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Students turn compassion into action by working for refugees

World Vision New Zealand

Down under in Aotearoa, New Zealand, there’s a community of everyday university students and young professionals who have responded to the current refugee crisis in a powerful way.

They’re known as Manawa Ahi and this summer they’ve been getting to work for refugees.

An idea sparked by World Vision New ZealandWill Work for Refugees challenges anyone to put their time and talent to good use in their local community by doing any odd jobs they can get hold of. People pay for these services but all the funds go directly to power World Vision’s emergency response in the Refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Serbia. 

“It appealed to me because I have really wanted to help with the refugee crisis but as a student I didn't have any spare money. Will Work provided me with the opportunity to impact people's lives by providing what I did have, my time and my connections” said participant, Claire Voogt.

From shovelling empty calf pens to custom artwork, gardening extravaganzas to feeding the neighbour’s cat, this small committed group have already managed to raise over $10,000.

Some have even dipped into their own pockets, choosing to dedicate their normal work shifts to the cause.

“Sure, it would have been nice to keep the money for myself and buy that dress I've been eyeing up, but what good is that to anyone? It could of gone on my student loan but by looking at my finances that wasn't my priority. My priorities are: people, equal rights and justice. One is never too young to be part of something great and as a student I was more than capable to lend a hand to my brothers and sisters”.

And whilst the money is important, this crew believes the power of ‘Will Work’ goes even further; “it extends to the people who you will give a new perspective to and to the communities they are part of. The small actions I did take for Will Work were supplemented by a wave of additional support by my community” said participant, April McLennan.

“When you affiliate yourself with organizations against extreme poverty, you find yourself in a lot of debates about justice issues. People are not often moved by how convincing your argument is towards accepting refugees into our country or related issues. What they are moved by is the real, practical actions you take to create change. Passion without deed is dead and to truly affect genuine change we must match our words with action,” says one participant. 

At the end of the day, they’re not just working for refugees, they’re working for justice.

And they’re boldly extending the challenge to any of us moved by what’s coming out of Syria to join them. “Feeling compassion towards our suffering brothers and sisters is a powerful thing, but the point where compassion and action meets is a place of transformative impact. There is no time like today. It's really easy to put it off and think 'I'll just do it when I'm free' but as long as you think like that you'll never end up doing it," says another student. 


Tom and Sam rolled up their sleeves for an extreme makeover, vegetable garden edition:

WV work for refugees-B1.jpgImage: World Vision New Zealand

Gregor Harris and Cameron Holmes got really into landscaping and washing decks:

WV work for refugees-B2.jpgImage: World Vision New Zealand


Here's Merenia Hudson, donating her shift:


WV work for refugees-B3.jpgImage: World Vision New Zealand


Ella Austin reckons she has washed windows in almost every suburb of her city:

WV Work for refugees-B4.jpgImage: World Vision New Zealand

Will you Work for Refugees? 

You can get started in 3 simple steps:
1. Make a sign.
2. Take a photo.
3. Use social media to offer your services to your local community.


The views expressed here are not necessarily those of each of the partners of Global Citizen.