Excited waves greet a group of Bhutanese refugees as they arrive in Palmerston North yesterday. Their reception committee was made up of earlier arrivals and volunteers who will help the newcomers settle into their new homes.
Their aircraft was late, the weather cold and wet, but the smiles were warm as three families of Bhutanese refugees arrived in Palmerston North yesterday to sample freedom, New Zealand-style.
They were greeted by a happy throng of earlier refugees now settled in the city and then introduced to volunteers who will help them get settled into their new lives during the next few weeks.
As with earlier arrivals they had spent years in refugee camps after conflict in their homeland and six weeks in an orientation centre in Auckland.
In all, the city gained 16 new residents - the Mohan Raut family (four members), the Tek Bir Rai family (seven) and the Nir Maya family (five).
There were several reunions at the welcome. For example, Beda Quirala now resident in the city, was reunited with Mr Rai, a friend whom he hadn't seen for 20 years and resident Bal Krishna Ghimire met Mr Raut with whom he had once played marbles.
Mr Ghimire, the secretary of the newly formed Bhutanese Nepali Society of New Zealand, arrived in Palmerston North with an earlier group three months ago.
"We are all doing well," he said. "I am learning computers at UCOL and others are learning English. Even those who were not literate are already starting to speak English.
"I would like to thank Heather Tanguay, the ex-mayor - she is the person who gave us a lot of inspiration..We should not forget the volunteers and friends who spent their time helping us to become settled in Palmerston North.
" I now want to go to teachers' college. I have filled out all the forms for a BA and hope that I will be able to do the work."