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Bhutan refugees struggle to adjust to Canada

Bhutan refugees struggle to adjust to Canada

Jane Armstrong

Vancouver — From Saturday’s Globe and Mail Published on Friday, Oct. 16, 2009 11:03PM EDT

Last updated on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009 3:20AM EDT

On a hot, sunny day last July, three fully clothed kids waded into the surf off Vancouver’s Spanish Banks beach, squealing as the cold sea water rose above their knees. Born and raised in a Nepalese refugee camp, Prakash, 14, Menuka, 12, and Ganesh, 8, had arrived in Canada 10 days earlier. They had never seen an ocean.

They didn’t own swimsuits and didn’t seem to care. Their mother, Bishnu Maya Kattel, followed behind, laughing as she gathered the folds of her sari around her thighs.

The family – also including the children’s father, Bhim Lal, and grandmother, Pabi Maya – had been in the country just over a week, when, out of the blue, a Nepalese-Canadian cultural group invited the Kattels to its annual picnic.

“The day of the picnic, it was the first time I felt okay,” Ms. Kattel recalled recently during an interview with a Nepalese translator. “I thought: ‘I’m not the only lonely person here. There are other people like me in Canada.’”

But there aren’t that many. About 5,000 Bhutanese refugees are expected to arrive in Canada over the next five years in one of the largest government-sponsored refugee programs in recent memory. Approximately 150 were expected to come to British Columbia this year, but so far only 28 have arrived.

And the Bhutanese face other challenges. Unlike most immigrants and refugees, the government-sponsored Bhutanese don’t have the safety net of an already established community to ease their culture shock and offer support. That lack of a support group has prompted questions about how they will assimilate in their new country. Their backgrounds don’t lend themselves to easy adaptation. They have spent 17 years in refugee camps and most of the adults have never held full-time jobs.

And, in the future, far more of these high-need refugees are expected to arrive in the country. Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act was amended seven years ago to give a higher priority to refugees in need of immediate protection. That group tends to include people fleeing war, famine and displacement. Many arrive in Canada with post-traumatic stress disorder and other medical needs. In short, they aren’t people in a position to apply for jobs tomorrow.

So how have the Kattels navigated their transition from refugee camp dwellers to West Coast suburbanites? Their first months in Canada have seen both triumphs and setbacks, frustration and serendipity.

The Globe and Mail first interviewed the Kattel family last June in the teeming Goldhap refugee camp in eastern Nepal, two weeks before they departed for Canada. They knew little about their new country except that it was freezing cold. The first thing Mr. Kattel asked a Canadian visitor was: Are there jobs in British Columbia?

When the family of six arrived at Vancouver Airport in July, they were wild-eyed and jet-lagged. Despite a July heat wave they were clad in thick woollen sweaters. For the next three months, the Globe tracked the family’s progress in B.C., after they moved into their new apartment in the suburban of municipality of Coquitlam.

The children found the transition particularly difficult. They were shocked at how hard school was. Eight-year-old Ganesh cried every day for the first week, telling his mother he couldn’t understand a word the teachers said to him.  Read More Here……

These People of our Hindu-Buddhist origin must deserve help and protection from us. Please help them to Protect their Culture and Heritage. Support their Struggle for Existence.

Courtsey : HPI, The Globe & Mail.

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