Tukwila refugee family learning to live without their mother but with community’s help

On Dec. 2, Ciin Nuam was cooking dinner early in the afternoon in preparation for her children’s return home from school. Six-months pregnant, she collapsed; Zam Khap, who was getting ready for work, heard her fall. The King County Medical Examiner's Office determined she died of heart disease.

The Zam Khap family was split apart for about 10 years, before finally being reunited and moving to Tukwila nine months ago.

He had spent eight years in a refugee camp in Malaysia and then 2 1/2 years in the United States, while his wife Ciin Nuam and their six children remained behind in Burma.

Once in Tukwila, the six children enrolled in school, two at Foster, two at Showalter and two at Cascade View. He’s a general worker at a seafood factory.

On Dec. 2, Ciin Nuam was cooking dinner early in the afternoon in preparation for her children’s return home from school. Six-months pregnant, she collapsed; Zam Khap, who was getting ready for work, heard her fall.

He doesn’t know how to communicate with 911, explained Ohnmar, the Burmese liaison for the Tukwila School district, who has been working with the family. Church groups and the Burmese community at large are helping, too.

He tried to call friends to help. Despite language barriers, emergency help was summoned. Ciin Nuam’s baby survived, treated at the Swedish Hospital neo-natal unit, and is reported to be doing well.

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Ciin Nuam, 42, died of heart disease. Her death was ruled natural.

Ohnmar contacted the school district and began the process of helping the family deal with funeral costs and make plans for supporting the family for the difficult days ahead.

Sara Niegowski, the school district’s communications director, set up an online fundraiser for the family, with a $10,000 goal, enough to cover funeral costs.

As of Thursday (Dec. 18), $51,335 has been raised for the family. The website address is www.youcaring.com.

“That was unexpected,” Ohnmar said, but appreciated by the family.

Organizations and businesses are also buying Christmas presents for the family.

Communication has been difficult, even for Ohnmar, who doesn’t speak the Burmese dialect spoken by the family. In fact, only a few speak the dialect in Washington state.

But the father said the support “has really touched his heart.” The school community really cares about his family, as does the whole Tukwila community, according to Ohnmar.

“That made him a little bit stronger and he feels that he can stand on his own feet,” she said.

The family will still need support, especially now that everyone is going back to work, she said. And Zam Khap has a baby to care for. His oldest daughter, Niang Lun Cing, is learning to care for and feed her baby sister, Sian Hoih.


More in News

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon and Page Carson Foster. Photo credit Washington State Legislative Support Services
Carson Foster serves as page in Washington State House

The following was submitted to the Reporter: Carson Foster, a student at… Continue reading

Jim Pitts stands on walkway overlooking filtration chambers at the King County South Treatment Plant in Renton. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Human waste: Unlikely climate change hero?

King County treatment plant joins effort to counteract effects of carbon dioxide.

Washington State Capitol Building. Photo by Emma Epperly/WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Legislation targets rape kit backlog

WA has about 10,000 untested kits; new law would reduce testing time to 45 days

File photo
Law enforcement oversight office seeks subpoena power

Organization has been unable to investigate King County Sheriff’s Office.

The 2015 Wolverine Fire in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest near Lake Chelan. Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Natural Resources/Kari Greer
Western Washington faces elevated wildfire risk in 2019

Humans cause majority of fires in state

Courtesy of kingcounty.gov
King County approves bargaining agreement with 60 unions

Employees will receive wage increases and $500 bonus.

Call for peace, unity, understanding

City, county and state leaders show support of Islam community in wake of massacre at New Zealand mosques

King County bail reform hinges on pretrial decision making

Data on inmates has shown that being held pretrial affects the likelihood of conviction.

State smoking age rising to 21 in 2020

Legislature approves change

A man addresses the King County Council during a public hearing March 20 at New Life Church in Renton. He presented bags filled with what he said was hazardous materials dropped on his property by bald eagles. Another speaker made similar claims. Haley Ausbun/staff photo
Locals show support for King County waste to energy plant

Public hearing on landfill’s future was held March 20 in Renton.

Defense Distributed’s 3D printed gun, The Liberator. Photo by Vvzvlad/Wikimedia Commons
‘Ghost gun’ bill moves to Senate committees

Legislation would make 3-D printed guns illegal.

King County Council with Sarah Reyneveld, chair of the King County Women’s Advisory Board. Photo courtesy of King County
King County proclaims March as Women’s History Month

This year’s theme is Womxn Who Lead: Stories from the past and how they influence the future.