When the U.S. Department of State decided to begin relocating some 60,000 Nepalese-speaking refugees originally from the tiny Himalayan country of Bhutan a year and a half ago, no critical mass of Bhutanese were settled already in this country to help receive them. Only 150 Bhutanese were in the United States before the resettlement and they weren’t necessarily from the same minority group as the refugees.
I wrote for Education Week about how educators tried to find out what they could about these people who had lived in refugee camps in Nepal for some 16 years and had little exposure to modern conveniences. The camps had offered education up to the 10th grade.
The New York Times reports this week in an article, “Bhutan Refugees Find a Toehold in the Bronx,” how a number of Bhutanese refugee families have formed what might be called a Bhutanese neighborhood in the Bronx. It doesn’t sound like they’ve set up shops or restaurants yet, but they’re providing support to each other by living in close proximity.
And the article relays that the Bhutanese refugees are having some experiences similar to many immigrant families to this country: the children quickly learn English and how to navigate this country while some of the parents are at a loss.
I met one very motivated youth, Tuka Neopaney, who was part of this Bhutanese resettlement wave, at the English Language Learners and International Support Preparatory Academy, in the Bronx, this past fall. She is one of the students profiled in Quality Counts 2009. You can read about her or listen to an interview with her here (click on the fourth tab).
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.