How did Omaha come to know about the Bhutanese Refugees! - 2008/01/10
About a year ago I started seeing news articles about the U.S. volunteering to resettle 60,000 of the Bhutanese refugees that were located in camps in Nepal. After some research I found out that the families of most of these refugees originally came from Nepal. I called the local refugee resettlement organization, which happens to be Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS), to see if any of the refugees would be coming to the Omaha area. The person I spoke with there was Jeffery Vandenberg. He said that they didn't have any plans to bring the Bhutanese refugees here because he didn't know of any people in the area that knew how to speak their language. I told him that all of the refugees know the Nepali language and that there is about 500 Nepali people living here in the Omaha area. He said that he would be interested in meeting one of the leaders from the Nepali community, so I made the arrangements for him to be able to meet Sushma Manandhar.
Bhutanese Refugee coming to Omaha
Have you ever stopped for a moment from your daily routine and thought for a second how you had overcome your initial adjustment with life in the United States? In some ways all of us have come face to face with cultural shock elements and the difficulty of learning new things when we moved to the US.
We, at times, tend to overlook basic things that were once a major learning hurdle for us. At times, we have had to learn many basics of life here in the US. For many of us, Operating Microwave, electric ovens/stoves and Laundry machines were brand new when we first arrived. We have learnt how to withdraw cash from an ATM machine…how to order through a drive through window... how doctor's appointments are made…and the list goes on. Today, none of these may concern us much, but there were probably times when even these small chores gave us anxiety attacks. Some of us were fortunate to know about some of these things from our days back home. Others had friends here who showed us around and lead us through our difficult moments. While others just twisted and turned stuff around in ignorance to learn the way of life with little or no help…trying to overcome the language barrier, searching for someone who could ‘show the way’; someone who would listen and extend a helping hand to give a little comfort in embracing the reality of a foreign land; someone who would introduce you to new people, new society, new culture & new ways of doing things.
Well, let me tell you my story. I was barley in my twenties when I first landed in JFK. I thought the little English that I knew would get me moving in this country. But my anxiety and nervousness of being in a totally new place with all strangers and no one I could relate to put me on the verge of crying. I thought all I needed to know was some English and I would survive in this new world; little had I thought of the culture differences, the new amenities and the new ways of living and doing things I would have to learn to survive. I did not know that I had to put in quarters to get the trolley for my luggage; neither did I know how to use a vending machine. I was scared to use the elevator in fear I would get to the floor that I did not want to get on to. I did not know how to operate a microwave and honestly I did not know how to operate a laundry machine. I was taken by surprise at the grocery stores; there were so many kinds of food to pick and choose from. Back home, we had to mostly tell the grocers what we wanted. I did not know many cultures and traits of this country. I learnt a lot of things during my orientation classes in the school - the basics of American way - from hygiene to every day living. I still remember how I started to narrate my whole ordeal of the day when some one asked me ‘hey, how are you doing?’ Later I learnt that it was just the way people communicated here. Yes I learnt a lot of new things...it took me some time, but I learned it. I had means to learn; I had means to reach out; I could speak the same language that almost all the people in the United States speak - English. Sometime we take things for granted. Knowing the language of the country you are going to live in is extremely important. Since most of us here can communicate in English, we hardly think twice about the people who did not have this privilege and the difficulties they face combating the everyday battle of life. Any place we go in this world, language barrier simply could make life very difficult. Imagine not knowing anything about the place and not being able to communicate on top of that.
There are hundreds of things that we do in our lives that we take for granted. I realized the extent of some of the things we take it granted after the recent visit of my parents. One day I told my mother to take Tylenol for her headache, gave her the pill container and left for work. I came home to find out that my mother had not taken the medicine because she could not open the container...the childproof lock system that the medicine bottles have here had become a treacherous lost battle for her. What has become a second nature to me totally did not make any sense to her. It took my mother some time to learn how to use all the appliances to prepare a meal. She has finally started doing her own laundry. Little did I realize that small things that I now take for granted could become major learning curves for my parents.
Well, I do not want to bore you more with my personal stories. The point I am trying to make here is, for new people in new place, there are always hundreds of little things to conquer…and sometimes little things some take for granted can be quite a bit challenging to others. Why all this talk now? Because we all, as a society, might have an opportunity to help a group of Bhutanese Refugees migrating to the United States. Better yet, a collective effort is being put together for a group to make Omaha, Nebraska their permanent home. They will be standing at the same junction where I and most of you had stood at one point of our lives. Many folks in this group might have limited English language knowledge and very little or no exposure to the western amenities and culture. They also do not have any family ties here and are planning to come to Omaha as the US has granted them VISA for resettlements. This group will only be brought to Omaha if we, the Nepali Community of Omaha, NE are willing to make commitment to help them out. The Lutheran Refugee Services will basically provide them with everything but they need a hand from the Nepalese in Nebraska to help them settle down. Mostly, by means of helping them overcome the Language and culture barriers. This will mean to be there for them when they need their voice to be translated. Some common tasks could be receiving them at the airport... taking them to their apartments...taking them to their doctor visits...to groceries...basically all the things that you and I would do for a friend/family to help their transition to the new "World" as smooth as possible.
I think there are very few of us who have not heard about the Bhutanese in Nepal. If you want to know more about them you can visit the following websites:
Depending on the voices we hear from you all, we will try and arrange a short seminar session with Jeff Vandenberg, who is the head of the Lutheran Refugee Services. Jeff can educate us all more on this situation. The refugees are coming to the United States starting this month. If NNS decides to take this on, it could take at least a month before any refugees would start coming to Omaha.
I very well understand how busy most of us are. It’s already a hard job joggling family and work. Some of us work odd hours. Some of us do not have flexible hours at work. Some of us have other priorities in lives. But we also know that we all are capable of making A DIFFERENCE!! If we all can take at least an hour or two from our daily lives every week/month we could all make a difference in somebody’s life and to our community. Just an hour or two from each of us is all it takes. And this is something we do not have to do through out their stay here. It might take anywhere from eight - nine months up to a year before they get adjusted to this new place. We, the NNS board have been approached with this request and we are putting it in front of you all...some 21 of us can not do this by ourselves...we need help from you all...if we all work it out together we can surely make a difference. Think of what great satisfaction you all will get by helping those brothers and sisters who have been through less fortunate situations. If you are proud parents of young ones, think what an excellent opportunity this can present if you involve them. This would be something that will teach them great values and importance of community work. I do not know yet how we can come up with schedules and hours to help out but any suggestions are welcome. I am presenting this information to you folks so that we collectively decide how we can come together to help out the Bhutanese Refugees.
Thoughts - 2008/01/19
Today I sit in front of a p.c. to add my share of lines to support the same cause we need you all to come forward and make a pledge to help out our new friends coming to this town. Bhutanese of Nepalese origin who have been living in Nepal a life of refugees are being rescued by America and will be given a new home and new identity that of American. So let’s do our part and help the U.S government help them. Let’s raise ourselves above our differences, status quos and political beliefs. Let’s embrace our new friends and welcome them to our community let’s open our hearts for them and make them feel welcomed to their new homes.
LOVE, PEACE and HARMONY let’s not limit these words to the pages of books, fronts of banners and writings pasted on top of tee-shirts. True meaning of these words lies in our actions, so let’s give these words life.
Compared to the history of everything around us, our community is still so young. The community we belong to, the community we at times make fun of but yet defend with full zest whenever the outsiders try to put it down with their cruel words the community we have nurtured with our memories and experiences. It never seizes to amaze me how in this short time, this young community of ours has overcome the differences amongst us and managed to come together, be it to celebrate the holidays together, honor people for their great deeds, support good causes or bring back the basketball trophy home.
This should be a matter of pride for us, all those Nepalese who now call Nebraska home but at the same time we know we can do MORE. We know that together we can make a difference. So let’s prove it one more time let’s join hands let’s come together as a community and welcome our friends to Nebraska... to United States to this land of opportunity. Let’s extend our hands in friendship. Let’s share our love, memories and knowledge that we gathered as we survived yet another day. Let’s once again do the right thing as community and prove all those cynics wrong.
How we can help! - 2008/01/26
NNS is on board to support this mission. But, there are a lot of ins and outs that need to be considered. Mark Kiser, Chitra Pun and myself met with the director of Lutheran Refugee Services for some initial talks regarding this matter. Long story short - Lutheran Refugee Services can bring these refugees to Omaha only if, and I reiterate...only if NNS is willing to assist them with the language and translation capacity. Because almost all the Bhutanese Refugees coming to US speak Nepali either as their first language and/or their second language, Lutheran Refugee Services does not have any resource to support the language and translation needs. That is where we come into play. The Lutheran Refugee Services will provide the Bhutanese Refugees with all and necessities, from housing, utensils, furniture to a set amount of stipends (to name a few things), including all other miscellaneous things needed to resettle. What they need from us, NNS, or anybody who knows Nepali, is to help them with the language and translation barrier . For this, we all need to come together in unison to support this mission if we are going to sign up for it, which I personally think we should, if we want to reach out and show that we care, not just in words, but in actions as well.
You know how we talk about, or hear other people talk about how we, how NNS, as a society should reach out beyond our own community, beyond the normal activities we do to give ourselves more exposure, and to make NNS more recognizable globally and not just locally? Well, the time has come to prove that we are ready to reach out, that we are ready to go above and beyond; the time has come to show that we care; the time has come to show that we can help out if we all come together in unison. Only 21 people, who are on the NNS board, cannot make this happen. We need you and all of you to make this happen!
Now, let me allow myself to put things in perspective on how we can actually help out: If one person can commit to a maximum of 4 hours a month and we can get at least 50 people to sign up...we have 200 hours in a month that we can commit to, or give. But, think about it, if we have more people to sign up, we will have more hours with fewer hours per person to commit to. The Lutheran Refugee Services may need help with the refugees anytime, or any day of the month. We can work out a plan where we can have people sign up - stating what time of the day works the best for them, e.g. morning, versus afternoon, versus evening, versus night...and so on, we can actually make this happen!! Off the top of my head, we have... how many?!?!?!? Hmmm...500 Nepalese living in Omaha, Bellevue and even Lincoln?? Can we not get more than 50 people to sign up!?!?! I feel positive and very strongly for this cause. I also believe that you all will help NNS to move forward with this initiative. I urge all of you to please stop and think for a second about this. It maybe 4 hours of your time in a month, but that 4 hours or yours can give somebody a new life, a new hope and a new dream. All you Nepali Daju bhai and Didi Bahini haru...let's do this! Let's make this happen!
Another catch to this is that, in the process we will know how to help families settle in the United States. We can leverage our efforts in helping new families, students, individuals, who come to Omaha…Bellevue to settle. So, let's come together to support this great mission.
We humbly request everyone to please sign up to volunteer to help out for this cause. Once we have a good handful of people, we will organize a forum/seminar with the Director of Lutheran Refugee Services to learn more about the specifics. NNS will talk and share more about the situation with everyone on what and how NNS can help, how you can help, how our society/community can help, at the Public Gathering coming up on Saturday, February 9th, at Bellevue University in Bellevue.
They did not choose to be a Refugee! - 2008/03/12
As we all know, no one chooses to be a refugee. Unfortunately, several refugee camps in south-eastern Nepal are filled with nepali-speaking-people from Bhutan since 1990. Early last year, the United States of America has decided to resettle at least 60,000 of them in the US. Among a handful of not-for-profit organization involved in such resettlement activities, Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska is exploring the possibility of providing resettlement services to these refugees in Omaha and have request for the Nepali community participation in this effort.
This is an appeal to the members of NNS and their friends to participate in this noble cause by extending a supporting hand in different activities such as sponsoring a refugee family, donating in-kind items and volunteering. More information can be obtained from Luthern Family Services and following the "How you can help"-tab.
As a first step toward making a meaningful contribution in helping the resettlement process for these Bhutani refugees, the NNS-team charged with the responsibility to explore how NNS can assist Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska met with the Program Manager, Mr. Jeffery A. Vandenberg. In the near future we expect to invite Mr. Vandenberg speak to NNS family. However, at this time, we would like to solicit your support and request you to fill out the volunteer sign-up form to indicate your support and availability. Depending on your interest and availability we would like to develop several teams that would assist Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska in the following areas:
(a) Housing and Furnishings
(b) Management and Finance
(c) Language and Education
(d) Transportation and
(e) Acculturation related activities
NN Society, Lutheran Family Services and Bhutan News Service! - 2008/03/13
On behalf of exiled Bhutanese and Bhutan News Service, I must congratulate NN Society for the works that are underway to assist Bhutanese refugees resettling in the United States.
Since last month, I have been regularly browsing the official website of the society. I have gone through the posts on 'Bhutanese refugees', that are too touching and informative. It is great news that Nepali well-wishers in Nebraska are working to assist Bhutanese resettling in Omaha in whatever ways they can. The efforts taken by Dr. Kiran and Mrs. Sushma are praise-worthy. Bhutan News Service is an independent news agency run by young Bhutanese journalists in exile. It has been serving community for a number of years, and is firm in supporting in future as well.
Bhutan News Service believes that it can assist NN society as well as Lutheran Family Services in a number of ways as we have first-hand information on these refugees. We can discuss what helps we can render to both organizations so that those coming to Nebraska would get maximum assistance from NN society and LFS.