Shirley in Tucson is one of a number of people around the country helping Bhutanese refugees of Nepalese descent who’ve been resettled in their community. To date, 50-thousand of the people living in camps over the last two decades have been relocated to the United States; about a thousand alone in this desert city.
For the last several years, Shirley has been busily volunteering with several families, helping them acclimate to the strange and vastly different world than the one they left behind. It all started because of her church’s involvement in making the resettled people feel welcome.
Shirley functions like a mother or grandmother: helping them set up apartments with donated furniture, taking them to doctor’s appointments, hosting them for Christmas, cooking with and explaining the curious wonders of spaghetti and holiday baking. In return, she’s enjoying learning about the vastly different culture that’s been newly introduced to her city.
She’s even gone so far as to host a wedding for one couple in her RV park, and to help with bills when they’ve been a problem. It’s been a struggle for some of the refugees to find work and to adapt to the challenges of their adopted home.
Not only had Shirley not ever visited Bhutan, like many Americans, she barely knew where it was before she met the refugees. Her first introduction to the Kingdom was learning about the atrocities that drove many Bhutanese-Nepalese from the country 20 years ago. She is more focused on helping them succeed than anything else:
“I really love these people and they have so enriched my life!” she says, proudly.