Bhutanese Refugee Youth Discuss Bullying, Life Skills, More at Texas Retreat
On The Issues

Bhutanese Refugee Youth Discuss Bullying, Life Skills, More at Texas Retreat

By April 10, 2017 September 21st, 2020 No Comments

The two-day Bhutanese Youth College Preparatory Retreat, held on March 13, 2017, focused on personal and professional development for students between the ages of 14 and 20. The Nepalese-Bhutanese refugee community immigrated to Dallas in many groups; some families came from refugee camps many years ago, while others arrived in the past year.

A common problem the youth face once they arrive here is assimilation into the American professional and social environments. Through this retreat, we provided a safe space for the kids to plan for their future, strengthen their religious understanding, and better navigate their social environments. The retreat concluded with a discussion on anti-bullying presented by Hindu American Foundation.

Each day began with a discussion led by Swami Nikhilanand. Topics ranged from making dharmic choices in daily life to the role of Hinduism in overcoming hardships. The discussion led students through a journey of self discovery and gave them a platform to ask pressing questions that affect them daily.

Through the interactive platform Swamiji was able to relate to the students, who realized the importance of their opinions. Students were also able to ask culture specific questions related to religion that specifically affected them. Conversation about the sattvic and tamasic choices we make daily, helped students gain a better understanding of how to weave religion into their daily lives. An early icebreaker allowed the students and counselors to anonymously ask questions and highlight strengths for others by writing on plates tied to the back of other students. The students then answered the questions as they sat in a circle, giving everyone an opportunity to discuss their ambitions and best qualities.

Other activities during the day included a time management workshop that was hosted by Garima Singh, a graduate student at Southern Methodist University.

The session focused on maximizing the value of time by emphasizing the impact of efficient usage of time on one’s quality of life and ability to accomplish goals. As most of the students were of high school age, the value of spending time on college and scholarship applications was one of the key focuses of the talk.

Many students conveyed an interest in certain professional fields: Medicine, Research, and Finance (among others). For these fields, we invited Dr. Arun Badi, Dr. Shashank Sirsi, and Sanjay Gulati.

Dr. Badi spoke about the path to becoming a medical doctor in this country. He motivated the students, suggesting that their arduous backgrounds gave them the strength to succeed in environments such as medical school and residency despite the workload required to be in the medical profession. He also offered his guidance as well as volunteer positions to the students. Dr. Sirsi described his research in drug delivery methods and taught the students about the importance of reaching out to professionals at an early age, to better understand the variety of professional paths available to them.

Mr. Gulati spoke about his experience in Finance as a trader, and offered a helping hand to anyone who wanted to better position themselves to break into Finance. Many students were not as knowledgeable of the business track as they were of the STEM professions, and reacted positively to Sanjay’s insights. All three speakers were passionate and offered a personal level of support that we can only hope to replicate with future speakers.

We were also lucky to have Krishna Parmar, the Associate Director of Membership from Hindu American Foundation, join us to speak on anti-bullying and share local and national HAF events. After summarizing the results from Classroom Subjected: Bullying and Bias Against Hindu Students in American Schools, many students were able to relate to the findings which led to an open discussion on how to tackle certain situations when being bullied or witnessing someone else being bullied.  This discussion was extremely important to the students as it gave them an opportunity to discuss what is happening in their backyard. Apart from the anti-bullying report, students were very keen on hearing more about HAF’s internship program as well as the 2017 Advocacy Forum held in Washington DC in June. A few students plan to apply for the internship program as well as become active in future Dallas HAF events.  

The workshop ended with an interactive activity that gave the students a easy organizable time table that they could customize and use to create a more efficient schedule. Students gained a big-picture perspective on how they use their time, and realized opportunities to create more time for personal activities, while still allowing them to focus on their work.

Over the course of the retreat, the students grew more comfortable with each other and their counselors. They led the charge to add activities to the event, playing sports outside, hosting a competitive game of Antakshari, and dancing to the latest Bollywood music. The students, many of whom are already close friends, told the counselors that they felt the friendships strengthen and expressed a desire to be more involved in planning future events. As the retreat came to a close, the last activity asked everyone to sit in a circle and share what activity impacted each of us the most. Laughter and fond remembrance punctuated the hushed silence as each of us relived the memories the others shared.

As Ganga Adhakari, a masters student at UTD, said, “The impact of the retreat is truly going to be felt when we succeed with empowering these youths, so that they can lead their community.”

This is a guest post by Ridhima Chadha and Eshan Kejriwal.

Leave a Reply

10/28/22Dr. Anandibai Joshi

Dr. Anandi Gopal Joshi is credited with being the first woman from India to study medicine in the United States. Born in Bombay in 1865, she was married at the age of ten to an older man who had been her teacher. Dr. Joshi had a child at the age of 13, but the child died when only 10 days old. She believed that with better medical care, the child would have lived, and she frequently cited this as motivation for her desire to attend medical school. Her husband encouraged her in her academic pursuits and in 1883, Joshee joined the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, now known as the Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. She graduated in 1886 with her degree in medicine; her M.D. thesis focused on Hindu obstetrics. Unfortunately,  Dr. Joshi was only able to practice medicine for a few months before passing away from tuberculosis.

Science in Hinduism

10/2/2022Gandhi Jayanti

Gandhi Jayanti marks the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, the ‘Father of the Nation’ for India and the Indian Diaspora. To honor Gandhi’s message of ahimsa (non-violence), volunteer events and commemorative ceremonies are conducted and statues of Gandhi are also decorated with flower garlands. Gandhi and the satyagraha (truth force) has inspired many of America’s most prominent civil rights and social impact movements and leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., and Cesar Chavez. The United Nations declared October 2 as the International Day of Non-Violence in honor of Gandhi, whose work continues to inspire civil rights movements across the world.

Examining the Impact of Mahatma Gandhi on Social Change Movements

Why we should not tear down statues of Gandhi

10/1/2022First Hindu temple in US

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 facilitated the journey of many Indian immigrants to the United States. In this new land, many created home shrines and community temples to practice and hold pujas (services). As Hindu American populations grew in metropolitan and rural areas, so did the need to find a permanent temple site for worship. In 1906, the Vedanta Society built the Old Temple in San Francisco, California but as this was not considered a formal temple, many don’t credit this with being the first. Others believe it is the Shiva Murugan Temple built in 1957 in Concord, California, whereas others believe it is the Maha Vallabha Ganapati Devanstanam in New York that should be considered the first. Today, there are nearly 1,000 temples in the United States . Regardless of where you live, you have the right to practice your faith.

A Guide To Temple Safety and Security

5 Things to Know About Visiting a Hindu Temple