Makar's Story

On the evening of April 30, 1992, 10 year-old Makar left his birth country of Bhutan. Makar had finished 1st grade when the government of Bhutan declared that Nepalese children were not allowed to go to school anymore. Makar had to stay home from school for 2 years after the law was enforced. The government also banned the language and the literature of the Nepalese people. They issued a national uniform to the Bhutanese citizens called the “bakhu” and the “kira” that were required to be worn in public places; it was not a comfortable outfit- especially for the farmers who make up most of the population of Bhutan. The government also gave categorization numbers to each person. Some numbers represented a group that was allowed to stay as citizens in the country, others indicated that the person’s citizenship was to be revoked and declared illegal.

Makar’s father was issued legal categorization but his mother was given a number that labeled her as illegal. Because of this Makar and 3 siblings also received an illegal categorization number. In addition to categorization numbers and banning of Nepalese language, education and literature, armies marched through the country committing murders. Because of this Makar’s parents forbid him to leave the house. On that night in April, Makar and his family fled on foot to India. After arriving in India, they hired a truck that took them and other refugees on a two-day drive to Nepal. Upon entering the refugee camp, called Sanischare 1, they received medicines. They also were given 6 bamboo poles and plastic to make their house. There were no sanitation systems or clinics and many people died of cholera. Finally, 6months after Makar’s arrival, the camp began a purification system for its water by catching it in tanks and adding chlorine, potassium and other chemicals to make it clean.  Grain and corn was issued to the refugees by human aid agencies. One kg of rice and some spices were given to each person every 15 days; this later was decreased by half. Makar says it was enough for a family of little kids but not enough for adults. Medicine was hard to come by and most people tried to cure illness using home remedies. Many refugees had a difficulties transitioning to the camp because of the drastic change in climate between the camp and their home. Many turned to alcohol for solace. During his 18 years in the camp, Makar watched it grow from 17,000 to 32,000 in population. Schools in the camps began under the shade of the trees before classes were later moved to buildings weaved from bamboo. There, Makar began the 2nd grade where he met his future wife, Kalpana. His favorite subjects were Math and English. 

Classes held about 60-70 students for one teacher. Teachers who would commit to a certain amount of months would receive monetary incentives. Small businesses began to pop up in the camp as people sold produce from their gardens or made little stores that sold minute cards for cell phones and other little commodities. His dad had back problems and couldn’t do hard physical labor so his mom weaved hats to support the family. She learned that and other skills, like knitting, from an aid organization in the area. People were discouraged from leaving the camp because many Nepalese citizens feared terrorists from Bhutan and would mistake refugees for terrorists because of their ethnicity. Many who had left had been killed based on this assumption. To leave the camp they had to receive special permission and they could only leave to seek higher education. Currently, the system is not so strict, but it is similar. Makar received financial support from the aid organization of CARITAS to attend 2 years of higher education. He didn’t finish the University level but he went high enough to become a teacher. He then traveled to different cities of Nepal teaching Math and English. About four years ago he married Kalpana who was also a teacher. His religion is Kirat while she is Bhuddist. This caused controversy in their families over their wedding. Makar received the opportunity to go to the US through an immigration program launched by the UNHCR. Rumors spread that the future was better in the US- it seemed so unstable in Nepal. Parents wanted their children to go to the US because they felt there was nothing left to offer them in the refugee camp. Before leaving for America there were a few orientation sessions.

Makar was hoping to go to Arizona where his sister lives. When Spokane became his destination, it was hard to convince his parents that it was a good location because he had no family ties there. Finally, his wife’s parents agreed they were willing to follow Makar and his wife to Spokane in order to provide family support. This made the decision to immigrate easier. Before coming to America, Makar worried about how to get a job, survive and compete with the people of America who were so capable in their own country. Even though he had taught English for 6 years in Nepal he still experienced a language barrier that he decided to overcome. He worried that his Nepalese education would prove useless in America. The news that the US economy had crashed made him more worried about being able to find a job. Once he arrived in Spokane, he was surprised by the short buildings that did not resemble the big cities he expected. He was pleased by the transportation system and how people respected the weak and disabled in a civilized way. He also noticed how women had more professional jobs while only a few educated women in Nepal held those positions (such as clinics and hospitals). Sometimes he felt lost “in a big forest of understanding nothing.” Members of Faith Bible Church met him and his wife at the airport.

They stayed with a distant cousin until they moved to their new home. After 16days of waiting they walked into a fully furnished apartment that they could call home. “World relief really supported me to uplift me to get the job and is still helping me in different ways,” says Makar. Now that he has a job and can pay bills he feels more stable and doesn’t worry so much how he will afford housing and living expenses on his own. With the help of volunteers and World Relief, Makar was able to attend NAC (Nursing Assistant Certification) classes. Makar appreciates the freedoms of America and being able to live with less fear. He also appreciates the medical support and the help received from people in the US. His favorite thing about the US is that people are "civilized and respect the weak." He hope to earn citizenship here, complete his education and broaden his mind. He also is considering getting a degree in international business. Despite all the positives, he misses friends, relatives, Nepalese food..

He and his wife are expecting their first child, a little girl, and hoping that his in- laws will be able to join them within the next year.  He hopes to teach his children Nepalese so they can carry a piece of their heritage. When asked what he would like to say to those who help refugees he said, “Thank you to those who help immigrants through World Relief- it’s a critical situation for us . They will be remembered for our whole life. One day I’ll be an American citizen and I will feel even more proud of America; even more than I feel now.” -Stacey Eyman, July 2011