In New Zealand, Techfugees ran its inaugural Hackathon on 25-26 May. Volunteers and attendees came together in Stokes Valley to start using tech to tackle the challenges that former refugees experience during their resettlement in Wellington. The weekend started with a warm welcome from Techfugees NZ Chapter Co-Lead, Rochelle Stewart-Allen, who introduced the hack and how the weekend would unfold.

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Ice breaker & Challenges

People then came together and got to know each other a little better as our Chief Wrangler, Mike Riversdale, helped with team formation.

Lexy from ChangeMakers Resettlement Forum shared three core problems that local resettled community members have identified are making it difficult for them to settle here. These were inadequate housing, difficulty in gaining meaningful employment, and problems accessing culturally specific mental health support. Teams got to decide which problem they wanted to tackle with tech over the weekend.

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📽 Have a look at this video report about the hack made by Re:news

The teams

Three teams spent the weekend creating new solutions to resolve one or more of these issues.

The first team, Team by Default, tackled the issue of scattered refugee resources and lack of a single place to find them. They spent time creating a website prototype which focussed on multilingual resources and a community-driven platform. One of the highlights for them was building web pages in Burmese to test out how the platform would work in multiple languages.

Team Bridge was the second team. They proposed a website to assist refugees and migrants whose overseas qualifications are not recognised by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Their goal was to help guide people on the possible paths they could take to get their qualifications recognised or upgraded.

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The third team, Ref ‘n’ Tech, wanted to create videos to challenge employers’ perceptions and unconscious bias when considering refugee background job seekers. They produced a sample animation to demonstrate how it could work.

Teams were assisted by a fantastic set of mentors over the weekend to help them refine their ideas, navigate roadblocks, practice their pitches, and develop their ideas into something tangible. Many thanks to Samar, Charlie, Kanhika, Colin, Aleksandra and Wael for their valuable help!

Coding & winning!

Towards the end of Sunday, three judges were welcomed – Sendirella George, Troy Hammond and Michael ‘Koz’ Koziarski. They had the special privilege of listening to the teams pitch their ideas and consider their potential viability. After some considerable deliberation, the judges selected Team by Default as the winners!

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At the end of the weekend, Techfugees NZ Co-Lead, Rochelle said “It was so fantastic to see the group come together with passion and inspiration to want to make a genuine impact in the refugee resettlement sector. It was exciting to see the first tech solutions generated to help improve resettled people’s lives in a practical way here in New Zealand.”

Key figures & impact

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Hack participants said they liked the opportunity to build new networks and talk to different people.

11 different nationalities were represented across the group.

It was great to hear that 92% of participants say they found the hack either excellent or very good. Some of their comments included:

“It was a fantastic experience. I’m so glad I was able to attend and meet so many wonderful people!”

“FANTASTIC! It opened my eyes to many problems, it made me appreciate the benefits of accepting refugees and helping them achieve their full potential.”

“Great to experience a hackathon, meet new people and learn more about refugees in NZ.”

“A great opportunity to meet new people and using your skill for a social good.”

What’s next?

Techfugees NZ ran a Meetup in Wellington on 6 June so the teams were able to demonstrate their ideas to a wider audience and find more people who can help come on-board to take the solutions through to becoming viable products.


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