The moment the bus full of Afghan interpreters and their families opened its doors, Kiwi soldiers jumped on board to embrace comrades they thought they might never see again.
Volunteers and army personnel crowded around the bus full of 11 Afghan families, who arrived this afternoon from Auckland to greetings of ”salaam aleikhum” from their Kiwi hosts.
Hossain Baqeri and his wife Amina set foot in Palmerston North for the first time to an emotional reunion with soldier Caleb Berry, with whom Baqeri worked alongside as an interpreter in Bamiyan province.
Baqeri could not have been happier to finally arrive at his new home.
”I cannot explain, it’s really good. It’s great. It’s an incredible feeling being here. I think sometimes I’m in a dream – when I was in Afghanistan I dreamed about New Zealand.”
Asked if his new home met his expectations, Baqeri replied: ”It’s better”.
Berry, who served in Bamiyan with Baqeri in Crib 20, greeted an old friend.
”When I left Afghanistan last year I didn’t know what situation they were in or whether they were going to be allowed to come to New Zealand.
“When I left I didn’t know if I’d see him again so it’s good to finally see him.”
Refugee Services volunteer Lillian Obowyo was among dozens of people there to greet Palmerston North’s newest residents, including many young children who will settle here with their Afghan parents.
Originally from Kenya she has been here only a few months herself and was giving her time to help them assimilate, just like she had to.
”I’m here to help them find services but also tell them what it is like to live in Palmerston North what to expect in terms of culture shock.”
The families are this evening settling in for a welcome supper at Linton Army Camp and will be presented with service medals from Chief of Army Major General Dave Gawn in a special ceremony this afternoon.
Source: Stuff News