Bhim’s Story - SHIM

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Bhim’s Story

Bhim croppedGrowing up in Southern Bhutan, Bhim lived with his parents and his father’s parents in a farming community. Bhim’s father was a village representative and helped share messages from the government with members of his community. They had a large amount of land- farming rice and vegetables in the flat part of the valley and growing mangos, cardamom and lemons on the hillside. Cardamom and rice provided the main source of income for the family.

Bhim’s uncle was very smart and received a gift from the government for his intelligence. He lived in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. Bhim’s father never went to school and was tasked with taking care of the household and farm. He was resourceful and entrepreneurial, charging a fee to neighbors to grind at his mill, and establishing a grocery store to serve those neighbors. He made a good living and the family was very comfortable.

Around 1989-90 Bhim remembers being asleep in their house on the ground floor while his grandparents slept upstairs. He woke to the sound of boots stamping on the ground in the middle of the night. As his mother and father woke up, they tried to figure out what was going on. Soldiers came into the house and arrested Bhim’s dad and grandfather. The soldiers took his father into the jungle and beat him. They explained that they were beating him because he was rich, and they stole everything they could find. They took a box holding gold, silver and ornaments, stole mustard oil (which was valuable) and other things they saw in the house. Luckily, the family had hidden some of their gold and ornaments in their granary, so they had a few valuables leftover.

The soldiers took his father and grandfather to jail, where his grandfather was kept for one month and his father was kept for 4 months. While in jail, Bhim’s father was beaten and tortured, inflicting injuries that still plague him today.

In 1991 Bhim’s father decided to move his family out of Bhutan for their safety. Unable to take much of anything with them, Bhim remembers the pain of losing his pet dog. His father left all of his doors and fences open so that the animals would be free to find food, but the dog was following them as they escaped. Bhim’s father didn’t want the animal following them, so he had to kill the dog to safeguard their escape. Bhim still finds this memory very painful. His father has since admitted to the pain of this incident, citing that he was trying to do what was best for the family, but knows it was a harsh experience.

As they were leaving, Bhim asked his parents if they were coming back. They said yes, as parents do to help kids process difficult experiences, but they knew that it would be a long time, if ever. He asked why this was happening to them, especially since his family was not politically involved at all, but they didn’t have answers.

When they left they passed through India, but the country was unwelcome to refugees, and sent them along to Nepal.  After a few months, international aid agencies began to get involved in the seven refugee camps that were established in Nepal. In the camp, there was no source of income, and agencies such as UNHCR provided food and education.

As a result of the involvement of international aid agencies, education in the camps was very good. After completing school through level ten in the camps, Bhim looked for a Nepali school to finish grades 11 and 12. Because schooling wasn’t free, he had to choose a cheaper high school. He also had to earn money to pay for 12th grade, so he got a job as a teacher in a Nepali school that taught students through grade six. Bhim taught English, math, science and more for 6 months. Though it was illegal for the Nepali school to hire Bhim, they paid him under the table and granted him boarding because the refugees were receiving better educations and were actually sought after as teachers.

While working at this school, Bhim saw his wife for the first time while she was outside cutting grass with her sister. After his job ended, he returned to the refugee camp and got married in 2007. He got a job running a school for two years as an administrator. As the international community worked to come to a resolution on the Bhutanese refugees, Bhim was given the option to resettle in another country. He chose the United States because he felt that they were a superpower, and he wanted to brag to his friends that he had gone to the best country. He was scheduled to come in 2015 but was delayed until 2016. He arrived with his family in NYC then joined his father and other relatives in Pittsburgh.  Bhim with kids

Bhim works as an environmental support services staff member at St Clair Hospital. His wife stays home to care for the children. When they first moved here, they went to SHIM for food, and SHIM’s senior operations coordinator Molly explained to them which programs they could get involved with to meet their needs.

When Bhim’s wife Susan heard about SHIM, there was confusion about what it was called because some community members referred to the Family Center as “Courtney Center” (Courtney Macurak is our director of programs and has been helping families at SHIM for over 15 years). Initially, Susan joined the Women’s group. Then, she enrolled in Nurturing Parenting classes, and started sharing her lessons with Bhim. When she found out there was a Dad’s group, she encouraged him to join. After graduating from nurturing parenting class, they enrolled in Home Visits for their younger son while their older two children joined SHIM’s After School program.

When Bhim joined Dad’s Group, he only had his own childhood experiences to shape his parenting. He thought beating children taught them to listen, as he remembered being hit with a stick in school when answering incorrectly. Through SHIM’s Dad’s Group he has realized that beating is extremely bad, and that it doesn’t improve learning or relationships. Now that he is learning tools such as rewarding good behavior and setting routines for his children, he is sharing his knowledge with his neighbors. He encourages his friends to learn these new techniques to benefit their own families. In his own words, these techniques are “very fantastic”.

Bhim with kidsBhim feels empowered to become a great father. He can feel that change starts with him, and that he can parent differently from his parents. He sees the success that comes from keeping kids to daily schedules and rules, and continuously shares tips with his friends who are parents. His teacher, Netra, says that Bhim is a very good student, asking lots of questions and continuously learning.

One of Bhim’s favorite things to do with his kids is to play chess. His older son challenged him to a game once, without realizing that Bhim won a tournament back in the refugee camp in Nepal.

Bhim’s father, thanks to his encouragement, has started attending Men’s Group and has been studying intensively to pass his citizenship test. He has struggled with learning English, after never having received any schooling, but he is persevering.

Bhim’s wife benefited greatly through counseling at SHIM. Being able to express her feelings helped her mental health in a positive way. You can read more about Susan’s story here.

We love being a part of neighbors’ journeys to healthy lives! We’re happy to have Bhim and his family as our neighbors.

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