By Wael Aldroubi, Project Administrator – HOST International NZ

“It is an amazing initiative. I enjoyed the sessions so much. Can I register for the next one?” – Culture Without Borders participant

HOST International NZ is delighted to begin our Culture Without Borders programme this month in collaboration with our community partner, Vogelmorn Community Group in Brooklyn, Wellington.

Former refugees face a lot of difficulties during their journey to reach New Zealand and continue to find challenges rebuilding their lives once they arrive in NZ. The Culture Without Borders programme aims to help expand the social circles and networks for people from a refugee background, and to help them navigate the challenges they face. At the same time, the programme works to build greater understanding across cultures, create new social connections, and help people understand more about the world and the diversity and similarities that exist.

The programme’s goal is to connect people from a wide variety of cultures and background, including former refugees. Our current programme has people from 10 different cultures.

The conversations cover a broad range of topics – anything from stories about schooling or university, to current New Zealand government systems, to types of work and the challenges in finding the right job. So many people are appointed to their jobs informally here in Wellington, it’s important to have broad networks to help facilitate opportunities to find out about new roles. There’s even two people in the group who know the same two people in Iraq!

The Culture Without Borders programme is running during July over four evenings. Our goal has been to keep the group small and intimate at around 12-20 people so real social connections and friendships could be built over the month. Participants will be encouraged to take the opportunity to connect with each other once the programme finishes and continue their newfound connections.

The programme has proven successful in challenging the perceptions people may have about people from a refugee background and has built stronger social connections across the local community.

Going forward, we will have more Culture Without Borders programmes running in Wellington, Hutt Valley and Porirua this year, and longer term we’ll help the programme expand into other regions.

“Such a great initiative. I loved it” – Culture Without Borders participant