Today, I’m delighted to introduce an interview with Narad Adhikari, a World Refugee Day Academy participant and leader in his Springfield, MA Bhutanese community. Narad is a chairperson of Hindu Sanatan Sewa Samaj, a faith-based Bhutanese community group and a Language Assessor in the Springfield Public School System.
This interview was conducted over email by Juliet Sohns, LIRS Grassroots Mobilization Intern.
Juliet Sohns (JS): How did you became a strong advocate for refugee rights?
Narad Adhikari (NA): First of all, I come from a very small country located between India and China in south Asia. It is popularly known as a country of the last Shangri-la on earth. I became refugee in early ’90s, because of my ethnicity and religious background. I am a follower of Hinduism and belong to Nepali ethnicity. Under the “One People, One Nation” policy of the royal Bhutanese government, I had to give off my ethnicity and religion and adopt the Buddhism and Bhutanese culture, which I denied and as a result of which I became a refugee, which is a very painful status for any human being to live on earth. So, in order to fight against injustice for myself and my community, I became a strong advocate for refugee rights.
JS: What was your impression of LIRS World Refugee Day Academy and how has the experience influenced your work as a leader in your community?
NA: LIRS World Refugee Day Academy was one of the best, very inspiring events for all those who are struggling for rights and justice, especially for refugees and immigrants all around the world. This needs to be continued for the greater interest of refugees and immigrants, to bring new policies at the national level, work on them effectively and make life better, safer and happier.
JS: What are the main issues you want to address that are unique to the Bhutanese refugee community in the United States and in Western Massachusetts?
NA: The citizenship education, mental health awareness, community empowerment and youth engagement in the socioeconomic development are some of the issues need to be addressed, especially in the Western Massachusetts, where I am currently working. The resettlement agencies are working hard but more proactive involvement from among the refugee community would make the efforts more effective.
JS: What advice would you have for new refugees to make their resettlement experience more uplifting?
NA: Resettlement is a challenging task for both agency and the individual person/family. However, constant encouragement, engagement in the social activities and educating them on the lifestyle in the place of their new resettlement will make life easier, and they could learn faster to be acquainted with the environment of the new livelihood. There is a need for all the stakeholders to play crucial and proactive role to ensure successful and satisfactory resettlement for the refugees/immigrants.
Applications for World Refugee Day Academy 2015 will open this Spring. Stay tuned for more information.