By Alastair Lynn |
In 1996 Marion Scanlan made a decision that would make a difference to hundreds of lives. She opened her doors to a flood of refugees coming from Ethiopia and she hasn’t looked back since.
With the help of her husband Len, she has had well over 60 refugees through their doors. Her help has allowed many to build a better life here for their families.
“It was just natural that if someone needed help then I would help them,” Scanlan says. “I just fell into it quite happily knowing that it would be something fulfilling.” She has helped with everything from sorting out housing issues to looking after children.
Almaz Takele was one of the first refugees Scanlan helped. She fled Ethiopia’s civil war and arrived here in 1997. “My father was killed in the war, I had to run for my whole life,” she says. “I always remember and now we see others going through this.”
Prior to arriving in New Zealand Takele spent six years living in refugee camps in Sudan. “The guerrillas were coming to the camps and paying guards to get the ones they wanted to get,” Scanlan says. Takele has now managed to provide a good life for her five children. She says everything she has is due to Scanlan’s generosity.
“She is my family. I can say to this day she is still helping everyone in the community. She may be 81 but her heart is so much bigger than that.”
Scanlan says it’s important for New Zealand to accept refugees, but the Balmoral resident says we need to plan accordingly. “In the 19 years we’ve been involved I could see that there were not enough people offering help,” she says.
“People are saying we should take 2000 refugees. I don’t see that New Zealand can cope with these kinds of numbers unless more people help.”
The first of the Syrian refugees will begin arriving in January next year.
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