Bhutanese Seniors made DC tour


Bhutanese Students Group of Pittsburgh volunteered escorting 44 Bhutanese seniors to DC through a program named First Bhutanese Senior D.C tour this August 15, 2015.

Participants in front of Monument Tower, Washington D.C Photo: Ashok Gurung
Participants in front of Monument Tower, Washington D.C
Photo: Ashok Gurung

“As a part of our school’s curriculum and assignments, we visited many Bhutanese families in different neighborhoods. We interviewed many seniors in our visit. Based on interviews and surveys, we found mostly the seniors at home in different neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. To learn more about their desires, aspirations and experiences in the new country, we used a set of questionnaire. Most of the seniors are found feeling lonely in their apartments. They expressed limited access to recreation and socialization outside their apartments. So we, the high school graduates and college students, thought of this program that would recreate the elderly people”, said Yadhu Dhital and Narayan Phuyel, two of the student leaders of this program.

Speaking to BNS upon arrival from the tour, Hari Lal Khatiwoda, one of the participants, said, “I am in my 70s. I was born and raised in Bhutan. I worked in construction sites of many roads connecting different districts in Bhutan during my youth. I had a wish to see its capital Thimphu one day, but could not make it. Situation landed me to a refugee camp in Nepal. I stayed for  18 years in the camp. I attempted many times to visit Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. For refugee like me it was like a dream. Later my family opted for the third country resettlement. One day I and my family landed in Kathmandu on our way to the US. I just said- though I could not see the places of my interest at least could put my feet in Kathmandu.

Participants in the Museum Photo: Ashok Gurung
Participants in the Museum
Photo: Ashok Gurung

We arrived in the US and started the new life. I could not do anything here other than simply growing old in this vast land. I was unaware of where might be the capital city of my new home country. I began attending English language and Civic Education classes managed by our community organization (BCAP). Through the instructors I knew of Washington DC as the capital city of the US. One of my questions got the answer. But, I became so happy when I first heard about a group of students from our community planning to take seniors to the capital city of the US. I prayed for my luck. Finally I got a call stating my name was listed among the participants. I visited many places.  I cannot remember all the names, but I am carrying all the pictures in my mind. I am happy that one of my dreams is fulfilled.”

Another participant Chitra Singh Gurung shared his experience bit differently, “students from our community proved that they are getting real education here. I must bless all those students who in them have sense of care, love and respect towards the seniors in the community. This is how I wish our young generation should grow. I am glad that they provided me an opportunity to visit DC, which was almost impossible on my own. More than that, I am happy to see our children taking caring of us. The better days for the seniors in the community are  in the offing.”

Participants exiting the historical site Photo: Ashok Gurung
Participants exiting the historical site
Photo: Ashok Gurung

Hema Neopaney and Uma Gautam, two of the female volunteers speaking to the BNS informed that they managed to volunteer escorting our seniors to Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington Monument, White House premises and other sites of historical importance. “I learnt a lot from them all along the trip about their past life experience”, said Uma. While Hema Expressed, “I felt we were missing an important chapter in my life. Our seniors are really our living history. We became a good friend of many seniors in the trip.” They both were feeling a sort of incompleteness in not being able to take all the interested participants this time yet they are equally cared and stated that their desire shall be met. “We thank the sponsors Jefferson Regional Foundation, Barsha Jewelers and BCAP volunteers from the bottom of our heart in helping us making this first trip a successful one. We are happy for the good number of women participants in the tour, but bit disappointed on seeing less number of female volunteers. We wish more girls joined this type of services and learn.  We have more than 45 participants in the waiting list. We are looking forward to having some sponsors for the second trip”,they said.

Suraj Nepal, Bhagawath Phuyel, Sashi Timsina and Tul Odari assisted the overall management of the trip. It is learnt that a team of eleven volunteers escorted the senior’s D.C trip.