Rai P.’s Story
As I am writing this, I am sitting at the same desk that has become my job, my school, and my social life. The pre-pandemic life seems almost foreign to me now. Giving up the normalcy of life was hard in the beginning. There was a lot of guilt associated with feeling dismay at the loss of summer plans, social life, and daily comforts. My parents and grandparents went through traumatic experiences during the attempted ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Bhutanese government in the late 80s and early 90s. Yet I was upset that I could not go on a Starbucks run or go to the gym.
Losing the social network really took a toll on my mental health. After all, the only other person I had seen in the initial three months was my boyfriend. My boyfriend is a U.S. Air Force reserve member and he was activated to assist RI Department of Health during that period. For the first time in my life (or so it felt like) I was truly alone for days beside the times my boyfriend would be home. I spent a lot of time on Facebook and other social media. It felt like everyone was feeling the same melancholy and I found solace in that.
Spending a lot of time on Facebook allowed me to connect with my Bhutanese diaspora and I am grateful for that. I was able to have conversations virtually with other young professionals that felt passionate about giving back to our community. I look back to my teenage years and the countless hours I spent with local nonprofit organizations in Worcester, Massachusetts. I was all over the place. I had lost that drive as I started getting older. The bills started adding up and responsibilities were piling on. It had slowly evolved to “I have limited time and energy. Everything I do must be beneficial to me and my career.” But COVID-19 gave me another perspective in life.
I was approached by some fellow social activists within the Bhutanese community. The goal of the virtual meetup was to help the community in any way we could. The group later became called Bhutanese Youth Cooperative (BYC). This is a grassroots effort to create positive change and promote education to put in broad terms. This became a project I truly enjoy being a part of. We have been able to host Virtual Career Forums online where we invite Bhutanese professionals from all over the world to do a small presentation on their chosen career. We are soon to launch our mentorship program to connect our youth to our young professionals.
Bhutanese refugees started relocating to the United States around 2008. Coming from a developing country much less refugee camps in Nepal, our community has some tall hurdles to pass. One of them is the prospect of higher education. When I was looking into my undergraduate studies, I remember being overwhelmed. I had no mentors and educators/guidance counselors do not understand the unique challenges of our community. I hope BYC becomes a platform that can help guide the youth. Working with BYC and COVID-19 has allowed me to reflect on the true passions of life. I understood I came from a place of privilege. I had a roof over my head, a stable job, and my family was safe. I have started to look at opportunities that would allow me to work for the betterment of my community.
I have quit my 9-5 at a Fortune 500 company as of this month. It is a very scary time for a career change. The pandemic is far from over in the United States and my community is at higher risk because of the socio-economic status. I am thinking of applying to AmeriCorps in the efforts of doing a job that is fulfilling to my soul. I am worried about the financial sacrifices I am going to have to make. After all, I am human, and I do enjoy some simple luxuries. However, I am optimistic about my future prospects post-COVID-19. I am not sure if the economy will bounce back as fast as it dwindled. I am sure there is something out there for me regardless.