From Refugee Camp To Living The American Dream

In the heart of America’s melting pot, a story of resilience and triumph emerges from the Bhutanese-Nepali community. This is a inspiring journey of a Bhutanese-Nepali refugee who, against all odds, has woven his dreams into the fabric of the American landscape. Uprooted from his homeland and faced with the challenges of displacement, this individual’s path to the United States is marked by perseverance and a relentless pursuit of the American Dream. His tale is not just about survival, but a testament to the unyielding human spirit that thrives in the face of adversity.

The Following article is a summarized version of our conversation with Ashis Dhakal.

Ashis, What’s your story?

We as the Bhutanese Nepali community trace its roots back to the late 19th century when our ancestors settled in southern Bhutan. In the 1980s, Bhutan’s government began implementing policies that aimed to prioritize and preserve the dominant Drukpa culture. These policies, while well-intentioned from the government’s perspective, had the unintended consequence of marginalizing our Lhotshampa community, who were predominantly of Nepali descent. My Lhotshampa people, who had lived harmoniously in Bhutan for generations, suddenly found themselves subject to discrimination and exclusion. As these policies were chosen, tensions within Bhutan escalated, culminating in the eviction of the Lhotshampa population in the 1990s.

The government, under the banner of preserving its cultural identity, initiated a campaign that led to the forced expulsion of the Lhotshampa people from Bhutan. This traumatic event left thousands of families displaced and in dire straits, with no choice but to seek refuge across the border in neighboring Nepal, and India. We then became refugees and fled to the refugee camps because that was our new home for many years where we lived and grew up. 100,000 refugees live in different sectors of Nepal I was born and raised as a refugee in Jhapa, Nepal. 

Living in the refugee camp I faced a lot of hurdles like ethnic cleansing, poverty, hunger, lack of education, hospitalization, and much more. Refugee camp was a daily challenge and I slept on a bed made of bamboo, full of bed bugs, and surrounded by mosquitoes. I did not have access to clean drinking water, fresh air, electricity, or a decent home. I had to sneak into the forest to get wood for fuel to cook our food. Police patrolled the woods, and if I got caught, I would be jailed. Getting a good education was very hard in the refugee camp. When the lantern’s energy turned off, so did homework time.

My baba always told me to study carefully before the lights turned out. Our lifestyle gave us limited options: either remain in poverty and become sick or escape to a better life. Thankfully, my baba and Aama brought us to America for better education with the help of the (IOM) International Organization Migration. 

Ok and After arriving in America, how was your experience?

Coming to the U.S., I was amazed by how people lived: a reality I only dreamed of in Nepal. The inequity between the two countries knowing how many people died or lingered in wretchedness simply because they didn’t have food, shelter, adequate medical care, or access to education. I struggled, not sure what to think of all the excesses in my new world. I was shocked to see food wasted and surprised that students did not understand the value of their free education.

I became driven by the values ingrained in me by my family: being responsible, giving back to the community, and gaining as much knowledge as possible. At times I would get bullied in school, and get names called; which were the hardest obstacles I went through in my life at an early age when going to school. Growing up in a refugee camp, I lacked many opportunities for learning and personal growth. However, moving to a first-world country opened up a world of possibilities that were previously unavailable to me. Even as a young child, around the age of five, I learned the importance of leadership and pursued everything with unwavering passion.

Adapting to this new environment was not without its challenges, but I always remained mindful of the incredible opportunity I had been given. This new context fostered in me a strong sense of discipline and determination to excel. It also inspired me to embrace leadership roles, using them as platforms to demonstrate my commitment to achieving greatness. To get out of my comfort zone I joined Cub Scouting and leadership roles in school, this way I was able to gain and lead to unleashing my true potential at an early age. I also never gave up in life I knew that I was going to always do something great and always believed in myself. 

What drives your entrepreneurial spirit?

Seeing my parents work a minimum wage job, and working day and night gave me a lot of inspiration, and from a young age, I exhibited a natural inclination towards entrepreneurship. This spirit was nurtured not only by my environment but also by the leadership roles I assumed early in life. When I was just seven years old, I started selling garbage bags in my neighborhood. This small venture, though modest, was my first foray into the world of business. I would sell candy at school, learning the basics of trade and the value of earning my own money.

These experiences were more than just childhood pursuits; they were foundational lessons in independence and entrepreneurship. Each sale I made filled me with immense pride and joy. It was thrilling, not just because of the financial gain, but because it reinforced my belief in the possibility of the American dream. Every transaction, small though, boosted my confidence and fueled my hope that with hard work and determination, anyone can achieve great things in this land of opportunity. These early adventures in entrepreneurship played a significant role in shaping my understanding of business and the importance of perseverance and self-reliance. I currently am the Founder of dhakalcompanyholdings, a versatile conglomerate, extending its reach and influence across a diverse of industries including Real Estate, Service, and Education. Our overarching objective revolves around empowering the unique requirements within each of these sectors, employing our profound insights and specialized efforts to not only navigate but proactively resolve the ever-evolving real-time predicaments that businesses encounter on a day-to-day basis. We want to take it to a multi-million dollar company and we want to be the change makers not just through business ventures but also in the philanthropy sectors. We still have a lot to accomplish but day by day, we are attacking the problems that consumers are facing and are providing great solutions in the Real Estate, and Service sectors. The goal is to expand and serve more people in different sectors and solve problems. 

American Dream Is Alive

My message to everyone reading is that: The American dream is accessible to all of us, regardless of the origins. The key is to embrace hard work and be clear about your dreams.

It’s also about perseverance and the relentless pursuit of your goals. In America, opportunities abound for those who are ready to seize them. This country, in its vastness and diversity, offers a variety of resources to help you succeed. The journey requires dedication and a willingness to navigate the complexities of your chosen path. Remember, never lose sight of your aspirations, no matter the obstacles. My own story serves as a testament to this and I have seen it myself. I emerged from a community steeped in poverty, from circumstances that seemed insurmountable. Yet, here I am, pursuing my dreams in the land where anything is possible. Let my journey be a source of inspiration for you to keep pushing forward, no matter where you start or how difficult the path may seem. Keep striving, keep dreaming, and most importantly, never give up. 

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