Leaving your home and everything you know behind is difficult. It takes tremendous courage. Today, I’m thrilled to share the story of one former refugee, Som Subedi, who walks alongside newly arrived refugees and helps lift their burden.
In a recent feature in the LA Times, Som Subedi, a Bhutanese refugee, highlights how lonely life in the United States can be for newly arrived refugees. This, paired with the strangeness of a new culture and language, can lead to severe depression, and even suicide. In fact, the suicide rate for Bhutanese refugees is nearly twice the national average.
Som, a participant in LIRS’s 2014 World Refugee Day Academy, has made it his personal mission to tackle this problem. Through conviction and determination, he ensures that Bhutanese refugees in Portland “have a voice” and learn to understand their new home. Here at LIRS, we call this the “long welcome”– walking alongside refugees so they are not only safe, but also valued community members. Som’s welcome takes on different forms. He created a democratic model for the Bhutanese community in Portland so they can vote for their leaders, and has also brought different immigrant groups together through an annual soccer tournament.
Most tellingly, due to the “long welcome” Som gives, there has not been a single suicide amongst the 2,000 Bhutanese refugees in Portland. As one former Bhutanese refugee told the LA Times:
[Som] showed me how to dress, taught me how to be on time for job interviews…He’s my American dad.
As Som welomes newly arrived refugees, his attention, guidance, and patience has life-changing impacts.
We are proud to walk alongside him.