The Long Road From Uprooted to Rerooted: A Case Study of the Challenges Bhutanese Refugees Face in Becoming Economically Self-Sufficient in The Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area

Degree Name

MS in Management

First Advisor

John Vogelsang


I was not particularly interested in refugee issues until I went to Kenya in 2001. My former organization called Save the Children Center was located in Ongata Rongai, twenty-five kilometers, outside of Nairobi, Kenya. This was diverse community composed of different tribes from Kenya, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Congo. Those who came from outside of Kenya were mostly refugees or immigrants. This is the time when I gradually became aware of refugees and their plight; however, I never had a close relationship with any, and never seriously considered the importance of refugee resettlement issues. I believed refugee issues were government problems, not for general citizens like me.

While studying at SIT Graduate Institution in Brattleboro, Vermont, I learned more about refugee issues from classmates, including the difficult situations refugees confronted in refugee camps, and in immigrating to other countries like the U.S. My classmates told me about the challenges of gaining social acceptance and establishing connections with civil society. Those conversations provoked my interest in refugee issues, especially resettlement issues in the U.S.

From September 2008 through March 2009, I worked at a Voluntary agency (VOLAG) in Maryland, U.S.A. as a student intern. It was the first time I had a direct relationship with refugees working on resettlement issues. I got to know the refugee clients there and, by serving them, came to care about their relatives as well and to develop an awareness of the issues in their home countries. Working for refugee clients made me feel more connected to them, and realize how many difficulties they confronted living in U.S. society.

For example, I saw refugee clients were struggling to get a job, to earn money, to pay their rent, to make a connection with U.S. society, and to save money for their family. I thought they are similar to those I saw living in Kenya as refugees that lived in fear of poverty and hunger amidst, social unrest.

While initiating talks on behalf of the VOLAG, I learned much about the hidden internal factors of refugee clients. For example, one day, a person came to talk to me about how his/her family had confronted the issue of not being able to pay their rent and how this pressure was a kind of torture. Due to the stress of this situation, this person suffered an inability to sleep or eat well. This was the time I decided to focus my research topic on what kind of factors contributed to the refugees becoming economically self-sufficient or not.

My research enabled me to learn much about the real picture of refugees in the U.S. Later, in the literature review, I will explore influential factors on the experiences of refugees in the U.S. in more detail, with particular attention to how living conditions in the Washington D.C. area create difficulties for them.


Demography, Population, and Ecology | Social Welfare

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