Tukwila community rallies around 7 refugee children from Burma after mother’s death

Ciin Nuam, second from left, and her family in November. Nuam, a Burmese refugee, died suddenly Dec. 2, 2014, leaving behind her husband and seven children. Courtesy Zam Khup.
Ciin Nuam, second from right, and her family in November. Nuam, a Burmese refugee who was pregnant with her seventh child, died suddenly Dec. 2, 2014, leaving behind her husband and children. (Courtesy Zam Khup.)

Nine months ago, Zam Khup, a refugee from Burma, finally was able to welcome his wife, Ciin Nuam, and their six oldest children to the United States. He had immigrated from the Chin state in Burma in 2012, and was living and working in south King County.

The family connected with the local community of immigrants from Burma in Tukwila, and the children, ages 8 to 17, enrolled in the local schools. The family was happy just to be reunited, Khup said.

“We felt like any place where we are, we feel like we are home,” said Khup, through an interpreter.

But what should have been the start of their new life in the United States was cut short last Tuesday.

Ciin Nuam, 42-years-old and pregnant with their seventh child, died after collapsing suddenly in their apartment. Doctors delivered the baby via Cesarean section, and the premature infant remains in good condition at Swedish Medical Center.

While Zam Khup and his family grieve for what they’ve recently lost, the family has also been surprised and grateful for the outpouring of support from the local immigrant community from Burma and from others who have heard about the family’s story from local television news outlets.

Screen shot of the YouCaring.com page set up by employees of the Tukwila School District, which has raised more than $42,000 from the community for the family.
Screen shot of the YouCaring.com page set up by employees of the Tukwila School District, which has raised more than $42,000 from the community for the family. (Screen shot of YouCaring.com.)

Their Tukwila apartment has been full of visitors day and night, providing food, company and words of sympathy.

“It makes him feel better and he feels some comfort,” said Dongh Pau, their pastor from Zomi Agape Christian Church, who also served as interpreter.

“It’s our culture, that we try to help each other,” Pau said. “And it’s a part of Christianity.”

Counselors and teachers from Tukwila School District, where the children go to school, have raised more than $42,000 from the public to help the seven children and their father as they cope in their new home without their mother.

“I cannot express in words how thankful,” said Niang Lun Cing, their 17-year-old daughter who goes by the name of Lulun, said through an interpreter.

“We are 100 percent thankful for the help, especially from the school district,” her father said. “They helped more than we expected.”

Cing said her mother loved to talk with her friends in the Seattle area, and that they often called their friends and family in still in Burma.

Khup said that his wife had been eager to explore new places in the Seattle area. Khup, who works at Northwest Seafood Processors, said he didn’t get a chance to do that very often with her.

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Zam Khup, upper right, and his six older children, several days after the death of his wife Ciin Nuam. Nuam and their children had been in the United States for nine months, before she died suddenly on Tuesday. (Photo by Venice Buhain.)

“The social worker took them to the zoo — even I haven’t been to the zoo,” Khup said. “I appreciate that.”

Khup said that while he now has the task of raising seven children on his own in the United States, he has no plans to leave.

“My wife is here,” Khup said. “We love to stay together here.”

Nuam’s service will be at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 9 at Bonney-Watson, 16445 International Blvd. in SeaTac. Donations may be made to the family at YouCaring.com.

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