At the start of his resettlement process back in 2008, Jai Subedi would not have apprehended that his young brain will have to shoulder so many responsibilities. However, after his arrival in Syracuse, NY two years ago, he has hardly taken rest—be it at his office or at home-or taken any vacation.
“I originally hail from Chirang, Bhutan,” adds Jai that the wave of 90’s political movement could not spare his family, and he ended-up taking shelter in Sanischare refugee camp in eastern Nepal.
The refugee life was definitely not what Jai and other youngsters would have dreamt of. However, with no other options, every refugee had to succumb to the hardships of the refugee life, and Jai was not the exception.
“When I travel through the memory lane and go back to what my life was like in the refugee camp, I feel like crying,” says Jai, who takes a deep breath and adds that the life in the USA has much to offer for him.
Jai had certainly not thought that he would work as a Case Manager at his own receiving agency Interfaith Works.
“I had heard about the economic recession in the USA, and I had no idea what I would be doing after my resettlement,” recalls Jai, who heartily took a job at the Subway two months after his landing in Syracuse. Working as a part timer at the Subway and also helping with the translation works at Interfaith Works, his “ready to do anything” nature helped him learn a lot about the American lifestyle and system of working. Further, getting involved in different community events, social gatherings, and assisting people for grocery works provided ample opportunities to interact with different people.
“I would speak some English before I came here, and that helped me a lot. However, I had to work a lot on my communication skills. The natives did not easily understand even my writing. But, I worked hard to overcome it,” giggles Jai.
The story is different for Jai now. He holds different positions at different places, which he respects more than anything.
“I have been entrusted with different responsibilities lately. The greatest thing I have been able to do on top of all has been able to help the community members up to some extent,” adds Jai. Interestingly, Jai is also the executive member of the Bhutanese Community of Syracuse (BCS).
In comparison to other communities, BCS is a new one. However, there are over 2000 people by now. So far, BCS has been successful in helping people get settled in this new land. In this respect, Jai considers himself very fortunate to be a part of this community, which has so many experienced and highly educated people.
“Interestingly, I was nearly resettled in Texas. But it was my luck that my relatives had been already staying here for a year. They did a lot for me to get here. I have no words to Hari Bangale, who has been the main person to help me get here. Had I been resettled else where, I would not have been able to do what I have been doing for my community.”
With the responsibility of Case Manager, Jai has been able to assist the refugees apply for Food Stamp, bring them to Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to obtain their state ID card, assist them apply for Social Security Card, and even bring them to the doctor’s appointment. Along with shouldering such major responsibilities, Jai is often seen among the community members, after the work hours reading and explaining the whole bunch of letters or utility bills. Equally, he is seen among the youngsters teaching and playing with them the games and sports, which he considers to be in his blood.
“I was a games’ captain in my school days. I would play soccer and volleyball. We participated at the inter communities soccer game recently. I definitely want to play myself and also teach the youngsters what I have learnt so far,” he adds.
There are even more works that Jai Subedi has put his hands at, and successfully carried out those.
Syracuse north side has been very insecure place for the immigrants. Be it the refugees or any other immigrants, they are the target group for intimidation. However, the Police personnel, the locals and refugee community leaders have partnered in recent years with a sole purpose of turning the north side “crime free”.
“I have always envisioned the north side to be a secure place for the refugees and other communities”, says Jai who has been shouldering the responsibility of the President of the Butternut Community Police Center (BCPC), a community based organization since May 2011. BCPC has been established to carry out different community based programs.
The next thing that Jai has been engaged at is raising issues and concerns of the neighborhood communities and discussing possible solution to those problems with the Mayor of Syracuse.
“My current position of Citizens Cabinet for city of Syracuse has further provided me opportunity to bring to the Mayor’s notice different ongoing issues of the fellow community members,” adds Jai that eventually the goal is only addressing the people’s problems. Besides, Jai has to explore and bring to the mayor’s table different issues of the entire city so that those issues could be resolved on the timely fashion.
The BCS and the people of Syracuse as well seem to have a great expectation from the young and aspiring community leaders like Jai. Be it educating the old folks on various issues or conducting the English as a Second Language classes for the struggling youths and elderly ones, organizing the community events or trying to address local issues-there always lies a hope on these young leaders. And Jai is present everywhere.
“I see him as a potential candidate for future mayor of Syracuse,” says a friend to Jai, Rohit Dhakal, who adds that a good work should be always appreciated. No journey is an easy one; if you are sincere and dedicated, and work honestly, you will hit the target. His hopes do not seem high—no promises to no body. But still, he wants to work to build the strong community where the members can be able to identify themselves down the road as Bhutanese-American, and that the youngsters would be able to understand, preserve and promote culture, language and identity.”
Gautam is Editor of Bhutan News Service.