By Sumitra Chhetri
“When chickens got sick or dead we used to worry a lot because those were the only way to mobilize resources to buy books,pencils and other stationery stuffs for children in the refugee camps”, a Bhutanese refugee resettled in Portland expressed his feeling in a story telling program organized by Daya Shakya ,the former president of Nepalese Association in Oregon(NAO) last week, in Portland, Oregon.
Listening to the stories and poems based on true experience of life and power point presentation exhibited in the program every one turned nostalgic, recalling those trails of memories back home and of painful and pathetic lives as refugee in the camps in eastern Nepal which they never wish to see once again in their lives.
Kedar Tiwari who arrived here just a few months ago wrote his story in Nepali that was read out by Geeta Khatiwada. His words soaked in sorrow didn’t only evoke old memories but also shed tears in the eyes of the audience present at the function. Tiwari had artistically written about how he spent four years in the dark dungeon of Bhutan, away from family friends and relatives, after he was arrested by the Royal Government of Bhutan on charge of treason.
Bhutanese Poet, Moti Rizal recited his poem sharing his bitter experience of sleeping in the open field under the canopy of dismal clouds in refugee camp in early Nineties shortly after his eviction by the Royal Government of Bhutan.
Neutralizing the pangs, another poet, Tika Ram Bhattarai added that the southern settlers mainly the Nepali ethnics had no alternative than to run away in a bid to escape from being caught, arrested and killed brutally by the armies. “So they ran to save their lives walking down the hills for several days and nights”, Bhattarai shared tearfully.
The visual presentation in power point form by Sumitra Chhetri and Som Subedi were unforgettable to the audience on what they have gone through in refugee camps.
The poems and stories were translated into English by coordinator Daya Shakya. Replying the query as to what induced him to organize such program, Mr. Shakya said, “I was inspired to do something for them after hearing the heart breaking stories of 80 resettled Bhutanese refugees while interpreting for their needs and wants”.
Josh, the case manager at Catholic Charities expressed that it was good to organize such programs for the community where one could listen to the unheard stories of the Bhutanese refugees which can,in many cases, be the sources of inspiration to others,
Ramesh Mukkamala, Portland representative for Sewa International said that his organization has been providing support for this new Community in Portland , Oregon for early integration and will continue to do so in future too. His willingness to provide the transportation expense to those who can’t afford was appreciated by the youth attendees Group of Bhutanese Youth in Oregon (GoBYO). Mr. Steve, a volunteer, helped to pick up and drop senior citizens from Bhutanese community helping them to listen their own stories in program.
Immigrants and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) is working days and nights for searching and providing the jobs and English classes for new arrivals. Catholic Charities and Lutheran community services are also resettling the refugees providing the case managers to apply basic needs for couple months. Almost 250 Bhutanese refugees have been resettled in Portland , OR since it began in early 2008.Three members of GoBYO Bhim,Ganashyam and Yamuna have committed to organize the “New Year Gathering 2010” on January 1st.
(Miss Chhetri is a resettled Bhutanese in Oregon.)