The panelists spoke about the difficulties of the resettlement process. Religious communities, multicultural organizations, and family friends were integral when it came to providing support to new immigrants, as well as finding opportunities to express their religious and cultural values.
“You have to know that you have a piece of home with you,” said Regmi, a lecturer at SUNY Polytechnic Institute and a nurse practitioner for Optum. Her family was forcefully evicted from Bhutan when she was 6, and she spent the next 17 years in a refugee camp in Nepal. After immigrating to the United States in 2009, she began promoting racial and ethnic equality in the healthcare industry. She served on the board of directors of Thea Bowman House, a nonprofit organization that advocates for low-income, at-risk children and their families to break the cycle of poverty.
Klo is executive director of the Midtown Utica Community Center (MUCC), a multicultural space that provides low-income families and refugees with educational and cultural programs. Klo and her family emigrated from Burma as Karen refugees in 2004 and have lived in Utica ever since.
Bo, a senior at Utica College, founded Nomadic Voices, an open mic platform that allows young immigrants to share their stories and express themselves creatively. He is a Karen refugee who migrated to Utica at the age of 4. The experiences he had growing up in Utica and getting involved with Thea Bowman House and Young Scholars molded him into the person he is today.
“It truly is a city that accepts refugees,” Bo shared while reminiscing about the support he received in Utica growing up. “I didn’t appreciate the culture Utica was fostering back then.”
Healing the community, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, are future goals for their respective organizations. The panelists aim to support and provide aid to newer refugees who come to Utica either through community programs, education, or art. “Whatever I become,” Klo said after sharing her plans with MUCC, “I want to make the world a better place.”
The impact that Regmi, Klo, and Bo have had on the refugee community in Utica cannot be understated. Durrani said it best while concluding the panel for the night, “Your parents wanted you to become doctors, but you became healers.”