Mission to integrate Bhutanese in US society

Published on Apr 16 2008 // Interview

Jiwan Subba, born in Samtse Bhutan, graduated in English from North Bengal University (India). A former assistant teacher in exiled Bhutanese community in Nepal, Subba was officiating chair of Youth Organization of Bhutan. Based in California, Subba was elected as Secretary of Bhutanese American Community Center (BACC) in 2007. He talked to Vidhyapati Mishra of Bhutan News Service on activities of BACC and its role on third country resettlement of exiled Bhutanese in the United States of America. Excerpts:

BNS: What for BACC formed?
Bhutanese American Community Center (BACC) is the first charitable Bhutanese organization formed by the exiled Bhutanese in America, particularly living in the Bay Area, California in November 2006. It is registered in the golden state of California.
Its main objective is to help and promote new Bhutanese and other communities in the mainstream of the United States of America through education, advocacy and service. It welcomes all the communities throughout the world to work together to advocate for peace and prosperity.

BNS: What you aim in long run?
The mission of BACC is to empower and integrate the Bhutanese American and other communities in the mainstream of American society through education, advocacy and service. BACC guides children and youths in socially useful and productive work to preserve and promote Bhutanese arts and culture. We are also equally focused to provide all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and respect, foster basic human rights, and strengthen cooperation among organizations in regional and international forums on matters of common interests, objectives and purposes.

BNS:  What are the activities at hand?
We are campaigning among individuals and local community organizations for donation drive for the Goldhap fire victims and other such unforeseen calamities that hunt our relatives taking asylum in Nepal. Next we are organizing fundraising programs to help our fellow mates arriving in US as part of the third country resettlement. BACC is coordinating with local private refugee resettling agencies in the US for resettlement programs.

BNS: Presently, fellow citizens from exiled Bhutanese community in Nepal are being resettled to the US under Third Country Resettlement Program (TCRP). How does BACC assist these individuals? 
As a secretary of the organization, I am confident that even though BACC respects the aspiration of the majority exiled Bhutanese on repatriation to their home country, it generously welcomes TCR P as an immediate relief for those people.

BACC has also prepared some plans to assist those arriving here.

We are always ready for airport pick-ups. We provide traditional foods on their first arrival and assist them to acquaint with the daily necessary things like kitchen headlining, transportation, public facility, shopping, etc.
Administrative work like translation,  interpretation, school program to children, adults, job search, banking, schedule appointment for job interviews, doctor visit, ID card, social security, driving license are the areas where we can directly get involved to assist our fellow-citizens.

Further, BACC is working together with the local agencies. We have requested the local International Rescue Committee to resettle a considerable number of exiled Bhutanese in the Bay Area. BACC coordinates with the local US based Nepalese Community to assist our Bhutanese newcomers in their local area where we find ourselves hard to physically present over there.

BNS: BACC is based in California; do you suggest some Bhutanese under TCRP to come there?
I already mentioned, BACC is very much pleased and working hard to resettle a considerable number of exiled Bhutanese in Bay area where we can be of assistance to them always. Apart from family reunification, we have more than 100 people on list at hand and those are free cases. We still hope to have more. In addition, our commitment is there for ever if the figure is large.

BNS: From your personal experience, how hard is life for newcomers in the US?
Life for newcomers at any place, anywhere in the world, is not as easy in the beginning. When I first came in the US, I worked graveyard shifts and went to school during the daytime, but eventually things worked out well for me.
At first, the new comers will find themselves surrounded by an entirely new world, with a different living style then they used to. However, after a week or two, they certainly would find themselves learning new things every moment and would realize the meaning of life with full of opportunities (outside the camps).  Further, I assure that, there are agencies and local community organizations, which will help them to find their skill related jobs, and help integrate them within the US community.

BNS: Will there be trouble of language for old people?
Of course, language does become a barrier to some extent to non-English speaking people, both young and old. Nevertheless, the facilities established here for instance, adult schools for elders, free public library and free interpreters would make their life much easier and comfortable. Besides, there are Nepalese and Indian communities all over American States, where our people can intermingle culturally and linguistically with them, thereby gaining confidence to find them integrated with the US social life. There are vast opportunities in this country even to non-English speaking people. For instance, I have seen numerous non-English speaking people working in restaurants, hotels and some grocery stores. They work out their daily livings with much contentedness.

BACC assures to work together with newcomers in California in hope of closing this gap of language barrier, for the integration of our people within the diverse culture of this country.

BNS: What roles should Bhutanese in the US play to assist exiled Bhutanese during resettlement process?
Subba: The Bhutanese in America should morally shoulder some primary responsibilities including explanation to exiled Bhutanese about TCRP and its advantages.  Those who are in the US should inform their friends and relatives about the pros and cons of being resettled. Further, they should ask our fellow compatriots in camps not to intimidate any person or family who is willing to accept TCRP as an alternative solution. If we play leading role here for newcomers, we could requests United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Nepal to expedite the sensitive cases.

BNS: What about children and elderly?
The children will have equal educational rights and benefits such as free schooling up to higher secondary level. Elders, will have free adult school, medical benefits, SSI (Senior Supplement Income), food stamps, cash benefits and retirement benefits for women aged 63 and above, and men aged 65 and above. In addition, special care would be available to handicapped and mentally unsound individuals both young and aged people. 
BNS: Why you suggest opting TCRP?
Subba: Since, we spent more than 17 years in exile with no any positive solution, why not we start moving to something different that changes our life as a whole, rather than lingering another 20 more years. We should always opt 'United we stand, divided we fall'.