Ghana & Kalpana's Story
Growing up in Bhutan, Ghana spent weekends on the family farm, attending school on weekdays. After the King closed all rural schools, his businessman father took him to India for school when he was 12. For 6 months he stayed by himself in a hostel. On his way home, Ghana was apprehended by border police, as he had no identification. Taken to the India/Nepal border, rather than home, he was told to “Go to the refugee camp,” which would cost 50 rupees. With only 20 rupees in his pocket, he sat alone by the side of the road in a strange country, with an unknown language. Through the kindness of strangers, he finally arrived at the camp, where to his shock, he found an aunt. He never saw his childhood home again and can never go back.
Life in the refugee camp involved working, morning and evening, to buy books for school. Ghana completed most of his high school in the camp, but went to India for grade 12, with a partial scholarship that paid for books. He tutored children in the evening in order to pay rent, and returned to the camp on holidays. He eventually completed a Bachelor of Commerce with Accountancy Honours (the only one in the class to pass), then an MBA in Management from India. Offered a good job in India, he couldn’t accept, as refugees were not allowed to work outside camp. Hopeless, he taught in the refugee school for an honorarium of 600 rupees/month - equivalent to $7.50/ month. (80 rupees = $1).
His future wife fled from Bhutan with her family, sneaking through the forest at midnight to avoid being shot. A baby sister was born in India 13 days later. They made their way to one of the 5 refugee camps in Nepal (130,000 people), where they lived in a bamboo hut with a thatched roof. Kalpana’s mother used mud, sacks and papers to cover the gaps in the bamboo walls, helping to keep the wind, rain and cold out. Having no money, they grew a small garden and foraged in the forest for firewood and vegetables. After Grade 10, Kalpana taught children in the camp school but continued her studies at night, often by candlelight. Later, travelling once a year to college to write exams, she eventually graduated with a Bachelor degree in Sociology, Anthropology and English.
With resettlement offered, the couple’s marriage was arranged, and within 3 months they were married. Ghana moved to Kalpana’s camp, with her family. After 2 years processing, the extended family of 16 came to Regina with joy, after 18 years in the Refugee Camp! Praising Regina Open Door Society, they emphasized the smooth transition. The change from a jail-like setting to complete freedom in an unknown country can be traumatic. Case workers assisted, volunteers became friends and people were friendly, helpful and polite. They and their 6 year old son love Regina and the people of Regina! They exclaimed, “Millions and millions of thanks to Canadian Government, Regina Open Door Society, volunteers and the people of Regina!”
Ghana and Kalpana, already homeowners, daycare operators, hardworking employees, and tireless volunteers, expressed a great desire to give back to their adopted community. They hope to open a community Daycare Centre, as Kalpana is working toward completing her Early Childhood Education Diploma (Level 3). Knowing the frustration of unrecognized degrees, their goal is to help other newcomers gain Canadian experience while utilizing their skills and learning English. “Newcomers have many skills, but unable to work, get depressed and feel worthless.” Although they “wish that businesses would give opportunities to newcomers” they are so thankful and say to Regina “thank you for giving us hope and a bright future.”