Bhutanese Community of Columbus, Ohio

By Dr. D.N.S.Dhakal

Ohio has become a destination for resettled Bhutanese community. There are estimated 20000 in Columbus area. There are also Bhutanese community in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Akron and Dayton. The combined total could easily be 30,000 strong.

The remigration is pushing up the population. The social security, Medicare and cheaper housing are the pull factors. Also there are numerous ware houses which provide plenty of entry level job opportunities.

Damaru Adhikari from Lamidara village of Chirang Dzongkhag was the first to settle in Columbus. He came with his family on June 16 in 2008 under the third country resettlement program.

Damaru said, “Life was not that easy that time, my family was alone in this sprawling city. I stayed in community housing along with other immigrant population. I tried to save and build my credit as much as I can. Life has become much easier after having my own home”.

He now has a mansion. He bought it in 2012 at US$ 198,000. Other Bhutanese have brought or buying homes in the same area. At this rate this settlement will become soon a Bhutanese colony with community center for cultural or religious events. It will be same as the village in Lamidara but 100 years jump in the standard of living.

It is estimated that 5% to 10% of the population own home at present. The percentage is expected to rise steeply in a year or two. With frugal diet and higher propensity to save, cash accumulation is high for investment on fixed assets. Obviously, owning home is the priority.

The resettled Bhutanese have formed Bhutanese Nepali Community of Columbus (BNCC). The organization is run professionally with Bhim Bastola as its chairman, Keshav Acharya as Executive Director and Steven Lamb as program manager.

Dr. Dhakal with Bhutanese community leaders of Columbus, OH

Dr. Dhakal with Bhutanese community leaders of Columbus, OH

BNCC receives grants and has ambitious plan in its agenda, including construction of a Hindu temple and ambitious youth empowerment program. The relief agencies and local government seems to have keen interest in helping the resettled Bhutanese community.

The BNCC believes that it has much to achieve. It believes the community will have to do more to be successful. The number of high school graduates attending community colleges and universities are small. And not many Bhutanese have become business entrepreneurs. Education and entrepreneurship development should be the focus of the resettled Bhutanese community.

There are 14 business enterprises, dedicated to ethnic needs: namely, food supplies, restaurants, jewelries. Enormous opportunities exists in service sector. No resettled Bhutanese have registered a company though they have moved ahead buying homes, owning restaurants, grocery store or gas-station.

There are still remnants of cleavages from the camps. The community is yet to have a common vision, common agenda for economic empowerment and common mindset for evolution of cultural resources. The consolidation of community is a priority for the resettled Bhutanese community in the Columbus area.

Nevertheless, there is an enormous local support and goodwill. The leadership has realized the loopholes and youths are determined to make a dent in education and entrepreneurship development.

For an outsider Bhutanese settlement in Columbus is a replica of Beldangi camps. Obviously, it is an emerging capital of resettled Bhutanese in America. Its progress will measure success of the resettled Bhutanese community.