Family warmly welcomed

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Old-fashioned neighbourliness is alive and well in Oamaru.
Two Arthur St couples have welcomed an overseas family  so warmly, they are now regarded as its virtual grandparents.
Waitaki Newcomers Network co-ordinator Christine Dorsey informed the Oamaru Mail about the heart-warming developments, which she hopes will inspire the wider community.
Last year, Sri Lankan mechanic Kamal Liyanage secured a job with the North Otago Motor Group.
Chief executive Peter Armstrong found a house in the cul-de-sac end of Arthur St for Mr Liyanage, his wife Buddhima, and their son Chathushka (4).
They have since welcomed baby daughter Vishaka (5months) to their family.
When they moved into their new home, the neighbours on either side visited to introduce themselves.
Before long, they had become great friends.
Diana and Eion Ross and Christine and Lindsay Schaffer have provided the sort of contact that would often come from relatives.
However, the Liyanages were on the opposite side of the world to their own families.
When they struggled with the wood-burner in their living room, Mrs Ross would call in every morning to get it going and make sure the house was warm.
Her husband, other neighbours and North Otago Motor Group colleagues helped out with firewood.
Chathushka often goes to play at the Rosses’ and Schaffers’ houses and is happy to join in with activities such as raking leaves and making pikelets.
Mrs Schaffer has a special toy box for him.
They have taken him to kindergarten when his parents were unable to, provided transport to the doctors and Dunedin, and threw a baby shower for the impending birth.
When Vishaka was born, Mr Liyanage’s mother came from Sri Lanka to look after Chathushka.
He became the translator between his grandmother and the two Kiwi surrogates.
“We all say we’re lucky; it’s a two-way thing,” Mrs Ross said.
“When I was sick, meals came over [from the Liyanages].”
The New Zealanders appreciated learning all about Sri Lanka _ something they would never have done were it not for their new neighbours.
They have shared many meals at each other’s tables, gaining a new understanding of different cultural practices.
The Liyanages rent their Arthur St house but are determined not to move away.
They much prefer Oamaru to Tauranga, where they lived previously.
“We never want to leave!”Mr Liyanage said.
He was grateful for Mrs Schaffer’s guidance on visa issues.
The family was now looking forward to Chathushka starting school at Fenwick in March.
“We have good employers and good neighbours,” Mr Liyanage said.
“You just put yourself in their place,” Mrs Schaffer said.
“Do unto others. They’ve given to us.”