Taste of Empowerment: An Alternatives to Violence Workshop for Resettled Bhutanese

Jamuna Shrestha was in the US from 17 May to 15 July 2017 for a speaking tour and to work with Bhutanese resettled in the US. She visited Friends Meetings in Cambridge and Wellesley MA, and Buffalo NY. She attended the Alternatives to Violece Project (AVP) USA’s national gathering and the Young Adult Quaker’s National Gathering at Pendle Hill. And she facilitated several AVP Empowerment, Trauma Healing and Liberation workshops, several with a special call to Bhutanese participants where translation was available. Here is an excerpt from her reflections on her trip: 

AVP Taste of Empowerment Mini-Workshop

Worcester Friends Meeting House

A workshop for resettled Bhutanese in Nepali

Facilitated by Jamuna Shrestha and Mon Maya Rai
Support by Nadine Hoover and Jane Cutting
Coordination by Mon Rai and Katie Green

The fifteen participants were from the same ethnic group, Gurung, except three — one Chhetri, one Wangchuk, and one Brahman, because the Bhutanese community organizer and leader was Gurung. Caste and ethnic divisions in the local Bhutanese-Nepali community are quite noticeable in this area. The Director and the Acting President of the local Bhutanese Association participated. The Bhutanese community people in this area don’t feel they have time to participate in events, even on the weekends, because they mostly think that without money they cannot do anything. Some of the participants had just arrived in the U.S. and were feeling confused and frustrated. They said that with no English language, no education, no car and no job it was difficult to survive in the U.S.

Still, the workshop went very well. It was so interesting that from the beginning for the first half of the workshop two of the participants talked about money and how white-skinned people just use us and do not support us, so we shouldn’t waste our time with them. But how powerful the AVP activities are for people! 

After Broken Squares they began to realize that money is not the main issue. As human beings, we have to take care of each other, meaning the Bhutanese need to take care of one another. Some are still suffering, and people are still arriving from Nepal. After this activity, they said that in the community when I am fine myself, but others are not, it’s not complete. They suddenly realized the way they were thinking about just money all the time was wrong. Then again, after the introduction of transforming power, they expressed their thoughts and emotions, which were totally different from the beginning of the workshop just five or six hours earlier! I also noticed their thinking pattern change after the light and lively games like Big Wind Blows, Pattern Balls and so forth.

I realized from this workshop how much difference I can make in the world while traveling, with a little effort and the AVP approach! I can invest my time in creating a change for peace, with love and respect. I choose the power of visiting and sharing insights and practices.