New Zealand Red Cross’ inaugural Refugee of the Year Awards marks the 70th anniversary of New Zealand’s first formal intake of refugees, 733 school children and 102 adults from Poland. Red Cross is New Zealand’s primary provider of refugee services and resettlement support programmes.

Adam Awad, a member of Wellington’s Somali community, will receive the Refugee of the Year award in recognition of his work in the local refugee community. Nelson College pupil, Mal Sawm Cinzah, from Myanmar’s Chin community, will receive the Refugee Youth Ambassador award. Both awards will be presented by Ted Wypych of the Polish Association at a ceremony in Wellington on Saturday, 1 November.

Both awards recognise contributions made by a former refugee to their local community and New Zealand society. In addition, the Refugee Youth Ambassador Award, for a former refugee aged between 12 and 24 years, includes a $500 scholarship and ongoing involvement with Red Cross to raise awareness around refugee issues in Aotearoa over the coming year.

New Zealand Red Cross Secretary General, Tony Paine says the Red Cross Refugee of the Year Awards celebrate the positive contributions former refugees make to our society. “Over the past 70 years, individuals from refugee background communities have made significant contributions to Aotearoa, starting successful businesses, promoting community development and actively contributing to New Zealand society. Our two award winners are outstanding examples of such individuals.”


New Zealand Red Cross Refugee of the Year Award recipients 2014

Refugee of the Year Award – Adam Awad
Adam Awad arrived in New Zealand in 2001 after spending three years in a refugee camp in Ethiopia and more than a decade in Sudan working with young people under the auspices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. He came to Zealand on a work visa to marry, his then fiancé of 13 years, Khadra, who had settled here as part of New Zealand refugee quota. The couple now have three children, all proud New Zealanders.

During his time in New Zealand, Adam has been instrumental in establishing support organisations for refugees both regionally and nationally. He recognised that in order for refugee policies and services to be effective, refugee voices must be heard. On arrival Adam worked with Refugee and Migrant Services, a former incarnation of the present day Red Cross Refugee Services programme, supporting newcomers to integrate into New Zealand society. In response to requests from his community for more targeted social, educational and health support services he established the Somali Council in 2001. Encouraged by its success Adam worked with members of other ethnic communities to establish Changemakers Refugee Forum, a rights-based, non-government organisation representing 14 refugee-background communities in Wellington. Both these groups provide a strong refugee voice and have established successful support services for local refugee communities. More recently he was instrumental in establishing the National Refugee Network. Adam remains active in his own community and continues to be a leader in supporting refugee resettlement in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Refugee Youth Ambassador Award – Mal Sawm Cinzah
Mal Sawm Cinzah arrived in New Zealand with his younger brother in 2009 and is currently a Year 11 student at Nelson College. Mal Sawm was nominated by his teacher for the Youth Ambassador Award because of his involvement in the school and his support for the local Chin community.

Around Nelson College, Mal Sawm is well known for his friendly attitude and the way he supports his classmates. At a recent Orientation Day, he volunteered to lead a group of intermediate students from refugee backgrounds around the college, translating for the Chin students and encouraging them to ask questions. Outside of school, Mal has been actively involved in community events such as the Chin National Day festivities and is an excellent role model for Chin youth. He is the website designer for a local Chin newsletter and often helps families in the community with their computer problems. Mal Sawm has achieved a great deal of academic success at Nelson College and would one day like to pursue a career in the computer industry.

Text from New Zealand Red Cross.