Founded in 2009 by a group of newly arrived Bhutanese refugees in New Hampshire, the Bhutanese Community of New Hampshire (BCNH) is committed to providing essential services to the Bhutanese refugee community of New Hampshire. In 2010, under the New Hampshire Statutes Annotated Chapter 292, BCNH received its legal status as a community based, independent non-profit organization.
Beginning in the 1990s, the Bhutanese government started evicting a large number of its ethnic Nepalese population residing in southern Nepal by declaring them as illegal immigrants despite many of their families going back generations and generations in Nepal. Prior to this, the government took measures to preserve Bhutan’s cultural identity by issuing the “One Nation One People” policy which required all citizens to follow the northern Bhutanese social norms – this controlled what citizens ate, studied in school, language they spoke at home and in public, what they wore, the religion they followed, etc.
In the end, after Bhutan conducted its first census illustrating the size of the ethnic Nepalese population in comparison to the ethnic ruling party, nearly 100,000 Nepali speaking Bhutanese citizens were forced to leave their homes and their country. Due to the size of Bhutan (nearly the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined) and the country’s small population (approx. 536,000 according to the World Bank), this forced exile of Southern Bhutanese is one of the world’s largest exoduses according to proportion.
At first, the 108,000 refugees attempted to take shelter in Nepal in United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) sponsored camps. As Nepal did not have the resources to host them, the Nepalese government entered into bilateral negotiations with the government in Bhutan in 1993. By 2003, 15 rounds of talks had concluded yielding no result with the Bhutan government remaining adamant that the refugees were not welcome back to their country.
As a result, the UNHCR sought out alternative options and in 2006, under the leadership of the United States, a group of countries came together to offer resettlement for the Bhutanese refugees in their country—this included the United States, Canada, Norway, New Zealand, Netherlands, Australia, Denmark and the United Kingdom.
This is how the Nepali speaking Bhutanese refugees began arriving in the United States – and how more than 2,000 of them have made their way to New Hampshire, USA.
On May 4, 2009, we formed the Bhutanese Community of New Hampshire (BCNH) – a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and member of the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits dedicated to providing the necessary services to assist Bhutanese refugees resettle in New Hampshire and begin their new lives as American citizens.
The Executive Committee of BCNH has two full-time staff members and nineteen part-time staff members. It has an elected board of directors which oversees the entire organization including policy making, evaluation and program monitoring. Thankfully, it also has a team of dedicated individuals who act as advisors and are readily available to offer their skillful assistance when needed.
The Bhutanese community in New Hampshire remains incredibly thankful for the generous help and assistance they have received from the local community, helping their people to resettle in their new home and go on to become productive citizens contributing to the welfare of the community.