August 15, 2011

Mercy Associates Extend Welcome to Bhutanese Refugees

Bhutanese refugee Buddha Dhimal and Mercy Associate Camilla Martocchia enjoy time together during St. John Neumann’s first-annual SonFest parish carnival June 17 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

What began as a chance meeting nearly seven months ago when Mercy Associate Lincoln Sigwald first met a Bhutanese family is quickly developing into a full-fledge effort among Mercy associates in Charlotte, North Carolina USA. Thousands of Bhutanese citizens of Nepali descent were forced out of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan nearly 23 years ago. After living in United Nations-sponsored refugee camps in Nepal for over 20 years, these families are being resettled throughout the world. The United States agreed to resettle some 60,000 refugees, many of whom find their way to major metropolitan areas, such as Charlotte, North Carolina.

When asked what Mercy Associates do for the Bhutanese people, Sigwald responds, “It is not so much about what we ‘do.’ It is far more about who we ‘are’ to the Bhutanese people. In a very real sense, we try to ‘enflesh’ Mercy by being present to them, meeting them where they are, and companioning with Bhutanese families along their journey. We hope to share God’s love and compassion by extending hospitality to those who have never experienced ‘welcome’ as gift.

Mercy Associate Camilla Martocchia assists a group of Bhutanese children during St. John Neumann’s first-annual SonFest parish carnival June 17. Mercy associates help to provide fun educational and cultural opportunities for refugees after their resettlement to the United States.

“As our relationships with the Bhutanese deepen and trust is developed, we learn about both their immediate and long-term needs. Sometimes, we respond in tangible ways. In other cases, we connect the Bhutanese people to state or federal resources. Often, however, we have to accept our limitations and those of the Bhutanese. It is in these moments that we offer them love, support, friendship, and prayers.”

Presently, their work with refugees is conducted entirely at the grassroots level. Associates provide food, clothing, transportation, friendship, and mentoring. When asked about her work with refugees, Associate Camilla Martocchia responded, “The needs of the Bhutanese people continue to far exceed what we are able to accommodate; however, their spirits remain undaunted. These are families who have suffered the loss their national identity, citizenship, and personal property. They find themselves in a country where few Bhutanese people speak English or understand the political, educational, or economic systems, yet they maintain an inspiring ability to forge deeply intimate human connections. To the Bhutanese, cultivating interpersonal relationships, sharing resources, and embracing the value of community are everything. In this way and in so many others, the Bhutanese people give me far more than I could ever offer them.”

Buddha Dhimal and Mercy Associate Camilla Martocchia

When asked about her involvement with refugees, Associate Janet Garbison responded, “We have identified an underserved population in our area. We are trying to use our resources to improve the lives of the newly-arrived and to make their transition to the United States easier. The Bhutanese have experienced situations most of us will never know. They have lived through rejections and cruelties beyond our imagination. Yet, they continue to strive for a better future for themselves and for their children. I want to be a part of their success, and I want Mercy to be a part of their story.”

To read more about the plight of Bhutanese refugees, please go to www.bhutaneserefugees.com or www.tpmishra.com. To learn more about how you might assist refugee people in Charlotte, please email Lincoln Sigwald at lsigwald@mercysc.org.
 

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