Together we can make things happen

Published on Jun 13 2011 // Opinion
By TP Mishra

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin by extending my appreciation and gratitude to the government of USA, American citizens, the UN’s refugee agency, the International Organization for Migration, Government of Nepal, the resettlement agencies and all others who have explored the options of the third country resettlement program. It is because of all of your good-will humanitarian assistance that we are proudly gathered here today. Many among us never have imagined that we would be in the USA, a country widely believed to be a place of opportunities and new hopes.

I am also grateful to my colleagues: especially the editors, board members, and correspondents at the Bhutan News Service (BNS). It is because of their continuous dedication and effort that the Agency is being honored today. In every respect, I will consider this honor as the one to all exiled journalists, who are dedicated to safeguarding Bhutanese citizens right to information.

Despite many challenges, the team of BNS continued to work to offer a reliable, responsible and objective news service.  We regularly covered stories about the hardships faced by our fellow community members—groups, families or individuals. We were and are always ready to celebrate, through our news coverage, the success stories that involve our community.

BNS activities Vs Challenges
Interestingly, the sufferings and hardships encountered by our emerging media outlet have been rarely mentioned. We have been running the BNS as a service to the community, funding it from our own pocket. Over the years it has cost us dearly in terms of personal contributions and effort but we, as a team of volunteer journalists felt that our primary role was informing the public—their right to information—in an era where reliable information was a far cry.  Behind all we did, our main calling has been to continue to campaign for press freedom in Bhutan.

When other needs become the top priority of the community, we have never run off from such situations. We collected 16,000 plus US dollar for recent fire victims in camps within few weeks and mobilized it very transparently. It is supplementary evidence that explores our readiness to get involved in society’s welfare, besides our reporting duty.

In addition to what we have received, I urge everyone to support our mission in the best possible way. The media has a powerful and momentous role to play in continuing to highlight the issues faced by Bhutan’s refugees worldwide and the issues of freedom of expression in Bhutan. It’s an ongoing and continually evolving story that must receive pellucid and accurate coverage – a role we are committed to undertake.

TP Mishra (L) receives letter of honor from newly elected OBCA chair DJ Khaling. The honor was handed over to Mishra jointly by former OBCA chair and chief coordinator of second national convention. Photo/Buddha Mani Dhakal.

The honor
Having said this, I would like to thank those who have closely observed our works for years, appreciated us and thus, considered us worthy enough to bestow with honor. The honor, as I believe, will add yet another brick to building our foundation in a stronger way. On a personal level, I have felt that more responsibilities have been placed on my shoulders. As a team, BNS has felt that such encouragement has added on to our sense of responsibility and our cause. For several years our media works went unnoticed.

At the initial phase, we lacked support and encouragement. During that time we faced negative criticism, discouragement and opposition. The honor from this Dias today, in my opinion, represents a new chapter in our history and we have no comprehension how that chapter will unfold. BNS team fills that Bhutanese care for our professional contribution in the community and it gives us an added incentive to work harder for the group. We honestly respect the support and dedication of the community.

Question of single national level organization
More than 38,000 Bhutanese refugees have begun new lives in the US. They have new hopes, new opportunities, new friends and new horizons. Various success stories have continued to emerge. Many of the resettled Bhutanese have made a valuable contribution and have been doing well, despite the situation in the job market. Much of the hope for the future rests on the shoulders of our younger generation, who have started pursuing the standard modern education. However, this does not mean all the resettled Bhutanese in the USA have become self-reliant.

A majority of the resettled folks have language barriers in their new homes. This has served as the greatest setback during job hunt. Some have been struggling for more than a year to secure any kind of job position, but to no avail. Many in course of time have lost their jobs. At a time when we are having fun times here with a get- together (though for good cause), chances are that some of our fellow friends in other States might be struggling to pay off their basic bills.

Due to their working policies and lack of adequate resources, resettlement agencies have limited roles after certain period of time. There are other several minor problems our resettled folks might have been undergoing, which I believe, can be solved through community efforts. There is still a great deal of work to be done to help them settle, adapt, contribute and grow. Together we can make this happen. This has been well proven by other communities in the USA.

Ongoing calls have been continuing since the past year for a single and united national level organization in the US. It might sound odd, especially at this hour, but I will not hesitate to join the individuals or groups to strengthen the voices further for a single national level community organization. BNS will contribute to this in best way possible, if needed. We have miles to go to reach our final destination. As a journalism practitioner, I strongly believe we will reach there if we move ahead collectively. We don’t have options than working together for a common cause and we have to iron out our differences by unlearning our differences that we have got accustomed to in our camp life.

The Future
For us, the recognition is evidence that people have listened to us and that people do understand the effort and cost that have been invested to tell the story of the Bhutanese refugee communities. We are a dignified people. Despite many imputes and challenges, we are proud that we remained true to ourselves. We fought for the highest standards in journalism and refused to be beaten down. We knew that all we were creating was for the future generation of Bhutanese; both inside Bhutan and living globally in the Diaspora.

The role of journalism – as made clear by the Bhutan News Service over the years – is to inform the public debate. To do so, we must always aim to rise above and beyond the circumstantial situations we find ourselves in. During the years of journey to our mission in the refugee camps we managed to do this through our training programs for young journalists. They are trained at the par of standard journalism ethics keeping them away from prejudice and personal bias. Our journalists were taught to be fair, to be accurate, objective and, most of all, to operate with integrity. These are the values that kept us alive. They are the assets that we believe Bhutan will one day aspire to adopt.

I want to thank you all again for making this moment possible. America has given us precious opportunity. We are proud and honored to be here and we want to make a positive and meaningful contribution in return. Thank you again for your generosity, warmth and, most importantly, continued support.

(The writer delivered this speech in Nashville, TN on June 12, 2011 after he was given honor by Organization of Bhutanese Communities in America, Inc, for his contribution in diaspora through journalism)