World Refugee Day – Bhutanese Refugee Champa finds happiness while serving the community

Bhutanese Refugee Champa finds happiness while serving the community

Champa Singh Rai interacting with representatives of Bhutanese Refugee Women Forum at Sanischare Refugee Camp of Morang District of Eastern Nepal. © LWF Nepal / P. Baidya

Morang Nepal / June 20, 2012

Champa Singh Rai holds a diary and visits camp based offices of different agencies, which have been providing humanitarian support to Bhutanese refugees in Nepal, frequently to resolve the problems being faced by refugees. Though he is miles away from his birthplace and taking refuge in an alien land, he has been serving his community since 1991, after his expulsion from Bhutan.

Rai had a very happy family life and worked as an employee of the Department of Power and had never imagined that he could face such fate but he and other Bhutanese of Nepali Origin were forced to leave the country following ethnic tension during the early 1990s.

“I was happy with the job and did not have any aspiration for becoming engaged in politics. When I used to hear the news about unrest in other parts of the globe, I used to feel lucky as our country was so peaceful but later we were forced to leave the country,” says Rai.

When Rai reached Nepal after walking for days, he started spending days in the refugee camp of Eastern Nepal with humanitarian support provided by humanitarian agencies like the Lutheran World Federation Nepal (LWF Nepal).  LWF Nepal has been providing maintenance and care support to Bhutanese Refugees since 1990. “We could not imagine our life without the support being provided by humanitarian agencies like LWF Nepal,” says Champa.

Rai, who served the community as a government employee back in the country, felt very bad to find Bhutanese People in a very poor situation after their expulsion and started voluntary work to ease the life of refugees in the camps as most of the refugees were illiterate and they even did not have information why they were expelled and what sort of support they can get from the humanitarian agencies.

When agencies formed Camp Management Committee and started to ensure representation of refugees in camp management, he started to serve in the committee. Initially he served as member of the committee and got elected as the chair in 2009 and also got re-elected for a third consecutive term. The officials of the committee are elected through a democratic process and they serve as a bridge between humanitarian agencies and the refugee community. Various sub committees formed under the Camp Management Committee ensures that the right quantity and quality of assistance is being provided to the refugees.

He keeps himself busy from dawn to dusk resolving the problems of the community. Though this is a voluntary job and he has to depend on the support provided by his family to fulfill his daily needs, he could not leave the work because of the satisfaction he gets from serving the community. His wife is running a small shop in the camp, which is the main source of pocket money for Rai.

“I have served the community for almost two decades and if people feel that I can still continue in the position and serve the community, I am ready for doing that,” Rai said, adding, “I do not have any regret for being engaged in the voluntary work as serving the community is better than earning some money while being engaged in some work outside the camp.” Rai’s land and house was captured by the Bhutanese Authorities and later given to an official of Dukpa Community.

Over 65,000 thousand Bhutanese Refugees have departed for resettlement (to 3rd countries mainly USA) and the population of the camp has decreased to 48,000 but the duty of the representatives of Bhutanese refugees has not declined and they have played an active role for consolidation of the three refugee camps. He has to coordinate with the different agencies to resolve problems and ensure the smooth functioning of the camp. “We have good coordination with the agencies as they listen to our problems and try to address them immediately inthe best possible way.”

His parents and brothers have already been resettled to the US but Champa does not have the passion to join them rather he wants to serve the community and wants to go back to his country. He hopes that one day he will be able to return to his homeland. There are many refugees like Champa, who are still waiting on the green signal from the Bhutanese Authorities to return home to their country.

LWF Nepal
Pratibedan Baidya
Communications Manager

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