Dhan Maya Sunwar may have only been in the country for six months, but she already knows her way around a computer.
The Bhutanese refugee and her family were one of ten groups to graduate from the refugee Computers in Homes programme last night at the Victory Community Centre.
The Nelson branch of the nationwide programme has been run annually at Victory Primary School for the past 13 years and is achieving great success.
In the past year alone they have seen 20 families through the programme, and coordinator Dianne Goodwin says the education opportunities for participants are endless.
“Students can have access to a computer in their home, plus families can now access internet essentials such as WINZ, my IRD, TradeMe jobs and property, educational websites and school blogs and also communicate with family and friends.”
Throughout the eight week course, families get 30 hours of basic computer and IT training for two hour-long lessons on a Tuesday and Thursday evening. Bilingual tutors are provided as well as childcare.
At the end of the course, each family gets a refurbished computer and partly subsidised internet for a year.
“It then ends with a graduation, celebrating their achievement and culture, where we have the families as VIPs, and important guests such as our refugee coordinators, local councillors, Red Cross family volunteers and teachers and friends,” says Dianne.
Last night’s graduates consisted of four Colombian families, three from Myanmar and three from Bhutan – all who have been new arrivals in the past year.
“Our Colombian families were from Stoke and they were so eager and grateful to learn that they all rode their bikes in to class,” says Dianne.
“The programme not only helps refugees feel more connected to their own countries, but also more connected to New Zealand society.”
Meanwhile, Dhan Maya says she is grateful for the opportunity and is looking forward to helping her three year old son use computers in his future education.
“The tutors are very helpful and we are very thankful to learn new things.”