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Meet an entrepreneur and former refugee who is connecting his community through civil service

By Bijaya Khadka

Bijaya is a featured participant from USA for UNHCR’s Refugee Youth Storyteller’s Celebration, an opportunity to honor and recognize the creative voices of former refugees under the age of 30 who are now living in the United States. 

From Uncertainty to Reality

I have never had anything more uncertain than involuntarily leaving a place I have known for years as home to an unknown destination.

Since birth, I knew no place other than Bhutan. Forcibly leaving from a known place to an unknown destination was not part of my dream. Many of my people were forced to leave because the government stopped thinking of them as citizens. My family ended up in a Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal. We lived in the camp until the unknown became known.

Fortunately for my family, we were able to come to the United States and live in Rochester, NY. Until that time, I did not think that I could ever choose the way I wanted to live my life. I thought I would always live like a refugee. 

illustration portrait of bijaya

I was discriminated against and many times humiliated as a refugee. And I always desired a time that could erase the refugee label permanently from my spirit, soul and mind. But it was not as easy as I thought. Life was unreal and unbearable. Living a life of this kind, to me, was degrading. My dream of living a real life, which includes freedom of choice, remained unfulfilled until this great nation called the United States of America graciously opened her borders to Bhutanese refugees. 

Rochester has not only become a home and a safe haven for me and my family but for thousands of others like me. Today, my hope for a bright future is becoming clearer and more certain. I know how I can contribute to my community and beyond. There is freedom and opportunity to do so.

I lived most of my youth as a refugee — a stranded, and helpless young man whose dreams were crushed. Hopefulness was nowhere to be found. My own government had turned its back on me and thousands of others like me. The only thing I knew was that my hopes and dreams for a better future were seized. I had no identity or country. Life was nothing more than despair.

The United States extended her hands and lifted me up from the grounds of helplessness. I have been given real hope and have stopped imagining the past. Instead, I can focus on a brighter future. Those things that I had lost, and thought I would never have, this great nation is giving me. What is amazing about this new life is that I don’t have to think I am a refugee anymore. 

Today, Bijaya is dedicated to bettering his community and helping resettled refugees connect with others in their new homes. He is the founder of House of Refuge in Rochester, NY, an organization that helps resettled refugees find job opportunities, learn English and navigate their new communities. He is also a placement coordinator at the Rochester Rehabilitation Center, served as a youth delegate for the United Nations and has run for Rochester’s City Council. He hopes to continue being a leader in his community and serving those whose needs have gone unheard. 

Bijaya’s story is just one voice from the Refugee Youth Storyteller’s Celebration we are sharing in recognition of World Refugee Day on June 20.

Jun 15 2021
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