7,000 miles to home, sweet home

For 25 years, the closest thing Aam had to a home was a bamboo hut with thatched roof in one of Nepal’s refugee camps. He fled his home country of Bhutan due to the dictatorship government there.

“Living in the camp, it was too difficult,” Aam explained through the help of a interpretor. “It was like, there’s no good place to live. Houses made of bamboo, there is no good conditions to live…there is no water to drink.”

On May 25, Aam and his wife Kumari were finally able to leave Jhapa camp and travel more than 7,000 miles to St. Paul where they were reunited with Aam’s sister.

They live in a simple apartment there—simple by American standards, but luxurious compared to the camp. It’s heated, secure, has clean running water and solid windows and doors.

They are settling into their new American life with assistance from Catholic Charities’ New American Services program.

The program provides case management and reunification assistance to refugees coming to our community through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Beyond greeting the family at the airport, services include finding safe and affordable housing, helping families enroll children in school and helping adults find English language classes. The services, and needs, vary with each family. Case workers in the New American Services program learn to expect the unexpected and work to respond to the unique needs of refugees entering Minnesota.

Bwet Taw was Aam and Kumari’s resettlement case manager. Since guidelines limit the service to just three months, Bwet and other case managers work to ensure families make connections that will help them as they take on more self-sufficiency.

While at the camp, Aam worked as a social worker for UNHCR, the United Nations’ Refugee Agency. Through that job, he was able to learn some English and was better prepared to gain employment in the United States.

Working with a job counselor here, Aam found a job working full time as a machine operator. His wife, Kumari, is enrolled in school and learning English.

“They are doing a very good job,” Taw said, commending Aam’s ability to quickly find a job and connect to resources.

Aam sings Taw’s praises. “Bwet helps me a lot. He even helped introduce me to other friends who have already come here,” he said.

When not at work or school, Aam and Kumari are getting to know their new home, dancing together and spending time in Minnesota’s many parks.

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