Katahdin Foundation

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The Story

In the summer of 2008, 17-year-old Dhana Poudel and 15-year-old Indra Karki arrived in Oakland, California––two of more than 60,000 Bhutanese-Nepali refugees beginning to resettle in the US. They and their families are now part of the fastest growing Bhutanese-Nepali community in the US, as some 5,000 refugees take up residence in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Through Dhana and Indra’s day-to-day experiences during their first three years in America, Dhana & Indra will bring into focus their personal transformations and challenges, explore contemporary topics like education and immigration, and tap into universal themes such as personal freedom, family and community.

On the surface Dhana and Indra dress and act like typical American teenagers, but in 2008 they were living in crude refugee camps deprived of the basic rights of citizenship. In the early 1990s, Indra and Dhana’s parents lost their citizenship, jobs and homes in Bhutan as a result of religious, ethnic and political persecution. They, along with 105,000 predominantly Hindu Bhutanese, were forced to into exile in Nepal. Living on rationed food and denied any chance of future employment, they have had little control over the direction of their lives for nearly twenty years. That is, until the families opted to leave “home” in search of opportunities in America.

Arriving amidst California’s serious economic crisis Dhana, Indra, and their families quickly experienced the contradictions of life in America. Newfound freedoms and modern conveniences were theirs along with the hardships of joblessness, higher costs of living, transportation woes, threats to personal safety and the challenges of integrating into America’s cultural mezcla.

During a time of heated national debate about immigration and the country’s failing educational system, Dhana & Indra cuts through many hot-button issues with intimate, personal stories – often lensed by the students themselves – charting the journey after their journey to America.