbury.
Esra’a’s busy working life involves roles as a cross-cultural worker for Refugee Resettlement Services and for Red Cross’ Pathways to Employment. She also recently started work as a Cultural Language Assistant for ELP’s ESOL Literacy class.
After some welcoming words from Carolyn Cooper, Dame Cindy extended her own "warmest welcome” to the former refugee families on behalf of all New Zealanders and recognised Timaru for providing a place of safety for former refugee families.
It's such a simple thing, but it's so profoundly important. Timaru is offering that hope to these families.
During the official party’s time meeting with guests, ELP learner Bothina Wali, originally from Syria, presented the Governor General with a bunch of flowers from her garden and a hand-crocheted ornament. In return, Dame Cindy gifted Bothina a jar of honey from bees at Government House.
The visiting party enjoyed meeting the ELP learners over afternoon tea which included a delicious, syrup-soaked Semolina cake made by Zinab Fatout, one of ELP’s learners. The occasion was a great opportunity for people to come together informally and talk about the work they do locally to welcome former refugees. ELP’s Catherine Walton, who volunteers in an ESOL Literacy class to support people with low literacy levels, said it was a real honour to meet the Governor General.
Hardworking ELP volunteers Bruce Aston and Kate Murdoch enjoyed meeting the Governor General. Both tutor learners in their homes each week to help them with the language they need for daily life in Timaru.
For more, read Stuff’s news report