The cold was bitter but the sky was blue and there was no dampening the joy of eight Ethiopian children as they touched the ocean for the first time.
The moment the children encountered the waves at Island Bay on Wellington’s south coast on Saturday was caught on video by Rory Lenihan-Ikin, a Wellingtonian helping the family resettle.
While one member of the Tagebe family came to New Zealand as a refugee10 years ago, and another three to five years ago, the eight children arrived under New Zealand’s family reunification scheme just weeks ago.
Lenihan-Ikin took them to visit Wellington City Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons on Saturday and, despite the cold, they took a trip to Island Bay beach.
The eight children, aged three and up, recently arrived from Ethiopia, which is landlocked by Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, and Kenya.
They had probably seen the ocean out a plane window and some had seen Wellington Harbour, but this was the first time up close with the ocean and waves, Lenihan-Ikin said.
Added to that, Wellington was also the first place they had experienced properly-cold weather.
Fitzsimons had invited the family over for afternoon tea because of a mutual friend from ChangeMakers Resettlement Forum. They walked from her house down to the sea.
“They didn’t speak English but you could tell they were completely wowed and enchanted by it …. the dad took a step back and was amazed by the expanse of it.”
Her own children – Zach Fitzsimons, 9, and Eli Choat, 7 – were quick to get their shoes off for a paddle and were followed 10 minutes later by the Ethiopian children.
“It was just so delightful,” Fitzsimons said.