Monday, September 22, 2008

From Bhutan to Chicago


September 22, 2008 by Rabbi Brant Rosen

Just enjoyed a wonderful potluck dinner at JRC with the Khatiwodas - a refugee family from Bhutan who recently resettled in Chicago. (There they are in the pic above with congregation members Edie Canter and Elaine Waxman). JRC is sponsoring the Khatiwodas through the Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Ministries, an NGO that partners with congregations and organizations and in Illinois to provide direct services to refugees and immigrants and encourages active involvement in refugee and immigration issues.

Needless to say, the refugee crisis in Bhutan/Nepal has not received a lion’s share of media attention. The basics: in the early 1990s, the Bhutanese government began expelling ethnic Nepalese, regarding them as a demographic and cultural threat. As of early this year, roughly 108,000 stateless Bhutanese were living in seven refugee camps in Nepal and the Bhutanese government still has not allowed any to return. As far back as 2006, the US government, offered to resettle 60,000 Bhutanese refugees, but they have only recently begun to arrive in the US.

By year’s end, over 10,000 refugees are expected to leave Nepal in what is being described as one of the world’s largest resettlement operations. Meanwhile, the situation in the Nepal refugee camps remain dire. This past spring a fire raged through the Goldhap camp in eastern Nepal, leaving nearly 8,000 Bhutanese refugees homeless - including the Khatiwoda family. (As if all of these ordeals weren’t enough, the Khatiwodas were dealt even more heartache when the family’s grandmother took seriously ill after they arrived at their stopover in NYC. She has now remained behind for treatment, accompanied by her son).

In anticipation of the Khatiwoda’s arrival, JRC donated furnishings and household items for their new apartment in Rogers Park and members of our Refugee Task Force spent the better part of two weeks cleaning the place up and getting it ready. The family finally arrived in Chicago last week - and fortunately, their readjustment has been aided by the presence here of extended family who arrived in town ahead of them. Many JRC members have also begun to help them negotiate through the challenges of the initial settlement into their new home.

We had a lovely time at our dinner tonight as members of our Task Force had the opportunity to formally meet the Khatiwodas. They are beginning a new and hopeful chapter in a long journey and we’re truly honored to be sharing it with them…

1 comment:

smurra2 said...

I'm a student at Loyola University and some fellow classmates and I are currently working on a proposal to aid the transition/enculturation/resettlement of Bhutanese refugees. Our project focuses on food access and the cultural/nutritional differences of American food and traditional Nepalese cuisine. Is there any way that I could get into further contact with you and members of the community to get a better grasp of their dietary habits? You can contact be at I would love to hear from you. We are associated with the Heartland Alliance: