Transportation is very important to our members, and in the United States the most prevalent way to get around is by car.  Therefore, it is critical that members learn to drive and get driver’s licenses.

 

Far right, Krishna Subba, who was then Secretary of the Bhutanese Community Association of Akron, is helping Narbir Rai (in car) with the maneuverability test on the ACME parking lot near Carnegie Avenue.

Transportation is a critical necessity in the United State and several of our members have had difficulty in passing the written and maneuverability tests to obtain a driver’s license. Instruction is being conducted to assist members pass these tests.

Tika Dhimal practicing the maneuverability test

On the left you see a very happy Tika on June 11, 2010 holding his new driver’s license.

Suggestions and critiques of this Web site should be directed to
tkuhn@kent.edu
Last Update 6/1/2010

A general election was conducted on July 25, 2010, to elect officers for the newly formed Bhutanese Community Association of Akron, Inc. This page shows some photographs of that event in which voting took place at three polling locations, each near a population center of our members.

General Election 2010
Voting at 740 Carnegie Avenue

 

Three high school students reporting for the Bhutanese Times Newsletter interviewed voters, candidates, election committee members, and observers.

 

 

While there were lines, the efficient election committee kept the voters moving through the process.

 

 

 

Voting at 330 Broad Boulevard (note that the Ballot Box was sealed and carefully carried from one polling place to the next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voting at 336 Oxford Avenue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Counting the Votes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Election Committee counts and tabulates the counted votes and certifies the results, first with one person adding and being watched and second by another person adding and being watched.

 

Announcing the winners

 

Some of the winners after the late night announcement

 

 

 

It is heartwarming when members of the local communities welcome the Bhutanese community. On Saturday, August 21, 2010, members of the greater Akron area Bhutanese community were invited to participate in the Kent Community Dinner at which the culture and customs of different societies were celebrated.
The Kent Community Dinner is a charitable and educational service organized by All Together Now, Inc.
The Kent Community Dinner brings together people of all ages, cultures, ethnicities, races, religions, and walks of life to share food, conversation, and music at various locations around Kent.

These potluck dinners provide diverse groups with the opportunity to realize the commonality of all people.

Full cars of Bhutanese refugees made their way to Fred Fuller Park in Kent, Ohio, and in spite of dark skies and heavy rain, a festive atmosphere filled the Roy H. Smith Shelter House with approximately 150 Nepalese and 35 Kent community people.
Several local dignitaries welcomed the people to the event.
Traditional dances were performed by Nepalese boys and girls.

Tika Osti gave an insightful overview that explained the genesis and the exodus of the Bhutanese Refugees from their homeland. In spite of the harsh and unfair treatment they received, he concluded his speech with optimism saying that the refugees want “to build their new lives once again in a new country.”
Click HERE for text of Mr. Osti’s speech.

A religious dance punctuated with cymbals.
A heartfelt song about their motherland.

 

Bhim Dhungana reviewed the culture of Nepalese people from southern Bhutan. He talked about festival, dress, food, and death customs.
He said that it is believed that there are around 33 million gods and goddess in Nepali culture, so every day of the year can be packed with festivals!

Click HERE for text of Mr. Dhungana’s speech.

Speaking on behalf of the Bhutanese refugee community, Dr. Naresh Subba gave some concluding remarks and thanked the Kent community for their interest in Bhutanese people.
Laura Mazur said the the purpose of the Kent Community Dinner is to “get people together to share and celebrate their differences in a spiritual, but not religious, manner.” The effort is to build respect for everyone by understanding cultures and making people feel honored and respected.
Dr. Geraldine Hayes-Nelson (center), speaking on behalf of KSU President Lester Lefton, encouraged both young students and adults to think about going to Kent State University. She also emphasized how important it is that “we come together as a community to celebrate and to learn more about each other.”

Laura Mazur said that the Kent Community Dinner is held from March through October in different locations throughout the city. She hopes the event makes people feel honored and respected.

Nilam Ghimirey [left], Bishnu Ghimirey [center], and Kumari Mishara [right] at the lCommunity Room of the United Methodist Church in Kent, Ohio on August 31, 2010 where they made a presentation titled “Weaving in Exile” to the Kent Rotary Club. Deborah Solan, Executive Director of the Robinson Memorial Hospital Foundation, was Nilam’s Summer Volunteer Experience supervisor at Robinson. She extended the invitation for the presentation on behalf of the Kent Rotary Club.

 

Following Deb Solan, who described how she got to know Nilam through her volunteer experience at Robinson Memorial Hospital, Dr. Terry Kuhn described a girl named “Nandi” and the political situation she lived through until she got to the United States as a refugee. In this photo, Liz Kuhn is at the podium describing her activities with the Bhutanese weavers. In the foreground of the photo, Bishnu and Kumari demonstrate traditional weaving on backstrap looms. Answering questions about life in the refugee camp, Nilam described the rice rations, lack of electricity, and a bamboo hut for a home. She said it was good to be in America where she is getting a good education, the food is better, and the roof doesn’t leak when it rains. She gave a human face to the refugee situation and said that the elders — after 18 years in exile — still identify as citizens of Bhutan and think of it as their home.

With over 60 members in attiendance, a general meeting of the Bhutanese Community Association of Akron, Inc. was held on September 26, 2010 in the International Institute in Akron, Ohio.

The meeting was called to order by president Amber Subba at 11:00 A. M.

 

It began with a formal seating of the officers and trustees at the front of the meeting room.

 

Jas Maya Subba welcomed all present.

Gopal Lepcha talked about the contributions that Dr. Terry Kuhn has made to the association and to several members of the community after which he was presented with a daka topi, dossala, and placque that noted “his selfless

 

service, dedication, and commitment for the welfare of the Bhutanese community, and for his invaluable contributions towards achieving the missions, aims, and objectives of the Association.”

Dr. Naresh Subba led a discussion of the proposed amendments to the current bylaws and emphasized they provided for an advisory committee, clarification of officer titles, a conflict of interest policy, and a statement about dissolution of the association. At the conclusion of his description of the changes a discussion was held and several concerns were noted and a vote was taken. The amendments to the bylaws passed with an overwhelming majority of positive votes, a few abstentions, and no negative votes.

Click HERE to see the mission and bylaws

Use your browser’s BACK button (ï) to return to this page

Bhim Dhungana announced the advisers and described the role of the Advisory Board.

In keeping with the spirit and intent of the new Article 16 of the bylaws, Kashi Dulal agreed to accept appointment as adviser and chair of the advisory board, which was acknowledged by a round of applause.

Members of the new Advisory Board include:

Kashi Dulal (Chair)
Ghana Shyam Adhikari
Bhisnu Dhimal
Kumari Mishra
Yahoda Phuyel
Dhurva Rai
Naresh Subba.

Sun Man Subba explained that the new bylaws provide for the appointment of four trustees in order to assure that the composition of the executive committee is inclusive and representative of the people that constitute the Bhutanese community of the greater Akron area. These trustees are appointed by the president with the approval of two-thirds of the elected executive committee members.

Appointed Trustees include:

Dal Bhadhur Bishwa
Mon Maya Dhungana
Devi Maya Mainali
Deo Narayan Subedi

Dylanna Jackson, Director of Refugee Resettlement and Education for the International Institute, is shown below in a

picture taken when she attended a ceremony on a chilly day in the picnic area at the King Apartments on May 8, 2010. She spoke to the group about her own trying experiences with electricity when resettling in a strange country. Her personal story brought smiles of empathy and respect from the audience. She complimented the Bhutanese refugees for how they are showing leadership skills and are creating a sense of community among their members.

Terry Kuhn expressed his warm appreciation for the honorary membership bestowed upon him.

Dr. Kuhn then changed the tone of his comments and said that he was embarrassed by the dishonest people in the United States who preyed on those who are still trying to get a foothold in this country. He said it was a great country, but he warned everyone present to be sure to keep their wallets buttoned or fastened in their clothes so that pickpocket thieves cannot steal them. He also said that noone should ever give bank or credit/debit card numbers over the telephone. He reminded everyone that the bank will never ask your account number over the phone because they already know your account number.

Those attending the meeting asked many questions about the bylaw amendments.

 

Dr. Subba and the officers provided explanations and answers to the questions.

 

The above picture captures the overwhelming positive vote approving the bylaw amendments.

President Amber Subba concluded the meeting at 1:15 P.M. with a report of progress and challenges faced by BCAA and the Bhutanese refugees in the Akron area.
President Subba expressed an optimistic outlook for the future of the Bhutanese refugees in this country.

 

Note: Nilam Ghimirey, Sabitra Dulal, and Parmila Dulal contributed to this story.

 

The Bhutanese Times Newsletter is produced through the efforts of secondary school students in the Bhutanese Community Association of Akron, Inc. Its purpose is to promote education and discussion of issues that affect the Bhutanese community as seen through the experience of individuals. Those issues include the economic situation, culture, laws, traditions, language, and religions. We hope that it can help our people respond to the opportunities and challenges we face in the United States.

Pursutam – – – – Pramila – – Nilam – – – Sabitra – – – Kailash
June 6, 2010

I n d e x t o S t o r i e s

Selling Weavings at The Market Path

How to Insulate Your Windows

Bylaws Revision Approved

Feelings of Bhutanese Elders in the Akron Area

New Officers Continue Leadership

Interview with Newly Elected Officers

Reactions to First General Election

Interview with Naresh Subba

Tragedy in Nesmith Lake

My Bicycle Accident

Bhutanese Weavers in Akron

Bhutanese Refugees

Green Cards are Important

Editorial Staff

 

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Selling Weavings at The Market Path by Nilam Ghimirey and Terry Kuhn
Posted November 15, 2010

Chandra Subba (left) and Pabitra Osti (right) from the greater Akron Bhutanese Community were featured weavers for the third anniversary celebration on Saturday, November 13 at The Market Path in Akron. They demonstrated backstrap weaving in the warm, bright sun in front of the store from noon until 4 pm.

Amber Subba, President of the Bhutanese Community Association of Akron, Inc., provided personal transportation for the weavers and assistance in setting up the demonstration.

Amber Subba, President of BCAA, Nilam Ghimirey, Interpreter, and Liz Kuhn, Weavers Representative
President Subba came to the Market Path to learn about the challenges the weavers face in creating and selling their work, and how to interact with customers. Most of all, he came to encourage the weavers.

Dae Evens, Manager of The Market Path store, said she was thrilled to have Bhutanesee refugee weavers participate in the anniversary event. She said that she invited them because they make beautiful bags, to share their story with other people, to connect people, and to raise awareness that will sell bags! She commented that she is aware that the standard of living is more expensive in the United States and that the prices on these bags may be higher than prices on bags made in third-world countries, but that they are worth the asking price.

The Market Path is located across from The Highland Theatre at 833 West Market Street in Akron, and it features fair trade products that are handmade by artisans from all over the world.

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How to Insulate Your Windows by Frances Weng and Terry Kuhn
Posted November 6, 2010
On Saturday morning, Francis Weng conducted a workshop on how to insulate windows for winter weather. He donated his time and his Sunday Afternoon Garden Club contributed $100 towards the materials. He explained how cold air comes in around windows in old houses and he showed how cold air can be kept out using 3 ml. thick plastic sheeting and double-sided tape.

 

 

Several people gathered at the home of Laxmi Kanta Nepal for the demonstration. Laxmi is hoping to lower his heating bills this winter by using the ideas Francis taught. Francis explained that infiltration of cold air from air leaks around doors and windows raises heating bills. So does poor insulation in the walls and ceiling. Simple weatherstripping like Francis taught can help reduce cold air drafts.
He started by cleaning all the dust and debris from the window sills, then he attached double-strip tape all the way around the window. After that he measured the window and cut the plastic. Then the plastic sheet was attached to the double-stock tape.

All those in attendance were thankful for Francis Weng’s contributions.

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Bylaws Revision Approved
September 26, 2010

After a thorough discussion, final revisions of the BCAA Bylaws were approved at a meeting in the basement of the International Institute of Akron.

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Feelings of Bhutanese Elders in the Akron Area by Nilam Ghimirey
Posted August 30, 2010

Passing by the apartments on Carnegie Ave on the 11th of July, 2010, I asked several of the elders from the community about their feelings regarding being resettled in the United States. Their responses were reflective, interesting, and even inspirational. Some responses were sad and imbued with deep emotional attachments to family and their pre-refugee lives.

Chandra Deo Kanti Dilli
In this article I have extracted some of their thoughts to tell their stories in a brief account of long lives continuing in difficult, but better, circumstances.

Life in Bhutan

When they were living in Bhutan they had farms, owned their own property, and were quite happy. Their families had been in Bhutan for many generations. Families lived together and several generations helped each other. They had plenty to eat and grew their own vegetables and livestock – mostly cows and buffalos for milk, goats for meat and milk, and chickens for eggs and meat. They felt settled and secure living their Nepalese culture (language, clothes, and religion) within the Bhutan monarchy which had a different language, religion, and clothes. They led happy, productive, and satisfying lives.

Separation from Motherland

In an ethnic cleansing in 1991 the Bhutan king and monarchy began a program that forced those of Nepalese descent to leave the country. Because the government was torturing some and destroying houses, they were fearful for their lives so they fled the country to find refuge in other countries. At first they went to India, but the Indian police put them in trucks and took them to the border of Nepal where they did not have anything to eat or anyplace to live. For several months people languished in this condition until the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees established camps for them in Nepal.

Life in the Camps

In the camps living conditions were crowded and fires were common. Fires were especially bad because they could not be contained and often destroyed many huts and all of what little families had. The camps were dusty and hot, especially in the summer. Many people lost their lives in the camps from poor medical care, disease, and snake-bite. The thatched roofs sometimes dripped rainwater inside the huts; other times when storms ranged, roofs would blow off. Mice, cockroaches, mosquitoes, and other bugs were a part of everyday life. Mosquito bites were common and lots of people got diseases from those bites. Some people did not have jackets in the winter time and just got cold, and when the rice rations ran out, they had to go hungry. If no family member had a job, then the only food was the rice rations; this meant that those people had no vegetables or meat to go with the rice. Some of the rice rations had a bad odor and all of it had stones, dirt, and bugs that had to be separated. As people left the camps and in the aftermath of fires, looting and crime increased. These problems compounded the usual living conditions which consisted of bamboo huts for homes, no running water except for a community spigot three times a day, and no electricity. Life was primitive.

Resettlement

After they spent 18 years of their lives in refugee camps, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and several countries offered them the possibility of resettlement into third countries such as the United States of America. It was a difficult choice because some refugees still wanted to wait for repatriation to Bhutan while others were ready to seek a new life, even in unknown circumstances. As negotiations between Bhutan and Nepal carried on over the years, the Bhutanese monarchy has been steadfast in refusing to negotiate or permit repatriation. Likewise, Nepal did not want to offer the refugees permission to become citizens of Nepal. Only when the United Nations intervened and offered the possibility of settling in other countries, did the refugees have a choice either to remain in the camps or to seek a new life elsewhere. The United States, with the help of the IOM, offered the possibility of resettlement to 60,000 of the Bhutanese refugees. In the summer of 2010, approximately 500 Bhutanese refugees were living in the greater Akron area.

These elders came to the United States to provide a better future for their children. They do not want their children to be illiterate like them; they want their children to have a fabulous life, much better than in the camp. All of them love to be in America but they have lots of challenges with language. Some of them said “We feel dumb to sit here without being able to communicate in English.”

Some of them are just 55 years old but due to lack of English they tend to sit around talking to each other in Nepalese and unable to get jobs. They said people in the United States are kind and generous to others. They appreciate the way that doctors and nurses treat them with kindness and dignity. Most of them miss their country, some definitely want to stay in the United States, but some of them would go back to Bhutan if they had enough money and if the Monarchy would permit their repatriation.

Lalita

The elders have lived a life full of struggle and hard work. While it has been difficult, they constantly think about their children’s futures. Even though they didn’t know the language or the culture, they decided to come to America for their children.

They are in this country for the future generations.

Elders Interviewed

Those I interviewed included Kanti Maya Dhungana, Dilli Maya Niroula, Lalita Ghimirey, Deo Narayan Dhungana, and Chandra Lal Ghimirey, and their ages ranged from 55 to 91 years old at the time of the interview.

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New Officers Continue Leadership by Nilam Ghimirey and Terry Kuhn
Posted: August 9, 2010

Naresh Subba and the six-member Election Committee held a meeting on August 1, 2010, in the International Institute to thank the Interim Executive Committee for its foundational work in establishing the Bhutanese Community Association of Akron Inc., and to transfer authority to the newly elected officers. About 60 people attended the meeting and nine people gave short speeches.

After Durva Rai provided a formal welcome to everyone at the meeting, Naresh Subba talked about the history of the Bhutanese refugees from the time they were intimidated and forced to leave Bhutan through their diaspora to many countries including the Akron, Ohio, area.

A progress report of the Association from its embryonic inception and its mission was given by Krishna Subba. He said he has notes in Nepali and he can translate them.

Ghana Shyam Adhikari welcome newly elected members and talked about experiences working with the Bhutanese community. He said that “our minds have been influenced by the politics of Nepal and India and that we need to change our mind set to further our cause.” He emphasized the importance of the Executive Committee working according to the constitution and bylaws of the association.

Jas Maya Subba said she was disappointed that just one woman was elected to the committee. She requested the committee and the community to work to further the cause of women.

Personal observations about the resettlement process, its progress, and the refugees’ feelings about being in United States were given by Bishnu Dhimal. He said that the new Executive Committee will have to work to meet the needs of the community, especially concerning language barriers and driver’s licenses. He stated that the community needs to support the Executive Committee, but that the community also expects results from the committee.

Terry Kuhn complimented the excellent leadership that Naresh Subba has given the Bhutanese refugees since he arrived in 2002 from the Beldegi-1 refugee camp. Dr. Kuhn compared Dr. Subba’s leadership to that of Abraham Lincoln. He said that it took three generations for his family to become part of the mainstream culture in the United States. The implication is that the older Nepalese people will have to make sacrifices to provide a better life for their children.

President Amber Subba gave a speech and thanked the interim committee, voters, outside observers, Bhutanese Newsletter Group, and everyone who helped in the election. He also talked about his ideas for the Association.

Gopal Lepcha was given the floor to talk about his feelings to be treasurer and he thanked all of the people who are helping the Association.

At the conclusion of the meeting the new officers were in charge of the Bhutanese Community Association of Akron, Inc.

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Interview with Newly Elected Officers by Nilam Ghimirey (with editorial assistance from Terry Kuhn)
Posted: August 6, 2010

Following the July 25 General Election of 2010, I interviewed several of the elected officers about their reactions to the election and the future of the Bhutanese Community Association of Akron. Some of their responses are given as quotations and, where several officers gave the same response, I have combined their responses into more general statements. Here is my summary of their reactions.

“Why were you interested in this position?”

Amber Subba, president, said that he is “interested to bring the community together and to uplift it.” Gopal Lepcha, Ram Kumar Subba, and Jas Maya Subba were interested because becoming an officer is an opportunity to “serve their Bhutanese community.” Bhim Dhungana was interested in “helping people learn new things because many are not that much educated.” All of the officers were happy to win the election. “Now I think I have lots of responsibility for my people…” said Amber Subba. Gopal Lepcha said “I will try my best to help our community to be better.”

“What do you hope the Association can accomplish this year?”

While none of the officers felt that the problems facing members of the association could be completely solved this year, they were confident that the association could begin addressing such challenges as acquiring English language skills; transportation for work, medical needs, education, and shopping; driving skills and licensing; employment counseling; and jobs and better jobs. Adapting to the culture in the United States means learning about the way the people live in the United States. For one instance, how the older people live, dress, eat, and are cared for is very different in the United States. Medical care and healthy living is different. In the US older people who can afford it tend to live on their own or in retirement centers. Those who are sick or otherwise infirm live in nursing homes if they can afford it. In the Nepalese culture these older people live their families because they do not have retirement savings or income.

“Why is it important to have an Association?”

Secretary Krishna Subba thought that the association could build communication between members and with external constituencies. He said that it is important to “make the association a strong one so it can address the needs of the members.” “Really we can assume that when a new baby is born we have to take care of that baby: that is same like this. We have just given the name and this is the first steps that we have taken and after these steps we need to do lots of things to build our association in good way.”

According to Bhim Dhungana, “If only a single person works, then he will not get success. So all need to work together in association.” Expanding on Bhim’s comment, Amber Subba said that “the Association is very important because we are very new in the U. S. and we don’t know much about this country. We don’t know the culture and language here. It is very different. If we don’t work together, then it will be more difficult to adjust here. To do anything if we go together in one voice then everybody will appreciate it and everybody will like it and they will understand us, and it will be easier for us to progress if we unite together.”

“What is the biggest challenge the Association needs to work on?”

Krishna Subba said that the biggest challenge is developing a road map. “With something like a road map we can prioritize what the needs of the people are and how the association can address those needs. I think we newly elected officers can contribute ideas for the Executive Committee to consider what the Association should do. Creating such a plan, or road map, may be our greatest challenge. By creating this road map it will make our Association a strong one and it will be able to provide all the rights and needs of the association members, and help us solve our common problems.”

“Do you have any other thoughts to share about this election or the Association?”

President Subba stated that the “Election was conducted in a fair way. The members elected their leaders, and doing it through this process was really a great achievement. Our Interim Committee worked for two years to get a draft of the Bylaws prepared; however, our progress was greatly accelerated when Terry Kuhn began working with us. From then we made great strides in getting recognized by the Ohio Secretary of State, a new Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and our current effort to obtain tax exempt status with the IRS. After two years we are now reaching fulfillment of getting the association established and it is very easy for us because of him.“

According to Ram Kumar Subba, Krishna Subba, Jas Maya Subba, Bhim Dhungana, and Gopal Lepcha all said that the election was our first experience and it was conducted in a transparent, fair, and democratic way. They thought the Election Committee and the Outside Observers did a great job and made an important contribution to our community.

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Reactions to First General Election by Nilam Ghimirey, Pursutam Mishra, and Sabitra Dulal
Posted: August 1, 2010, Akron, Ohio

On July 25, 2010 the members of the Bhutanese Community Association of Akron, Inc. conducted an election of officers. A remarkable 87% turnout of voters showed support for both the association and the candidates. (See election photos on the Association Activities page of this web site.)

The election took place in three locations. From 12:00pm to 2:00pm at Carnegie/Akron, from 3:00 to 5:00 pm in Cuyahoga Falls, and from 6:00 to 8:00 pm in Tallmadge/Akron. The single ballot box was sealed and transported from location to location and was taken to the International Institute on Tallmadge Avenue in Akron after the completion of voting where the ballots were counted and tallied. Election results were announced at about midnight.

Throughout the election process, three reporters from the Bhutanese Times Newsletter conducted interviews as people completed their voting. They were excited to be able to vote for the first time in a fair, transparent, and democratic process that was designed by a six-person committee led by Naresh Subba.

The following paragraphs are a compilation of the ideas expressed by the members interviewed. Their responses were grouped under the following themes: choosing officers, working for the community, solving specific problems, and the election process.

Choosing Officers

The voters said that they wanted to choose the people who are capable, able, and good people to be leaders of the community. The elected officers will be expected to bring people together and to provide the refugee community with a common, single voice to speak for them. They also hope their leaders will come up with different and new ideas as well as solutions to problems. They expect their association to run in a smooth way and for the officers to have the verbal, personal, and professional skills to speak for the Bhutanese refugee community.

Working for the Community

Interviewees want the officers to guide the association and to educate members about their political and legal rights. They hope the association can unite all members by helping them to cooperate and work together in achieving the goals of the association. There was a common expectation for the BCAA to represent its members to other groups of people. They think that it will create mutual understanding of the culture of the United States even while preserving the culture, traditions, and language they brought with them. Most of all they want the association to help the young generation to achieve in this new land.

Solving Specific Problems

The people who voted identified several specific problems that they are facing in the United States. These problems included specific suggestions to help adult people to speak English, get jobs, obtain driver’s licenses, provide needed transportation, get education and job training beyond high school, help will funeral arrangements and expenses, and assist new arrivals adapt to the new country.

Election Process

The prevailing opinion was that the election was conducted in a fair and transparent manner. Members think that it was their right, responsibility, and privilege to vote. In fact, they regarded the event as an historical day in the community to be able to vote in a democratic way. They felt that voting and the establishing an official association makes them part of a larger group.

Outside Observer Comments

The external observers included Madhav Bhatta, Terry Kuhn, Mingma Lama, Gobind Paudel, and Naresh Shakya. The observers affirmed that the election was conducted according to the procedures identified by the election committee and that the election was conducted in a fair and impartial manner. Some of their observations made after the election suggested that elections should not be conducted in candidates’ houses or with candidate families present. Some of the observers also suggest that in future elections only the voter be allowed in the room when the ballot is being marked. Perhaps the most important suggestion to surface was that the election locations, rules, processes, ballots, and candidates should be explained in a meeting before the election so that everybody understands the election process and what voters need to do.

Conclusion

Spirits were high before, during, and after the first General Election of the Bhutanese Community Association of Akron, Inc. People were pleased with the process and the candidates, and they expect the new officers to keep the community together with a unity of spirit and purpose that brings hope and happiness to a long-oppressed people.

The following members contributed ideas to this article through their interviews with Nilam Ghimirey, Pursutom Dhungana, or Sabitra Dulal: Aaiti Subba Aiti, Ghana Shyam Adhakari, Gyan Kumari Adhakari, Madan Adhakari, Parsu Ram Adhakari, Mag Nath Baral, Bala Basnet, Chandra Basnet, Om Basnet, Telshi Bhujel, Khem Maya Bista, Mitra Bista, Thakur Bista, Benjamin Biswa, Binod Biswa, Goma Biswa, Rupa Biswa, Chandra Lal Chuwan, Kubir Chuwan, Lal Chhetri , Meera Chhetri, Rajendra Chhetri, Basanta Dangal, Bishnu Dhimal, Ganesh Dhimal, Bhim Dhungana, Deo Narayan Dhungana, Dharma Dhungana, Manju Dhungana, Narayan Dhungana, Purushotam Dhungana, Tulshi Dhungana, Govinda Dulal, Krishna Dulal, Yadu Dulal, Bala Ram Ghimirey, Bishnu Ghimirey, Chandra Lal Ghimirey, Durga Ghimirey, Khada Ghimirey, Parshu Ghimirey, Tika Ram Katel, Parshu Khanal, Bhima Ketel, Yam Ketel, Om Khatiwada, Tek Badhur Lepcha, Devi Maya Mainali, Gita Mishra, Sita Mishra, Kumari Mishara, Krishna Neopany, Bhuwan Nepal, Madu Nepal, Dilli Maya Niroula, Khem Niroula, Chhabi Lal Osti, Deu Maya Osti, Gropi Krishna Osti, Indrawati Rai, Pabitra Osti, Yamuna Osti, Kamal Phuyel, Govinda Phuyel, Yeshoda Phuyel, Aati Maya Rai, Asa Mati Rai, Chhabi Lal Rai, Dharva Rai, Hari Rai, Lal Rai, Lal Badhur Rai, Ner Rai, Sabitra Rai, Khem Rizal, Aiti Maya Subba, Aita Raj Subba, Bishnu Subba, Dhan Subba, Dhan Badhur Subba, Dil Subba, Harka Lachi Subba, Hasta Subba, Jas Maya Subba, Jate Subba, Jitan Subba, Krishna Subba, Mon May Subba, Pavi Subba, Ram Subba, Ran Maya Subba, Renuka Subba, Sarof Subba, Sha Bahadur Subba, Srijang Subba, Som Maya Subba, Sun Subba, Deo Narayan Subedi, Devi Maya Subedi, Indra Subedi, Sabitra Subedi, and Santi Ram Subedi.

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Interview with Naresh Subba by Nilam Ghimirey
July 12, 2010, Akron, OH

Naresh Subba

July 3, 2010 was a beautiful sunny day at Plum Creek Park in Kent, Ohio where family, friends, and faculty advisers gathered together to celebrate Naresh Subba’s completion of his doctoral studies in nuclear physics. Even though I had not met with him before this interview, I was excited when I had the chance to attend his celebration and I was doubly fortunate when he agreed to be interviewed about this achievement. He was kind, intelligent, and had a gentle and caring disposition.

Nilam Ghimirey

Naresh Subba is an inspiring and talented person who came to Kent from a Bhutanese refugee camp. He was born into a farmer family and had to work all day in growing crops and tending animals. But he had a vision about pursuing his education and he had to struggle hard to achieve his goal. Like most people in Bhutan, his family worked on farms to provide food and shelter. But while he worked for his family, he extracted time to attend school. He even earned a bachelor’s degree in Bhutan before being exiled. By this effort he achieved sufficient literacy to make possible future and higher levels of education.

He was a Bhutanese refuge from the Beldegi-1 camp when he came to the Akron area in 2002 on a student visa. He decided to go to Kent State because he knew a couple of friends in the physics department and because the University awarded him a graduate assistantship which paid for his tuition and provided a modest living expense. He may well be the first person from a refugee camp to earn a Ph.D. in the United States. When he was a child he always wanted to know about nature and how things work. In his student life he was very interested in physics and mathematics, and the more he learned about those subjects he got more insight into philosophy and life in general. His studies were difficult and he often came close to giving up; however, his wife, Pavi, was steadfast and encouraged him to continue. He attributes much of his achievement to her. He said that “She helped me in each and every step of my life to study more and to search solutions for every difficult situation.” He continued saying that “she believed in me and encouraged me when I doubted my own abilities to continue.”

At this time he would prefer to find a job in Ohio because he wants to stay close to his family and friends. His future plans include working full time as a scientist in a research position. If he doesn’t find such a job, then he would like to teach. Besides a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics, Mathematics and Chemistry in 1992 from Sherubtse College in Bhutan, and a Master of Science degree in Physics in 1996 from Tribhuvan University in Nepal, he also earned a Bachelor of Education degree in 1999 from Tribhuvan University; therefore, he is prepared to work as a scientist or as a teacher.

In addition to his academic studies, he has done important things to help his community. For example, he was a volunteer teacher in the Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal and he was the senior adviser and a founding member of the Bhutanese Community Association of Akron, Inc. He has supported the formation of the Bhutanese Community Association because he wants his people to create identities as Americans while preserving their traditional culture. He thinks that the association will help community members to engage in group discussions as they find solutions and make decisions.

When I asked him for his advice to students, he said that “…everyone must “work, work, and work” and that “…everybody needs to have at least a high school education. Everyone should have an aim and work to achieve it. And while you are working toward your own goals, always remember your family, friends, teachers and your community.”

Dr. Naresh Subba is an inspiration to all of us. Coming from humble agrarian origins, struggling through oppression and exile, and then earning the highest educational degree offered, he exemplifies that your talents must be cultivated and educated, and that you should create your opportunities by focusing your attention on education so you will have a better life in the future.

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Tragedy in Nesmith Lake by Sabitra Dulal

Bishnu Nepal and some other friends were riding their bicycles near Nesmith Lake when they decided to swim in the lake. They made this decision without getting the permission of their parents or any other adults. While swimming in the water Bishnu experienced difficulty staying afloat, but his friends were not able to pull him out and went to get help. An adult resident called 911. It took Akron fire and rescue crews about 45 minutes to find him in the murky water. The boy was eventually recovered near the shore and was taken to Akron Children’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

His mother and 12 year old sister were at the hospital and his father came there from his job. The family lives in an apartment near the lake. This tragedy follows the unfortunate loss of two other sons in the refugee camp in Nepal. The entire community is shocked and saddened to loose such a young member of our community. This was the first untimely death to take place in our United States community. Let us all feel compassion over the sadness of the occasion and hope his family can find peace in the future.

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My Bicycle Accident by Pramila Dulal

On May 21, 2010 I was going to school on my bicycle on the sidewalk heading Westbound at Portage Trail and 11th street. with a people walk signal. When I reached 11th street, the signal said “walk” so I stopped and looked around. I saw one stopped yellow car. The traffic light was red and the driver was trying to turn right on the red signal. I saw the car stop and, because I had a walk signal, I went ahead into the intersection. Just then the car started turning toward me. All of a sudden I was in front of that yellow car which stopped just in time to avoid running over me. My bicycle was damaged and the front tire was so bent it had to be replaced.

The driver was also looking for clear traffic on Portage Trail Road. She drove her car forward turning right and looked for traffic but did not look for pedestrians on the sidewalk. As the car and I moved forward at the same time it hit me and my bicycle. I fell down and a jogger came and woke me up. As a result of the accident I fell from the and scraped my left hand and left leg. The lady driver in the yellow car came and asked if I was ok. I showed my left hand and left leg and said I was ok. At that point the driver went on her way and I went on to school. Neither of us called for or waited for the police.

I want to tell everybody this. If anybody has an accident like me, don’t leave. Call for the police and wait for them to arrive. You should fill out an accident report for the policeman.

No matter what the laws are, no matter who has the right of way, you must always look in all directions to be sure it is safe to cross a street. Just because you have a green light does not mean it is safe to cross a street.

I am very fortunate to be alive today.

This really happened to me.

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Bhutanese Weavers in Akron by Nilam Ghimirey

Pictured are two Bhutanese women living in Akron Ohio who were exiled from Bhutan and lived for 18 years as refugees in eastern Nepal. In the Spring of 2010 they started weaving in the United States using backstrap looms, a technique they first learned from OXFAM while living in refugee camps. Working with Liz Kuhn, a group of about 10 weavers has been developing weaving techniques. They have created many weavings which can been viewed HERE.
Liz and Terry Kuhn, along with others, have been helping the women to get looms and yarn. The women are hoping to sell their woven products through the www.WoveninExile.com web site, craft fairs, and word of mouth.

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Bhutanese Refugees by Pursuttam Mishra

Nepali refugees were forced from their homes in Bhutan during the 1990s during a period of Bhutanization by the Druk ruling majority. New policies and laws were passed which were unfair to the Nepali people living in Southern Bhutan and they were threatened, tortured, and forced to leave their property and livelihoods in their homeland of Bhutan.

The Bhutanese refugees settled in Nepal where the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) managed seven camps in eastern Nepal where more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees lived. Bhutanese refugees were completely dependent on UNHCR and other agencies which provided food staples and minimal shelter. Children were able to attend the school and more than 60 percent received an education. The International Organization for Migration began a program to resettle the Bhutanese people and over 60,000 refugees are coming to the United States.

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Green Cards are Important by Kailash Ghimirey

A Green Card is evidence of lawful permanent resident status in the United States. A Green Card, also known as a permanent resident card, serves as proof of a person’s lawful permanent resident status in the United States. A person’s valid Green Card also means that he or she is registered in the U.S. in accordance with United States immigration law. An individual with a Green Card has the right to live and work permanently in the United States. Refugees must obtain a Green Card when they have been in the United States for one year.
The Green Card is important because it is needed to get a job and to have the right to vote in the United States.

Because the process for obtaining a Green Card is difficult, those who need to obtain one should seek assistance from the International Institute of Akron, Inc. There is a lot of information about Green Cards on the World Wide Web. Click HERE for a place to start looking.

Please contact a member of the Editorial Staff if you would like to share something about yourself, your family, your friends, or impressions you have about your new life.

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Editorial Staff General Editor and Advisor:
Dr. Terry Lee Kuhn
Editorial Assistant:
Nilam Ghimirey
Reporters:
Sabitra Dulal
Pramila Dulal
Purshutam Mishra
Kailash Ghimirey

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The Bhutanese Times Newsletter is produced through the efforts of secondary school students in the Bhutanese Community Association of Akron, Inc. Its purpose is to promote education and discussion of issues that affect the Bhutanese community as seen through the experience of individuals. Those issues include the economic situation, culture, laws, traditions, language, and religions. We hope that it can help our people respond to the opportunities and challenges we face in the United States.

Pursutam – – – – Pramila – – Nilam – – – Sabitra – – – Kailash
June 6, 2010

I n d e x t o S t o r i e s

Selling Weavings at The Market Path

How to Insulate Your Windows

Bylaws Revision Approved

Feelings of Bhutanese Elders in the Akron Area

New Officers Continue Leadership

Interview with Newly Elected Officers

Reactions to First General Election

Interview with Naresh Subba

Tragedy in Nesmith Lake

My Bicycle Accident

Bhutanese Weavers in Akron

Bhutanese Refugees

Green Cards are Important

Editorial Staff

 

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Selling Weavings at The Market Path by Nilam Ghimirey and Terry Kuhn
Posted November 15, 2010

Chandra Subba (left) and Pabitra Osti (right) from the greater Akron Bhutanese Community were featured weavers for the third anniversary celebration on Saturday, November 13 at The Market Path in Akron. They demonstrated backstrap weaving in the warm, bright sun in front of the store from noon until 4 pm.

Amber Subba, President of the Bhutanese Community Association of Akron, Inc., provided personal transportation for the weavers and assistance in setting up the demonstration.

Amber Subba, President of BCAA, Nilam Ghimirey, Interpreter, and Liz Kuhn, Weavers Representative
President Subba came to the Market Path to learn about the challenges the weavers face in creating and selling their work, and how to interact with customers. Most of all, he came to encourage the weavers.

Dae Evens, Manager of The Market Path store, said she was thrilled to have Bhutanesee refugee weavers participate in the anniversary event. She said that she invited them because they make beautiful bags, to share their story with other people, to connect people, and to raise awareness that will sell bags! She commented that she is aware that the standard of living is more expensive in the United States and that the prices on these bags may be higher than prices on bags made in third-world countries, but that they are worth the asking price.

The Market Path is located across from The Highland Theatre at 833 West Market Street in Akron, and it features fair trade products that are handmade by artisans from all over the world.

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How to Insulate Your Windows by Frances Weng and Terry Kuhn
Posted November 6, 2010
On Saturday morning, Francis Weng conducted a workshop on how to insulate windows for winter weather. He donated his time and his Sunday Afternoon Garden Club contributed $100 towards the materials. He explained how cold air comes in around windows in old houses and he showed how cold air can be kept out using 3 ml. thick plastic sheeting and double-sided tape.

 

 

Several people gathered at the home of Laxmi Kanta Nepal for the demonstration. Laxmi is hoping to lower his heating bills this winter by using the ideas Francis taught. Francis explained that infiltration of cold air from air leaks around doors and windows raises heating bills. So does poor insulation in the walls and ceiling. Simple weatherstripping like Francis taught can help reduce cold air drafts.
He started by cleaning all the dust and debris from the window sills, then he attached double-strip tape all the way around the window. After that he measured the window and cut the plastic. Then the plastic sheet was attached to the double-stock tape.

All those in attendance were thankful for Francis Weng’s contributions.

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Bylaws Revision Approved
September 26, 2010

After a thorough discussion, final revisions of the BCAA Bylaws were approved at a meeting in the basement of the International Institute of Akron.

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Feelings of Bhutanese Elders in the Akron Area by Nilam Ghimirey
Posted August 30, 2010

Passing by the apartments on Carnegie Ave on the 11th of July, 2010, I asked several of the elders from the community about their feelings regarding being resettled in the United States. Their responses were reflective, interesting, and even inspirational. Some responses were sad and imbued with deep emotional attachments to family and their pre-refugee lives.

Chandra Deo Kanti Dilli
In this article I have extracted some of their thoughts to tell their stories in a brief account of long lives continuing in difficult, but better, circumstances.

Life in Bhutan

When they were living in Bhutan they had farms, owned their own property, and were quite happy. Their families had been in Bhutan for many generations. Families lived together and several generations helped each other. They had plenty to eat and grew their own vegetables and livestock – mostly cows and buffalos for milk, goats for meat and milk, and chickens for eggs and meat. They felt settled and secure living their Nepalese culture (language, clothes, and religion) within the Bhutan monarchy which had a different language, religion, and clothes. They led happy, productive, and satisfying lives.

Separation from Motherland

In an ethnic cleansing in 1991 the Bhutan king and monarchy began a program that forced those of Nepalese descent to leave the country. Because the government was torturing some and destroying houses, they were fearful for their lives so they fled the country to find refuge in other countries. At first they went to India, but the Indian police put them in trucks and took them to the border of Nepal where they did not have anything to eat or anyplace to live. For several months people languished in this condition until the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees established camps for them in Nepal.

Life in the Camps

In the camps living conditions were crowded and fires were common. Fires were especially bad because they could not be contained and often destroyed many huts and all of what little families had. The camps were dusty and hot, especially in the summer. Many people lost their lives in the camps from poor medical care, disease, and snake-bite. The thatched roofs sometimes dripped rainwater inside the huts; other times when storms ranged, roofs would blow off. Mice, cockroaches, mosquitoes, and other bugs were a part of everyday life. Mosquito bites were common and lots of people got diseases from those bites. Some people did not have jackets in the winter time and just got cold, and when the rice rations ran out, they had to go hungry. If no family member had a job, then the only food was the rice rations; this meant that those people had no vegetables or meat to go with the rice. Some of the rice rations had a bad odor and all of it had stones, dirt, and bugs that had to be separated. As people left the camps and in the aftermath of fires, looting and crime increased. These problems compounded the usual living conditions which consisted of bamboo huts for homes, no running water except for a community spigot three times a day, and no electricity. Life was primitive.

Resettlement

After they spent 18 years of their lives in refugee camps, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and several countries offered them the possibility of resettlement into third countries such as the United States of America. It was a difficult choice because some refugees still wanted to wait for repatriation to Bhutan while others were ready to seek a new life, even in unknown circumstances. As negotiations between Bhutan and Nepal carried on over the years, the Bhutanese monarchy has been steadfast in refusing to negotiate or permit repatriation. Likewise, Nepal did not want to offer the refugees permission to become citizens of Nepal. Only when the United Nations intervened and offered the possibility of settling in other countries, did the refugees have a choice either to remain in the camps or to seek a new life elsewhere. The United States, with the help of the IOM, offered the possibility of resettlement to 60,000 of the Bhutanese refugees. In the summer of 2010, approximately 500 Bhutanese refugees were living in the greater Akron area.

These elders came to the United States to provide a better future for their children. They do not want their children to be illiterate like them; they want their children to have a fabulous life, much better than in the camp. All of them love to be in America but they have lots of challenges with language. Some of them said “We feel dumb to sit here without being able to communicate in English.”

Some of them are just 55 years old but due to lack of English they tend to sit around talking to each other in Nepalese and unable to get jobs. They said people in the United States are kind and generous to others. They appreciate the way that doctors and nurses treat them with kindness and dignity. Most of them miss their country, some definitely want to stay in the United States, but some of them would go back to Bhutan if they had enough money and if the Monarchy would permit their repatriation.

Lalita

The elders have lived a life full of struggle and hard work. While it has been difficult, they constantly think about their children’s futures. Even though they didn’t know the language or the culture, they decided to come to America for their children.

They are in this country for the future generations.

Elders Interviewed

Those I interviewed included Kanti Maya Dhungana, Dilli Maya Niroula, Lalita Ghimirey, Deo Narayan Dhungana, and Chandra Lal Ghimirey, and their ages ranged from 55 to 91 years old at the time of the interview.

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New Officers Continue Leadership by Nilam Ghimirey and Terry Kuhn
Posted: August 9, 2010

Naresh Subba and the six-member Election Committee held a meeting on August 1, 2010, in the International Institute to thank the Interim Executive Committee for its foundational work in establishing the Bhutanese Community Association of Akron Inc., and to transfer authority to the newly elected officers. About 60 people attended the meeting and nine people gave short speeches.

After Durva Rai provided a formal welcome to everyone at the meeting, Naresh Subba talked about the history of the Bhutanese refugees from the time they were intimidated and forced to leave Bhutan through their diaspora to many countries including the Akron, Ohio, area.

A progress report of the Association from its embryonic inception and its mission was given by Krishna Subba. He said he has notes in Nepali and he can translate them.

Ghana Shyam Adhikari welcome newly elected members and talked about experiences working with the Bhutanese community. He said that “our minds have been influenced by the politics of Nepal and India and that we need to change our mind set to further our cause.” He emphasized the importance of the Executive Committee working according to the constitution and bylaws of the association.

Jas Maya Subba said she was disappointed that just one woman was elected to the committee. She requested the committee and the community to work to further the cause of women.

Personal observations about the resettlement process, its progress, and the refugees’ feelings about being in United States were given by Bishnu Dhimal. He said that the new Executive Committee will have to work to meet the needs of the community, especially concerning language barriers and driver’s licenses. He stated that the community needs to support the Executive Committee, but that the community also expects results from the committee.

Terry Kuhn complimented the excellent leadership that Naresh Subba has given the Bhutanese refugees since he arrived in 2002 from the Beldegi-1 refugee camp. Dr. Kuhn compared Dr. Subba’s leadership to that of Abraham Lincoln. He said that it took three generations for his family to become part of the mainstream culture in the United States. The implication is that the older Nepalese people will have to make sacrifices to provide a better life for their children.

President Amber Subba gave a speech and thanked the interim committee, voters, outside observers, Bhutanese Newsletter Group, and everyone who helped in the election. He also talked about his ideas for the Association.

Gopal Lepcha was given the floor to talk about his feelings to be treasurer and he thanked all of the people who are helping the Association.

At the conclusion of the meeting the new officers were in charge of the Bhutanese Community Association of Akron, Inc.

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Interview with Newly Elected Officers by Nilam Ghimirey (with editorial assistance from Terry Kuhn)
Posted: August 6, 2010

Following the July 25 General Election of 2010, I interviewed several of the elected officers about their reactions to the election and the future of the Bhutanese Community Association of Akron. Some of their responses are given as quotations and, where several officers gave the same response, I have combined their responses into more general statements. Here is my summary of their reactions.

“Why were you interested in this position?”

Amber Subba, president, said that he is “interested to bring the community together and to uplift it.” Gopal Lepcha, Ram Kumar Subba, and Jas Maya Subba were interested because becoming an officer is an opportunity to “serve their Bhutanese community.” Bhim Dhungana was interested in “helping people learn new things because many are not that much educated.” All of the officers were happy to win the election. “Now I think I have lots of responsibility for my people…” said Amber Subba. Gopal Lepcha said “I will try my best to help our community to be better.”

“What do you hope the Association can accomplish this year?”

While none of the officers felt that the problems facing members of the association could be completely solved this year, they were confident that the association could begin addressing such challenges as acquiring English language skills; transportation for work, medical needs, education, and shopping; driving skills and licensing; employment counseling; and jobs and better jobs. Adapting to the culture in the United States means learning about the way the people live in the United States. For one instance, how the older people live, dress, eat, and are cared for is very different in the United States. Medical care and healthy living is different. In the US older people who can afford it tend to live on their own or in retirement centers. Those who are sick or otherwise infirm live in nursing homes if they can afford it. In the Nepalese culture these older people live their families because they do not have retirement savings or income.

“Why is it important to have an Association?”

Secretary Krishna Subba thought that the association could build communication between members and with external constituencies. He said that it is important to “make the association a strong one so it can address the needs of the members.” “Really we can assume that when a new baby is born we have to take care of that baby: that is same like this. We have just given the name and this is the first steps that we have taken and after these steps we need to do lots of things to build our association in good way.”

According to Bhim Dhungana, “If only a single person works, then he will not get success. So all need to work together in association.” Expanding on Bhim’s comment, Amber Subba said that “the Association is very important because we are very new in the U. S. and we don’t know much about this country. We don’t know the culture and language here. It is very different. If we don’t work together, then it will be more difficult to adjust here. To do anything if we go together in one voice then everybody will appreciate it and everybody will like it and they will understand us, and it will be easier for us to progress if we unite together.”

“What is the biggest challenge the Association needs to work on?”

Krishna Subba said that the biggest challenge is developing a road map. “With something like a road map we can prioritize what the needs of the people are and how the association can address those needs. I think we newly elected officers can contribute ideas for the Executive Committee to consider what the Association should do. Creating such a plan, or road map, may be our greatest challenge. By creating this road map it will make our Association a strong one and it will be able to provide all the rights and needs of the association members, and help us solve our common problems.”

“Do you have any other thoughts to share about this election or the Association?”

President Subba stated that the “Election was conducted in a fair way. The members elected their leaders, and doing it through this process was really a great achievement. Our Interim Committee worked for two years to get a draft of the Bylaws prepared; however, our progress was greatly accelerated when Terry Kuhn began working with us. From then we made great strides in getting recognized by the Ohio Secretary of State, a new Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and our current effort to obtain tax exempt status with the IRS. After two years we are now reaching fulfillment of getting the association established and it is very easy for us because of him.“

According to Ram Kumar Subba, Krishna Subba, Jas Maya Subba, Bhim Dhungana, and Gopal Lepcha all said that the election was our first experience and it was conducted in a transparent, fair, and democratic way. They thought the Election Committee and the Outside Observers did a great job and made an important contribution to our community.

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Reactions to First General Election by Nilam Ghimirey, Pursutam Mishra, and Sabitra Dulal
Posted: August 1, 2010, Akron, Ohio

On July 25, 2010 the members of the Bhutanese Community Association of Akron, Inc. conducted an election of officers. A remarkable 87% turnout of voters showed support for both the association and the candidates. (See election photos on the Association Activities page of this web site.)

The election took place in three locations. From 12:00pm to 2:00pm at Carnegie/Akron, from 3:00 to 5:00 pm in Cuyahoga Falls, and from 6:00 to 8:00 pm in Tallmadge/Akron. The single ballot box was sealed and transported from location to location and was taken to the International Institute on Tallmadge Avenue in Akron after the completion of voting where the ballots were counted and tallied. Election results were announced at about midnight.

Throughout the election process, three reporters from the Bhutanese Times Newsletter conducted interviews as people completed their voting. They were excited to be able to vote for the first time in a fair, transparent, and democratic process that was designed by a six-person committee led by Naresh Subba.

The following paragraphs are a compilation of the ideas expressed by the members interviewed. Their responses were grouped under the following themes: choosing officers, working for the community, solving specific problems, and the election process.

Choosing Officers

The voters said that they wanted to choose the people who are capable, able, and good people to be leaders of the community. The elected officers will be expected to bring people together and to provide the refugee community with a common, single voice to speak for them. They also hope their leaders will come up with different and new ideas as well as solutions to problems. They expect their association to run in a smooth way and for the officers to have the verbal, personal, and professional skills to speak for the Bhutanese refugee community.

Working for the Community

Interviewees want the officers to guide the association and to educate members about their political and legal rights. They hope the association can unite all members by helping them to cooperate and work together in achieving the goals of the association. There was a common expectation for the BCAA to represent its members to other groups of people. They think that it will create mutual understanding of the culture of the United States even while preserving the culture, traditions, and language they brought with them. Most of all they want the association to help the young generation to achieve in this new land.

Solving Specific Problems

The people who voted identified several specific problems that they are facing in the United States. These problems included specific suggestions to help adult people to speak English, get jobs, obtain driver’s licenses, provide needed transportation, get education and job training beyond high school, help will funeral arrangements and expenses, and assist new arrivals adapt to the new country.

Election Process

The prevailing opinion was that the election was conducted in a fair and transparent manner. Members think that it was their right, responsibility, and privilege to vote. In fact, they regarded the event as an historical day in the community to be able to vote in a democratic way. They felt that voting and the establishing an official association makes them part of a larger group.

Outside Observer Comments

The external observers included Madhav Bhatta, Terry Kuhn, Mingma Lama, Gobind Paudel, and Naresh Shakya. The observers affirmed that the election was conducted according to the procedures identified by the election committee and that the election was conducted in a fair and impartial manner. Some of their observations made after the election suggested that elections should not be conducted in candidates’ houses or with candidate families present. Some of the observers also suggest that in future elections only the voter be allowed in the room when the ballot is being marked. Perhaps the most important suggestion to surface was that the election locations, rules, processes, ballots, and candidates should be explained in a meeting before the election so that everybody understands the election process and what voters need to do.

Conclusion

Spirits were high before, during, and after the first General Election of the Bhutanese Community Association of Akron, Inc. People were pleased with the process and the candidates, and they expect the new officers to keep the community together with a unity of spirit and purpose that brings hope and happiness to a long-oppressed people.

The following members contributed ideas to this article through their interviews with Nilam Ghimirey, Pursutom Dhungana, or Sabitra Dulal: Aaiti Subba Aiti, Ghana Shyam Adhakari, Gyan Kumari Adhakari, Madan Adhakari, Parsu Ram Adhakari, Mag Nath Baral, Bala Basnet, Chandra Basnet, Om Basnet, Telshi Bhujel, Khem Maya Bista, Mitra Bista, Thakur Bista, Benjamin Biswa, Binod Biswa, Goma Biswa, Rupa Biswa, Chandra Lal Chuwan, Kubir Chuwan, Lal Chhetri , Meera Chhetri, Rajendra Chhetri, Basanta Dangal, Bishnu Dhimal, Ganesh Dhimal, Bhim Dhungana, Deo Narayan Dhungana, Dharma Dhungana, Manju Dhungana, Narayan Dhungana, Purushotam Dhungana, Tulshi Dhungana, Govinda Dulal, Krishna Dulal, Yadu Dulal, Bala Ram Ghimirey, Bishnu Ghimirey, Chandra Lal Ghimirey, Durga Ghimirey, Khada Ghimirey, Parshu Ghimirey, Tika Ram Katel, Parshu Khanal, Bhima Ketel, Yam Ketel, Om Khatiwada, Tek Badhur Lepcha, Devi Maya Mainali, Gita Mishra, Sita Mishra, Kumari Mishara, Krishna Neopany, Bhuwan Nepal, Madu Nepal, Dilli Maya Niroula, Khem Niroula, Chhabi Lal Osti, Deu Maya Osti, Gropi Krishna Osti, Indrawati Rai, Pabitra Osti, Yamuna Osti, Kamal Phuyel, Govinda Phuyel, Yeshoda Phuyel, Aati Maya Rai, Asa Mati Rai, Chhabi Lal Rai, Dharva Rai, Hari Rai, Lal Rai, Lal Badhur Rai, Ner Rai, Sabitra Rai, Khem Rizal, Aiti Maya Subba, Aita Raj Subba, Bishnu Subba, Dhan Subba, Dhan Badhur Subba, Dil Subba, Harka Lachi Subba, Hasta Subba, Jas Maya Subba, Jate Subba, Jitan Subba, Krishna Subba, Mon May Subba, Pavi Subba, Ram Subba, Ran Maya Subba, Renuka Subba, Sarof Subba, Sha Bahadur Subba, Srijang Subba, Som Maya Subba, Sun Subba, Deo Narayan Subedi, Devi Maya Subedi, Indra Subedi, Sabitra Subedi, and Santi Ram Subedi.

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Interview with Naresh Subba by Nilam Ghimirey
July 12, 2010, Akron, OH

Naresh Subba

July 3, 2010 was a beautiful sunny day at Plum Creek Park in Kent, Ohio where family, friends, and faculty advisers gathered together to celebrate Naresh Subba’s completion of his doctoral studies in nuclear physics. Even though I had not met with him before this interview, I was excited when I had the chance to attend his celebration and I was doubly fortunate when he agreed to be interviewed about this achievement. He was kind, intelligent, and had a gentle and caring disposition.

Nilam Ghimirey

Naresh Subba is an inspiring and talented person who came to Kent from a Bhutanese refugee camp. He was born into a farmer family and had to work all day in growing crops and tending animals. But he had a vision about pursuing his education and he had to struggle hard to achieve his goal. Like most people in Bhutan, his family worked on farms to provide food and shelter. But while he worked for his family, he extracted time to attend school. He even earned a bachelor’s degree in Bhutan before being exiled. By this effort he achieved sufficient literacy to make possible future and higher levels of education.

He was a Bhutanese refuge from the Beldegi-1 camp when he came to the Akron area in 2002 on a student visa. He decided to go to Kent State because he knew a couple of friends in the physics department and because the University awarded him a graduate assistantship which paid for his tuition and provided a modest living expense. He may well be the first person from a refugee camp to earn a Ph.D. in the United States. When he was a child he always wanted to know about nature and how things work. In his student life he was very interested in physics and mathematics, and the more he learned about those subjects he got more insight into philosophy and life in general. His studies were difficult and he often came close to giving up; however, his wife, Pavi, was steadfast and encouraged him to continue. He attributes much of his achievement to her. He said that “She helped me in each and every step of my life to study more and to search solutions for every difficult situation.” He continued saying that “she believed in me and encouraged me when I doubted my own abilities to continue.”

At this time he would prefer to find a job in Ohio because he wants to stay close to his family and friends. His future plans include working full time as a scientist in a research position. If he doesn’t find such a job, then he would like to teach. Besides a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics, Mathematics and Chemistry in 1992 from Sherubtse College in Bhutan, and a Master of Science degree in Physics in 1996 from Tribhuvan University in Nepal, he also earned a Bachelor of Education degree in 1999 from Tribhuvan University; therefore, he is prepared to work as a scientist or as a teacher.

In addition to his academic studies, he has done important things to help his community. For example, he was a volunteer teacher in the Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal and he was the senior adviser and a founding member of the Bhutanese Community Association of Akron, Inc. He has supported the formation of the Bhutanese Community Association because he wants his people to create identities as Americans while preserving their traditional culture. He thinks that the association will help community members to engage in group discussions as they find solutions and make decisions.

When I asked him for his advice to students, he said that “…everyone must “work, work, and work” and that “…everybody needs to have at least a high school education. Everyone should have an aim and work to achieve it. And while you are working toward your own goals, always remember your family, friends, teachers and your community.”

Dr. Naresh Subba is an inspiration to all of us. Coming from humble agrarian origins, struggling through oppression and exile, and then earning the highest educational degree offered, he exemplifies that your talents must be cultivated and educated, and that you should create your opportunities by focusing your attention on education so you will have a better life in the future.

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Tragedy in Nesmith Lake by Sabitra Dulal

Bishnu Nepal and some other friends were riding their bicycles near Nesmith Lake when they decided to swim in the lake. They made this decision without getting the permission of their parents or any other adults. While swimming in the water Bishnu experienced difficulty staying afloat, but his friends were not able to pull him out and went to get help. An adult resident called 911. It took Akron fire and rescue crews about 45 minutes to find him in the murky water. The boy was eventually recovered near the shore and was taken to Akron Children’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

His mother and 12 year old sister were at the hospital and his father came there from his job. The family lives in an apartment near the lake. This tragedy follows the unfortunate loss of two other sons in the refugee camp in Nepal. The entire community is shocked and saddened to loose such a young member of our community. This was the first untimely death to take place in our United States community. Let us all feel compassion over the sadness of the occasion and hope his family can find peace in the future.

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My Bicycle Accident by Pramila Dulal

On May 21, 2010 I was going to school on my bicycle on the sidewalk heading Westbound at Portage Trail and 11th street. with a people walk signal. When I reached 11th street, the signal said “walk” so I stopped and looked around. I saw one stopped yellow car. The traffic light was red and the driver was trying to turn right on the red signal. I saw the car stop and, because I had a walk signal, I went ahead into the intersection. Just then the car started turning toward me. All of a sudden I was in front of that yellow car which stopped just in time to avoid running over me. My bicycle was damaged and the front tire was so bent it had to be replaced.

The driver was also looking for clear traffic on Portage Trail Road. She drove her car forward turning right and looked for traffic but did not look for pedestrians on the sidewalk. As the car and I moved forward at the same time it hit me and my bicycle. I fell down and a jogger came and woke me up. As a result of the accident I fell from the and scraped my left hand and left leg. The lady driver in the yellow car came and asked if I was ok. I showed my left hand and left leg and said I was ok. At that point the driver went on her way and I went on to school. Neither of us called for or waited for the police.

I want to tell everybody this. If anybody has an accident like me, don’t leave. Call for the police and wait for them to arrive. You should fill out an accident report for the policeman.

No matter what the laws are, no matter who has the right of way, you must always look in all directions to be sure it is safe to cross a street. Just because you have a green light does not mean it is safe to cross a street.

I am very fortunate to be alive today.

This really happened to me.

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Bhutanese Weavers in Akron by Nilam Ghimirey

Pictured are two Bhutanese women living in Akron Ohio who were exiled from Bhutan and lived for 18 years as refugees in eastern Nepal. In the Spring of 2010 they started weaving in the United States using backstrap looms, a technique they first learned from OXFAM while living in refugee camps. Working with Liz Kuhn, a group of about 10 weavers has been developing weaving techniques. They have created many weavings which can been viewed HERE.
Liz and Terry Kuhn, along with others, have been helping the women to get looms and yarn. The women are hoping to sell their woven products through the www.WoveninExile.com web site, craft fairs, and word of mouth.

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Bhutanese Refugees by Pursuttam Mishra

Nepali refugees were forced from their homes in Bhutan during the 1990s during a period of Bhutanization by the Druk ruling majority. New policies and laws were passed which were unfair to the Nepali people living in Southern Bhutan and they were threatened, tortured, and forced to leave their property and livelihoods in their homeland of Bhutan.

The Bhutanese refugees settled in Nepal where the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) managed seven camps in eastern Nepal where more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees lived. Bhutanese refugees were completely dependent on UNHCR and other agencies which provided food staples and minimal shelter. Children were able to attend the school and more than 60 percent received an education. The International Organization for Migration began a program to resettle the Bhutanese people and over 60,000 refugees are coming to the United States.

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Green Cards are Important by Kailash Ghimirey

A Green Card is evidence of lawful permanent resident status in the United States. A Green Card, also known as a permanent resident card, serves as proof of a person’s lawful permanent resident status in the United States. A person’s valid Green Card also means that he or she is registered in the U.S. in accordance with United States immigration law. An individual with a Green Card has the right to live and work permanently in the United States. Refugees must obtain a Green Card when they have been in the United States for one year.
The Green Card is important because it is needed to get a job and to have the right to vote in the United States.

Because the process for obtaining a Green Card is difficult, those who need to obtain one should seek assistance from the International Institute of Akron, Inc. There is a lot of information about Green Cards on the World Wide Web. Click HERE for a place to start looking.

Please contact a member of the Editorial Staff if you would like to share something about yourself, your family, your friends, or impressions you have about your new life.

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Editorial Staff General Editor and Advisor:
Dr. Terry Lee Kuhn
Editorial Assistant:
Nilam Ghimirey
Reporters:
Sabitra Dulal
Pramila Dulal
Purshutam Mishra
Kailash Ghimirey

The “Growing Hope Food Summit” was held on April 1 & 2 at a church on W Exchange Street in Akron. There were 18 people from our community in attendance. The first day they showed us a film called “Fresh” which talked about growing food at home. The second day was a conference which was intended to define the goals of the movement going forward. The sponsoring organization is a community group which works to increase food availability and nutrition, particularly for minorities.

One of the priorities which was popularly shared by all the stakeholders was the desire to have more community gardens. So, that will be an agenda item that the Bhutanese community will be watching closely as many of our people would like to garden in the greater Akron area. Also, there was talk about bringing farmer’s markets with fresh produce to minority neighborhoods (like ours). They also want to encourage small stores to carry vegetables.
Amber Subba, Tuk Rai, and Jas Maya Subba were there to interpret.

 

These pictures were
taken at the Growing
Hope Food Summit
conference.

 

 

During the Winter and Spring of 2011, the Bhutanese Community Association of Akron (BCAA) has been offering a biweekly citizenship preparation class for the adult population. The program started in January of 2011 and was specifically targeted at 2008-2009 arrivals. Approximately 50 to 60 people are currently attending. The aim of these classes is to increase the number of people achieving United States citizenship within 7 to 9 years of their arrival.

Instruction is provided by adult and high school volunteers from the community. The International Institute of Akron provided classroom space and educational materials. The instructor pictured below is Madhu Lai Nepal and he is being assisted by Khem Niroula and Purushottam Dhungana. The BCAA hopes to expand the program in the future if there is sufficient interest and if volunteer teachers are available.

Contact one of the officers for more information.

 

These pictures were
taken during the
citizenship class at the
International Institute of
Akron.

 

 

 

 

Return to Citizenship Classes Page

It was a sunny festive day on June 19, 2011 at the Portage Lakes State Park where over 60 Bhutanese elders gathered to share stories, food, and a good time. In this program, they can recite poems, tell stories, sing, dance, eat, and just have fun. It will be fully entertaining.

In talking with an interviewer, Madu Phuyel said that “our king threw us out of the country, and then the government of Nepal didn’t care for us. We didn’t have freedom. The best part of living in the United States is freedom. When I was in my home I thought I was alone, but by seeing all these people I feel like I am still with my family and friends, who I can speak with.”

Everyone was glad and thankful to the BCAA for sponsoring the picnic where they can get to see each other, meet new people, and express their feelings.

 

These pictures were taken at

Portage Lakes State Park

south of Akron, Ohio

on June 19, 2011

 

Bhim Dhungana said that the main point of the picnic is to give older people an opportunity to get to know each other.
BCAA Officers Gopal Lepcha, Amber Subba, Ram Subba, and Bhim Dhungana started the day by describing various activities planned for the day.

Ram Subba remarked that “students in school get to know each other, but for older people it is hard to get to know each other, even when they stay in the same apartment building.”

Indra Wati Rai expanded on this idea saying…

“We were from different places before we came to Akron. We can’t drive to meet, but due to this picnic we meet with people who we didn’t know before and get to know them.”

 

 

Two food tables were set up,
one with vegetarian foods and another featuring
non-vegetarian foods.

Purshotam Adhakari and Deo Narayan Dhungana thought this event is important because our children can see our cultural heritage.

Gopal Lepcha said that opportunities are better in the US. We have good security, government and education. It is really good for our children and our coming generations. The most challenging parts of living in the United States are learning new laws, rules, and regulations.

Indra Wati Rai thought the best part of coming to the United States is the systems are good and the people care about the environment. She said that the worst part is that she doesn’t have the language that she needs in United States.

Dancing…

…a musical chairs game

…and more dancing!

This story is based on observations and interviews conducted by two of the Bhutanese Times Newsletter reporters, Nilam Ghimirey and Kailash Ghimirey.


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