You can help refugees and migrants like Padam get back on their feet by assisting with training or offering work experience or employment opportunities.
For 18 months, we did not know if my father-in-law was alive or dead. He had been arrested on suspicion of helping the pro-democracy movement. Then one night, he came home and told us we all had to leave Bhutan. All we took with us was our two-year-old child and the clothes on our backs.
My wife Suk and I belong to the ethnic Nepalese minority group, the Lhotshampas. Thousands of us were forced to flee Bhutan in the 1990s after the Kingdom branded us ‘illegal migrants’.
We made our way to Nepal hoping to find a better situation, but our hopes were dashed. The camp was crowded and dirty, medicine and food were scarce. We were stranded in that awful place for 20 years. My children would ask me: “Daddy, where are we from? Why are we living here?” I could not reply.
Then we were offered the opportunity to come to Australia. We didn’t know a lot about Australia and as we flew into Hobart my wife Suk and I were nervous about learning to fit into a new society. The hardest part for me was learning English. At my age, my memory is poor so I struggled, but I kept going.
Our lives turned around when we started working.
We heard that a local vineyard close to where we live in Tasmania was employing Bhutanese refugees. I put our names on their job list and contacted the manager to ask if she had work for us.
The vineyard has been employing Bhutanese refugees for five years. The manager heard through the refugee resource centre that people were seeking work and she wanted to help. She hired six people initially, one of them is now our supervisor, and the vineyard has been employing Bhutanese workers ever since.
All of the refugees at the vineyard have built good lives in Australia. We can send our kids to good schools and give back to the local area and community. This gives us a sense of belonging.
I am so thankful for the life we have. The full time work enabled us to save for our own home. Imagine how we felt the day we moved in. After being forced to flee our homeland, living in a camp for 20 years, we finally had a place to call our own. It is like a dream.
We recently passed our citizenship test so will soon formally be Australian citizens. I feel like I have come from hell and arrived in heaven.
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