Press Release July 2017:

The Organization of Bhutanese Communities in America (OBCA) successfully convened its 6th National Annual Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio from July 8th – 10th, 2016. The Convention was organized in collaboration with the Bhutanese Community of Cincinnati (BCC), at 7198 E Pippin Road, Cincinnati, Ohio.

The programs went smoothly as scheduled. The convention organizing committee welcomed organization officials, convention participants, guests and artists from across the nation on the first day followed by informal interactions and networking.

Participants from 23 US states participated in the convention including Mr. Larry Yungh, Senior Resettlement Officer for UNHCR–Washington, D.C.; Ms. Jennifer Johnson, State Refugee Coordinator; Ms. Sandra Hollingsworth, State Refugee Health Coordinator for the state of Ohio; and Gopal Gartoula, Senior Journalist and Correspondent for Himal Kahabarpatrika all the way from Damak, Nepal also participated in the convention.

The first session of second day convention included states’ update and activities reporting: sharing of success stories and collective experiences of working with community groups and organizations in their respective cities and states. Sancha Man Rai and Biswasz Gurung from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania shared power-point presentation on their organization functionaries, and as an organization how they are working together successfully in rendering services to the community in Pittsburgh, PA.

Addressing the convention, the OBCA Chairman Mr. DB Rai and Vice-Chairman Mr. Dilip Dahal highlighted the mission and vision of the organization. They also shared milestones achieved by OBCA in the past six years, their experiences of reaching out to different organizations and working collaboratively to meet the larger need and expectation of community members from across the national and abroad. They emphasized on importance of networking and rapport building, while they also stated that the advocacy for the community in large is other strategic goal of OBCA. Vice-Chairman, Mr. Dahal updated the participants about the event “Marking the Resettlement of 100,000th Bhutanese refugees” held in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital in November 2015. Mr. Dahal attended this event representing OBCA on the invitation of UNHCR and IOM-Nepal.

The second session of convention-day-two was the panel discussion with Mr. Larry Yungh, UNHCR Senior Resettlement Officer–Washington-D.C. at Marriott Hotel in the heart of Cincinnati downtown. Giving an update on the current resettlement status of Bhutanese refugees, Mr. Larry Yungh said, “More than 100,000 refugees have already started their new lives in eight different core countries, with the majority of refugees being resettled in USA (87,517). Mr. Larry hinted that the resettlement process will come to an end by the end of 2017, and around 8 to 9 thousand refugees will remain in the camps waiting for other durable solutions”. During the panel discussion, participants from 23 states raised their concerns on the plight of the remaining refugees in Nepal. Participants strongly urged UNHCR to simultaneously put an effort on implementing other prongs of durable solutions to the remaining refugee population. “The UNHCR is looking forward to opt a unique way to provide humanitarian assistance to the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal when finding solutions to them”, said Mr. Larry Yungh.

Mr. Tek Bir Chhetri, an Arizonian, senior activist and the chief guest of the second-day-convention inaugural session, presented a concept of Community Economic Empowerment, and while elaborating on that idea, Mr. Chhetri said that the only option to pull individuals out of hardships and sufferings that prevailed since they left Bhutan is to make them economically sufficient through their own small group investments.

Ms. Jennifer Johnson, ORR State Refugee Coordinator and Ms. Sandra Hollingsworth, ORR State Refugee Health Coordinator from Ohio shared power-point presentation on their roles in state sponsored refugee programs, overview of number of Bhutanese refugees resettled in different counties of Ohio over the last few years, and on the programs that they oversee. Importance of promoting core health areas in the refugee communities in Ohio has also been highlighted in their presentation.

Similarly, reporter from Himal Kahabarpatrika & Ujyalo 90 Network–Nepal, Mr. Gopal Gartoula updated current situation of Bhutanese refugees in camps in Nepal. Long time friend and supporter of Bhutanese community, Mr. Gartoula was awarded a certificate of appreciation by OBCA in recognition of his continued support and solidarity toward the cause of Bhutanese refugee community.

Third or the final day of the convention remained busy, rather entertaining with multiple cultural sessions and performances. Bishnu Kharel (Cincinnati, OH) and Keshari Khadka (Syracuse, NY), hosts for the session started the programs by honoring the first Bhutanese singer, Pratap Subba with his melodious song Bandan Ko Chino… performed by Santa Kafley from Cincinnati, Ohio. Many dynamic talents like Dhakal Brothers (Manoj & Krishna), Arjun Rasaili, Amber Subba, Biswaz Gurung, Bishal Upreti, Hem Phuyel, Rita Gautam, Rajesh Khanal, Prakash Shree, NK Brothers (Khada & Naresh Gautam), Rajesh Subba (Ray Band), Dhan Baraili, Bishnu Rasaili (Druk Fusion Band) and many more participated in various performances for the day.

The cultural and entertainment part of the convention was well represented by Bhutanese community artists from across the US. Among them was a heart touching contribution, a short dance-drama on mental health issue, by Dr. Anisha Singh and her son from Indian-American community. The drama drove home a strong positive message on the backdrop of social stigma toward mental health, suicide issues in particular and its fallout in Bhutanese community.

Besides the exhibition of various entertainment items by cultural troupes and bands from various states, two album projects were released. First among them was ‘Riya’, 2nd music album of Khem Rizal, lyricist of all the songs, from Cincinnati, Ohio. The other released album “BROTHERS” was by NK Brothers (Naresh & Khada Gautam) from Cincinnati, Ohio as well.

The OBCA board felt distinctly honored to have more than 80 artists, volunteers and social workers bestowed with certificates of appreciation for their performances, their effort to preserve, promote, and develop community art, culture and language, and for their selfless community services. The OBCA thanked everyone for their participation despite of their busy schedules, and urged all the artists, social workers and volunteers who were present in the convention to always continue to stand in the gap and support the community.

OBCA Chairman, Mr. DB Rai handed a certificate of appreciation to Mr. Larry Yungh for his role in the development of UNHCR’s global resettlement programs and policies, his participation in the convention, and for his initiative, particularly in resettlement of Bhutanese refugees.

In his address earlier on the final day, Mr. Larry Yungh, Program Chief Guest, appreciated the efforts, progress made so far, and the solidarity that exists among Bhutanese communities in the USA. Mr. Yungh also wishes a bright future for everyone.

OBCA leadership heartily expressed their gratitude to all the functionaries of Bhutanese Community of Cincinnati (BCC), volunteers and supporters on making the convention a big success. Meanwhile, the OBCA board inducted Mr. Bhim Gurung (Nebraska), Mr. Krishna K. Sapkota (Virginia), Mr. NB Gurung (Iowa), Mr. Narad Pokhrel (Missouri) Mr. DB Adhikari (Columbus-OH) and Mr. BB Poudyel (Cincinnati-OH) as city/state representative of OBCA of their respective city/state.

The location for the next, 7th national annual convention for OBCA is not yet decided, however, many different community leaders from Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa, and Ohio have shown immense interest in hosting it locally in their own state. OBCA Chairman, Mr. DB Rai stated that the soon to be held board meeting of the organization shall decide the venue for the next convention.

Mr. Karna Gurung

Press & Publicity Secretary

OBCA