Afghans face Kiwi culture shock

Palmerston North volunteers are working hard to soften the culture shock for Afghan interpreters and their families who arrive tomorrow to face translating their lives to an unfamiliar new home.

There are an estimated 2000 Muslims living in and around Manawatu – and that number is about to grow.

Eleven Afghan interpreters and their families will arrive in the city tomorrow after a long haul from Afghanistan to New Zealand that will conclude with a bus trip from Mangere to Palmerston North.

The Afghans were officially welcomed to New Zealand by Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae at a ceremony in Auckland yesterday.

The new arrivals will be escorted to Linton Army Camp for a special welcoming dinner tomorrow night, where they will be reunited with many of the Kiwi soldiers the interpreters served alongside in Bamiyan Province.

An army of volunteers will help the families settle into their new homes dotted all over the city –  helping them navigate the necessities of Kiwi life, and  helping the Muslim families meet their special needs.

Palmerston North’s Refugee Services has hired a Dari-speaking cross-cultural adviser to help the families, as the women and children are expected to speak limited English, said Refugee Services central region manager Kevin Petersen.

The focus for volunteers would be on making the transition to Kiwi life a smooth one, he said.

”The change they will be going through – being uprooted from their own situation and trying to establish themselves in a completely different society.”

The families will find familiarity in Palmerston North’s already-established Muslim community, which has extended a helping hand.

Historic rivalries will have no bearing on the Shi’ite Afghan interpreters.

They will be welcomed to Palmerston North by Sunni Muslim brethren, who will invite the newcomers in the city’s only mosque.

Manawatu Muslims Association president Brother Hazim Arafeh has no doubt the families will receive a warm welcome.

”People here are very friendly and very co-operative. I have met so many interesting people and I was always welcome. I have always felt a great sense of friendship – Palmerston North is a town where everyone respects everyone.”

Their religions and ways of life are different, but Sunni and Shi’a Muslims share a devotion to Allah, and to the teachings of the Koran.

In Palmerston North the interpreters have been invited to take their five-times daily prayers or ”salat” at the Sunni mosque.

A group of about 12 volunteers from the mosque will direct the families to the best halal food suppliers in town – including Moshims in College St and Palmy Food City in Cook St.

”Haram” pork products and alcohol are strictly forbidden – a trickier diet to abide by than it would appear, as pork byproduct gelatine is in seemingly innocuous treats such as marshmallows and icecream.

For Refugee Services volunteers, the focus would  be on making the Afghan families feel welcome and helping them integrate into the community, Mr Petersen said.

source: Manawatu Standard

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