Meet some of the young people
From 1998-2008 over 3000 young people have been involved in The Children's Forum, through art workshops, contributing to the newspaper, taking photos or organising events and activities. A few of their stories are shared here.
It is an impossible task to name every individual but The Children’s Forum could not have existed without all these young people’s commitment, energy and creativity and the support they had from adults within the refugee community.
This website stands as a testament to their dedication and hard work. Many thanks to everyone involved for sharing their stories.
I’m a Bhutanese girl. I live in a refugee camp with my family. Though I was small when I came from Bhutan I remember it well because my parents always talk about our beautiful home, our land, and our animals. We have photos to help us remember.
I remember playing with my friends in beautiful gardens but today when I look around I see only bamboo huts everywhere.
Outsiders look at us and say that we are lazy people, that we are getting everything and have comfortable lives in the camps, but this is wrong. We did not come here through choice. In Bhutan, every day the army used to come to my village and they would beat and torture my parents and the elders and take any food they liked. We were able to bear this but they continued coming time and again.
There is a saying, ‘the bird of the forest will be happy in the forest itself, not in a cage’. Like this bird, I also won’t be happy until I’m a citizen of my motherland, Bhutan.
I wish all people could see that I’m not happy to be a refugee even if we are well looked after. My friends and I may be educated but it does not have any value without freedom. I won’t be proud of my knowledge until I have citizenship.
I am a Bhutanese national living in Nepal. I dream of a bright future but I’m always covered by the dark blanket of being a refugee. I think about working for society and my country but I’m always frustrated because of being a refugee and I feel all my ambitions may be in vain.
I was born in my beloved Bhutan on 22nd March 1987. I was very young when I lived there and have few clear images of my home.
I came with my parents, four brothers and sister to live here in the camps. At the time I was unaware that we were losing our house and belongings but was conscious that my parents walked with heavy legs and tears in their eyes. Before we left our country my father was jailed and now I know that he was released with the ultimatum to leave the country.
Now I am living in a Bhutanese refugee camp. The houses are closely packed. The toilets are very near the houses. We do not have enough space to play but we have schools with simple educational facilities. I passed secondary level from my camp school. We eat the things provided to us by UNHCR and others organizations but it is sometimes insufficient.
We have schools but I get frustrated because I don’t know what my future will be. My mind is always filled with unclear thoughts about my future.
Lots more children are being born every day in the camps. Crimes like robbery and rape are not common but are increasing. I am afraid about the number of increasing youths with energy and ambition but who have no place to exercise their minds. I fear this may make the Bhutanese refugee camps into crime spots.
When I was six months old my father died. After that, when I was two and a half years old, my mother eloped with my step father and I was very unlucky as I didn’t get the love of a father and mother but instead I was forced to stay alone. When my maternal grand parents heard about me they took me in their own house and kept me there. Day by day I slowly matured.
When I reached the age of 7 years I came to Nepal along with my two grand parents. We had all become Bhutanese refugees. I joined the school and I have continuously studied until today. Now we are all homeless and jobless. My grandfather is always ill and he had mental impairment. My grandmother also has only one eye.
I am the one who is able but I have not had any opportunities to get a job and work until I joined the photography programme. Now I have been given the opportunity to become a lady in the photographic field. Such training was not available before and since I have been a child my ambition has been to become a photographer. This project has enabled me to fulfil my dream and so I will not forget this until my last breath.
I am a Bhutanese refugee student. I joined The Children’s Forum in 2000 as a member of the writing group. PhotoVoice gave us workshops in journalism and we publish a monthly newspaper.
My involvement with the newspaper has taught me to understand different people and situations and has allowed me to share my ideas and experiences among friends. I write news, edit reports and work on the computer for typing and layout design. I am also sub-editor of the paper. I am proud of being such.
Now, people know me. People give me an audience when I go for collecting news or for interview. They hear me. They even ask my opinion and advice. Senior citizens and teachers praise me for the work I do.
Their appreciation makes me feel that I am working to the best of my capability and by giving something to the community I believe I am getting something back also.
My work on the paper has brought a change in me. It has helped me remain busy and not to be swayed into unsociable activities and it has created an enthusiasm in me to pursue a career as a professional journalist. Had I not joined The Children’s Forum I would have become somebody but I never imagined being a journalist, but now I am known in camp and my voice is heard.
Life in the camps is bad and it’s getting worse.
Fifteen years ago we were enjoying a happy life in Bhutan. The Bhutanese government evicted us, labelling us Nepalese. This was because we spoke Nepali and we wore traditional Nepali dress.
In 1990 the Government began to persecute us. They burnt and destroyed our house and chased us into the night. I was 2 years old at the time.
My family had to leave our mother country and was forced to spend a sad life in the camps. We have now spent fifteen years living in exile. My aim in life is to became a doctor and look after my community.
All the young people are eager to return to the motherland. Every year the Bhutanese government has talks but does not appear interested in taking the refugees back. I am worried these will be no repatriation and we’ll die in the camps.
More than 50% of the population of Bhutanese refugees who can remember Bhutan will end up dying in Nepal. The small children do not know anything about Bhutan because they have been born in the refugee camps.
Because the camps are overcrowded many people are catching diseases. Now in the camps there are only small children. The old are dying, rich people are leaving to make land elsewhere and the youth are going outside the camps to work.
I still remember my brief time in Bhutan. I had land and other property. In Bhutan I had a nice school building which was made of cement and bricks. In Bhutan I had good neighbours. In Bhutan the houses were a good distance apart.
We helped one another but then people and the Government began to misunderstand each other and they ruled that the girl students should cut their hair like the boys and said we should wear a different style of clothing from our traditional dress. This is the main reason why we became refugees. They took our citizenship documents and our property and made us landless.
Here I have nothing. I have no documents so I can’t get any permanent employment or opportunities. I have no fixed place to live. I have no right to exist freely. I do not have a small piece of land where I can settle. But I got a golden opportunity to gain education in the refugee camps. We have knowledge but do not have citizenship.
Local people treat us like prisoners because we are poor.
I was only 7 years old when I left Bhutan with my parents. I did not know about the cause of our leaving Bhutan. I hardly remember the incident but my father, mother, brother and sisters cried a lot during our departure and when I saw them cry I cried too.
Now that I am older I know the cause of our eviction. My greatest sorrow during that time was leaving my school where I had been studying for one year.
It is a great fortune to the refugee children like me that we are able to continue with our education and that it is given freely. I am studying up to secondary level and am going to study further very soon. In the future I want to be a great doctor or a renowned journalist.
I am spending this refugee life quite happily and it is good being with friends and relatives but I am very sad not being in my homeland and not having citizenship.
It is good fortune for me to be involved in The Children’s Forum as a journalist for our publication. This project has brought me more confidence, given me more experience and has developed me mentally giving me another view and essential practical knowledge.
I am a Bhutanese girl and I am proud of being Bhutanese. I arrived in camp in 1992. People say to us that we are simply coming to Nepal and being given everything and sitting in a peaceful life. They do not understand the problems we face in the refugee camps. When they say bad things about us we have no power to answer them.
I am a member of the Rose Class since 1998 and I have been holding the position of photographer. Although I am not as confident as a professional photographer in using the camera I still know how to take a photograph.
I want to become a good photographer and if I become one I will train other children to use a camera. I will be frank with them but I will not scold them otherwise they will not learn fast. I want to take pictures for newspapers and to use my photography to share my views with others, spreading my photos around the world.
By seeing our pictures I hope people will not hate us but understand our situation and help us to return to Bhutan. I do not believe that anyone should have to face a refugee life.