Seniors introduce Bhutanese Refugee club to help blend into American society, culture

Seniors+introduce+Bhutanese+Refugee+club+to+help+blend+into+American+society%2C+culture

By Pranathi Chitta
Staff Writer
@prannydacheetah

While much of the nation’s attention has been on Middle Eastern refugees, there is another country where 100,000 refugees are fleeing away from communal conflict. Two Coppell High School seniors have began the Bhutanese Awareness Council to safely assist Bhutanese refugees living in America.

 

“We thought it would be a really interesting experience to interact with a group of individuals who are already having a tough time, and hopefully make their lives easier,” senior co-president Swathi Sarathy said. “It sounded like a really cool opportunity and we wanted other CHS students to experience it as well.”

 

According to Sarathy, there are currently several hundred Bhutanese men, women and children residing in the Dallas-Forth Worth area, so the Bhutanese Awareness Council is centered around helping these refugees assimilate into the American culture, while still maintaining their Bhutanese roots.

 

“I knew there were Bhutanese refugees in America because of conflict going on in Bhutan, but I didn’t know they were in the Dallas area, so it’s really cool that we live nearby and can help these refugees,” senior vice president Prinon Shahed said.

 

Shahed enjoys working with kids and can relate to the refugees since she is a second generation migrant herself. Further, Shahed hopes to organize a variety of projects such as sports teams, a talent show and many other events to make the refugees feel at home.

 

“I started advising and coordinating activities for Bhutanese Awareness Council at Coppell High School when Swathi and [CHS senior Veena Suthendran] reached out to us wanting to serve the Bhutanese community,” Dallas Youth Sewa Volunteer coordinator Jiger Patel said. “I vividly remember when Veena told me about how she felt when she read about the Bhutanese community exiled from their country. Her feeling resonated with mine when I initially learned their plight, due to this, I decided to invest my time in helping self motivated volunteers like Veena and Swathi.”

 

Sarathy and Suthendran partnered with the Dallas chapter of the Sewa International USA Organization, which has allowed them to interact with some of the Bhutanese children. Sewa is an international and Hindu faith based organization, similar to the Red Cross organization.

 

“We actually got to visit the refugee camps which was a very humbling experience because we had never seen so many people crammed into one tiny apartment,” Sarathy said. “In the future, we want to host tutoring sessions for the SAT and ACT for the Bhutanese children so that they are able to perform well on these tests, and receive scholarships and grants to go to college.”

 

The club’s first event was a toy drive which took place mid-November. They were able to collect over 200 toys and books which were then wrapped and donated to the Bhutanese children.

 

“Most of the Bhutanese are Hindus or Buddhist by faith,” Patel said. “When I talked with one of the community members he shared with us that kids will not be receiving any Diwali gifts, for many Hindus Diwali is like a Christmas, time for family and gifts. I shared this conversation with Swathi and Veena, in which they both suggested that they could do a toy drive and make their Diwali what it should be like for kids.”

 

Although this club is relatively new, Sarathy and Suthendran have no doubt that their legacy will leave a mark.

 

“We really just want as many underclassmen as possible to join,” Sarathy said. “It’s important that we have students who will be able to continue the club once the seniors leave for college, and I think once people learn more about the club, they will be more compelled to join.”