My Journey from Bhutan to US

– Written by Officer Damber Subba

I was born in Bhutan. I’m from Lhothsampa (Southerner) ethnical group. My great-great grandparents migrated from Nepal to Bhutan and they became Citizens of Bhutan. We speak Nepali. Ngalop (Western and Northern Part) People were culturally dominant in the country. King, Royal Family, and Ministers are from Ngalop. Ngalop originally migrated from Tibet. They speak Dzongkha.

In 1980s, The Government of Bhutan, King, implemented “One Nation One People” policy. The policy was basically a propaganda against Nepali  Speaking Bhutanese Citizens. It was an ethnic cleansing movement against us. We were forced to speak Dzongkha. We were forced to wear Ngalop’s outfit. Our Nepali books were burned by the royal army. We protested peacefully against the dictatorship Monarchial System and asked for a fair/impartial treatment. In return, we were tortured physically and mentally which resulted into hundreds of casualties on our side. We ended up leaving our village and our country Bhutan. Many people died in the jungle as we were escaping from the persecution. There were more than 100,000 people left the country.

I was only two and half year old when we left Bhutan. We settled on the bank of Mahi River, which is one of the borders between India and Nepal. We made a small hut from tree branches and leaves. Nothing was free and available, but water from Mahi River. I lost one of my older sisters from poor living situation. She was one of thousands who died in Mahi Camp from lack of food and nutrition and viruses. There was no health center. We stayed there over six month.

Eventually, UNHCR and Nepal Government CARITAS Nepal rescued us and put us in seven different camps in Eastern Part of Nepal. I spent 17 years in Beldangi – ll Refugee Camp. I remember vividly how it feels not to have food, clothes, and securities and to be discriminated from local people. I remember clearly how it feels for not able to dream who you want to be when you grow up. I remember like yesterday my parents struggle each and every single day to buy one pair of new school uniform for me or to buy a nice meal once in a year for Dashain and Tihar.

In 2008, USA, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, and UK offered to resettle refugees. I chose USA since this is the “Land of Opportunities.”  I even heard that heaven is only couple miles away from US. I came with my mom, dad, one younger brother, and two younger sisters in July 2008 in Akron, Ohio through the International Institute of Akron. I have been blessed to have agencies like IIA, Asian INC and other.

I worked in Akron Foundry Company at first and at the same time going to college and getting trainings to become a professional interpreter. I became Nationally Certified Medial Interpreter in Nepali Language and I started to work for Akron Children’s Hospital. It was very fulfilling experience to be conduit between immigrant community and mainstream population. I always enjoyed helping Healthcare Providers and Non-English Speaking patients.

In 2014, I became a US Citizen and that moment was one of the GREATEST moments of my life. As soon as I became a US Citizen I bought a big US Flag and hung in front of my house and a flag in my car. Then, I started to train to become a police officer so that I could be helpful for Akron Police Department and for the community. I was trying to find a way to give back to this community and ultimately to this country since this country have done so much to us.

I became an officer in Akron Police Department in 2018 and I was the first officer from refugee background. Since I became police, I was able to help so many people in so many different instances such as elderly person paralyzed lying in the house for couple days without any help, rescuing dogs, rescuing children, solving violent crimes and neighbors disputes due to cultural differences and so on. Every single day young boys and girls from different ethnical background such as from Bhutanese Nepali, Burmese, Karen, Congolese, and Afghans ask me how to become an officer. My one brother is Mechanical Engineer. The other brother is in military. Two sisters work in Hospital. I’m living the American Dream big time and I’m proud to be an American!