The Organization of Bhutanese Communities in America (OBCA), announced as a national level not-for-profit organization of Bhutanese in the USA, declared its existence on May 7, 2010 and held its first national convention on June 18-19 in Georgia. In a press statement sent to Bhutan News Service during the time of its formal launch, OBCA stated that the existence of the organization was largely felt to assist resettled folks who have been facing various hardships and trauma in their initial struggle.
“The efforts of resettlement agencies in many states have not been adequate in helping our people as much as they should and as effectively while we are in a completely strange environment in terms of culture, language, food habits, education, skill development and employment. Our people are going through some sort of crisis (identity, spiritual, cultural shock) either consciously or unconsciously,” read the statement.
The existence of OBCA was announced at a time when there already existed another national level organization of Bhutanese i.e. the Association of Bhutanese in America (ABA). At a time when the former announced its existence, an overwhelming public pressure was exerted on both the organizations to show up for unification and declare a single common platform of Bhutanese residing in the USA. Until the filing of this piece, there are no any formal reports of possible unification. Responding to our query, Yam Kharel, Chairman of the OBCA talked to RN Pokhrel of BNS on his organization’s recent activities and developments on forming a single level national organization. Excerpts:
BNS: What exactly is OBCA doing these days?
Honestly, we have not been able to do as much as it was expected. The reason is that all the team members are working voluntarily, sparing their extra time despite of their own struggle against adjustment, family, jobs and so on. Having identified the needs of different people in different situation, we are working to address them in the best possible ways. We have conducted few recreational and interactive programs. We are also working to help structurally organize the community in some states. We recently launched a new calendar for 2011. They will soon be delivered to as many households as possible.
BNS: At a time of formation of the organization, promises were made that the OBCA would help community folks find job, launch interaction programs, and extend other sorts of help to needy people, among others. Are these promises brought into practical perspective?
In the past years we have witnessed some leaders of political parties to merit the vote figures and then forget their commitments once they stick on chair. This impression has tended us to give a wrong connotation of the word “promise”. Ours were not the promises to seek votes, nor were they for fake influences. They were more “the list of the needs of struggling Bhutanese in Diaspora which could be smoothened by collective efforts”. Identifying the needs and advocating them in one or the other way in itself is an important step towards solution. For instance, if I complain you of my health problems and if you take me to a doctor and communicate my problem to him and if I am healed, shouldn’t I accredit you for what you did?
As far as the question of seeking jobs is and interaction programs is concerned- it is not possible all the time for a member of one State to help find a job for a member of another State. But a member of OBCA, ABA or any other organization, in my opinion, has always helped in the possible ways to address the needs, which is not something to publish as news. Recently, I, along with some of other active members of the community helped a family pay their rent through our volunteer contribution while they were unable to do it. And then we helped this family find a full time job, and now their situation is straightened. It is true that problems increase with the increase in population. The situation like I mentioned above can keep going for at least next five years or more. We also recently organized a recreational/interaction program in Nebraska. We want to create an organized platform where one immediate Bhutanese can help the other. It’s more a mutual help than the campaigning promises.
BNS: Tell us clearly how efficiently the task to help the community is being accomplished?
I am glad that so far we have been able to render at least minimum help to our people without any fund generation and mobilization at all. Hopefully, we will be able to station an office at some point but I can’t exactly tell you when it might be stationed. We have not been able to set up a physical office yet. However, we have been working as a forum through phones and e-communications. We have been able to accomplish at least the fundamental tasks from our priority lists.
BNS: How far have you reached in regard to forming a single national level Bhutanese Community Organization?
Several members from both the organization [OBCA and ABA] including myself are of the opinion that unification is a must. OBCA-ABA had a couple of rounds of dialogue. There has been a noticeable gap since the last dialogue for some reason. I can’t say what exactly is in the way of unification, but I guess it is the name. I know it might be less likely for one organization (any) to merge into the other but we really need to work to an avenue where we still can preserve the history and identity of our organization even after the unification. We have been hearing the echoes of people for unification, and if we don’t unify, we are ignoring the public voices. ABA-OBCA unification definitely leads the Bhutanese in America to a world of advantages. Here, I opine that under such a circumstance where everybody wants us to unify for all’s good, and if we don’t unify, we don’t deserve to claim ourselves as “national level organization working for entire Bhutanese across America”. In short, let me repeat, ABA-OBCA unification is a must and demand of the time.
Hence, via this forum, I urge all OBCA and ABA members to come up with honest interest, wise ideas and possible solutions for earliest unification. I also urge our media, public and other concerned to help us accomplish this mission to one national organization of Bhutanese in America. Personally I am ready to compromise to any extent if that can pave a way out for unification of OBCA and ABA therein creating a sphere for a single national level organization for Bhutanese in the USA.
BNS: OBCA’s presence within the Bhutanese community, particularly in the USA, is not felt at all, in one way. How do you comment on this?
The presence might not have been felt, but for sure its impact has been felt at least by some, at least to some extent. For instance, the case of a family I talked about earlier and other similar situation proves that the impact has been felt directly or indirectly.
BNS: Do you have any other significant progress you have accomplished since the formation of OBCA?
We have been able to help folks in some cities with models of structurally organized community where they can work creating a platform to share mutual help. We have also helped address some needs such as finding jobs, taking people to appointments when they don’t have anybody to help, helping them access to some beneficial resources, circulating the resource list, organizing cultural, recreational, interaction and awareness programs. Our new calendar is also one of our progresses.
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