A story of Indo-Bhutanese friendship in US
Atlanta, February 28, 2009: The exiled Bhutanese recently resettled in Atlanta, United States have demonstrated their spirit of volunteerism and sense of community service in the last eight months and Indian community has been pivotal in all activities.
A group of Bhutanese volunteers who have come together say their goal is helping community as Bhutanese try to establish roots in their adopted land and work towards the success of families and their children.
“It was a great pleasure to get this opportunity to serve our community at times of need,” the volunteers say.
The Indian community and locals in the state has extended helping hands in the efforts of Bhutanese to sort out challenges during emergency phase of resettlement. Sewa and other 30 different Indian organizations in the locality came forward to help Bhutanese resettle in the area.
The Bhutanese volunteers held first ever grand Welcome Reception Program for the newly arrived Bhutanese families on August 17, 2008 at Hindu Temple of Atlanta, Riverdale, with the help of Dr. Ravi Sharma and other Indian community members. The program was organized and coordinated by a team of Bhutanese and Indian volunteers. The program included Temple visit/Darshan, Puja (prayer), Raksha Bandan (unity bond), and cultural program by Bhutanese youths followed by banquet dinner for over 500 people at the Hindu Temple of Atlanta. Over 60 cars and vans were provided by the Sewa volunteers for transportation of over 300 Bhutanese people from Clarkston to Riverdale, South Atlanta giving 7/8 hours of their time.
A health fair was held on September 20, 2008, at Global Mall, Norcross. Volunteers from all apartment complexes played their role to help Sewa, Vishwa Hindu Parisad (VHP), Telegu Organization of Atlanta and other individuals to organize the fair. Dr. Sujata Reddy led a team of 20 doctors who could screen over 100 Bhutanese families for various diseases. The program was first of its kind for the Bhutanese families in US.
On November 11, 2008, a special gathering was arranged at the Clarkston Community Center with the help of Sewa volunteers. Swami Vigyananandaji of VHP addressed Bhutanese families and gave words of encouragement. A program for distribution of blankets, and Wal Mart Gift Cards worth $1000 was arranged in the same program. Several families from different apartment complexes viz. Valley Place, English Oaks, The Lakes, Christopher and Southern Place apartments volunteered to cook dinner for over 250 attendees in the program.
In October 2008, the volunteers formed two cricket teams by the name of Bhutan Shangri-la A and B in order to participate in a cricket tournament in Alpharetta along with Atlanta cricket league teams organized by Sewa to raise funds for Bihar relief fund as well as for the Bhutanese community in Atlanta. A total of 22 volunteers in two teams played cricket representing the Bhutanese community in Atlanta. Similarly a Bhutanese dance team led by a volunteer participated in Hindu Unity Day during Deepawali organized by the Indian community.
On November 18, 2008, a Bhutanese family participated in Inter-faith Ecumenical Service at Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta. The family was introduced by Dr. Ravi Sharma of Hindu Temple of Atlanta as a guest of honor at the gathering. This was first the time that a Hindu addressed gathering in this temple.
On December 6, 2008, the volunteers took part to help Dr. Indira Menon to organize an Eye Examination camp. The Sewa volunteers and some other friends of Dr. Indira Menon helped the Bhutanese families consisting of 30 individuals to receive a through eye check-up. The eyeglasses were prescribed and distributed to them later in another program.
On December 14, with the support of Indian community and BAPS Swami Narayan Temple, the volunteers assisted hosting cultural program for newly arrived Bhutanese. There were 33 Indian organizations including 150 Bhutanese and Indian volunteers to help over 160 families consisting of 800 or so Bhutanese families. Both Indian and Bhutanese worked together. Blankets, clothing, kitchen items, pressure cookers/rice cookers, TVs, DVDs, computers, vacuums, microwave ovens, blenders, and many other items worth over $15,000 were distributed.
On February 14, 2009 when Radha Madhav Society spiritual guru, popularly known as Didiji, came to Atlanta, the Society requested the volunteers to organize a spiritual sermon for the Bhutanese families at Hindu Heritage Center, Global Mall, Norcross, where over 100 Bhutanese individuals participated. On this occasion, eyeglasses worth US$1,100 were also handed 29 Bhutanese individuals who had their eye checked during December 6 Eye Camp.
Ralph Parker, a former board member of Georgia Refugee Resettlement Council along with Dr. Ravi Sharma, a number of volunteers from Indian community, such as Seikanth Konda, Swadesh and others from Sewa International established the Bhutan-Support Group which has over 100 members with the objective of helping newly resettled Bhutanese families.
The group established an emergency fund to help Bhutanese during emergency under the care of Sewa. Beginning with seed money of $3000 donated by Jewish community, the fund has received good response and some 11 Bhutanese families have benefited from the fund.