In June, World Refugee Day Academy participants came from all over the country to take part in advocacy and leadership training, as well as to meet with their respective elected representatives in Congress.
Little did the participants know that a long-time reunion was to be an unexpected outcome from the academy. Two participants, Yeshey Pelzom from Atlanta, GA and Padam Rizal from Harrisburg, PA, discovered that they had a unique bond — they went to the same high school together in Bhutan 26 years ago!
Yeshey, a former refugee from Bhutan who now works as a Resettlement Manager at the International Rescue Committee in Atlanta, tells the story of their reunion:
As soon as I received my folder at the front desk of the hotel, I skimmed through the participant list looking for familiar names. I saw “Padam Rizal” on the list and had a feeling that it was Padam from Jigme Sherubing High School in Bhutan, the high school both Padam and I attended in 1988. I had heard that Padam was in the United States.
To my utter surprise, a tall and gentle man walked toward me and introduced himself. ‘I am Padam from Khaling. You are Yeshey, right?’ Khaling is the name of the town where our school was located. It was a wonderful meeting.
We sat down to catch up. Our conversation took us back to March 1989, when we had last met. We talked about how each one of us ended being refugees and our individual journeys to Nepal and then to the United States.
The two high school kids from the mountains of Bhutan were here to tell our stories of struggle, our stories of survival. Most importantly, we were here to remind the world that refugees are equal citizens of the world, but they are in a situation that needs a little more attention, a little more care and a little more love from everyone.
It was a reunion of friends, a celebration of citizens of a new homeland. And we thank LIRS for making it possible.
We would not be able to host World Refugee Day Academy without the support of friends, like you. Thank you for making reunions like this one possible!