Lethbridge becoming magnet for Bhutan refugees
By the end of the year 5,000 refugees from the small South Asian country of Bhutan will call Canada home, with hundreds of them settling in Lethbridge.
Dan Bahdur Gurung, his wife and two children landed in Canada seven months ago.
So far his daughter is the only one who understands English. The rest of the family is struggling to adjust.
Nearly 20 years ago the Gurungs were among 100,000 people forced from Bhutan into refugee camps in neighbouring Nepal.
Now those people are slowly being resettled around the world. Canada is one of seven countries that agreed to take refugees from the camps.
"It’s probably becoming one of the larger ethnic communities in Lethbridge," said Sarah Amies, who works with Lethbridge Immigrant Services.
Over the last three years the agency has welcomed more than 500 Bhutanese refugees to the city.
For most of them, integration is a challenge. But it helps to be in a smaller centre, Amies said.
"It’s closer, it’s less difficult to get around, there’s English language available, settlement services," she said.
According to Gurung, the biggest frustration is the language barrier.
He said he doesn't get enough English lessons. But until he learns the language his future here is uncertain, he said.
Fellow refugee Purna Adhikr is trying to help the new arrivals. He already spoke English fluently — even holding a graduate degree in it — when he came to Canada three years ago.
"For many people it has been quite a challenge. Mainly the people with no education at all or little ... they are still in the cultural shock and have not recovered yet," he said.
Adhikr said he wishes there were more services available, especially English classes.
But the new arrivals are tending to stay in the community, according to Amies. "So that leads us to believe that something’s working."