Need for Paradigm Shift for Economic Empowerment of Resettled Refugees

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By Dr. DNS Dhakal

The resettled refugees are in a rush to own homes. They have little understood the long-term implication of buying homes in a developed economy, where less than 5% of the total population are engaged in farming.

The overwhelming majority of the resettled Bhutanese were subsistence farmers back in Bhutan. Their lifestyle had hovered around owning a piece of land, growing own vegetables and tendering households cattle. They had missed this lifestyle when they were in the UNHCR managed camps.

The third country resettlement has opened up the opportunity to own home. Whatever income they earned, and whatever old-age allowances they receive are saved for buying homes. Some estimate suggests that over 40% of the resettled refugees in the US have already purchased home, and they are moving from one state to another to live in their own communities.

Pahadi-Kakro-cucumber-in-North-Carolina

Pahadi-Kakro-cucumber-in-North-Carolina

This is a wrong strategy from the long-term perspective.  The resettled Bhutanese must understand that they have to go where jobs are available. Even if the first generation is stuck at sweat shops, they must plan for future of their children.

The only sure path to upward mobility is the quality higher education of their children: they must live good school districts and should prepare to move quickly where lucrative jobs are available. There are, however, some families who have opted for this route.

Durga Bhugel, son of Khadga Bhujel, from Chukha Dzongkhag works in a local automobile workshop after completing Automotive Technical College. He is planning to work for Tesla and Mercedes in the coming years and eventually start his own business. His family lives in a rented apartment in Southern Philadelphia where his family was resettled in 2012.

Community Gardening in North Carolina

Community Gardening in North Carolina

Another encouraging example is of Kafley family from Dagapela Dungkhag. The Kafley brothers-Agi and Chabi- decided to stay in rented apartments until they establish their children’ profession. All their children are studying bachelor in engineering. Two are in Pennsylvania State University and one in Temple University.

“We missed going to school in Bhutan, and we don’t want our children to suffer like us. Buying home is a secondary issue for us. We want our sons and daughters to become professionals and earn a high income. We have waited for the last 25 years, and why not wait another two years”. They are in a rented apartment since 2010.

This was a moving statement for me. America is a land of opportunity who are willing to work hard for upward mobility. Choice of a school district, focus on children’ education and hard work are the constituents of an iron-path to prosperity in the US.