Padam's Story: From Conflict to Camps to Acceptance
by: RST Staff 9/16/2015
Padam was born on a sprawling farm in the small village of Gaylephu in Lodrai, Bhutan where he lived with his family and their livestock including lambs, chickens, and 500 cattle. He does not remember much of his time living peacefully at home because in 1991, when Padam was just a child, violent conflict erupted in his region within Bhutan.
People who spoke out against authority were arrested, tortured and sometimes killed. The army invaded villages and threatened targeted groups within the population, claiming that they were migrants or foreigners. At night the army burned homes and in some cases took the men and attacked the women. Some people died from the trauma of these raids. When Padam’s family heard of the violence their neighbors were witnessing, they immediately fled their home.
At the age of 5, Padam and his family fled to a hostel outside of his village. They left everything behind, setting their farm animals free in the jungle. The hostel was very strict with a regimented timetable. They would get up at 5AM, exercise, have breakfast, do morning studies, have playground time, then go to bed. There was no freedom or choice. It also wasn’t free from violence. There was still hostility towards anyone seen as an outsiders.
Because Padam and his family were Nepali and thus considered outsiders, they were forced to leave the hostel when he was 14 and flee to a refugee camp. The refugee camp held up to 25,000 people at times, and numerous children and elderly adults died due to cholera and a lack of food and sanitary water. There was little to do in the refugee camp so he would fish in the river with his friends.
When the United Nations (UN) began assisting the refugees in Padam’s camp, life got better. They began receiving resources and services they did not have before. He received an education and eventually won a scholarship from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to attend graduate school in India, where he earned his Master’s degree in Political Science.
In 2008, Padam’s mother was accepted for resettlement in the U.S. After she arrived, Padam was also accepted. He was excited when the time came to be fingerprinted, photographed, and interviewed. Less than six months later, he was reunited with his mother in Dallas, Texas.
Like all refugees resettled through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, Padam was immediately placed on the path to U.S. citizenship, and in June 2014, he became, for the first time in his life, an official and accepted citizen of a nation. He is incredibly proud to be a U.S. citizen citizen and enjoys the safety and calm of Dallas.
Padam now works at Refugee Services of Texas as a Case Manager for the Social Adjustment Services program. He assists other refugees for up to five years after they arrive to stay on their feet throughout the long integration process to their new home. He even works on weekends to help Bhutanese refugees read their mail and access social services.
This year, after spending most of his childhood in uncertainty and fear, Padam has finally bought a home of his own.