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ABA convention concludes in Philadelphia

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Coinciding July 4th, the Independence Day in the U.S, Association of Bhutanese in America (ABA), hosted its seventh national convention in collaboration with Bhutanese American Organization of Philadelphia.

The first day of the two-day long gathering began with the presentation by Aaron Acharya on Education System in the US.

Acharya presented his experience and expertise on the type and system of education implying its importance to the Bhutanese parents and students in their new country of settlement.

Hani White, Assets Building and Immigrant program manager, of Women’s Opportunities Resource Center (WORC), Greater Philadelphia Area, that promotes social and economic self-sufficiency basically for economically needy women and their families stressed on encouraging Bhutanese women and their families, to take advantage of the resources available.

White spoke on how Refugee Microenterprise and Individual Development Account (IDA) programs have changed the lives of many new Americans in Philadelphia and other cities in Pennsylvania.

The second day session began with welcome speech by Bishwa Chhetri, ABA chair followed by ABA’s report presented by Kishor Pradhan, a board member.

Bishwa Chhetri addresses the convention
Bishwa Chhetri addresses the convention

Aaron Acharya read the message from Tom Corbett, Governor of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

In the message, Governor stated, “Pennsylvania thrives on its vibrant cultural heritage and Bhutanese Americans represent a vital component to our Commonwealth’s diverse ethnic and social community.” He has further commended, “I commend these associations for their commitment to improving the well-being of Bhutanese-Americans by representing their interests and promoting Bhutanese history and culture.”

Fernando Trevino- Martinez, deputy executive director, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs in his speech stated the importance of having people with different and beautiful cultural values in a society, city and nation. “Presence of culturally rich, peace loving and laborious people from Bhutan has added yet another kind of beautiful flower in the garden of this diverse city,” said Farnando.

Janet Panning, Program Director, Lutheran Children and Family Services highlighted the progress being made by Bhutanese people in the city. “I have seen people from Bhutan progressing their lives with the spirit- U.S.A is You Start Again- and have succeeded in bringing changes in their, otherwise, hard life. You are rebuilding what you had lost. You are collecting what had scattered- hopes, dreams and who you are” said Panning.

Guest speaker of the Convention, Dr. N. Nina Ahmad, Commissioner, President’s Commission for White House Initiative for Asian American and Pacific Islander, elaborated about the  crises and situations in some countries of Asia  that have resulted in refugee populations and those who have found new homes in USA.

‘We are celebrating US Independence Day and the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act both of which speak to the rights of US citizens to practice their religion and culture freely. We Americans learn from seeing, understanding others’ problems. We are watching you all progressing- forgetting those hard lived days in Bhutan and in the refugee camps in this short span of time,’ said Ahmad.

Dr Nina speaks to ABA members and guests
Dr Nina speaks to ABA members and guests

On different note, Ahmad advised Bhutanese community members ‘Beside working to progress and changing the way of life its all of your prime responsibilities to preserving your culture, past stories, history and values. These important elements are with your seniors. Let seniors in the Bhutanese community pass their history and stories to the younger generations so that the children born and grown in the refugee camps and in the US know who they are”.

Community forum session at the end of the second day was of greater importance. The session moderated by Aaron Acharya was bit of more interactive. Participants from all walks of life expressed their opinions, suggestions and roles of leaders for leading a community to make it a vibrant and example to others.

Participants suggested community leaders to learn from the past and plan the future in the land of opportunities to guide them in overcoming the difficulties in this acute transitional period.

Songs and dances by Bhutanese children and artists were equally admired part of the two-day long convention that convened at All Saint’s Episcopal Church, Loney Street Philadelphia.

Participants as far from California, Arizona, Washington DC, Maryland and different cities of Pennsylvania convened to the event.

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