Reasons for opting for resettlement: better, self managed and secured living
My family spent 17 years in UNHCR administered refugee camp at Sanischare in Morang district in eastern Nepal. Hoping for a dignified return to Bhutan, we waited patiently during 17 rounds of Nepal-Bhutan bilateral talks but they bore no results. In addition there was donor fatigue, a troubled political situation in Nepal, social crimes in the camps and growing family obligations that led my joint family of 19 people to decide to opt for the third country resettlement program. We hope to have better education for the younger generation and an improved and secure way of life until a solution is sorted out and dignified return to our country of origin is guaranteed.
Foothold in Bhutan
I am the ninth child born to Badri Nath Pokharel and Sabitra Pokharel, at Bokre, Kikorthang in Chirang Bhutan, born in Feb. 1974. I spent my childhood in farm and had my primary education from the then Damphu Junior High School, one of the reputed schools in Bhutan. My grand father Late Bal Krishna Pokharel entered Bhutan and settled in Chirang in the year 1910 AD, three years after Ugyen Wangchuck established the kingship and became the first hereditary king of Bhutan
I was 17 years old when my family became one of the 100,000 southern Bhutanese, of Nepali origin forced to leave. I still remember our vast paddy fields, the orange orchard and cultivating land that covered over 15 acres. We left our ancestral property in the early morning of 25th April 1992 and entered Nepal seeking asylum on 30th April 1992.
While in exile I had my Bachelor's degree in Arts and volunteered in the refugee camp as a volunteer teacher under CARITAS-Nepal for five years. I volunteered as an executive member of Bhutan Press Union informing and educating refugees in the area of health, education and social awareness programs through weekly, fortnightly and monthly news papers and news letters from 2001 till mid- 2009.
Screening for resettlement: a lengthy process
My family completed the interest form for the third country resettlement program in April 2008 through UNHCR. It was accepted in July 2008. By then, many refugees had shown interest and applied, so it took another twelve months for the whole procedure to be completed.
I along with rest of my family members left Sanischare camp on 10th of July 2009 and arrived in the US on 15th of July, since then I am staying in California at Sacramento.
My confidence in new land
When my family landed in the US, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) took care of us and our immediate needs. Now we are here under a state- Matching Grant program and the IRC is monitoring our support and enabling us to be independent. The tireless support of the staff and volunteers of the IRC is hugely appreciated by myself and my wife. We have been helped with training to search for jobs, facing interviews and supported to deal with the people and system here.
My wife Tika Pokharel got a job at ROSS - Dress for Less in the first week of October and I got very recently a job at CINTAS. Now I am happy to be here because my father and mother, 82 and 74 years old respectively, are receiving the medical treatment they need and which would have been impossible to find in the refugee camp in Nepal.
Of course, for any individual, the first few months of being in an entirely new country with new system of life is confusing but time is a great healer and with time you become accustomed. This is what I have found. People here are so friendly and helpful. They are kind to all seekers.
Sustaining the hope of repatriation
There are 44 Bhutanese refugee families living in the place where I now am. We are all living within 30 minutes walking distance of each other. Together we shared the last Dasain and Deepawali greetings. We celebrated our festivals with great enthusiasm.
The most common thing I find in all Bhutanese friends is their sense of belongingness to our homeland Bhutan. They are all deeply patriotic and it is with this force that we sustain our hope of being repatriated. I am happy that all our documents in the US say that our country of origin is Bhutan.