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After Taking In Refugees for Years, a New Hampshire City Asks for a Pause

November 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Joseph Sywenkyj/The New York Times
2011 Nov 25
MANCHESTER, N.H. — This city has long been a resettlement site for refugees, sent here by the State Department for a chance at a better life. More than 60 languages are spoken in the school system, with Somalis, Sudanese, Iraqis and other recent arrivals mixing with children whose ancestors came from Quebec to work in the mighty textile mills along the Merrimack River.
But this year, after decades of taking in refugees, Manchester said, “Enough.”
In a highly unusual move, Mayor Ted Gatsas and the city’s Board of Aldermen asked the State Department in July to halt resettlements here for now. A tide of more than 2,100 refugees over the last decade — most recently, Bhutanese families coming from camps in Nepal — has been more than the city of 109,500 can assure jobs and decent housing for, Mr. Gatsas said.
“We’re just saying, ‘Let us catch our breath,’ ” he said last week in an interview at City Hall. “This is about giving people the opportunity for a better life, and until I can get that person working and gainfully employed and getting to learn the language, I can’t do that.”
The mayor, a Republican who just won a second term, says he has nothing against refugees. His problem is with the International Institute of New England, a nonprofit agency based in Boston that brings them to Manchester and helps them adjust for several months, providing cash and other assistance.
Mr. Gatsas, a former businessman whose grandfather immigrated here from Greece a century ago, said the institute had consistently refused to seek the city’s advice, most recently on its plan to bring 300 more refugees to Manchester in the current fiscal year.

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Immigrants in Erie embrace American, native customs at Thanksgiving

November 24, 2011 Leave a comment

GERRY WEISS/Erie Times-News
2011 Nov 24
For Jiva Khatiwada, an immigrant from Nepal now living in Erie, today is about being thankful for the time she’s been able to spend with her closest relatives.
That kind of togetherness will be celebrated by millions of American families as they observe Thanksgiving.
But for Khatiwada, 27, today will complete a reunion with her older sister, Meena Kuikel, whom she had not seen in nearly two years.
Kuikel immigrated to Erie in 2008 with Khatiwada and several other members of their family, but she moved to San Antonio after getting married in 2010. Kuikel returned to Erie for a visit in early October with her infant daughter and has been here for the past seven weeks. She is flying back to Texas today.
On Saturday, Khatiwada hosted a Thanksgiving feast at her home on East 33rd Street in honor of her sister. They would have had the meal today, but Khatiwada said her sister would have been too rushed with her travel plans.
The meal included traditional menu items from Nepal, including roti, which is a skinny doughnut; vegetable curry; pickled radishes; and puri, a fried flatbread.
They also had a juicy turkey, the iconic staple of American Thanksgiving Day tradition.
“I will miss her very much,” Khatiwada, a day-care worker at the International Institute of Erie, said about her older sister. “But I’m thankful to be able to see her, to spend time with her. We’re very thankful we’re here in America, instead of the refugee camp in Nepal that we lived in for many years.”

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Their American Life: Nepali Family Balances New & Old Cultures

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Stacia Harris/NBC29
2011 Nov 23
New language, new culture, new home. NBC29 continues our decade long project, following three refugee families who’ve resettled in the Charlottesville area. Among the challenges they face is integrating into a new culture without forgetting where they came from.
Rabina Bhandari is a sixth grader now at Walker Upper Elementary. She says she’s come a long way since she moved here just over 2 years ago, after leaving a refugee camp in Nepal. “It was kind of awkward and I felt uncomfortable. I feel like I can’t fit in with others. I feel much better now,” Bhandari said.
She’s more confident in class and her English has vastly improved, thanks in part to support from her new American friends. “I just view her as if she’s Nepali. I like her because of that because she is different,” Chamiqua Chambers, another Walker Upper Elementary student, said of Bhandari.
If Bhandari doesn’t quite understand the teacher in class, Chambers is there to help. “We would explain what we were doing and she would get it better and get the idea of what were doing,” stated Chambers.

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Giving thanks: Newly arrived refugees share an American holiday

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Kaitlynn Riely/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
2010 Nov 24
The Rai family, refugees from Bhutan, from left, Damber, son Ayush, daughter Ashmita and Gopi, in their apartment in Whitehall. Ashmita is displaying a picture she took of her brother with the family cell phone.
At an early Thanksgiving celebration in Whitehall, tables lined with the standard turkey, stuffing and sweet potatoes also held less traditional dishes — goat meat, curry and a bread called roti.
Those attending the meal Thursday were recent refugees to Pittsburgh from countries where conflict exists — places such as Bhutan, Burma, Burundi, Iraq, Morocco, Turkey, Sudan and Congo. For some, it was the first time they celebrated Thanksgiving in the United States.
“All of our cultures know how to give thanks, and it’s something that binds us all together,” said Courtney Macurak, site director for South Hills Interfaith Ministries’ Prospect Park Family Center, which has organized Thanksgiving celebrations for new refugees for the past five years.
Since 2006, nearly 1,300 refugees have come from troubled nations to live in Allegheny County. Some have moved to other American cities, while others have come here from their original resettlement site, attracted by the prospect of jobs and the low cost of living.
They arrive, for the most part, at Pittsburgh International Airport with little more than the clothes they are wearing. They must quickly learn to navigate an unfamiliar city, speak English, adjust to American practices and organizations, find work and send their children to school.
Their journey here and the acculturation process after they arrive involve layers of international groups, U.S. government agencies, a resettlement organization and social services.
For the Rai family, the resettlement process began in Nepal, brought them to Pittsburgh in April and last week landed them at a table in the basement of Whitehall Church, eating their first Thanksgiving meal. Their journey is, of course, unique, but their story is similar to that of many of the refugees who now call the Pittsburgh region home.

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Bhutanese in NH target self-sufficiency

October 18, 2011 Leave a comment

SIMON RIOS/Telegraph Nashua
2011 Oct 18
When they first told him he was moving to Manchester, Tika Ram Acharya thought he was going to the United Kingdom instead of the United States. He’d never heard of Manchester, N.H.
For 17 years, his parents lived within the walls of a Bhutanese refugee camp in the east of Nepal.
As the result of a United Nations resettlement program, in January 2009, Acharya’s family was the 11th Bhuatnese family to move to the Granite State. Now, that number has swelled to 250 families consisting of 1,800 refugees.
After nearly two decades of exile and dependence on charity, Acharya has high hopes that in 10 years, the Bhutanese in New Hampshire will be fully self-sufficient.
Soon after arriving in the U.S., he founded the Bhutanese Community of New Hampshire, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the community achieve complete independence from government and charitable benefits.
The organization assists newcomers with transportation, education and accessing the benefits they are eligible for. Over the next five years, Bhutanese will continue to arrive in the state, and in 10 years, Acharya believes they will be financially independent.
“We want to help our folks be independent in the sense of going to school, earning degree, having skills and jobs and businesses, so that they no longer receive any assistance,” he said. “We will be a member of the larger community. We’d like to be true citizens of the United States.”
Some of that independence is already starting to show – of the 38 Bhutanese high school graduates earlier this year, all are attending college.

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Bhutanese Refugees : A story of a forgotten people

October 16, 2011 Leave a comment

bhutaneserefugees.com
Situated between the emerging superpowers of India and China, the isolated Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, hailed by some as ‘the last Shangri-La’, has generated one of the highest numbers of refugees in the world in proportion to its population.
Since 1991 over one sixth of Bhutan’s people have sought asylum in Nepal, India and other countries around the world.
The vast majority of the refugees are Lhotshampas, one of Bhutan’s three main ethnic groups, who were forced to leave Bhutan in the early 1990s. There is ample evidence, as documented by Amnesty International and other human rights organisations, that the expulsion of large numbers of Lhotshampas was planned and executed with meticulous attention to detail.

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From Bhutan to the Bronx

October 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Dumeetha Luthra/BBC
2008 April 29
Kina Maya is 50.
She has lived in a refugee camp since she fled Bhutan with her husband and son in the early 1990s.
Now she is in New York.
Imagine, from a camp in Nepal to New York. Culture shock doesn’t even begin to describe it.
“We can’t understand anyone, and they can’t understand us. We walk on the street, and everybody is a giant. It’s scary. We go into the subway it’s strange, getting into a lift is odd,” she says.
“Everything is strange.”

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