Viewpoint: Bhutanese community grateful for welcome in Springfield


Bhuwan-Gautam-e1399415754930The U.S. government offered to resettle 60,000 Bhutanese refugees living in Eastern Nepal in early 2007 when the 17th rounds of bilateral negotiation between the governments of Bhutan and Nepal did not yield any compromise on repatriation or local assimilation.

Within six years, more than 70,000 Bhutanese refugees have arrived in the United States and have joined military service, entered colleges and universities, learned civics and U.S. history in order to become U.S citizens, and are contributing toward the local economy by buying businesses and homes.

Every year the president of the United States decides how many refugees are brought into this country and welcomes them to fulfill their dreams. Not every city in the U.S. is mandated to accept those refugees. Each has the discretion to accept or reject based on local policies and procedures. 

Over time, some cities have enacted anti-refugee legislation on the refugee resettlement programs in their cities for different reasons.

In July 2011, Manchester, N.H., sought a refugee moratorium because Mayor Ted Gastas was concerned about substandard living conditions of refugees in the city.

He accused the federal and local refugee resettlement agencies of a failure to provide sufficient support. However, such moratoriums did not pass, and refugees continued to resettle.

Currently, Manchester has more than 1,000 Bhutanese refugees who have been resettled since 2008. Some of the Bhutanese refugees were able to form a nonprofit organization and started providing social services among Bhutanese refugees resettled in New Hampshire.

According to Tika Acharya, executive director of Bhutanese Community of New Hampshire (BCNH), the organization employs 11 Bhutanese refugees and provides integration tools to the community for faster acculturation.

Mr. Acharya says that, currently, eight refugees have become first-time homebuyers; three refugees have opened businesses; nine students have entered four-year college, five refugees received graduate diplomas and one student, Ganesh Sharma, received a scholarship from the Bill Gates Foundation.

In August 2013, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno was concerned that refugees were living in poverty and substandard housing and not getting enough help and follow-up services from service agencies. He urged the State Department to stop the influx of refugees into the city of Springfield.

On the other side of the coin, not every resettled refugee is successful in all walks of life.

Suicidal ideation rates have become the more common in the U.S., and there are various theories about it. Some say it is because of teenagers’ difficulty getting into colleges without their parents’ financial support; elderly and uneducated people are said to have hanged themselves because of social isolation and a mismatch of their expectations v. their actual circumstances. Some refugees experience post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological disorders. Cultural shock, language barriers, financial problems, social isolation, family role reversal are some of the stressors refugees experience.

Bhutanese refugees have not had easy lives. In Bhutan, their citizenship rights were forfeited, and they were denied basic fundamental rights. In Nepal, they were confined in the camp with no opportunities at all. The youth were at the verge of jeopardizing their career; girls were trafficked into India and sold as prostitutes.

Hundreds of refugees died in the camps due to the lack of nutritional food and proper medical care. Though the refugees have a difficult and scary transition in the United States, they are far better off than being in the third world countries.

Therefore, being a former refugee, I would like to thank the U.S. government for availing this opportunity, Nepal government for giving asylum and local communities for accepting unwanted and forgotten people and giving us a chance to learn a new language, bring diversity to the city and contribute to the local community.

Currently, Western Massachusetts has produced four small business owners, 15 first-time home buyers, two students who have graduated from four-year colleges, three from master’s programs, and 20 U.S. citizens in slightly more than five years of resettlement. Elderly people are also putting efforts toward learning English and U.S. history.

The Jewish Family Service resettled Mr.Bandhu Adhikari in 2009. A first-time home buyer in Springfield, Adhikari said, “I would like to thank the city of Springfield because it’s the place I landed as refugee in 2010, and today I have fulfilled my American dream by owning the first home in Springfield.” He further adds, “Now I work with Lutheran Social Service and help refugees to integrate into local community by supporting them with whatever resources I have.”

Refugees have been valuable employees, students, and role models in Western Massachusetts.

On World Refugee Day, I would like to thank the U.S. government, the State Department, resettlement agencies and the local community for opening your heart to give one more chance to live without the fear of persecution and violence.

Bhuwan Gautam is a former refugee from Bhutan, who lived in the refugee camp for 16 years. He came to the United States in 2008 and holds a bachelors degree in arts from Western New England University. He is currently the president of Bhutanese Society of Western Massachusetts, Inc and Managing editor of Non-Resident Bhutanese (NRB).

Editor’s note: The post has been reproduced from the

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