The first women leadership training was held at BCAP office on Feb 6th 2016 from 2-4 PM. The training was part of the Jefferson Regional Foundation program to develop leadership skills among the under-served population in the community and use that leadership skill to educate the women about better health decisions in their lives as well as acquaint them with opportunities that exist locally to promote more women’s participation in health care sector.

The primary objective of the first leadership training was to assess BCAP’s own capacity to manage such trainings internally and also to keep the momentum going before we have more professional training in place. The training attended by 23 women volunteers were facilitated by our own leaders. The secondary objective was to make the group familiar with BCAP’s programs, history and mission so that the group is ready to handle the responsibilities when called upon to do so.

The survey done at the end of the training proves that women are enthusiastic about leadership training and understood the cultural context of women leadership in resolving many issues that men are not fully suitable to handle them in our community.


Funeral Fund MOU(Translated)

Background and Evolution

We are social animals and we have been helping each other since yore and living an interdependent life ever since we learnt that social norms and values are good for the community. Moreover, the Bhutanese community has always demonstrated a feeling of being “one community” through the system of mutual help during deaths, marriages and other social cultural events in our life. We did it in Bhutan, we did it in the refugee camps and we are doing it here in America, too. However, living in America, especially for the vulnerable members of the community, is a big challenge here. Being vulnerable means you are not ready to face the fast paced life of the Western world with a lot of opposites to cope with. As a minority community Bhutanese Americans have all kinds of challenges in all places, in and out of their homes.

Ever since we first settled here in Pittsburgh in early 2008 a few volunteers started helping the vulnerable families during the deaths by going door to door to collect money. As population increased and we got scattered around the city this door to door campaign did not work as volunteers got tired and people who donated also got tired! So the same group of volunteers who ran from door to door began to discuss these hardships of collecting a small sum of money and handing over to the distressed families. The discussion led to the formation of Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh but not the funeral fund in 2012! The actual shape of the fund took place in the late 2013 when overwhelming members of the community agreed to set up a fund in a systematic way.

Features of this fund:

  • A mechanism to help our fellow beings during the crisis.
  • A freedom from anxiety and stress to your family during the crisis.
  • A big welfare to someone in need from your small contribution.

The memorandum of understanding or MOU agreed upon by all the members of the fund are as follows:

  1. All Bhutanese community members residing in Pittsburgh and Greater Pittsburgh region are eligible to participate in this program. A membership is based on each lease-hold or each apartment and will not be discriminated against any one based on caste, religion, sexual orientation, or any such social attributes.
  2. Membership in the fund will be annually renewable. Renewable period are from January 1 to March 31 every year. The following methods will be used to enroll new members or renew existing members:
  • Any person moving in from outside the city will be allowed to subscribe within two months.
  • The existing membership is valid from April 1 to March 31 of the following year.
  1. The annual membership fee for the new member is $56.00 and for the renewing member it is $51. 00. This is done in order to meet the expenses related to paper work.
  2. There will be a separate bank account for this fund and all the information related to ins and outs will be made transparent through the bank statement and annual release of financials by the BCAP treasurer.
  3. No money from this funds will be used for any other purpose other than specified in this MOU.
  4. The ultimate goal of this fund is to set up our own Funeral Home one day it that is practicable in the long run.


  1. The family of the funeral fund member will be provided with a check of $1,500 if the closet member of the family dies in Pittsburgh. This sum of money is paid out to meet the funeral home costs of viewing and cremation only. The questions on who will get the benefit from the fund are resolved this way:
  2. One lease, one member principle. All members of the family covered by a single lease are covered by a membership from that household.
  3. A funeral fund member separating himself or herself from his/her previous lease will take his/her membership along with him/her leaving the previous family without a membership benefit. This means that membership moves along with the movement of the said member. The remaining family members has no membership in the fund unless they decide to opt in immediately after the funeral fund member leaves them to live separately.
  4. A family also gets a benefit of $1,500 if any member of that family dies while travelling out of the city provided one of the family members was a funeral fund member.
  5. A family whose traditional practice is not cremation but burial will not get above $1,500: the extra money for burial expenses is the responsibility of the family.
  6. A sum of $750.00 will be provided to the family whose parents die but they are not the member of the fund and live separately from the funeral fund member (son or daughter).
  7. A funeral fund member who has parents or close relatives living in another city will only get $500 from the fund when his/her parents or close relatives die there, regardless of where they conduct the last rites. In the case of the relatives the relationship must be verified by three witnesses.
  8. In the event when so many cases of deaths result in total depletion of the fund there will be another round of fund-raising from the members after advanced notification.
  9. The unused funds from any year will be rolled over to the subsequent years and if such rollovers result in a substantial amount of money in the long run such funds can be invested in profit bearing securities or used in the construction of a funeral home for the community.
  10. A fund member, who decides to migrate to another city, will have the following options with regard to his/her contribution:
  11. He/she can request for the refund of his/contribution which will be refunded after making deductions from his/her share that went out to make disbursements to such families facing funeral situation.
  12. He/she can leave it in the fund with a sense of duty or service to the community and benefit from it in the case of need even after moving out this city.
  13. He/she can still make contribution into the fund even after moving out of the city and get the same benefits from it.
  14. There will be a provision of an “emergency fund” in the amount of $2,000 within this fund when the total members exceed 300. Such an emergency fund will be used in the following situations:
  15. A newly arrived family from the refugee camp in Nepal will receive an amount of $500 from this emergency fund within the first three months of their arrival if the case of death occurs in that family.
  16. A new secondary migrant family will get $500 from this fund within the first one month of the arrival in this city if the case of death occurs in that family.
  17. Fund Collection:
    1. The fund will be collected only after an agreement is signed by the prospective member with the funeral fund treasurer. A copy of such an agreement will be provided to every new member.
    2. The fund collection can be done only through a ‘check’ or ‘money order’ and in no case cash will be accepted by the funeral fund treasurer.
    3. Any returned check due to ‘insufficient funds’ or closed account will be the responsibility of the same member. The fund will not be responsible for bank charges on returned checks.
    4. The ‘returned check’ must be corrected and the amount restored within fifteen days in order to have the membership active in the register. (The membership will be cancelled after 15 days if the correction is not done within this time).
    5. An interested member can handover the membership fee to one of the funeral fund treasurers assigned for your region or handover at the BCAP office.
    6. A receipt must be obtained from the treasurer upon payment of the membership amount.
    7. An interested person in this fund can also become a member by mailing the check or money order in the approved amount to the BCAP office address mentioned below. The name and address along with the phone number must be provided in the mail.
  18. Funeral Home Charges Only: The overall meaning of this MOU and the goal of the fund is to meet the costs of the funeral home viewing and cremation or burial and it is not intended to pay for other costs associated with rites that the family performs. The family will continue to receive the usual community support based on our traditional norms and values which we have been practicing during deaths. Further along, the costs associated with the ritual observance for any number of days in the family will not be borne by this fund.
  19. The fund must be requested during the death by a member of that family in an approved form which is available with all the treasurers. The death certificate must be attached with the request or obtained one within 30 days if it is outside this city.
  20. All the above provisions can be reviewed every year and amended after mutual consultation with the funeral fund members and the treasurers to make it technically and financially sound.



Funeral Fund Committee and the Assigned Treasurers

Mon Poudel Coordinator 412-315-8899
Mrs. Lok Mahat Bhandari Castle Shannon 412.819.6410
Mr. Harka Bista Green Tree 412.956.3824
Mr. Chitra Gurung Mt.Oliver/Carrick 412.430.8435
Mr. Madhu Phuyel Prospect Park 412.298.0252
Purna Singh Tamang Leland Point 412.8196312
Mr. Bal Bista Bellevue-Sewickley 412.761.2461



Note: All the funeral fund treasurers are volunteers and they are giving their precious time beyond their own jobs and families and we should understand their sense of duty to the community by helping them in any way we can.

What the beneficiaries are talking about this fund?

I have got a lot of help through this fund during the death in my family and I give full credit to the volunteers who came forward to set up this fund for the community. I also encourage all the community members to understand what it is and become a member as it is going to benefit you since death  does not come with a bell!…………….Ram Wagley


This fund started by BCAP has really made a big difference to my family and I feel peace of mind by being a member of it…………….Chitra Gurung


I was in Erie and when I moved to Pittsburgh I heard about this fund and immediately became a member. Then a death case occurred in our family, thank God I was already a member and I received an appropriate amount from the fund and did make a difference to my family. I feel I did the right thing by becoming a member of this fund…….Puspa Lal Bista


For any questions and inquiries please contact us at:

Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh

4150 Saw Mill Run Blvd.

Pittsburgh, PA 15227

Phone: 412.668.3197 Fax: 412.626.6752





मानिस सामाजिक प्राणी भएको नाताले आफ्नो समाज र समुदायदेखि अलग रहन सक्तैन । सदियौंदेखि हाम्रा पुर्खाहरुले आफ्नो समाजमा कसैलाई दुःख, आपत-विपत- मृत्यु-शोकजस्ता विषम परिस्थिति परेको घडीमा सामाजिक रूपमा सबै मिलेर त्यसको सामना गर्दै हाम्रो समाजलाई आज यहाँसम्म ल्याएको कुरा हामी सबैलाई सर्वविदित नै छ । अहिले हामी संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिकाको पिट्सबर्ग महानगरीमा पुनर्स्थापित नेपालीभाषी भूटानी समुदाय एक छुट्टै परिवेशमा आर्थिक, शैक्षिक र सामाजिक रूपमा अल्पसंख्यक समुदायको रूपमा बाँचिरहेका छौं ।

To Read in English Click Here

त्यसै पनि दैनिक रूपमा सामान्य जीवनयापन गर्न आर्थिक रूपमा संघर्ष गर्नु परिरहेको अवस्थामा कसैको घर-परिवारमा मृत्यु-शोक परेको खण्डमा त्यस परिवारलाई यस्तो शोकको घडीमा सामाजिक तथा आर्थिक तहमा यथासक्य सहयोग पुऱ्याउनु हाम्रो सामाजिक दायित्व हो । यसै पवित्र सामाजिक सहयोगको भावनाले ओतप्रोत भई यस फ्यूनरल फण्डको (दाहसंस्कार कोष) खाँचो महसूस गरी यो कोष २०१४ को सुरुवात देखि BCAP ले संचालन गर्दै आएको छ |

यस कोषबाट तपाइले के पाउनु हुन्छ ?

  • मानवताको नाताले संकटको घडीमा समाजकै सदस्यलाई सहयोग गर्ने अवसर
  • आफ्नु परिवारमा भबितब्य परे ठूलो  संकटबाट मुक्ति
  • आफूबाट भएको सानो सहयोगले कसैको कल्याण


यस कोषका नियमावली के कस्ता छन् ?

  1. पेन्सिलभेनिया राज्यको Greater Pittsburgh मा बसोबास गर्ने प्रत्येक घर वा अपार्टमेण्टमा बस्ने भुटानी परिवारहरु यस कोषका स्वेच्छिक दाताका रूपमा सदस्य हुनेछन् । जात, धर्म, लिङ्ग, बर्णका कारण कसैलाई छुट्याइने छैन |

2. यस कोषको सदस्यता बार्षिकरुपमा नविकरण गरिने छ | नबिकरण एवम नयाँ सदस्यता प्रत्येक वर्षको January १ देखि March ३१ भरिमा गरिनुपर्ने छ र अन्य राज्य वा सहरबाट सरुवा भइ आएको परिवारको हकमा भने सरेको दुई महिना सम्ममा सदस्यता लिनसकिने व्यवस्था छ | यस कोषको अवधि नबिकरण गर्नेका लागी अप्रिल (April) १ देखि अर्को मार्च (March) ३१ सम्म हुनेछ, नयाँ सदस्यहरुको हकमा भने सदस्यता स्वीकृत भएको मितिबाट पहिलो बर्षको सेवा खुला हुनेछ |

सदस्यता स्वीकृत : सदश्यले  सदस्यता दर्ता गरिसोको रशिद लिएपछि  स्वीकृत भनि बुझ्ननु  पर्दछ । यध्यपी, सो  बुझाएको check चेक बैंकमा भुक्तानी भई लेखामा देखा पर्न कम्तिमा ४८ घण्ट सम्म लाग्न सक्छ । यदि चेक बन्द गरीसकेको बैंक खाता वा बैंकमा रकम नै नभएको खाताबाट करणबस पर्न गए,  सो सदस्यले चेक बदर बापत लाग्ने शुल्क समेत गाबेर पुन: शुल्क तिर्नु पर्ने छ । तब मात्र सो सदस्यता स्वीकृत हुने छ । यस प्रकारको समस्या नपरोस भन्न BCAP समस्तमा आफ्नो आधिकारिक चेक मार्फत वा मनिअडर (Money Order) शुल्क बुझाउन हुन् आग्रह गर्दछ ।

नबिकरण गर्नेका लागी मात्र $51 हुनेछ भने नयाँ दर्ताका लागी पहिलोपटक $51 + $5= $56 लाग्ने छ | यो $5 कागजात तयारी र लेखा व्यवस्थापनमा खर्च हुने छ | नयाँ सदस्यहरुका लागि पहिलो बर्ष मात्र यो नियम लागू हुने छ |


3-   यस कोषको BCAP अन्तर्गत छुटै बैंक लेखा खाता हुनेछ र यस कोषको हेरक लेखा -जोखा पारदर्सी राखिने छ | यस कोष सम्बन्धि कुनै जानकारी लिनु पर्ने भएमा जुनै बेला पनि कोषका प्रमूख नियन्त्रक मार्फत कार्यालय समयमा लिन सकिनेछ |


4-  यस कोषको रकमकोष सञ्चालन नियमावलीमा उल्लिखित उद्देश्यबाहेक अरु व्यापारिकलगायत कुनै पनि गतिविधिमा प्रयोग हुने छैन ।


5-  यस कोषको अन्तिम लक्ष्य भनेको पिट्सबर्गबासी भूटानी समुदायमा दाहसंस्कार र बचत रहेको खण्डमा समाजकै सिफारिसमा आफ्नै फ्यूनरल होम निर्माण गर्ने हुनेछ ।

6-  यस कोषका सदस्यका परिवारमा कसैको मृत्यु भई यस पिट्सबर्ग महानगरमै शवदाह संस्कार गर्नुपरेको खण्डमा त्यसमा लाग्ने खर्च सहयोगस्वरूप डलर 1500.00 कोषबाट उपलब्ध गराइने छ ।

  • एक सदस्यता एक लिज (Lease) भित्रका  सदस्यहरु भनी बुझ्नु पर्ने | एउटा Lease भित्रको सदस्य सदस्यता भएको परिवारबाट कारणबस छुट्टिएर अर्को परीवारमा गएको खण्डमा सो परीवार सदस्यता सूचिमा छैन र उसको मृत्यु भएमा कोषबाट सहयोग हुने छैन |
  • सदस्यता परिवारको कुनै पनि सदस्य अन्य सहर वा राज्यमा गएको अवस्थामा नीजको मृत्यु भएमा र दाहसंस्कार उतै गरेको खण्डमा परिवारलाई $ 1500.00  प्रदान गरिने छ |
  • यदी सदस्यता लिएको परिवारबाट कुनै छोरो या छोरी छुट्टिएर अर्कै ठेगानामा सरे, सरेको ठेगानामा  यस कोषको सुबिधा पाउन छुटै सदस्यता लिनु पर्ने छ |
  • यदि शव जमिनमा (Burial) गर्ने संस्कार अन्तर्गत भए $1500 भन्दा माथिको रकम निज परिवारका तर्फबाट जुटाउनु पर्ने छ |


7-  यसै महानगरमा बसोबास गर्ने यस कोषका सदस्यका बाबा-आमा यसै महानगरका अन्य छोरा संग बसोबास गरेको तर सो परिवारले सदस्यता नलिएको अवस्थामा बाबु वा आमाको मृत्यु भएमा मात्र सदस्यता लिने छोराको नाममा $750 दिइने छ |


8-  यदि यस कोषका सदस्यका आफ्नै बाबा-आमाको मृत्यु अन्य कुनै राज्य वा देशमा जहाँ भए पनि र उहाँहरु छोरा वा छोरी जतिजना भए पनि र जहाँ गएर काज-क्रिया गरे पनि यस कोषका एकजना सदस्यलाई कोषबाट डलर 500.00 उपलब्ध गराइने छ । साथै यस कोषको सदस्यको अन्य राज्यमा आफन्तको मृत्यु भए र निजलेनै काज-क्रिया गर्नु पर्ने भएको खण्डमा निजलाई $500.00 सहयोग यसै कोषबाट प्रदान गरिने छ |यदि एउटै परीवारको सदस्य नभएको खण्डमा र यस कोषको सदश्यले संस्कार अनुसार काज क्रिया गर्नु परेमा कम्तिमा तीन जनाले प्रमाणित गरेको हुनु पर्ने छ ।

9-  यदि केही गरी दुर्भाग्यवश कुनै निश्चित वर्षमा धेरैजनाको मृत्यु भएर सो वर्षका लागि उठाइएको कोषको रकम सकिएमा र अरु वा अर्को घटना भएमा नपुगेको रकम सदस्यहरुलाई जानकारी गराई उठाउन सकिने भन्ने व्यवस्था गरिएको छ |

10-  यदि कुनै तोकिएको वर्षका निम्ति कोषमा संकलित रकम बँचेको अवस्थामा सो रकम अर्को वर्षमा स्वतः अर्को वर्षको लागि विनियोजन गरिने रकममा गएर जम्मा हुनेछ । र, यसरी नै जम्मा हुँदै गएको सो रकम  अन्त्यमा गएर हाम्रो आफ्नै भूटानी समुदायको फ्यूनरल होम निर्माणार्थ खर्च गरिनेछ ।

11-  यदि यस कोषका कुनै सदस्य बसैं सरेर अन्य कुनै सिटीमा जानपरेमा उहाँलाई आफूले तिरेको रकमबाट जति घटनाहरुमा खर्च भएको रकम घटाई जति हिसाब बाँकी रहन्छ, सो रकम उपलब्ध गराइनेछ । यदि कसैले स्वेच्छाले सो रकम कोषमा अनुदान दिन चाहनुहुन्छ भने सोही बमोजिम गरिनेछ र यदि म सरेको राज्य वा सहरबाट बार्षिक सदस्यता कायम राख्छु भनेको खण्डमा र नियमित रहेमा सो परिवारमा घटना भएको खण्डमा नियमानुसार सुबिधा पाउने छन् ।

12-  यस कोषअन्तर्गत अर्को एउटा छुट्टै आकस्मिक कोष (इमर्जेन्सी फण्ड) रहनेछ जसमा कम्तिमा डलर 2000 अनिवार्य राखिने छ । सो कोष यदि ३०० सदस्य भन्दा माथि भएको अवस्थामा मात्र हुने छ | यस कोषको रकम निम्न अवस्थामा प्रयोग गरिने छ-

यदि कुनै पनि भूटानी जो सोझै नेपालबाट यस महानगरमा पुनर्स्थापित भएको अवस्थामा तीन महिनाअघि घटना भएमा सो परिवारलाई डलर 500 यस आकस्मिक कोषबाट उपलब्ध गराइने छ ।

यदि कुनै पनि भूटानी अमेरिकाको अन्य कुनै राज्य वा महानगरबाट सेकेण्डरी माइग्राण्टको रूपमा यस महानगरमा बसैं सरी आएको एक महिनाभित्र घटना भएमा सो परिवारलाई पनि डलर 500 यसै आकस्मिक कोषबाट उपलब्ध गराइने छ ।

13-  रकम उठाउँदा एक सहमति पत्रमा हस्ताक्षर गरी एकप्रति सदस्यलाई दिइनेछ र एकप्रति रेकर्डको लागि राखिने छ । शुल्क Check वा Money Order बाट मात्र लिइने छ | नगद मान्य हुने छैन ।

** यस कोषको मूल उदेश्य सामुहिक स-सानो सहयोगले परीआए बखत कसैलाई ठुलो सहयोग हुन् सकोस भन्ने हो । तसर्थ BCAP, यस अघि सहयोग लिई सक्नु हुने सदस्यहरुलाई अनिवार्य नविकरण गरिदिनुहुन् अनुरोध गर्दछ । जसले गर्दा, भोलि अरुलाई तपाईंलाई जस्तै समस्या पर्दा हामी सबैले सहयोग गर्न सकूँ ।


14-  यस कोषको शुल्क आफ्नो क्षेत्र वा ठाउँका तोकिएका आधिकारिक प्रतिनिधिलाई (संकलनकर्ता) मात्र तोकिएकै मिति र समय भित्रमा पुऱ्याउनु पर्नेछ वा सोझै BCAP को कार्यालयमा पनि बुझाउन सकिने छ ।

15-   यस कोषबाट मात्र Funeral दाहसंस्कारको नाममा $1500 प्राप्त हुने छ | काजकरिया खर्च भने यस कोषले बेहोर्ने छैन | त्यसका लागी हाम्रो नियमित पारिवारिक सहयोग मानु-चामल एबम भेटीस्वरुप सहयोग भने एक दिन दुख, मरुमराउ, संकट सबैलाई पर्छ भन्ने भावनाले यथा सक्य गर्ने भन्ने व्यवस्था भएको छ |


16-  मामा, फुपु, काका, आफन्त को काँही मृत्यु भएमा र परम्परा अनुसार एक दिन, तिन दिन वा दस दिन जूठो बार्नु परेमा यस कोषका कुनै बुँदा लागु हुने छैनन् |


17- यस कोषबाट सहयोग प्राप्त गर्न एक फारम भर्नु पर्ने छ, जुन फारम कार्यालयको रेकर्डको लागि रहने छ |

18 – माथि उल्लेख भएका बुँदामा भबिस्यमा आवस्यकता अनुसार थप-घट गर्न सकिनेछ |

यस कोषका प्रमूख नियन्त्रक श्री मन पौड्याल हुनुहुने छ भने श्रीमति लोकमाया महत भण्डारी प्रमूख संकलन कर्ता हुनुहुने छ | निम्न व्यक्तिहरु यस कोषका संकलकको रुपमा रहनुहुने छ |

श्रीमती लोक महत –     Castle Shannon               {412-819-6410}

श्री हर्क बिस्ट-               Green tree                         {412-956-3824}

श्री चित्रसिंग गुरुङ-      Mt. Oliver- Carrick          {412-430-8435}

श्री मधुशुधन फुयेल-    Prospect                             {412-298-0252}

पूर्ण सिंह तामाङ्ग        Leland Point                      {412-819-6212}

श्री बल बिस्ट              Bellevue-Sewickley         {412-761-2461}

मन पौड्याल             Chief Controller            {412-315-8899}


यदि कारणबस आफ्नो आसपासका प्रतिनिधिलाई भेट गरी सदस्यता दर्ता गर्न समय नभए यहाँले यो फारम भरी आफ्नु चेक(Check) वा मनीअडर(Money Order) निम्न ठेगानामा पठाउनु भए हामी दर्ता गरी यहालाई सुचित गराउने छौ |



BCAP’s  second  Community informational meeting was held for Mount Oliver neighborhood.

BCAP had earlier began its three-month long Community Information Meeting for nine different neighborhoods starting from  Leland Point.

The meeting was attended by 25 residents from the neighborhood at  the  Hilltop YMCA, 500 Brownsville Rd,  Pgh. PA 15210

Upendra Dahal, Ms. Bishnu Timsina and Rup Pokhrel spoke to the people on those wide range of topics BCAP has in hand and took their questions. Mr Khara Timsina moderated the meeting that  began at 10:00 am and closed at 12:00 PM on Saturday, January 29,2016.

There was a Q-A session where attendees asked questions.

Mt.Oliver Meeting Mt.Oliver Meeting1 Mt.Oliver Meeting2 Mt.Oliver Meeting3 Mt.Oliver Meeting4 Mt.Oliver Meeting5 Mt.Oliver Meeting6

Resettled Bhutanese in the US have various mental health problems but the people in the community, in fact, do not understand the illnesses as disease.

It was an alarming situation when numerous resettled Bhutanese (refugees) dying by suicides in the US. Every month, there were suicides taking place in among the people in the country after resettlement. November of 2013 was the worst month for Bhutanese in the US because the number of suicide went up to seven in the month in approximately 65,000 people. Bhutanese in Pittsburgh was also adding the number to the list. When Pittsburgh was counting the fourth one within three years in among the population of approx.4500, no Bhutanese had any idea how to prevent it. There was no option other than keep watching.

The factors that did not allow others (friends, relatives, and neighbors) to prevent such mishaps were the lack of knowledge on Mental Health and the Stigmatizing attitude. Knowledge of Mental Health is limited in Bhutanese (in the US at the present context) because it is hard to find high school graduates (or equivalent) in among them who are over the age of 50 years. Mental Illness thus is often considered as a taboo subject and people are stigmatized talking about it openly” within the community. If an individual has psychosis, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia then only s/he is considered as having mental health disorder. Unfortunately, the patients barely express the illness even if s/he understands because of the fear of sensitizing it. Thus, it becomes a big barrier to receiving any sort of treatment support.

Understanding the situation, it was the volunteers from the same community to find an alternative to fighting the disease. Sometimes people expressed their desire to hurt themselves. This sort of information would be very useful for the volunteers if the families were in trouble due to mental illness. The volunteers’ plan was to sort out mental health related issues in the community and help families in troubles. But identifying any person having mental health issue needed careful attention to avoid sensitization. The volunteers then created a network of like-minded friends to collect information from families with conflict but without their notice. The group collected information on only the behaviors and symptoms of the individual. This was a small group of ten people to work in anonymousness from different locations started in November 2013. The community was spread in sixteen different locations in Pittsburgh and having the representative from the different locations was thought to be effective. The group knew, at least, few people in the community who were aware of their neighbors with unusual conducts from over drinking to quarreling. The collected data also included information from the people who are gloomy and acting unusual. They were continuously monitored in disguise; visiting them and talking about how they were doing was one of the main strategies. Working this way was much easier to study the family and the targeted individual than asking directly how the individual behave. However, volunteers were not equipped with any standard knowledge of mental health aids. The knowledge of community perspectives on mental health and the information about crises services provided by the resettlement agencies in Pittsburgh were advantageous. Few among the volunteers were at school, which was an added advantage to understand the mental health symptoms, at least. But this group was seeking professional help, which is possible only if the volunteers have knowledge about the individual and can give some information to the crises services to get support from them. Resolve Crises is one of such agencies the volunteers dealt with.

This group has come across with several cases that are associated with mental illness but working with them was always challenging due to stigma issue. Many individuals were hospitalized with support from crises services for many days and all of them have done very well until date.

On 28 and 29 of June 2014, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg Bhutanese Communities jointly organized a conference on Community Initiative for Mental Health for

Bhutanese with supports from PA State Health Department and Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). On the second day, there was a Mental Health First Aid training (MFHA) provided to the participants by the instructors from National Council for Behavioral Health. Ten of those team members from Pittsburgh participated in the training. This group then started using tools of MHFA for identifying and helping their folks in Pittsburgh. The mental health risk assessment and surveillance is still blinded to the general people in the community.

A case Scenario:

One day this group got information that there was a conflict going on in a family. Two of their team visited. Children were playing in the living room; they opened the door for the visitors.  They inquired their parents’ whereabouts. One of the parents was out and the other came from their bedroom. One of the visitors (volunteers) started to talk to the parent while the other went to the bathroom. Realizing that there was a strange situation, he (visitor) went to a bathroom and tried to scan around. Taking the advantage of a bathroom and the bedroom are adjacent to each other, he was able to scan into their bedroom as well.  Not to a surprise, he found a suicide note on a bed that was half completed when they enter. They talked to the person and called crises service after getting consent from the individual. The individual is doing perfectly fine until date. Over a dozen of such cases have been dealt operating for about two years. Unfortunately, the community lost one individual even after the operation of this group, who the group could never figure out.

So, having MHFA training in Harrisburg, ten Pittsburgh Bhutanese felt that it is the very great tool to work with people in such situation. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Bhutanese organization requested the State Health Department to support MHFA training to all the cities. The State Health Department supported for the training and was provided to Pittsburgh, Erie, and Lancaster to over 150 Bhutanese individuals.

In Pittsburgh:

  • There were ten people who started in the beginning. Around 55 of them were trained on February 28, 2015. Many have joined the group of volunteers after the MHFA training.
  • The members of the group actively monitor the neighbors in different locations.
  • When there are some social gatherings, the group remains attentive to gossips.
  • This group does not take any specific personal information other than their activities, if unusual.
  • When the group perceives there is the risk, assessment is done for the risk of harm.
  • One or two of the volunteers in the group talk to the individual when they see symptoms and give reassurances.
  • The group encourages professional help and self-support techniques like yoga, meditation, outdoor exposure, and socialization.
  • The group asks for the individual’s consent to call for crises services and call for support depending upon the severity of the case.

This model seems to be very effective in Pittsburgh Bhutanese, which is mostly accompanied by professional help. The group believes that this initiative has been able to help many members of the community in trouble.

Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh is proud to be recognized by Pittsburgh City Council.

The Council declared Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 as “Bhutanese Community Association Day” in the city of Pittsburgh.

BCAP thanks Council Member Natalia Rudiak, City of Pittsburgh for the honor bestowed upon us.

Kudos to all the BCAP Volunteers for achieving this recognition

For Details: Click Here

Are you committed to suicide prevention? The site of Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers tips.

Participants could share their actions to help prevent suicide on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #VetoViolence.

Follow the Rules

Compose six words and take a photo or create a unique image that:

  • Promotes an action supporting people to prevent suicide,
  • Educates others about how to save lives, or
  • Honors National Suicide Prevention Month
Vetoviolence1-1 Vetoviolence2-1 Vetoviolence3-1 Vetoviolence4-1 Vetoviolence5-2 Vetoviolence6-1

Who We Are

(Compiled by Tek Rimal from different resources including excerpts from his own directory)

The Bhutanese refugees are the former citizens of Bhutan. They were called  Lhotshampas (“southerners”), a group of people of Nepalese origin, including some Kirat, Tamang, and Gurung peoples. These refugees were registered in refugee camps in eastern Nepal during the 1990s after forcibly evicted by the Government of Bhutan. As Nepal and Bhutan have yet to implement any agreement on repatriation, many Bhutanese refugees have since resettled to North America, Australia and Europe under the auspices of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Historical background

The earliest surviving records of Bhutan’s history show that Tibetan influence already existed from the 6th century. King Songtsen Gampo, who ruled Tibet from the years 627 to 649, was responsible for the construction of Bhutan’s oldest surviving Buddhist temples, the Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro and the Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang. Settlement in Bhutan by people of Tibetan origin happened by this time.

The first reports of people of Nepalese origin in Bhutan was around 1620, when Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal commissioned a few Newar craftsmen from the Kathmandu valley in Nepal to make a silver stupa to contain the ashes of his father Tempa Nima. During the late 19th Century, contractors working for the Bhutanese government began to organise the settlement of Nepali-speaking people in uninhabited areas of southern Bhutan in order to open those areas up for cultivation. The south soon became the country’s main supplier of food. By 1930, according to British colonial officials, much of the south was under cultivation by a population of Nepali origin that amounted to some 60,000 people.

Settlement in Bhutan of large numbers of people from Nepal happened for the first time in the early 20th century.This settlement was encouraged by the Bhutan House in Kalimpong for the purpose of collecting taxes for the government. In the 1930s, the Bhutan House settled 5,000 families of Nepali workers in Tsirang alone. In the 1940s, the British Political Officer Sir Basil Gould was quoted as saying that when he warned Sir Raja Sonam Topgay Dorji of Bhutan House of the potential danger of allowing so many ethnic Nepalese to settle in southern Bhutan, he replied that “since they were not registered subjects they could be evicted whenever the need arose.” Furthermore, Lhotshampa were forbidden from settling north of the subtropical foothills.

Expatriate Nepalese, who resettled in West Bengal and Assam after leaving Bhutan, formed the Bhutan State Congress in 1952 to represent the interests of other expatriates in India as well as the communities they had left behind. An effort to expand their operations into Bhutan with a satyagraha (nonviolent resistance) movement in 1954 failed in the face of the mobilization of Bhutan’s militia and a lack of enthusiasm among those Nepalese in Bhutan, who did not want to risk their already tenuous status. The Bhutanese government further diffused the Bhutan State Congress movement by granting concessions to the minority and allowing Nepalese representation in the National Assembly. The Bhutan State Congress continued to operate in exile until its decline and gradual disappearance in the early 1960s. The leaders in exile were pardoned in 1969 and permitted to return.

Bhutan’s Citizenship Act of 1958

Further information: Bhutanese Citizenship Act 1958

Toward the end of the reign of the second King Jigme Wangchuck in the 1950s, the numbers of new immigrants had swelled causing tension between the King and the Dorji family in the Bhutan House. Amnesty was given through the Citizenship Act of 1958 for all those who could prove their presence in Bhutan for at least 10 years prior to 1958. On the other hand, the government also banned further immigration in 1958.

From 1961 onward however, with Indian support, the government began planned developmental activities consisting of significant infrastructure development works. Uncomfortable with India’s desire to bring in workers in large numbers from India, the government initially tried to prove its own capacity by insisting that the planned ThimphuPhuntsholing highway be done with its own workforce. The government also attempted to rein in immigration. While the project was a success, completing the 182-kilometer highway in just two years, the import of workers from India was inevitable. With most Bhutanese self-employed as farmers, Bhutan lacked a ready supply of workers willing to take up the major infrastructure projects. This led eventually to the large-scale immigration of skilled and unskilled construction workers from India.These people were mostly of Nepali origin and settled in the south, as required, among legal and illegal residents alike.With the pressures of the developmental activities, this trend remained unchecked or inadequately checked for many years. Immigration check posts and immigration offices were in fact established for the first time only after 1990.

Bhutan’s Citizenship Act of 1985

Further information: Bhutanese Citizenship Act 1985

By the 1980s, the government had become acutely conscious not just of widespread illegal immigration of people of Nepali origin into Bhutan, but also of the total lack of integration even of long-term immigrants into the political and cultural mainstream of the country. Most Lhotshampa remained culturally Nepalese. For its part, the government had largely ignored illegal settlement, but had encouraged intermarriage with cash payments as a means of assimilation. However, this was met with negligible success as far as actual assimilation. There was also a perception of a Greater Nepal movement emerging from the Nepali-dominated areas in Nepal, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and West Bengal which the Bhutanese feared as Nepali chauvinism.

Perceiving this growing dichotomy as a threat to national unity, the government promulgated directives in the 1980s that sought to preserve Bhutan’s cultural identity as well as to formally embrace the citizens of other ethnic groups in a “One Nation One People” policy. The government implied that the “culture” to be preserved would be that of the various northern Bhutanese groups. To reinforce this movement, the government forced the use of the Driglam Namzha, the Bhutanese national dress and etiquette code. This policy required citizens to wear the attire of the northern Bhutanese in public places under penalty of fines, and reinforced the status of Dzongkha as the national language. Nepali was discontinued as a subject in the schools, thus bringing it at par with the status of the other languages of Bhutan, none of which are taught. Such policies were criticized at first by human rights groups as well as Bhutan’s Nepalese economic migrant community, who perceived the policy to be directed against them. The government, for its part, perceived that free Nepali-language education had encouraged illegal immigration into southern Bhutan.

The Citizenship Act of 1985 clarified and attempted to enforce the Citizenship Act of 1958 in order to control the flood of illegal immigration. In 1988, the government conducted its first real census exercise. The basis for census citizenship classifications was the 1958 “cut off” year, the year that the Nepali population had first received Bhutanese citizenship. Those individuals who could not provide proof of residency prior to 1958 were adjudged to be illegal immigrants.

Bhutan’s first census (1988)

The issue was brought to the fore when the government of Bhutan discovered in its first census the magnitude of the Lhotsampa population. Lhotsampa of Nepali descent who had been living in southern Bhutan since the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were induced to leave Bhutan after the country carried out its first census in 1988. The government, however, failed to properly train the census officials and this led to some tension among the public. Placement in the census categories which ranged from “Genuine Bhutanese” to “Non-nationals: Migrants and Illegal Settlers” was often arbitrary, and could be arbitrarily changed. In some cases members of the same family have been, and still are, placed in different categories; some admittedly genuine Bhutanese have been forced to flee with family members the government found to be illegal immigrants. Other Lhotshampa who considered their own citizenship secure were prevented by government officials from obtaining proper documentation, losing their property.

The government also attempted to enforce the Bhutanese driglam namzha dress and language code at the same time, in order to have the Lhotshampa population assimilate into Ngalop society.The government explained its cultural identity programs as a defense against the first political problems since the Wangchuck Dynasty was established in 1907 and the greatest threat to the nation’s survival since the seventeenth century. Its major concern was to avoid a repeat of events that had occurred in 1975 when the monarchy in Sikkim was ousted by a Nepalese majority in a plebiscite and Sikkim was absorbed into India. In an effort to resolve the interethnic strife, the Druk Gyalpo made frequent visits to the troubled southern districts, and he ordered the release of hundreds of arrested “antinationals”(According to the government officials then). He also expressed the fear that the large influx of Nepalese might lead to their demand for a separate state in the next ten to twenty years, in much the same way as happened in the once-independent monarchy of Sikkim in the 1970s.

However, these measures combined to alienate even bona fide citizens of Nepali descent. Some ethnic Nepalese began protesting perceived discrimination, demanding exemption from the government decrees aimed at enhancing Bhutanese national identity. The reaction to the royal decrees in Nepalese majority communities surfaced as ethnic strife directed against non-Lhotshampa. Reactions also took form as protest movements in Nepal and India among Nepalese who had left Bhutan. The Druk Gyalpo was accused of “cultural suppression,” and his government was charged by antigovernment leaders with human rights violations, including the torture of prisoners; arbitrary arrest and detention; denial of due process; and restrictions of freedoms of speech and press, peaceful organization and assembly, and workers’ rights. Antigovernment protest marches involved more than 20,000 participants, including some from a movement that had succeeded in coercing India into accepting local autonomy for ethnic Nepalese in West Bengal, who crossed the border from West Bengal and Assam into six districts across Bhutan. As the census exercise came to an end, the southern border of Bhutan became a hotbed of militancy for several years.

Supporting the anti-government activities were expatriate Nepalese political groups and supporters in Nepal and India. Between 2,000 and 12,000 Nepalese were reported to have fled Bhutan in the late 1980s, and according to a 1991 report, even high-level Bhutanese government officials of Nepalese origin had resigned their positions and moved to Nepal. Some 5 million Nepalese were living in settlements in India along the Bhutan border in 1990. Nepalese were not necessarily welcome in India, where ethnic strife conspired to push them back through the largely unguarded Bhutanese frontier. The Bhutan Peoples’ Party operated among the large Nepalese community in northern India. A second group, the Bhutan People’s Forum for Human Rights (a counterpart of the Nepal People’s Forum for Human Rights), was established in 1998 in Nepal by Tek Nath Rizal, a Lhotshampa and former trusted official of the Royal Advisory Council who acted as a chief liaison between the government and the Lhotshampa in the south, as well as a former member of the National Assembly of Bhutan. The Bhutan Students Union and the Bhutan Aid Group-Nepal also were involved in political activism.

In November 1989, Tek Nath Rizal was allegedly abducted in eastern Nepal by Bhutanese police and returned to Thimphu, where he was imprisoned on charges of conspiracy and treason. He was also accused of instigating the racial riots in southern Bhutan. Rizal was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1993.

Interethnic conflict (1990s)

Interethnic conflict generally escalated during the 1990s. In February 1990, antigovernment activists detonated a remote-control bomb on a bridge near Phuntsholing and set fire to a seven-vehicle convoy.

In September 1990, clashes occurred with the Royal Bhutan Army, which was ordered not to fire on protesters. The men and women marchers were organized by S.K. Neupane and other members of the illegal Bhutan Peoples’ Party, which reportedly urged the marchers to demand democracy and human rights for all Bhutanese citizens. Some villagers willingly joined the protests; others did so under duress. The government branded the party, reportedly established by anti-monarchists and backed by the Nepali Congress Party and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), as a terrorist organization. The party allegedly led its members – said to be armed with rifles, muzzle-loading guns, knives, and homemade grenades – in raids on villages in southern Bhutan, disrobing people wearing traditional Bhutanese garb; extorting money; and robbing, kidnapping, and killing people. Reportedly, there were hundreds of casualties, although the government admitted to only two deaths among security forces. Other sources indicated that more than 300 persons were killed, 500 wounded, and 2,000 arrested in clashes with security forces. Along with the above-mentioned violence, vehicle hijackings, kidnappings, extortions, ambushes, and bombings took place, schools were closed (some were destroyed), and post offices, police, health, forest, customs, and agricultural posts were destroyed. For their part, security forces were charged by the Bhutan Peoples’ Party, in protests made to Amnesty International and the International Human Rights Commission, with murder and rape and carrying out a “reign of terror.” In support of the expatriate Nepalese, the general secretary of the Nepali Congress Party, the ruling party in Nepal, called on the Druk Gyalpo to establish a multiparty democracy. Some of the organizers of the marches were arrested and detained. The Bhutanese government admitted only to the arrest of 42 people involved in “anti-national” activities in late 1989, plus 3 additional individuals who had been extradited from Nepal. All but 6 were reportedly later released; those remaining in jail were charged with treason. By September 1990, more than 300 additional prisoners held in the south were released following the Druk Gyalpo’s tour of southern districts.

In the face of government resistance to demands that would institutionalize separate identities within the nation, protesters in the south insisted that the Bhutan Peoples’ Party flag be flown in front of administrative headquarters and that party members be allowed to carry the kukri, a traditional Nepalese curved knife, at all times. They also called for the right not to wear the Bhutanese national dress, and insisted that schools and government offices stay closed until their demands were met. The unmet demands were accompanied by additional violence and deaths in October 1990. At the same time, India pledged “all possible assistance that the royal government might seek in dealing with this problem” and assured that it would protect the frontier against groups seeking illegal entry to Bhutan.

By early 1991, the press in Nepal was referring to insurgents in southern Bhutan as “freedom fighters.” The Bhutan Peoples’ Party claimed that more than 4,000 advocates of democracy had been arrested by the Royal Bhutan Army. Charges were made that some of those arrested had been murdered outside Bhutanese police stations and that some 4,200 persons had been deported.

To deter and regulate Nepalese migration into Bhutan from India, the Druk Gyalpo ordered more regular censuses, improved border checks, and better government administration in the southern districts. The more immediate action of forming citizens’ militias took place in October 1990 as a backlash to the demonstrations. Internal travel regulations were made more strict with the issue of new multipurpose identification cards by the Ministry of Home Affairs in January 1990. By the end of 1990, the government admitted the serious effects of the anti-government violence. It was announced that foreign- exchange earnings had dropped and that the GDP had decreased significantly because of terrorist activities.

In 1992 interethnic conflict again flared, prompting a peak in Lhotshampa departures, totaling over 100,000 by 1996. Many Lhotshampa were forcibly evicted by the military, who forced them to sign “Voluntary Migration Form” documents stating they had left willingly.

In 1998, Tek Nath Rizal was granted a royal pardon and left for Nepal to form the “People’s Forum for Human Rights.”

Refugees outside Bhutan

During the 1990s, the several thousand Lhotshampa and a few Sarshop from Eastern Bhutan, who left Bhutan settled in refugee camps in Eastern Nepal set up by UNHCR. The UNHCR began to distribute aid to the refugees and recognized most of those who arrived in Nepal from Bhutan between 1990 and 1993 on a prima facie basis. By 1996, the camp populations had exploded to 100,000. The Bhutanese refugee issue remains unresolved. Most of the refugees were received by camps in Nepal, exceeding 107,000 persons according to UNHCR.

Refugee camps in Nepal

Bhutanese refugee camps in Eastern Nepal: Timai, Goldhap, Khudunabari, Sanischare, Beldangi 1. 2 and 2 Extension.

The government of Nepal and UNHCR have managed seven refugee camps since the arrival of people claiming to be refugees from Bhutan in the 1990s. The government of Bhutan contends that among these refugees are local Nepalese people attracted to camps for their resources. Below is a list, along with their populations as of 2011.

Because of significant third-country resettlement, refugee camp populations have fallen. As a result, the UNHCR merged Goldhap, Timai and Khudunabari camps into Beldangi and Sanischare camps recently.

Camp conditions were initially rife with malnutrition and disease including measles, scurvy, tuberculosis, malaria, cholera, and beriberi, although camp conditions improved markedly between 1995 and 2005. Education was among the best services provided within the refugee camps, generally better inside than in the surrounding countryside of Nepal. Camps, however, remained significantly overpopulated through 2006. Malnourishment associated with age-based food rationing, violence against women and children, and marginalization resulting in a degree of radicalization remained serious issues. Since this time, camp populations have fallen largely due to third-country resettlement. As of early 2012, some 45,000-50,000 remained in camps in Nepal awaiting resettlement.

Repatriation efforts

In 2000, after years of discussions, Bhutan and Nepal reached an agreement regarding the repatriation of certain classes of Bhutanese refugees living in camps in Nepal, subject to joint government verification. Points of contention included that some camp inhabitants were never citizens – or some even residents – of Bhutan before attaining refugee status. Also, the Bhutanese government regarded many political groups among the Nepalese Lhotshampa community, such as the Bhutan Peoples’ Party (BPP) and Bhutan National Democratic Party (BNDP), as terrorist or anti-national groups. The United States Department of State identified leaders within refugee camps intent on repatriation as hampering some resettlement efforts with disinformation and intimidation, despite generally poor prospects for repatriation. Further complicating repatriation, the land and other property formerly held by Lhotshampa refugees have been repopulated and taken over by Ngalop settlers – including government and military members – under government encouragement.

Nepal, for its part, has not accepted the refugees into its own population. Bhutanese refugees in Nepal live under conditions of restricted or controlled movement, restricted ability to work, and limited access to the local justice system.

In March 2001, the first verification of Bhutanese refugees eligible for repatriation commenced in Nepalese refugee camps. Actual repatriation was then estimated to occur one year out, however progress stalled for over a decade. In 2003, a Bhutanese verification team was attacked and injured in Jhapa, resulting in further delay. As of 2011, over 200 refugees in the Khudunabari refugee camp alone had been certified, however no Bhutanese refugees had been repatriated. In April 2011, Bhutan and Nepal again opened talks on repatriation; however the UNHCR remains committed to third-country resettlement in light of Bhutan’s refusal to guarantee full citizenship and other human rights for returnees. As of July 2011, the governments of Bhutan and Nepal had held at least 15 rounds bilateral talks, with no practical solution reached; although Bhutanese state media echoed Bhutan’s insistence on continued talks with Nepal, it has signaled its preference for third-country resettlement.

Resettlement efforts

The U.S. offered to resettle 60,000 of the 107,000 Bhutanese refugees of Nepalese origin then living in seven U.N. refugee camps in southeastern Nepal, and began receiving this group in 2008. Five other nations, Australia, Canada, Norway, Netherlands and Denmark, also offered to resettle 10,000 each. New Zealand offered to settle 600 refugees over a period of five years starting in 2008. By January, 2009, more than 8,000 Bhutanese refugees were resettled in various countries.[ As of early 2012, more than 55,000 Bhutanese refugees were resettled in various countries.

Other countries also operate resettlement programs in the camps. Norway has already settled 200 Bhutanese refugees, and Canada has agreed to accept up to 5000 through to 2012.


The Lhotsampas had lived in Bhutan for up to five generations. As a result, most members of the Lhotsampa refugee community are multilingual. At home, Nepali (a language related to Sanskrit) is spoken, but most Lhotsampas also speak the Bhutanese language, Dzongkha. Although not all Lhotsampas had access to school in Bhutan, those who did were exposed to English at an early age, since it is the national language of instruction in Bhutan. Even younger Lhotsampas, who largely grew up in the refugee camps in Nepal, have been regularly exposed to English. Thus, many Lhotsampa refugees feel relatively comfortable communicating in English, although they note that Western English, especially when spoken quickly, can be very challenging for them to understand. In the refugee camp, many Lhotsampas were exposed to Indian culture and language via radio and geographic proximity to India. Social circles commonly included Indian friends who didn’t understand Nepali language and so communication would happen in Hindi.

Interpersonal Relationships

A Lhotsampa person is generally known by a first name and a family name. Children are usually given two first names at birth or within the days following. The first name is given to the child by a priest. The second name is given by the parents, which is the name used on the birth certificate. Parents may decide that only one name is needed if they like the priest’s name choice. Parents also decide which of the two names the child will go by.

Like the Nepalese in Nepal, the Bhutanese citizens of Nepali origin in Bhutan (Lhotsampas) traditionally divided themselves into castes; a person’s family name often denotes the caste to which s/he belongs. The caste system creates a social hierarchy, identifying individuals’ position in society and influencing their choice of spouse, as well as other social relationships. Caste also typically dictates an individual’s choice of profession and role in society. Historically, among more traditional Lhotsampas, members of different castes did not visit each other’s homes, pray together, or share meals. Southern Bhutanese society is becoming increasingly quite liberal; among those living in Bhutan, the remnants of the caste system are now confined mostly to the Brahmin (priest) community. In the refugee camps in Nepal, and now in the U.S., caste may no longer an issue for some people, while still having importance for others. Some members of the community are casual/nonobservant of caste rules, while among others, an active awareness of caste still has social and behavioral consequences.

Living arrangements typically include many members of an extended family, and the younger generation assumes the responsibility of caring for elderly relatives. Within a family, respect is owed to elders, particularly – and regardless of age – by a daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law. The Lhotsampas remove their shoes upon entering a house and consider it good manners to offer tea to any guest. Eye contact during conversation is standard and is not a sign of disrespect.

Marriage, Family, Kinship

Traditionally, marriages took place between members of the same caste and were arranged by the parents of the bride and groom. When a boy reaches the age of marriage, parents would begin seeking his bride. When they reached a verbal agreement with the parents of the chosen girl of marriageable age too, preparations for the marriage would begin. In more recent times, nuptial traditions have changed and even among elders, some unions were made by choice as ‘love marriages’ as opposed to arranged marriages.

Traditional weddings are great celebrations. Families spend up to a month preparing food and drink, including rice, lentils, a kind of sweetened bread that resembles a doughnut called roti, and some special kind of pickle, called aachar. They also go to the forest to collect many sacks of leaves, which they press and stitch into ceremonial plates that will be used during the wedding celebration.

The wedding celebration occurs at the home of the bride and includes prayers and rituals led by a group of Brahmin (priests), as well as ceremonial drum playing, which is traditionally performed by Darjees ( a cast among Nepalies). The groom brings clothes, jewelry, and a bead necklace to the bride’s home, signifying her married status. After the wedding, the bride travels to the groom’s home permanently. Upon marriage, the woman takes the family name of her husband.

There have been many changes in the Lhotsampa community especially in the last two decades, and the tradition of arranged child marriage is fading due to Western influences, displacement and refugee status, and improved education for girls and young women. Many young people are choosing their own partners, and improved secondary and tertiary education, which were available to a significant proportion of the refugees in the Nepal refugee camps, have resulted in career and personal choices that are quite different from those available in traditional Lhotsampa society.

Gender Roles

Traditionally, women participate in equal measure to men in the hard labor associated with farming and other work outside of the home. In addition, women are the primary caregivers for the children in the family and are expected to do virtually all the housework and cooking. An exception is the four-day period during each month, at the time of the woman’s menses, when she is expected to rest. Because she is considered unclean during this time, she may not touch, prepare, or serve any food or drink, and there is a widely held belief that any fruit tree touched by a menstruating woman will become sick and cease to bear good fruit. During this time, other women in the household may take over her work, men may cook and clean, or, where economically feasible, the family may choose to pay a woman from outside the family to prepare meals and help keep the house in order.

In the U.S. Lhotsampa women and men are adopting the American way of life, with women and men sharing family and household responsibilities and women working outside the home. Many are planning to go to community college but first need to take ESL classes in order to be proficient enough in English to enroll.

Family and Kinship Structure

The average family size ranges from 6 to 8 children. Family is one of the highest priorities among the Lhotsampa people. Doors are usually open, and members of the extended family, as well as friends and neighbors, will come and go quite freely. Meals typically include anyone who happens to be at the house at the time.

The community is very tightly knit, and people remain closely connected throughout the life cycle. The elders in the community command deep respect and affection. Very often family issues, health problems, and financial issues are first discussed with the elders in the family. The elders, in turn, may decide to involve additional community elders to deal with the situation and/or find solutions to the problems. The community is generally patriarchal in structure; sons are expected to take care of their parents and provide for them financially and emotionally.

Within the family, there are strong bonds of love and obligation. A daughter-in-law is obligated to care for her mother-in-law (regardless of her age or state of health) from the moment she joins the family. The new bride’s priority must be to keep her mother-in-law happy by preparing food, doing her washing, and massaging her legs in the evenings. This tradition is fading with the transition to life in the refugee camps, and now with the beginning of the transition to life in the USA; however, respect and courtesy will still define this relationship.

Religious Beliefs and Practices

The majority of the Lhotsampa people are Hindu, in contrast to the northern Bhutanese, who are almost exclusively Buddhist. However, significant minorities among the Lhotsampas are Buddhist, or Christian. Among Hindus, religious leaders and teachers are chosen early in life and taught by the previous generation of Brahmin. They have many responsibilities in the community, including teaching the next generation, leading ceremonies such as weddings and baby-namings, and providing prayer leadership to members of the community on a regular basis. Practices among Buddhists or Christians are largely dictated by their individual religion.

Death and Dying

The Lhotsampa Hindus believe that reincarnation occurs. Those who have acted well during their lifetimes will be reincarnated as human beings, while those who have acted badly will be boiled in oil in hell and then reincarnated as dogs.

At the time of death, members of the deceased person’s immediate family spend thirteen days in formal mourning. The deceased person’s sons traditionally isolate themselves in one room of the house and are not allowed to speak to female family members or other friends, extended family members, or neighbors. The mourners shave their heads and dress in white cloths that are not permitted to have any stitching. They smear the floor with cow dung and then cover it with straw; this is the surface they will sit and sleep on for the duration of the thirteen-day period of mourning. They will refrain from eating salt, oil or meat products, and generally will limit their intake to one meal of plain rice per day, as well as fruit, pickled ginger, lemon, and water. The women in the immediate family will engage in similar rituals, but they must be separated from the men. The ritual mourning activities are believed to assist in the purification of the deceased family member’s soul, allowing a smooth transition to heaven, where he or she will await reincarnation. If mourning is not performed properly, there is a risk that the deceased person’s spirit will not be able to make the transition to the afterlife and will remain on earth in the form of a ghost to disturb the living.

Traditional Medical Practices

Traditional medical practices vary by religion, region of origin, and socioeconomic status. The more educated and/or higher socioeconomic status members of the Lhotsampa community tend to prefer Western medicine to traditional, but this preference is not universal, and it is not uncommon to try one pathway first and then the other if the first does not achieve the desired results.

The practice of using home remedies to deal with illness is very common. Many times people will try one or two home remedies and seek external medical help only if their symptoms worsen or do not resolve. Examples of common home remedies include basil for the treatment of cough, colds, and certain kinds of pain; garlic, turmeric, ginger, and cardamom for stomach pains; and heated mustard oil for massages to relieve muscle pain in the elderly.

Traditional healers or shamans are called dhami-jakhri. Their skills include being able to enter into a trance and sometimes speak in languages they have not learned, reading leaves and rice to diagnose illness and recommend cures, and chanting incantations to heal their patients. Sickness is generally seen as an imbalance of passions or a result of the influence of evil spirits, and the dhami-jakhri focus their attention and prescriptions on re-establishing balance to bring about cure. Core methods of healing include incantations and reading rice, although they may also include prescribing special diets, sprinkling hot water on the patient, or touching the patient with a meaningful object, such as a yak’s tail. Lhotsampa refugees, particularly more educated members of the community, may require encouragement and explicit statements of acceptance before they will share their use of traditional healing modalities with their Western-trained health care providers.

Hindus who are ill may seek the assistance of a priest to perform a cleansing ritual called a puja.


Bhutan: A country study

“Background and History: Settlement of the Southern Bhutanese

By Shishir Timsina

Hindu Jain Temple Youth Camp, HJTYC for short, is a vibrant camp where kids ranging from ages 9-16 learn about our Hindu culture. The camp is located in Erie, Pennsylvania, right around the borders of Lake Erie. HJTYC is funded by the Hindu Jain Temple and volunteers from everywhere come here to participate in this lovely camp. The elder volunteers are called Uncles and Aunties and the counselors are referred by their names. We’re dropped off at camp on a Sunday evening where we find our cabins and get settled with our luggage.

Next day we start off with early bhajans with our uncles and counselors. After about 45 minutes of bhajans , we move on to yoga. Here Tao Ji teaches how to relieve stress and stay fit with his professional yoga techniques. We are required to bring our own yoga mats to camp along with our other supplies. The supplies include bathroom items, bedroom items and personal belongings. After yoga, we head on down to have breakfast. The Aunties serve us delicious food every day and night so we never get the feeling of being hungry. Free time follows breakfast, at this time of the day we are allowed to do anything we want. Sometimes the counselors have a game planned or some other activity to utilize this free time. After free time comes a long, 2hr, lecture about Hinduism. We do this with our cabin groups. The groups are divided by age, “A” group is between ages 13- 16, “B” group is between ages 11-13 and, “C” group falls between ages 9-10. These groups can be changed to fit our specific needs like sharing rooms with a friend. Even though the lectures might get boring, we learn a lot about our culture between these hours. We eat Lunch after the lectures, the Aunties surprise us again with lovely food that’s Indian and American. There’s another chunk of free time after lunch, this one is specially made for activities. We play games that require teamwork, strategy and physical abilities and help tone social skills.

As the day comes to an end we have dinner at the dining hall. Dinner changes alternately from Indian food to American and sometimes Mexican. We say our prayers and thank god before starting to eat our food, we also sing the camp song along with our prayers. Evening prayers follow dinner. We get time to get our yoga mats or prayer books from our cabins. The evening prayers consist of several bhajans and the camp song. We then do Aarati and end the prayer sessions. After Aarati we then get a choice to eat a snack. The snacks are usually cookies or Klondike bars with milk. Lights out is at 11:00 o’clock, and that’s when we are supposed to go to bed. Speaking from experience, we sometimes stay up till midnight and play cards. Our counselors are also ex-campers; they share with us their experience as campers and have gotten a chance to be counselors. Camp experience is awesome and keeps me coming back every year.

By Shishir Timsina

Hindu Jain Temple Youth Camp, HJTYC for short, is a vibrant camp where kids ranging from ages 9-16 learn about our Hindu culture. The camp is located in Erie, Pennsylvania, right around the borders of Lake Erie. HJTYC is funded by the Hindu Jain Temple and volunteers from everywhere come here to participate in this lovely camp. The elder volunteers are called Uncles and Aunties and the counselors are referred by their names. We’re dropped off at camp on a Sunday evening where we find our cabins and get settled with our luggage.

Next day we start off with early bhajans with our uncles and counselors. After about 45 minutes of bhajans , we move on to yoga. Here Tao Ji teaches how to relieve stress and stay fit with his professional yoga techniques. We are required to bring our own yoga mats to camp along with our other supplies. The supplies include bathroom items, bedroom items and personal belongings. After yoga, we head on down to have breakfast. The Aunties serve us delicious food every day and night so we never get the feeling of being hungry. Free time follows breakfast, at this time of the day we are allowed to do anything we want. Sometimes the counselors have a game planned or some other activity to utilize this free time. After free time comes a long, 2hr, lecture about Hinduism. We do this with our cabin groups. The groups are divided by age, “A” group is between ages 13- 16, “B” group is between ages 11-13 and, “C” group falls between ages 9-10. These groups can be changed to fit our specific needs like sharing rooms with a friend. Even though the lectures might get boring, we learn a lot about our culture between these hours. We eat Lunch after the lectures, the Aunties surprise us again with lovely food that’s Indian and American. There’s another chunk of free time after lunch, this one is specially made for activities. We play games that require teamwork, strategy and physical abilities and help tone social skills.

As the day comes to an end we have dinner at the dining hall. Dinner changes alternately from Indian food to American and sometimes Mexican. We say our prayers and thank god before starting to eat our food, we also sing the camp song along with our prayers. Evening prayers follow dinner. We get time to get our yoga mats or prayer books from our cabins. The evening prayers consist of several bhajans and the camp song. We then do Aarati and end the prayer sessions. After Aarati we then get a choice to eat a snack. The snacks are usually cookies or Klondike bars with milk. Lights out is at 11:00 o’clock, and that’s when we are supposed to go to bed. Speaking from experience, we sometimes stay up till midnight and play cards. Our counselors are also ex-campers; they share with us their experience as campers and have gotten a chance to be counselors. Camp experience is awesome and keeps me coming back every year.