“Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions … We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.” -Pope Francis’ address to Congress
Read below to hear the story of Bhim Dahal, one of hundreds of refugees aided each year by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.
When Bhim Dahal arrived in the United States in October 2009, he had spent the previous 17 years in a refugee camp in Nepal after the ruling family in his home country of Bhutan drove out certain ethnicities without cause.
More than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees were forced into camps. Dahal, 31, remembers the small hut with bamboo walls and a plastic roof that his six-member family lived in. Their conditions were clean, but cramped. The United Nations Refugee Agency handed out rations, but it was never enough.
Lacking any material possessions, Dahal left everything behind seeking official resettlement in the United States. He saw it as his last chance to obtain the human dignity that had been stripped of him in his home country.
Catholic Charities’ Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) was the first to help restore that dignity and help Dahal start a life of freedom in the United States. When Dahal’s mother and three younger brothers safely arrived in Virginia in March 2010, MRS was there to help them as well.
The U.S. government resettles about 70,000 refugees annually on a humanitarian basis. Nine agencies are contracted to help with resettlement, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is the oldest and largest of those nine.
MRS is one of more than 100 offices that resettles refugees under the USCCB. Last year, MRS settled about 350 refugees.
Like Dahal and his refugee family, MRS steps in the moment the refugees step off the plane. Many preparations have been arranged before the family even touches down at Reagan National.
MRS works with landlords to secure leases for the refugees, obtains furniture for their new apartment and has food waiting in the apartment — a hot meal that is culturally familiar and basics in the refrigerator.
“They did a really good job,” Dahal recalls. “Whatever we needed and whenever it was, MRS was — and still is — there to help us.”
Dahal is especially grateful that MRS helped him find a job. He started as a security guard at Geico Insurance, but has now climbed the ranks, working as a document specialist to help process claims.
He started building a savings account immediately, and just three years after moving to the U.S., Dahal proudly purchased a home in Fredericksburg for himself and his family.
“The best part about being here is that there are no limitations of mobility in terms of jobs or social class,” he said. “Back in Bhutan, we were not allowed to do certain jobs. I would not have been able to work in insurance if we were still there.”
He now volunteers with MRS, taking others to the doctor, library, or bank. He also volunteers as a medical interpreter at Mary Washington hospital. He estimates that about 100 Nepali refugees live in the Fredericksburg community.
Dahal and his family have adjusted well with the help of MRS and are now thriving. Two of his brothers are employed and the youngest has just started classes at Germanna Community College.
“As the days pass, I feel more comfortable here than I was in Nepal.”
How can you help? Get involved as an advocate, a supporter and a volunteer. See more at www.ccda.net.