Tears of happiness flowed from Tial Cem Van Hram at Nelson Airport yesterday as he and his wife welcomed the grandchildren they had never met.
Mr Hram, a former refugee from Myanmar, arrived in Nelson in 2007 and his wife and two sons joined him two years later.
Mr Hram's daughter, her husband and their two young children were among a group of 16 new Nelsonians – two Chin and two Kayan families – that arrived yesterday, greeted by Nelson Refugee Services.
Two more former Chin refugees are arriving next week.
Mr Hram, who spent 11 years as a refugee in Malaysia before coming to New Zealand, said the last time he saw his daughter was when she was 15 years old.
He said he cried tears of joy when he saw her at the airport, with her husband and two young children.
"I was so happy," he said.
Mr Hram's son Van, 13, said it was five years since he had seen his sister.
"She looks different," he said.
Nelson Refugee Services volunteer programme co-ordinator Brittany Smith said Nelson welcomed about 60 to 80 former refugees a year, which was 8 to 12 per cent of New Zealand's annual quota – 750 people.
Ms Smith said yesterday was an emotional day.
"There were a lot of tears at the airport. You can feel the emotion of the families," she said.
Ms Smith said Nelson Refugee Services had done a lot of work behind the scenes to prepare for their arrival "and now is where the volunteer teams kick in".
The volunteers support new arrivals for a minimum of a year, helping them with things like education, health and
The volunteers support new arrivals for a minimum of a year, helping them with things like education, health and tenancy matters. The Nelson Mail