Shortly after migrating to Australia in 2015, Zhen Hua Lin suffered an allergic reaction to antibiotics that rendered him completely vision impaired.
Zhen Hua Lin (L) running in the 2017 City2Surf with Achilles Australia volunteer Brian O'Dea (R)
Within three weeks Lin went from living an ordinary and active life to living in a nursing home — an experience that took an enormous toll on his physical and mental health.
It has been a long and at times arduous journey but, with the support of Settlement Services International (SSI) and bi-lingual staff member Li Hua Chu, Lin has learned how to live life to its fullest again. He is now working towards starting his own massage business and has discovered a passion for running.
Coming to terms with this new way of living when first arriving in Australia was challenging and distressing. Lin also faced the added barrier of being a non-English speaker, which made it difficult to find support.
“I felt extremely devastated,” said Lin. “At the time, I wasn’t sure what to do, because it was such a shock. It was a very difficult time for me.”
In May 2016 Lin was referred to SSI, where he connected with Li Hua Chu, who now works as an Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) Consultant for the Local Area Coordination (LAC) program. Li was able to help Lin access the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and find the support he needs.
“When Lin received his first NDIS plan, he found it difficult to communicate his needs due to his language barriers and lack of personal support,” said Li.
“He knew very little about the NDIS and had difficulty explaining his goals and needs in English. As a result, Lin received little support through his plan and could not afford to pay for support workers.”
Before his first review meeting, Li helped Lin understand the complexities of the scheme, translating information that was previously only accessible in English. She accompanied Lin to his first review meeting as his supporter and advocate to help explain his situation and needs.
“After that review meeting, Lin’s plan was updated, which gave him the support he needed,” said Li.
Lin’s current NDIS plan enables him to employ support workers to assist with domestic tasks, participate in the community, and afford new assistive technology such as a customised mobile phone, microwave, and digital translator.
Li said many culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) participants often had their needs overlooked or not properly addressed due to the lack of in-language resources and assistance available.
Since becoming a Local Area Coordinator in 2020, SSI has continued to provide tailored assistance, resources and information to people with disability from CALD backgrounds, something which Lin has benefitted from greatly.
“Lin has attended many of our in-language community information sessions and has built a good understanding of how the system works. He has also met lots of new people,” said Li.
After spending three years confined to his apartment, Lin is thrilled to be out in the community socialising and rediscovering his interests and passions.
“SSI has supported me in so many ways. They helped me find a group to continue running for fitness and encouraged me to attend community activities. This has given me the opportunity to connect with others and share my experiences,” he said.
With his newfound self-confidence and understanding of the NDIS, Lin is now thriving and enjoys being able to give back to the community and help others.
“Through the knowledge I gained from SSI, I have been able to assist other Chinese-speaking people with a disability to help get them the support they need,” said Lin.
“I want to share all that I have learned about the NDIS and help others who may not know much about where to get help from. I love to be able to help people.”
Lin is now able to refocus on his long-term goal of starting a massage business — a dream that is one step closer to being realised thanks to support from SSI’s IgniteAbility Small Business Start-ups. He hopes to continue building his business once lockdown restrictions are eased.
“I would like to continue this once the pandemic is over. I want to be employed and have regular work. It’s important for me to keep busy and contribute to society meaningfully,” he said.
Find out more about Li and Lin and how SSI Local Area Coordinators can help you to connect with your community and access the NDIS in the video below