Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tulasi Ghimirey's Thanksgiving Letter 2011

Tulasi loves growing vegetables
In 2000, Tulasi Ghimirey arrived in the U.S. from United Nations-run refugee camps in southeastern Nepal. There, 100,000 fellow ethnic-Nepali Bhutanese refugees landed in 1990 following ethnic cleansing in Bhutan, their homeland. Through combined efforts of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Third Country Resettlement Program and the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program, about 60,000 Bhutanese refugees have been resettled in the U.S. Tulasi lives in Atlanta with his wife, Kumari, and son, Ryan.

Dear friends, volunteers, and well-wishers of me, my family, and the Bhutanese community,

I never wait for Thanksgiving to arrive to thank this country and its citizens. Giving and Thanking someone is the ultimate happiness prescription.

At night, I still dream of those days, especially the torture that I have gone through, in Bhutan. I find myself running, crying, and begging for help. Those camouflage outfits of the Bhutanese Army haunt me always.

When I get conscious from my dream, I find myself in the fancier house in America. My pounding heart slows down realizing that I am in America and not in Bhutan. The next thing I do before putting my body under the quilt is to Thank this great country because I will never be tortured again. I don’t have to get punched in my face until I am found guilty. What humane laws this country has. I can proudly say that I am a human being because humans are treated as human beings here.

Thank God for the bountiful blessing bestowed upon America, Land of the Free and Home of the Brave! I salute our armed and unarmed forces who are making tremendous sacrifices to keep us SAFE and FREE. Thanksgiving would not even exist without their selfless service. As I feast on delicious food, I remember the American farmers who feed us and the world safe nutritious food.

We still have many people struggling to put food on the table as we work to recover from our economic downturn. Our food shelves feel increased demand during the holiday season so I encourage you to donate or make a charitable contribution.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving with family and friends.
Related posts
Emory University article on Tulasi
Bhutan refugee finds Shangri-La in Atlanta

Cross-posted at Only Connect

Sunday, July 3, 2011

First Bhutanese Interstate Soccer Tournament (Day Two Video)

Guest author: Tamar Orvell

Cheering for their sons Birendra and Chabi during the final playoff game

The Georgia Reds and Texas teams vied for the winner's trophy in the final playoff game on the evening of Day Two of the First Bhutanese Interstate Soccer Tournament. While perfect weather favored the two-day event, held on Friday and Saturday, June 17 and 18, in Atlanta, minutes before the final playoff, thunderstorms erupted, driving hundreds of spectators and players from twenty teams to sheltering cars, tents, and Porta-Potties.

Forty minutes later, emerging to clearing skies, their spirits never flagging and their patience seemingly infinite, this reunion of family and friends witnessed the final game, followed by a parade of trophies, medals, special awards, and words of thanksgiving and appreciation for everyone — in the playing field, across the USA, in their homeland, Bhutan, and in the seven Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal where many played soccer together as children following ethnic cleansing in Bhutan.

The weekend was another triumph of this refugee community that has shown perseverance, courage, and faith over decades of suffering and injustice, and now, is embracing welcome and opportunity in these United States.

Watch the video (7:56 minutes).

Updates from the soccer field (include photos and videos)
The back story
Bhutanese Interstate Soccer Tournament: June 17-18, 2011, in Atlanta

Sunday, June 19, 2011

First Bhutanese Interstate Soccer Tournament (Day One Video)

Guest author: Tamar Orvell

Georgia's Red Team huddles in a tent as thunderstorms
drive hundreds of players and spectators to sheltering cars,
tents, and Porta-Potties to await the final game on Day Two

The First Bhutanese Interstate Soccer Tournament in the USA featured twenty teams that drove or flew from coast-to-coast, north and south to join more than 350 players in Atlanta, Georgia. The two-day event on Friday and Saturday, June 17 and 18, showcased brilliant athletes, organizers, coaches, and managers in a celebration of teamwork, community, fair play, tireless dedication, and hard work over decades of nearly insurmountable obstacles. The event was a reunion of family and friends, many of whom played soccer together as children in seven Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal, following expulsion from their homeland, Bhutan. For nearly two decades in the camps, their 100,000-person ethnic-Nepali community relied on the same teamwork and life-affirming beliefs and practices witnessed this weekend.

Watch the video (8:45 minutes).

Updates from the soccer field (include photos and videos)
The back story
Bhutanese Interstate Soccer Tournament: June 17-18, 2011, in Atlanta

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bhutanese Interstate Soccer Tournament: June 17-18, 2011, in Atlanta

Guest author: Tamar Orvell 

Georgia's Red Team is among twenty
nationwide competing in the event

Empowerment Through Sports is the theme of the first Bhutanese Interstate Soccer Tournament in the USA. Organized by a small independent group of sports lovers and volunteers, the event features twenty teams — two from Georgia, with more than 350 players meeting at Granite Field in Tucker, Georgia, on Friday and Saturday, June 17 and 18, from 6am to 8pm both days. Admission is free for spectators.

For Rules and Regulations of the Tournament and more information, send an email to Phone: 404-749-6268.

The Schedule
(Click the image to view the schedule full-screen.)

Updates from the Field
About Soccer and the Bhutanese Refugee Community
For the ethnic-Nepalis in Bhutan and Nepal, and now in the USA, soccer has been more than a sport in helping to define communities and strengthen the social fabric by bringing together players, youth, and sports enthusiasts. The Tournament organizing team acknowledges the contributions of soccer players and team managers in the seven Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal, and hopes that in this event, the same spirit and love of the game as in the camps is injected and that a precedent for future events is created.

About the Bhutanese Refugee Community
From expulsion and refugee status to welcome and opportunity in the USA, the Bhutanese refugee community is determined to succeed in creating a better future. Once stateless victims of ethnic cleansing in their homeland, Bhutan, they are resettling here through combined efforts of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Third Country Resettlement Program and the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program. (Among the community's 100,000 ethnic-Nepali Bhutanese refugees subsisting in holding camps in Nepal since 1990, about 6,000 have been resettled in Atlanta among 60,000 resettled nationwide; more relatives and neighbors are expected to follow.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pitamber Adhikari: "Though I am financially poor, mentally, I’m rich!"

Guest author: Pitamber Adhikari

Pritam's tassels attest to his multiple honors and awards
at the Druid Hills High School 2011 graduation ceremony
Tamar Orvell's editor's note | The young scholar's journey — from expulsion and refugee status to welcome and opportunity, attests to determination to survive and hope for a better future. In August 2008, Pritam and his family — stateless victims of ethnic cleansing in their homeland, Bhutan, joined Atlanta's growing Bhutanese refugee community of 6,000 through combined efforts of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Third Country Resettlement Program and the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program. (Among Pritam's 100,000 fellow ethnic-Nepali Bhutanese refugees subsisting in holding camps in Nepal since 1990, about 60,000 have been resettled nationwide, and more relatives and neighbors are expected to follow.)

Last fall, Pritam applied for college admission to realize his fondest dream of becoming an aerospace engineer. On publishing this essay, which he sent with his applications, Pritam writes, "I want to thank everyone for giving me a golden opportunity to tell about my life, from my native land to the USA. I also want to recognize Ms. Tamar Orvell for helping me out and encouraging me."

° ° °

I was born in a small, rural village in Bhutan, a monarchy on the border between China and India. Everything was backward, lacking, or undeveloped — education, transportation, sewage, electricity, and medical facilities. In 1992, when I was two years old, the cruel monarch expelled me and my family (mother, father, brother, and five sisters) and our 100,000 Nepali-origin community from our homeland. We were sent to live in Beldangi-2, Jhapa district (one of seven Bhutanese refugee camps in neighboring Nepal). There, we lived in bamboo huts with mud floors and newspaper-covered walls to keep out the winter cold and rain. We cooked, washed, and used toilets in outdoor communal facilities.

Though refugee life in the camp was miserable, I spent 15 years studying hard, participating in our cultural festivals, playing sports (soccer, table tennis, and Badminton), and volunteering in two organizations helping young children and teens: “Save the Children Forum” and “Youth Friendly Center.” In the United-Nations-run English-language-school where I had a golden chance to study, I was known as a smart and likable student. Though my parents attended only grade school, they inspired me by their example to work hard and discipline myself for a bright future.

Questions filled my imagination.
Pritam, age 12, in Beldangi-2
refugee camp
Since age six, I loved playing with small paper airplanes with my friends and family. Questions filled my imagination, and I have been curious to find the answers to them and to other questions ever since.

For example, I wondered —
  • How does this paper plane fly? 
  • How can I make it fly higher? 
  • Is it like a real airplane? 
  • How can an airplane fly, but not a car? 
In fourth grade, I learned a bit about engines, and I wondered, How can engines be made stronger so that airplanes can carry more weight? And, in seventh grade, I wondered, Why don’t jet airplanes fall because of their huge mass?

I have always loved and excelled in science and math, and have planned on a career related to aviation since I was 14. In 2008, when I was almost 17, I was excited when my family and thousands more got a chance to leave the refugee camps and to resettle in the USA. Finally, I could continue my studies at higher levels and at more rigorous standards.

Relocating to a new country is hard! 
I am constantly adjusting to new people and different customs, foods, and habits; navigating busy roads and many buildings; and managing language and communication challenges! I am an active volunteer in two of my local community organizations, Bhutanese Community of Georgia and Sewa International (Sewa is a Hindu word for volunteer), and I accompany my family to health care and immigration offices where I translate for them and agency officials.

At Druid Hills High School, I learned a lot about computers, which I had never even seen in the refugee camp, and I discovered the aerospace field through my chemistry teacher and friends. My fellow students come from all over the world, and I love this diverse society. I am practicing to be a careful listener, to speak clearly, and to appreciate and respect differences among my peers and others. I’m steadily improving my English in composition and literature classes and in speaking with American-born friends while working hard to maintain good grades in all my classes, including advanced placement (AP) classes in physics, statistics, calculus, and economics. (The last two years, I earned straight A’s and have been on the Honor Roll.) I am a member of my high school International Club and The National Society of High School Scholars. After graduation, I seek to fulfill my dream to do research, to obtain valuable real-life practical experience, and to study through the doctorate level.

During the Dashara festival, Hima and Yamuna
flank their brother Pritam, 2010

I'm excited to make an outstanding contribution.
Life circumstances required me to follow a long, nontraditional route toward my goal, and though I am financially poor, mentally, I’m rich! I bring to an academic community unique gifts of a refugee student from another hemisphere and who can teach and inspire fellow students and others. I'm excited to share my experience, knowledge, culture, traditions, and positive attitudes, and to make an outstanding contribution to the community.

 ° ° °
Editor's note |  On graduating from high school, Pritam was among the top 10% in his class; a member of the school's International Club and The National Society of High School Scholars; Advanced Placement Honoree (three or more AP classes); and Work-Ready Certified, Gold Rank (to perform 90% jobs in the state). He was also awarded the Emory University Award for Academic Excellence, Georgia Certificate of Merit (top 5% of his junior class), and President’s Award for Educational Excellence (recognition from the U.S. President and Secretary of Education to students whose outstanding efforts have enabled them to meet challenging standards of excellence). Seven schools accepted Pritam, including Purdue University, in Indiana, and in Georgia, Mercer University and Oglethorpe University. In August, he plans to begin post-secondary coursework at Georgia Perimeter College, then transfer to Georgia Tech. 

Editor's note, August 2011 |  Pritam participated in a special project at Georgia Tech's Combustion Lab

Editor's note, January 6, 2013 |  This week, Pritam was to have started classes at Georgia Tech, where he had transferred. Today, Pritam's parents and immediate and extended family, friends, and community — more than 1000 people attended his funeral, in Atlanta. Pritam died following a brief illness. He was 22.

Related Posts
An Appreciation: Pritam Adhikari
At Georgia Tech's Combustion Lab, you're never too young to learn

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Celebrate Easter: Order Bhutanese hand-woven kudzu baskets!

Celebrate Easter and our Bhutanese refugee neighbors who are rebuilding their lives! Order their hand-woven kudzu baskets by using this form or emailing

The Bhutan basket makers are also eager to make beautiful, custom Easter baskets for your church or youth group.

Namaste and thank you.

(Click the image to enlarge it.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2011 Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award honors Craig Gilbert

Guest author: Tamar Orvell

Craig Gilbert sporting his topi hat
and Nepalese doko basket

An appreciation and kudos to a tzadik [Hebrew: righteous person] — Craig Gilbert, my friend, mentor, sounding board, and role model, and Atlanta Bhutanese Refugee Support Group volunteer.

Emory University (School of Public Health and Goizueta Business School) will honor Craig and other recipients at The 2011 Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award ceremony on Thursday, January 20, at 4pm. The event will be in the auditorium of the Claudia Nance Rollins School of Public Health (1518 Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA 30322); a catered reception will follow. Parking from 3pm in the Michael Street Parking Deck (off Clifton Road) for faculty, staff, and students. Stay on the faculty, staff, and students side, and do not venture over to the visitors lot.

The theme for this year’s program of the 19th annual MLK Jr. Birthday Celebration is “Reinventing Communities: Turning Misfortune into Opportunity.”

This prestigious award recognizes Craig's accomplishments in the early days of the organic food movement, and for lifting up people in the refugee community (to earn fair wages for honest work, to access educational opportunities, and to preserve and transmit along the generations human dignity, cultural heritage, and ethnic identity).

At the event, Craig will speak briefly and share photos to highlight the Bhutanese Kudzu Basket Project and the Gardening Project, among enterprises he has initiated, championed, and given to with energy, imagination, and love!

The Atlanta Bhutanese community and many friends, allies, advocates, and supporters, are warmly invited to join in honoring Craig.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired America to grant human rights to all people using nonviolent means, a philosophy that Mahatma ("great soul") Gandhi, a son of India, pioneered. It is fitting that an Atlantan is recognized for upholding Dr. King's ideals by helping to resettle refugees from Bhutan (on the Indian subcontinent) whose homes and fields were stolen and whose lives were put on hold in refugee camps twenty years and longer.  
— Craig Gilbert

Related posts by or about Craig
Cross-posted at Only Connect