BSWM hosted two educational events on the Veterans Day weekend. On Saturday, October 11, 2017, Harvard School of Public Health’s Research Program on Children and Global Adversity (RPCGA)’s Family Strengthening outreach event was successfully organized in Springfield, MA from 11 am to 1 pm.
Dr. Betancourt talking about the project, Mr. Gautam interpreting during the session. Photo/Suruchi Khand.
The research team members including Dr. Theresa Betancourt, Principal Investigator, Jenna Berent, Project Manager, Bhuwan Gautam, Co-investigator, Taran Tiwari, Research Assistant, Prasad Dulal, Family Strengthening Interventionist, Kevin Darjee, Family Strengthening Interventionist, Suruchi Khand, Harvard MPH intern and 50 community members were present.
Narad Adhikari, Research Assistant from Harvard School of Public Health’s another project ‘Bhalakushari’ was also present.
According to Mr. Adhikari, Bhalakushari project studies the refugees age 50 and over about their life experiences from Bhutan to Nepal to the United States.
Mr. Gautam welcomed the participants and the team members and spoke about the history of the program.
He stated that the partnership between the community and research institution has become an important area in addressing the health and mental health of the Bhutanese community through the community based participatory research and intervention methods.
From Left: Jenna Berent, Project Manager, Suruchi Khand, Harvard MPH Intern, Prasad Dulal, Family Interventionist, Kevin Darjee, Family Interventionist, Taran Tiwari, Research Assistant, Dr. Theresa Betancourt, PI and Bhuwan Gautam, Co-investigator.
Dr. Betancourt provided the updates about programmatic overview, goals and achievements. Jenna shared the timeline and RAs and FSIs shared their roles on the project.
According to Dr. Betancourt, they are studying among the Somali Bantu population in Boston and Bhutanese population age 7-17 years in Western Massachusetts.The study hopes to bring more intervention among the resettled refugee communities to improve communication and parenting skills among the children and parents. Dr. Betancourt stated that the community advisory board, both the adult and youth play a vital role in advising the research team, which includes the voice from the community members on the various phases of the research to make sure that the outcome of the study is beneficial to the community.
Mr. Tiwari spoke about his role in recruitment and assessment. Similarly, Mr. Darjee and Mr. Dulal spoke about their roles as interventionists.
The participants were fully engaged in the question and answer session. Light refreshment was served during the lunch time. A FAQ document translated into Nepali was shared among the attendees.
From Left: Bhuwan Gautam, Narad Adhikari, Taran Tiwari, Magda Rodriguez, Sgt. Toledo, Lal Khadka, Durga Giri and Chandra Bhattarai.
Similarly, another information session was organized on Sunday related to reported burglaries, assaults, theft and other crimes.
The representatives from Springfield Police Department Sgt. Ariel J. Toledo and Magda Rodriguez answered questions from the community members.
The questions were taken from the participants as well as facebook live.
According to Sgt. Toledo, for all emergencies, including reporting burglaries, domestic violence, and any other forms of crimes, 9-11 can be dialed.
However, for non-emergency issues can be reported by calling the numbers listed for each city. For Springfield, non-emergency number is 797-6302.
The police encouraged the community members to report any forms of crime by contacting police department without waiting.
For greater community involvement with the law enforcement officers, community members can attend community policing meetings in their areas. The calendar is available at Good neighbor handbook.
The flyer for C3 Park police unit with contact information, the Good neighbor handbook and a souvenir containing a compass, light and police contact information were distributed among the participants.
The detail conversation is recorded and published on BSWM’s facebook page www.facebook.com/bswmusa.
Brother and sister Lila(20) and Chandra Chamlagai(18), seniors from Central High School Springfield, Massachusetts are the recipient of Gates Millennium Scholarship 2015. The scholarship will guarantee them for a full-ride scholarship to the schools of their choice. They were born and grown up in Goldhap refugee camp in Nepal before resettling to Springfield in 2011. Chamlagai’s parents were formally from Danabari, Bhutan and were subsistence farmers in Bhutan, lived in a refugee camp for 19 years before they were resettled in United States under third country resettlement program.
Bhuwan Gautam of NRB interviewed those two siblings who won such a prestigious scholarships:
What does it mean for you to get this scholarship?
Lila: Basically I thought it is combined efforts an academic and social accomplishment. I feel very happy to achieve something, which I have never imagined. I thought myself that I would be selected as a recipient of this prestigious scholarship where hundreds of other native English speaking were there in our class.
Chandra: It’s a great achievement for me to become a family of Gates Millennium Foundation and also to continue my further studies in the field that I desire to go for. In my family, I wasn’t treated differently because of my gender. However, the society is still patriarchal and women are disempowered in some forms, me getting this scholarship is an example to other girls that nothing is impossible if you put your efforts. And this is a beginning only.
Can you explain your emotions when you first heard this news?
Lila: I was inside the room watching some Indian TV show, my mom showed a mail to me, I opened it, I saw congratulations! Literally I cried out loud. After that I read carefully what was the coverage of this scholarship, and financial package. After that I told Chandra that she was not selected, she came and saw and was crying out of happiness.
Chandra: I was overjoyed and couldn’t believe that I got that scholarship. My parents and brother lied to me that I was not accepted, but when I saw it, I found that I was also selected.
Why do you think that you were selected for this scholarship?
Lila: First of all I worked so hard in my school and maintained my GPA. I took several AP classes like Chemistry, Calculus, Statistics, World History and A&P courses. I spent large amount of time to make sure that my grades are above the average. In addition, I have been involved in various community organizations like Bhutanese Society of Western Massachusetts, American red cross society, Pioneer Valley area Health Education center, Health occupation student America, Ping-Pong club, Mass mutual, key club, National Honors society, National Math society and so on. I was also a Regional member of Baystate Springfield educational partnership, central volunteer of Baystate.
Chandra: Its similar to Lila’s contribution as we never separated from each other in terms of our volunteer services. That was possible because we are more just like classmates living in the same family. Whenever, we wanted to something, we always consulted each other. Only one difference we did was: my brother wrote a poem, but I performed cultural dance in our community.
Did you volunteer to any communities while you were a high school student? What are your contributions?
Lila: Actually a sense of volunteerism came to me since I was young. I always participated in some forms of community works in refugee camp. I contributed with whatever I had. During the last summer, I have volunteered my time to Harvard School of Public health in their research among teenage and adolescent among Bhutanese population.
Chandra: Like Lila, I also did not stay inside my home and studied only. I have spent hours out in the communities and learnt new things every day. Whatever I learnt, I simply shared among others and that continues.
What school have you applied for?
Lila: I have applied for Elmira College in NY, UMass Dartmouth, and Western New England University. I could have applied to Harvard, Yale, Brown, and Princeton if I knew that I was going to be accepted for this scholarship. Now I realize that it is too late for me to apply.
Chandra: Same schools. Accepted to all of them. Want to go for Elmira because Lila is going there too so it we will not miss our home too much if we both are going to be in the same school. Plus, this scholarship has proven that if we two work together, we are going to have wonderful result of our coordinated efforts.
What is your ambition?
Lila: I am planning to major in biology and apply to medical schools. I have not decided my specialty yet. But my current thought is to go for Gastroenterology.
Chandra: I plan to major in biochemistry on the way to becoming a physician assistant
What do you advise other Bhutanese students of your age?
Lila: Well, do work hard; hard work is always paid back. Involve in the numerous extra curricular activities inside and outside communities. Please don’t ignore the power of your local community because that’s the community you represent in the future. Now I realize that the scholarship would have given to me if I were not involved in the community organization.
Chandra: Be confident and stand up, never give up, don’t hesitate to speak up even things you have accent and difficulty communicating. Get involved with community service and watch your grades in school from the beginning, get support from the teachers and guidance counselors, they are your resources.
Note: This piece is being reproduced from NRB with permission.
By: Kevin K. Pariyar, Springfield,MA
A group of 30 Bhutanese community members from Springfield participated in the humanic action day program at Springfield College on September 23, 2014 from 9 am to 12:30 pm.
The event was organized to educate Bhutanese refugee population about Health and Wellness.
Dr. Sam Headley, professor of Exercise Science and Sport Studies coordinated an event. He mentioned that he has been aware of the Bhutanese common dietary habit from among the church members and other Bhutanese individuals. He further stressed that large amount of rice has high calories and carbohydrates, which is detrimental to the patients with diabetes, cholesterol, obesity and high blood pressure.
Dr. Donna Chapman giving presentation about healthy eating habits. Photo Courtesy: Kevin Pariyar.
Dr. Donna Chapman, dietician along with the college students presented educational session on “diet, health and Wellness” among the participants. Dr. Chapman educated the group that high calories diet has significant effect on our health .She emphasized on cutting down the amount of rice and replace the rice with other fruits and vegetables. She suggested avoiding coke and drinks with high sugar with water and diet cokes. She educated to look into nutrition fact label in food packages before buying them.
Overall, the event was very informative. It was an eye opening session for the attendees, as they were able to understand the risk of unhealthy eating habit. The participants were able to understand the health risk vs. healthy eating habits and physical exercise.
BSWM started teaching US citizenship classes to its community members since November 2013. The classes were taken on weekly basis at the member’s residences.
The community members invited other members, took turns to hold such classes in different locations for at least two hours. However, the increasing demand of such classes brought up liability and legal issues to interrupt teaching at the apartments in West Springfield. Springfield and West Springfield continued to teach at their apartments.
Bhuwan Gautam instructing the first class in Springfield. Photo: Prasad Dulal
But the recent collaboration of BSWM with Vietnamese American Civic Association (VACA) has given hope for Bhutanese refugees and immigrants to continue the classes. According to Bhuwan Gautam, President of BSWM, VACA has given office space and a classroom at 433 Belmont Avenue, Springfield, MA. “The current location may not serve the needs of the Westfield and West Springfield residents but it is something to start with in the beginning”. Gautam said.
Citizenship education classes are held at every Saturday from 2 pm to 4 pm and Nepali language classes are held on Sundays from 2 pm to 4 pm.
Twenty individuals showed up for the class today. Prasad Dulal, community volunteer and Bhuwan Gautam started the class.
The community members are encouraged to share this information among their contacts and participate in volunteer work to run those classes.
Class at 26 Burford ave, West Springfield. Photo: BSWM/file
The first class in 2013 was taken by Laxmi Adhikari, Cultural Coordinator at 26 Burford Avenue, West Springfield on November 13, 2013, followed by Ram Rai, Advisor , and Chatra Basnet, Board Chief.
The participants addressed the need to have such classes more frequent.
Mr. Gautam hosted citizenship information session on December 14, 2013 at Westfield and stressed out the need for the Bhutanese Lawful Permanent Residents of Western Massachusetts to put their efforts to learn about the U.S history and Civics in order to qualify the benefits of the U.S citizenship.
He further adds, “We as a community is responding to the need of the community members. For now, we educate, encourage and refer them to the USCIS accredited institutions for additional information and application process until we have our own mechanism to handle those legal responsibilities”.
Editor’s note: Some parts of this article has been reproduced from Dec 14, 2013 article.
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).
The post has been reproduced from the Massivelive.com
By BHUWAN GAUTAM
I‘m writing in response to Mayor Domenic J. Sarno’s plea
to stop the U.S. State Department from “dumping” refugees
in Springfield, claiming they are a drain on school and municipal services. His call has taken a psychological toll
on the refugee community.The United States of America is the home of refugees and immigrants. Asians rank number one in terms of achieving high education and earnings among refugees from other countries.
Everyone deserves the right to be treated equally. No human being chooses to become refugee.
People become refugee for many reasons. The UN’s organization, United Nation High Commission for Refugees, defines refugees as, “A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.”
Among all refugees, Bhutanese refugees are the largest resettlement in Springfield. They became refugees when the king of Bhutan adopted an ethnic cleansing policy under ‘one nation one people’ policy in 1989. Thousands of people were killed, raped and tortured by Bhutanese army and police forces.
These people left the country to escape such persecution and took asylum in Nepal. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees provided us with humanitarian assistance for 18 years, and is still managing the camps in Eastern Nepal. The UN fund of course is a taxpayer’s dollar.
We always wanted to go back to our country and start our normal life. Unfortunately, the hope was too long to carry. The only secure place for us is the United States of America.
In 2007, the US government offered to resettle 60 Bhutanese refugees. Among them, I was one to apply and came to the oldest democratic country and the land of opportunity. I was the fourth family resettled by Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts. After that, my parents, brother and his family joined me in 2008. So far, we have more than 50 Bhutanese families starting their new lives and eagerly waiting to see their loved ones and family members to come through the same process in the same city.
My mother was waiting for her mother, but, unfortunately, she passed away due to a lack of medical care. She is waiting to see her brother and his family. Similarly, hundreds of people are waiting to join their families, friends and relatives before the Bhutanese Refugee Resettlement program in Nepal ends in 2015.
We have a small Bhutanese Community of Western Massachusetts, which numbers around 1,500 Bhutanese refugees from Springfield, West Springfield, and Westfield.
What I have seen just in 5 years is all success stories. Students are getting the opportunities to excel, people are becoming citizens, opening up businesses and buying homes, becoming the members of churches, temples and contributing towards the economy as well as bringing up the unique collective society in the multicultural life of the city.
Bhanu Tiwari, a refugee from Bhutan who came to Springfield operated laundry business and bought a home in Springfield, Keshab Mainali, a young Bhutanese man got accepted at Westfield State College. He wants be become a medical doctor, Uttam Adhikari, was accepted by UMass Amherst, and he wants to become a mathematician.
Bhutanese students are good at mathematics and science. In five years, there is no record of domestic violence and crimes committed by the refugees in Springfield.
Bhutanese refugees have the highest socioeconomic levels among all refugees in the city of Springfield. Those are not the right examples of characterizing refugees as burden to the local community.
If it is a housing issue, adopting moratorium on refugees alone would not solve the housing problem. There has to be a mechanism to prevent substandard housing in the city. Substandard housings existed before refugee resettlement started. Housing authorities and landlords should be fixing this issue, and refugees should not be blamed for this huge problem.
However, I agree that the mayor is concerned about the refugees need to have long-term case management in order to fully integrate into the mainstream society. I believe that the refugee resettlement agencies are doing great job helping the refugees and community-based organizations with their available resources in order to navigate them into mainstream culture.
Without the support of the American people, UNHCR, International Organization for Migration (IOM), refugee resettlement agencies, state and local officials, the refugees would not have been in this great country prospering and sharing their successful stories.
Bhuwanishor Gautam, of West Springfield is a refugee from Bhutan and President of Bhutanese Community of Western Massachusetts.
This article is being reproduced from masslive.com
By: Bhuwan Gautam
On May 1, Gyan Adhikari, 59 fulfilled his American dream by passing U.S naturalization test. Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts resettled him in February 2009. Mr. Gyan said that he had no English when we came to this country five years ago but put his efforts to learn and finally got through.
Gyan celebrating his achievement Photo Courtesy, Damber Khanal
Mr. Adhikari was some of the first 60,000 Bhutanese refugees the U.S welcome- and the sixth Bhutanese refugee family to be resettled in Springfield, MA. Now there are over 1500 Bhutanese resettled in Western Massachusetts. The refugees themselves have formed a community-based organization to teach self-help and encourage integrating into the local community as fast as possible.
For some refugees, coming to the new country is shocking experience and becoming challenging. While Mr. Adhikari was an opposite. “Five years have passed so quick for me. Each day I learnt new English word and tried my best to communicate in English with English speaking people. Kerran, an American lady volunteered and tutored me every week at my apartment. Also, I attended 14 weeks of citizenship classes from Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts” Gyan said.
Now Mr. Adhikari volunteers his time to gather other elderly Bhutanese people in their apartments on rotation basis and teaches them how to prepare for the test. Bhutanese Society of Western Massachusetts volunteers started teaching US history and civics lessons in December 2013 to its community members. The classes are taken on weekly basis at the refugee’s apartments. The community members invite other members; take turns to hold such classes in different locations for at least two hours. The volunteer tutors educate them, and refer them to the USCIS accredited institutions for additional classes and immigration paperwork assistances.
He has become one of the examples and ray of hope among the hopeless elderly people with no English. “I encourage them to read, prepare and pass because they think that is not possible.” Gyan said. This kind of social gathering will not only help to motivate people but also engages them to do meaningful work to reduce social isolation. The suicide rate among the resettled Bhutanese has become the common concern in the United States. Sometime, the mismatch of expectations, cultural shock and language barrier can also force people to make bad choices.
Mr. Adhikari was born in remote area of Southern Bhutan. His family traces its heritages to the 17th centaury, when hundreds of Nepalese were relocated to Bhutan to search for jobs. Bhutanese government gave them all the citizenship rights. However, in 1989, the Royal Government of Bhutan adopted ethnic cleansing policy depriving the Nepalese ethnicity. The Bhutanese authority forfeited his citizenship card in 1990. “They burnt our Nepali clothes, text books, jailed men, raped their daughters and wives, and killed many people who were against the monarchy. They forced to wear their clothes and speak their language” Gyan said.
His monotonous journey from Bhutan to an unknown destination finally ended up in the United States with excitement to compensate the lost land, home and belongings in Bhutan.
The Nepal government has no naturalization provision, it granted asylum only. “I spoke, read, and write Nepali and lived in Nepal for 17 years but then they did not give me a Nepalese citizenship. I just came 5 years ago and today I became the U.S citizen” Gyan said.
Majority of the Bhutanese people live under poverty level and are entirely dependent on subsistence farming. “Life in Bhutan was very hard. Though I had land and a small home, there was no freedom of expression. There was freedom of expression in Nepal but the camp life was very difficult, painful, and suffering.” Gyan said.
When asked what you can give to this country, Gyan said, “I will be loyal to the United States because Bhutanese government told that I was not loyal to them. My son Ramesh, 20 is studying at STCC and wants to become a businessmen. My daughter is studying at grade 7 and speaks English like an American girl”.
Families gather to learn US History and Civics
Just a month ago, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) made an announcement that it will stop issuing declaration of interest forms for resettlement of Bhutanese refugees from June 30, 2014. Mr. Adhikari is left behind with his cousin and his family in Nepal. He encourages his friends and neighbors to come to the world’s best place to live and enjoy the freedom.
Within 5 years, 11 resettled Bhutanese have graduated from four years college, 3 graduated from masters degree, 8 graduated from professional degrees, 14 people have bought homes and 15 people have become U.S citizen
Mr. Adhikari lives with his wife and two children at 624 Sumner Ave#3, Springfield, MA
The resettled Bhutanese are poor and look poor today but they will graduate into entrepreneurs, professionals, teachers and social workers tomorrow and can contribute to the local economy.
The Western Massachusetts Refugees and Immigrant Consortium (WMRIC), coalition of refugee stakeholders is preparing to organize World Refugee day on June and hundreds of refugees and immigrants are expected to embrace their unique cultural diversity in the program.
Please click below to read the slides:
2014 Annual Event Presentation
On January 22 ,2014, the Federal Trade Commission(FTC) hosted a webinar, “Scams Against the Immigrant Community”. One of the Bhutanese refugee individuals in Springfield, MA has already became the victim of telephone scam and ended up paying over 1,000 U.S dollars. BSWM encourages everyone to share this resource to educate your families and friends in order to avoid from such scams.
Please click on the image below to read the slides:
Webinar hosted by FTC on January 22, 2014