World Refugee Day: meet Lal Cinzah

Lal Cinzah with his proud parents. Photo: Fairfax Media NZ / Nelson Mail.

Refugee Connect (formerly called Computers in Homes Refugee programme) currently helps 130 refugee families each year. On World Refugee Day 2017, we feature the story of one of the participants.

Lal Cinzah’s story

When Lal Cinzah graduated with Honours from Canterbury University he was sure of being the first Civil Engineering graduate from New Zealand’s Chin community. Lal was helped on his learning journey by the 20/20’s Refugee Connect programme. 

The first Nelson Refugee Computers in Homes ran in 2006-07 and included the Cinzah family from the Chin Hakha state of Burma Myanmar. Lal Cinzah was just beginning secondary school when his family arrived in Nelson from the Chin state, where his parents had been teachers.

Short window of time for teen refugees

The Computers in Homes programme was extended to newly-arrived refugee families in 2004, with preference given to families with teenage children as these needed to be embraced into New Zealand education as soon as possible. It had been found that if effective education was not grasped by teen refugees in the short window of time before leaving school, they had few employment prospects and little hope of a tertiary education.

Grasping the opportunity

Lal’s parents participated in that first intake and welcomed the opportunity to learn about the New Zealand education system and to be involved in Lal’s and his three siblings’ learning. Lal worked hard at school gaining many awards, and although he was already fluent in Chin and Burmese languages, he said his challenge was getting his English to a level that would take him to University.

NZ teaching is different

He found the New Zealand education system very different from in Burma where the teachers would hand out material to memorise rather than help students to understand . He preferred now being able to solve problems and became interested in Engineering after excelling in science and maths.

Parents help others

Mr Bual Cung 2nd from right represents his Cinzah family at the first Computers in Homes graduation held in Nelson in 2007.

Since graduating from Computers in Homes, Lal’s Dad, Bual Cung has helped with secondary maths for several years and Mum Sui Ting was a primary teacher but has worked with the Burmese communities for refugee services for many years. They are very proud of Lal and say the whole community celebrates his success too.

A Civil Engineer

Lal now works for Fulton Hogan in Nelson and helps with the Chin youth group. He is keen to give encouragement to those younger than himself to succeed as he has done.

More about Refugee Connect

Started in 2004, the 20/20 Trust provides refurbished computers and internet access to 100-130 refugee background families nationally per year, under a Ministry of Education contract. The Ministry contracts separately a regional training provider to deliver the training component, employ family liaison and provide technical support to the families during the 12 month contract.

Independent research by AUT shows this helps refugees in many ways. It:

  • builds refugees’ ability to act independently and make free choices;
  • improves their well-being, reducing stress and social isolation;
  • helps them interact with and function in NZ society; and
  • gives increased continuity with the past and increased sense of belonging.

More details about Refugee Connect, on Computers in Homes website.

Computers in Homes Annual Report 2016, Part 4; the Refugee programme starts this section, on pages 70-71

Research from Auckland University of Technology

20/20 Refugee Connect contact: Shona Te Huki, 021 840053,