With nothing more than hope for a brighter future Dil Darjee fled with his wife and three daughters from their refugee camp in Nepal with a destination of Twin Falls, Idaho.
Darjee spent 18 years of his life in the Nepalese camp. While watching world news he was impressed by the United States and knew that’s where he wanted to be. Idaho, however, was completely unfamiliar to him until IOM (International Organization for Migration) began helping him relocate. Still, he knew it would be amazing since he respected the country of freedom and justice for all. In his eyes, the United States didn’t just look out for its citizens but it reached out to anyone in the world who was in need. A portion of the aid received by his refugee camp had even from America.
“I like this country. People have mercy in this country. They love each other. Respect each other,” Darjee noted.
The experience of mercy, love, or respect was not often come by in his native country of Bhutan. Bhutanese governments often imposed their ideas on the people through burning books, restricting where people could go and imposing a dress code. For 14 years Dargee was forced to obedience as the army oversaw where he went and what he wore.
“Our religion (Hindu) is not allowed to practice there. Our culture is not allowed to practice there,” said Darjee.
1990 stands out in his mind as it was just after Hindus were labeled non-nationalists.
“We had no written constitution or voice of people,” said Darjee.
With his family and many others rendered defenseless, they could only bend to the will of those in power. After threats from the government for Hindus to flee the country or suffer death or jail an army swept across the country in waves enforcing the decrees.
Men broke into his father’s house delivering an ultimatum – leave now or he and his family would be hurt. Soon after, Darjee, then a teenager, left Bhutan with his father and mother to seek refuge in Nepal.
There, Darjee saw many people sick and dying which moved him to join Save the Children Fund UK. For five years he cared for the suffering who, in turn, touched his heart with their reaction to his care.
“Service toward the people is the greatest service of my life,” said Darjee.
Though his time in Nepal was rewarding, the day finally came when Darjee and his family were approved for relocation to the United States. The process had been lengthy. For refugees to enter the United States he or she must go through a series of interviews, complete a detailed application, provide a family tree, biographical information, and pass background and security checks.
When the Darjee family received word, they vacated the warm temperatures of Nepal for cold and windy Idaho.
“I looked down and saw only white,” remembers Darjee.
Inside the airplane, a snow-covered Magic Valley appeared much different than the green mountains and rice fields to which they were accustomed. Stepping from the plane, his children shivered with cold but a group awaiting their arrival came to the family’s aid.
“The love and affection kept us warm,” said Darjee.
With many similar stories, the College of Southern Idaho Relocation Program (CSIRP) has helped to resettle more than 2,500 refugees like the Darjee family since its creation in 1980. After leaving the airport, refugees are taken to an apartment stocked with a culturally appropriate three day food supply and an orientation is held with interpreters to help new families acclimate to the area. Refugees learn the functions of the program and its staff, how to use American money, where they can bank, how to speak English and where to look for jobs.
Though for some the process can be difficult, Darjee found it rather easy. Stepping from of his apartment one morning with no vehicle and no destination, he simply walked until he found himself at AmeriPride. They weren’t hiring but Darjee filled out an application anyway. He hadn’t even made it out the door yet when he was asked to come back and speak with the manager. The next day he walked in the cold and rain to AmeriPride as an employee.
“I didn’t believe when people said there’s no Twin Falls jobs. There is a job for the hard worker – even in the hard economic situation,” said Darjee.
Today, he is also a full-time student at the College of Southern Idaho studying radiographic technology with no plans of returning to the country that didn’t want him.
He has only two tokens to remind him of Bhutan – a snack box woven with purple, green and gold bamboo and an old dress of red and green gingham. The wrap-around dress is held together with a rainbow sash that his wife helps him tie around his waist and its white cuffs are difficult for Darjee alone to insert and fold around the sleeves and collar.
“We came to the United States with nothing but our hopes. We didn’t come from a house. We came barehanded. We only had a hope we would do something in the future, that’s all,” said Darjee.
Simply stated with a big smile and in her limited English his wife, Bimla, said, “I’m happy.”