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Johns Creek Teen Earns Girl Scouts Gold Award for Work with Bhutanese Refugees

Apurva Kasam
Apurva Kasam

How many teenagers have you met who think of giving back to the community? How many teenagers do you know who understand the meaning of preserving one’s culture and then take proactive steps for this? How many teenagers are there on the face of the mother Earth who make others the priority in their lives? Kudos and hats off to Apurva Kasam, one such outstanding teenager with all the qualities listed above. A student at Northview High School in Johns Creek, GA, she undertook a project aimed to help Bhutanese Refugees. This was a Gold Award Project which is the highest earning award in Girl Scouts, a club she has been a member of for about 10 years now.

She did this project with the help of Sewa International (a Hindu faith based 501 (3)(C) non-profit service organization). Sewa International is serving Bhutanese community since 2008 in 38 cities all over USA.

To give you a backdrop of her stupendous achievements, let us go back a few centuries. The Bhutanese refugees were originally Nepalese who immigrated to Bhutan for better opportunities as early as the 16th century. The Bhutan King welcomed them with open hands and even accommodated their culture into the schools and society of Bhutan. Recognition was given to the Nepali language, as well as to the festivals, customs, dresses and traditions of ethnic Nepalese.

In the 20th century, the King wanted to protect the Bhutanese culture. The government started the logo “One Nation, One People” aimed at getting a greater sense of unity and made everyone follow one language and culture.  Alienation among the ethnic Nepali population reached a crescendo in ways never seen before in the south of the country in late 1990s. This eventually created conflicts which then led to ethnic cleansing. Driven from and uprooted from their own land, the Bhutanese refugees lived in seven UN refugee camps. After living in camps for almost two decades, the U.S. offered to resettle 60,000 of the estimated 107,000 Bhutanese refugees of Nepalese origin in USA. Around 5,000 came to the Atlanta area.

Enter the heroine of our story – Apurva. Being an active member of Sewa club at her high school and being exposed to other Bhutanese Refugees Empowerment Sewa projects, she understood the needs of this community and decided to help them in their resettlement process through her holistic Gold Award project with four steps. To help achieve this goal, Apurva raised about $1600 from family and friends.

The first step was to organize regular Yoga classes at Bhutanese Mandir to cope with stress and to maintain good health. Bhutanese were excited with the opportunity to learn and practice yoga in the workshops led by Patanjali Yog Peet teachers. Ms.Roma, a Bhutanese leader, was trained to conduct regular Yoga classes in the Bhutanese Mandir. Apurva provided yoga mats for their weekly classes.

Second, a workshop of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was conducted.  These habits and the tips taught will be helpful for them in their personal and professional lives. After providing for the physical well-being (step 1) and empowering the refugees with the knowledge to succeed (step 2), she set out to provide meaningful and continuous source of knowledge for them and their children by setting up a library.

She was instrumental in setting up a mini library consisting of a few book shelves and about 250 books. The books collected include religious, spiritual and several other non-fiction subjects. It also included a whole series of encyclopedias.

To round off the holistic development of the refugees, some spiritual and devotional offerings were needed. Hence, as the fourth step, some musical instruments for their weekly Bhajans in the temple were brought from India, which included a Harmonium, several Manjiras (finger cymbals) and Khanjaris (tambourines). The temple committee members and several community members expressed their happiness and thanked Apurva for choosing to help them as part of her Gold Award project.

We wish Apurva all the best and thank her from the bottom of our hearts for the magnificent work and thoughtful assistance rendered.

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