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Life in a Refugee Camp: From Bhutan to the United States by Posta Dangal

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Posta Dangal, born in Bhutan in 1975, was moved to a refugee camp in Nepal in 1990. While in the camp Posta became an advocate for other refugees. In 2011, Posta and her family were resettled in the United States and eight months later moved to Grand Rapids.
Bich Ngnyen is tutored by Brad Hieftje

Bich Ngnyen is tutored by Brad Hieftje /Eric Tank

I am Posta. I was born in the country of Bhutan in a small village in Surey. I grew up in Surey. My father passed away when I was one year old. We have five family members in our house. After my father passed away, all the responsibilities were taken over by my mother. It was a very tough time for my mother to take care of all the children and work on the farm. At the age of six, I was admitted to school, which was very near to my house. I completed my primary education in a village school. In 1990 because of civil war I left Bhutan with my mom and came to Nepal and registered in a refugee camp in Nepal. I was fourteen years old at that time. It was a very difficult situation to stay in a refugee camp because there was no proper house, no clean water, no food, no clothing, no money, no hospital and no school. After one year in the refugee camp many world NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organization) and INGO’s (International Non-Governmental Organizations) like Caritas Nepal, WFP, UNHCR (United Nation High Commission for Refugees) started helping refugees by making huts, giving food, water supply, sanitation, school, hospital, and so on. In 1993 I started my education in the refugee camp. I completed grade eight. After that I could not continue my education because of my family problems. There was no one except my mother to maintain daily needs so I left school. The help that was given by agencies was not sufficient, so we had to go to work in a nearby village to earn extra food and money.

In the beginning of 1992 in refugee camp I joined grade 6 refugee camp school and continued to grade 8. After that because of my poor family background I could not continue my education. My mom was sick and there was no one to support me and I decided to marry. I married in 1994 at the age of 18 years. In 1995 I started doing volunteer service in refugee camp in RWF (Refugee Women’s Forum) and sometimes worked in farming at a nearby village for money. During my volunteer service in refugee camp I had the opportunity to attain different types of workshops and training, like pot gardening, money management, tailoring (sewing), yoga, etc., under supervision of the UNHCR. Finally in 1997 I was elected as a Sector Head. The camp population was around 12,000 and it was divided into four sectors. I served as a Sector Head for 4 years. As a Sector Head I had to look after all the problems of the people in the sector like food, sanitation, fighting (problem solving or conflict resolution) and all. We tried to solve it at the sector level, but if not we had to forward the problem to the camp secretary or police.

We, the sector head, sub-sector head, and the social group had to conduct meetings with the community every month, usually about sanitation, nutrition, personal hygiene, encourage parents to take their children to school, etc. At the end of 1999, I resigned from the post and stayed at home, because of my small babies. My son, Lokesh, and daughter, Leena, were born in refugee camp in 1995 and 1998. While taking care of two kids, whenever I had time I worked as a volunteer in the community. My husband worked in the hospital in the refugee camp. He used to check patients and prescribe medicine. In the year 2008 again I got an opportunity to work in the community. I was elected as RWF (Refugee Woman’s Forum) secretary. As a RWF secretary, I had to find out the problems of women and children. A small budget was approved every year for RWF by the UNHCR and I had to utilize that money for those who are in very great need. Through that budget we used to give training on weaving bags, tailoring (sewing); supply sanitary pads, soap, Colgate, etc., and give small loans with no interest for kitchen gardening and beauty parlor training, and pig farm, rabbit farm, and dacha weaving training and yoga training, etc.

After 3 years, in 2011, I filled out an application for third country resettlement in USA through IOM (International Organization Management). Finally the process was completed in the beginning of December 2011. We left Nepal on December 12, 2011 and reached American, in Lansing, MI on December 14, 2011. When I reached Lansing I was shocked when I compared it to refugee camp. There was a vast difference, and I had a hard time to adapt in a new environment. Everything was new for me. As the days and months passed, I started learning many things, and I’m feeling a little more comfortable in the new environment or the new community. Anyway, language was the main barrier for me to communicate with the people. After 8 months in Lansing we decided to move to Grand Rapids in search of jobs. In Lansing there was not enough job opportunity. Finally we moved to Grand Rapids in August 2012. My husband started working in a company in September 2012. I had a baby son (Lochan) so stayed at our apartment. Once my small son turned 3 years old in apartment we decided to buy a home. Finally our loan was approved and we bought a home and now I am very happy and proud to be here in America, which I have never thought in my dreams that I would ever be in this position.


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