Having fled persecution from the Bhutanese government in 1990, my family and I, like thousands of other Bhutanese people, lived as refugees in Eastern Nepal. Beginning with my primary education in the refugee camp I completed my undergrad degree in Science in Sikkim, India. Despite the economic hardships of the camp life, it was my parents’ strong desire to have their children educated well that made my higher education possible. After several failed attempts of repatriation to Bhutan, which was our first choice anyway to go back to our roots, we had no other choice but to accept a resettlement in a third-country option and start a new life all over again. Most of us were not even given a choice of which country to go and start a new life! Only in rare situations refugees were allowed to make a choice of country they would like to go. Thus, I arrived in Colorado State of USA in 2009 after a tortuous process of vetting that took more than a year to clear for my family.
As with many other refugees, I began my life in USA (well, for us USA meant You Start Again!) working in an entry level job in a grocery store. All throughout, I invested my best in whatever I attempted and sometimes worked two odd jobs to catch-up with the rest! Since my young age, my father taught me that ‘well-being of a family is the cornerstone for the well-being of a society’. With that mindset I began working hard to raise my family to a higher bar, often doing more than one job to meet that goal. Volunteering being a part of our life in the refugee camp, I also felt a strong desire to do something more. While taking care of my family’s needs, I also began volunteering in my Bhutanese community in Colorado to help them navigate their new life and help them in their local integration efforts. So, I began busying myself outside my survival job to organize the community with the help of the local partners and other stakeholders. We finally formed a working group of strong like-minded individuals and buddies and with the support of the local friends and partners, we rolled out various programs at the community level with the vision of creating a vibrant community. As a result of that the new Bhutanese community in Colorado began to show some progress and vibrancy. Sadly, my family decided to move out of Colorado to settle down in Columbus, Ohio. However, the choice of moving to Ohio turned out to be blessings for me! The state of Ohio is now home to the largest Bhutanese community.
A new life in Columbus, Ohio, started again with odd jobs but I continued to invest some time outside my jobs to rebuild the community here with my new Bhutanese friends, some of whom were already my seniors as well as friends from my refugee camp. Beginning with my volunteer service, I went on to become the President of the Bhutanese Community of Central Ohio (BCCO). The organization made significant contributions towards resettlement process and integration of the new community by addressing various needs and challenges of the different segments of the community. We were able to secure local grants and even federal grants to support refugees falling out of mainstream state programs. Working closely with the partners of local agencies, both private and government, I gained valuable insights and experience to mobilize resources and help organize the community towards a better future. The need of the community to integrate well with the local community, while preserving our culture and traditions, has been the primary focus of our community work.
After becoming a proud US citizen in 2016. I came to realize that time has come for me to play a more proactive and meaningful role in the larger community. As the Bhutanese community continues to thrive and integrate in the local community, there is a need to understand each other, build trust and work together towards common well-being. In spite of the cultural and linguistic differences, the Bhutanese people are very dynamic and hard working. Our religious culture and traditions have given us insights and mode of behavior towards peaceful co-existence. So, it has become imperative for the community leaders to come forward and work together as Americans rather than as temporary guests! It’s more urgent for our community to go out and build relationships than vice-versa. Of course, a healthy and harmonious neighborhood depends on a two-way traffic but I personally stress on my community folks to initiate building that two-way traffic. I also see a need for the old-time residents to help us understand the local culture, norms and values of a democratic civic life so that we get an opportunity to build that trust. Working as a community organizer for about a decade now, I firmly believe that communities are the backbone of nation-building and the best way to contribute towards the country is to strengthen the local communities. I have also discovered that mainstream American society is so accommodating and welcoming towards the new populations.
In the light of all the above developments and challenges, I have realized that it is time for me to seek a larger role in the community through an elected office. With careful thoughts and consultations with my community friends, colleagues and local leadership, I have made a decision to run for the City Council from Ward 3 in the City of Reynoldsburg. The Democratic Party has put its trust on me and nominated me as its candidates for this ward and I have begun undertaking outreach activities in the local communities. While there is no dearth of enthusiasm and energy on my part, I do not have the luxury of benefiting from experience or resources of my predecessors from my Ward. I happen to be new to Politics and a novice at running for public office.
Needless to say, I therefore, need help from my own community, Ward communities, friends and well-wishers. I need your encouragement, inputs, guidance and last but not the least, financial support to fund my campaign. Upon election to the said office, I commit to put in my best and do everything in my capacity and authority to help the whole community I represent in my Ward. My election to the said office, which I believe, largely depends on the timely role my own community members would undertake toward ensuring my success. My success will also pave the way for the future generation of our community members to run for political offices, thereby ensuring a process of continuity that was started since the foundation of this great nation-towards unity, harmony and prosperity of all Americans, old and new.
Thank you so much for your support and encouragement. God Bless America.
Any interested individual wishing to support me may contact at [email protected] for the further information.
The Author is a candidate for City Council Ward #3, Reynoldsburg, Ohio.
Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the BNS. BNS doesn’t endorse any political candidates and it always adheres to nonpartisan position.