म को हुँ
म म नै हुँ
या अरु कोहि
म तिमी हो या
अरु कोहि म
खुत्याउनै सक्दिन |
धेरै पटक मैले आफुलाई सोधेको छुं
कैयो पटक मैले आफु लाई छामेको छुं
सोच्दा सोच्दा म थाकेको छुं
हेर्दा हेर्दा म आफु लाई
अरु कोहि जस्तो देखेको पनि छु
बास्तबमा म को हुँ |
लाग्छ मैले सोचेको मेरो आफ्नो हुदै होइन
मैले गरेका मेरा कामहरु
मेरा आफ्नो लाग्दै लाग्दैन
ऐनामा देख्दा आफ्नो अनुहार पनि
मेरो आफ्नो जस्तो पनि लाग्दैन
मैले गरेका कतिपय कुराहरु
कतिपय मेरा कल्पनाहरु अनि
कतिपय मेरा ब्यबहार पनि
मेरा आफ्ना झैं लाग्दै लाग्दैनन्
त्यसैले म आफैलाई
पटक पटक सोध्ने गर्छु
म को हुँ भनेर |
धेरै पटक त मैले सपनामा
आफु मरेको देखेर
आफुलाई छामेको पनि छुं
कतिपटक त बिपनामा
मैले आफुलाई हराएर
आफुलाई खोजेको पनि छुं
पटक पटक आफुलाई हराएर
धेरैपटक आफुलाई नै गुमाएर
म आफु कसरि
कुन अर्थमा जीइरहेछु
आफैलाई थाहा छैन
त्यसैले म सोध्ने गर्छु
आफुले आफै संग
बास्तबमा म को हुँ
म म नै हुँ या अरु कोहि |||
by Gopal Acharya, Case Manager
'Namaste' (hands held together below chin) translates into greeting as hugging or kissing in western society; same as Nepali-Indian culture. Nepali speaking Bhutanese people were native of Bhutan and their ancestors were from Nepal before four centuries. Bhutanese, mostly belonging to Nepali lingual societies have enormous contribution to the richness of modern Bhutan. The country itself is rich with diverse culture, mainly dominated by Nepali, Sarchop and Ngalong communities. Bhutanese Refugees communities have clearly shown to the world by accepting third country resettlement as they are peace loving people. Bhutanese people have positive input and impression, being one of the best community been resettled in US in short period of time, despite of its education, illiteracy, poverty, mental illness and national level high suicide rate, since the resettlement began in 2008 in United States.
Similarities and differences between Nepali speaking Bhutanese and Nepali citizens.
Nepali speaking people in the Himalayan regions such as Nepal, Bhutan and India shares same dress codes, religions, religious sites and traditions. There is no mistake to say that it is common to most Nepalese living in any part of the world.
The differences would be the way of life they had experienced in different parts of the world or even the same country. So, Nepali speaking people of one country or region cannot be considered as cultural experts for all.
Nepali interpreters and Bhutanese Nepali interpreters:
In many circumstances, local Bhutanese Nepali language differs from original Nepali language due to regional barriers; hence, it is efficient to provide Bhutanese community professionals to interpret for Nepali lingual Bhutanese. It might be compared with Arabic languages in different countries to understand more.
Despite of above fact, Nepal is a diverse cultured country. Majority of Nepalese have similarities with Indian culture as' Sanskrit' is the common origin for both.
Bhutanese Refugees resettled in US have mostly spent their lives in confinement in refugee camp in Nepal with the support from UN from 17 to 21 years. Before arriving to refugee camp in Nepal most of the elder people, older than 35 years have spent their lives in remote villages and farmlands in Bhutan. These people have either never admitted in the formal schools or have very limited education in their native languages in the country. People under the ages of 35 have received formal education in the refugee camps.
It is extremely important to note the following culture to respect Nepali speaking Bhutanese and Western societies and vise-versa:
Nepali lingual Bhutanese Community in US:
1. Greetings: Greetings are done by pressing both hands together at the chest level and saying Namaste "I salute the god/goddesses in you". Handshakes may be done with men and women who are westernized after the Namaste. Western Man with Bhutanese woman and western woman with Bhutanese man is expected not to initiate handshakes by western man or woman. However, if a Nepalese offers a hand, please shake. [Majority belongs, both Hinduism and Buddhism]
Hugging is acceptable between family members and intimates, but not publicly.
Untouchability: Hugging is never done with father-in-laws and brother/sister-in-laws hierarchically. Mostly, not practiced by seniors. (Described as majority of people belongs to Hinduism)
Male and female must not live together or touch each other during funeral rites and members of funeral rites must not be touched by other people including visitors which lasts for 13 days.
Scientific reasons: Besides scientific studies, it is more about beliefs in “purity”, immediate family members mourn for 13 days keeping their physical body as clean as possible as well as feelings and souls to assist the deceased soul to connect to heaven. Not touching between male and female is to avoid emotions and tears which impure the body.
2. Visiting Bhutanese Homes: Common to many cultures, visitors are highly respected in this community. People consider visitor as the form of the God or saints and these people become happy to offer delicious foods and respect during their visits. Tea is at least a common offer for the short term visitors.
When visiting a Nepalese or Nepali speaking Bhutanese home, you are expected to remove your shoes and same as before entering a Hindu temple or Buddhist sanctuary.
Scientific reasons: Removing shoes is about sanitation, as the temple place is physically and spiritually clean. Some shoes might be made from leather or animal skin and considered as the substances of impurity.
3. Food and Beverages: Since, majority of Bhutanese refugees' belief in Hinduism, alcohol is prohibited in this community. Within this community, people practicing Buddhism or belonging to Mongol origin community take alcohol as a part of their tradition but mostly not as a substance. Many Hindus are vegetarian; those who are non-vegetarian prohibit beef and pork for religious reasons as cow is considered as the sacred animal in this community and pork is raised in unhealthy environment in that region since, many generations. Bhutanese foods are very spicy, same as Indian. National curries, Bhutan (hot pepper 'chilly' and home-made cheese) and Nepal (Gundruk, the fermented leafy green vegetable) are both consumed by this community, which are unique and commonly available for any people.
Scientific reasons: Alcohol and meats are scientifically, proved unhealthy as compared with vegetables.
4. Medical: Except for emergencies, people in this community try their best to practice traditional medicines as the alternative healing. For an instance, “puja” ceremony and summons treatments are common. People have high trust through their experience about homeopathic, which is a treatment using herbs, shrubs or flowers, readily available at homes and neighborhoods. They consider this as the best treatment for any medical issues. Still, people accepts western medicines if the alternative healing does not become successful. People are less open to inform their medical problems to new person or places, they become more confident to explain their problems to their immediate family members or community advocates and other familiar people.
Scientific reasons: During “puja” and “summon”, there are rules of purity and exercises which can assist the patient towards recovery. Positive psychological impacts are generated during these performances. Homeopathies are first aids and have mostly no side effects for the recovery of sickness. People using homeopathic are scientifically proved to have less susceptibility to the diseases. Homeopathic and yoga avoids surgery in many cases.
by Komba Lamina, Summer 20132 Intern
Many in the West have often wondered whether non-western countries, especially African countries are culturally woven for democracy to survive. They often point to the repeated number of military coup d’états that have taken place across Africa when they make this inference. This query is in fact legitimate, because if we look at Africa in the 70’s, 80's, 90's and even today, to some extent, we see that majority of African countries have gone through a wave of military coups. For instance, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Gambia, Congo, Kenya etc. have all had their elected government toppled more than once. There are many reasons for this of course; starting with coups orchestrated by the U.S., corrupt local government, structural adjustment programs (austerity), incompetent governments etc. have all been contributing factors as to why military personnel have left their barracks for the State House.
These factors have all been looked at by many academics, but so far not much focus has been placed on the effect of culture; culture as a contributing factor as to why elected officials outstay their welcome, which in some instances is the reason why the military come to power, has not been given much attention. And no, I am not buying into the idea that Sub-Sahara African countries, or developing countries in general are not culturally woven for democracy to survive.
However, I do think that culture plays some role in causing political officials in these parts of the world to cling to power. Again, a quick look at Sub-Sahara Africa as well as North Africa to some extent, we see that a good number of presidents have held onto power for awfully long periods of time: Congo, President Mobutu Sese Seko, held onto power for thirty two years; Ghana, former President Flt. Lt. Rawlings held onto power for over a dozen years; Senegal’s former President, Abdoulaye Wade, held unto power for twelve years; Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh has been in office for nineteen years; Egypt, former President Mubarak held onto power for thirty years so on and so forth (these are not all democratically elected presidents. Some came to power through a coup and later became civilian that ran for office). After looking at all of these leaders and the amount of time the held power, I began thinking about culture as a contributing factor.
One of my professors of international politics once said that if you go to China, for instance, and ask a local how their government official was doing? Their likely response would fall along the lines of ‘they are good, s/he knows what they’re doing.’ Ask the same question to any local American on the street, their likely response would be – ‘government officials don't know what they're doing – put me there, I can do a much better job.’ If similar question had been asked of Africans or folks in the Middle East few years ago, their likely response would resemble the local from China. Why is that you might ask? I think the answer to that question is culture.
Culture dictates in these parts of the world (many non-western countries) an unquestionable respect for authority. Failure to do such is gross disrespect! Leaders and elders are aware of this fact; as such unquestionable respect is expected. What they fail to realize is that the people are increasing expecting results, and democracy in particular requires the citizens to hold government officials accountable. When leaders fail to deliver, you ask them to change course; if it’s a parliamentary system, you ask them to hold early elections.
But since unquestionable respect is expected from locals, leaders in these parts of the world find it extremely difficult to heed demands of the people. Yes, this sound just like what happened recently in Turkey with the Gezi Park protest, and in Egypt, which ultimately resulted in a military coup. Assad’s Syria could also be thrown in the mix (even though President Assad was not democratically elected). The point is, culture dictates respect for elders and persons in authority – period (leaders have paid their dues and the want it back in return).
Here is what I want you to take away
If any president or potential president is reading this piece, what I want you to take away is this: times are changing and you must adapt. If the people ask you to change course, heed the warning early-on and make concessions when it count. Otherwise there would be another wave of elected officials being deposed from office like we have now with President Morsi.
Dr. Adnan Zubcevic, Executive Director
Translated by Lalita Sharma, Case Manager
Back in Bosnia in 1977, in Sarajevo, I was invited one evening by a local chapter of a program similar to National Geographic society the US, to attend a presentation. This presentation was a documentary, filmed by one of our own mountain hikers, who, amongst other places, climbed Kilimanjaro peaks, Mt. Everest and, not to mention numerous mountain tops in former Yugoslavia. A devout mountain climber myself, I was anxious to see what is the presentation about. The presentation, I remember well, started at 8 pm sharp with a picture on large screen showing a deep dark blue background with millions of tiny lights across it. I will admit, keep that image in my mind, like some treasure, up to this day. The presenter came about and started telling us about his climb to the highest peak of Himalayas, where, up to the point, he was guided by Nepali Sherpa. All of us in the audience, still impressed by the picture, asked what it presents, as we could not figure it out. He paused and then , with a smile, probably intrigued by the fact that we were so interested, said that it was a photograph he has taken from the top of Himalayas. It showed the night sky covered with stars and the valleys underneath, but in such a way that one could not tell where the sky ends and the earth begins. That was my first encounter with Nepal and that region in general. Later, life has taken me to India and many other amazing places God has gifted the human kind with, but I took this picture and the story of countries the hiker talked about-Bhutan and Nepal, with me forever. The film, as his story went on, pictured Katmandu with a main square at that time. There was a road, just dry brownish dirt, and a big cow sitting in the middle of it looking at camera. A bird, do not know which kind, was jumping on cows back. A little monkey was running around and people in beautiful clothes were passing by calmly. Sherpa was smiling, with a steady, large grin on his bearded face, as if telling us” I am your host here, and do not worry, you will be ok”. A picture from a far and distant time, and it felt almost as if everything and everybody was in a beautiful harmony of life.
In our first issue of renewed “Izvor”, we have promised to take you on a journey and wanted to bring you into the world which is different than the one we see in the news every day. This is why I am writing about Nepal and Bhutan and Himalayas and sherpas. Also, this issue is devoted to that region of the world and to our staff-Lalita, Gopal, Guyan and Lok, who we are lucky to have in our team.
These wonderful people all came from there, some as refugees, from the camps in Nepal, where they spent 15 or more years in tents made of grass, or as immigrants, coming to US to help their children live in the world which provides opportunities for all.
As a part of our program, our Nepali/ Bhutanese case workers have created outreach programs for their respective communities and found home in BCCRD, Inc. We took parts in Festivals of Divala, helped grow Bhutanese dance group, watched Lalita and her girls dance away in their colorful costumes and learned about life in their home lands. We also learned that although small, their countries can bring a lot of light to the world around. We are so proud that they can help their communities and teach us about their arts, traditions and complexities life in the US can bring to the refugee.
Just recently, thanks to Gyan and Lalita, I was invited to a dinner in Weymouth organized by a local chapter of Himalayas Lions Club. There, I had an honor to meet with a renowned academic from a Nepal poet himself who spent some time talking to me about his ideas of the roles of minority groups in Nepal and his outlook on customs and traditions there. It was a wonderful evening, and as gift, we received a book he has written and a DVD showcasing Nepali culture. We are, in collaboration with American Red Cross and Himalayan Lions Club working to organize a blood drive for their community as well.
Dear reader, in the world we live in, in the chaos of everyday life, rents, mortgages, utility bills, we frequently forget that the picture is much, much bigger that our trip to Stop and Shop. We see people running by and we often avoid contacts and conversations, not giving ourselves a chance to really learn about people and their destinies, hopes and dreams. At the end of this introduction, I would like to bring you back to the picture I described at the beginning of the story-the picture of the sky and earth living peacefully in unison not even wondering where the boundaries may be. Close your eyes and travel there. Like we do in our trip to Bhutan and Nepal, imagine a world vibrating in the pulse of the universe, as we all belong to it. And help us become Sherpas to some new groups arriving here, so that they may run happily to the better, new world.
That will be our gift to this planet. Then we could say that we deserve to be citizens of the planet called Earth. And that is a lot.
नया संसार को शेर्पा हरु
१९७७ मा बोस्निया सराएवोको एक लोकल व्यक्तिले नशेनल जेओग्राफिक जस्तै एक कार्यक्रमको प्रस्तुतीकरण हेर्नको लागि मलाई निमत्रना थियो | यो प्रस्तुतीकरण एक
(दोकुमेटेरी) वृत्तचित्र हाम्रै माझको एक जना हिमालय चड्ने जसले किलिमन्जारोको टापू,सगरमाथा तथा पुर्व युकोस्लावियाका टापुहरु अरु अनगिन्ति हिमालयको टुप्पोमा पुगिसकेको थिए | म पनि एक हिमालय चड्ने रुचि लीने व्यक्ति भएकोले मलाई यो प्रस्तुति के कस्तो हुने हो भनि ज्यादै उत्सुकता थियो |
यो प्रस्तुति साँझको ठिक ८ बजे एक ठुलो पर्दामा जसको पृष्ठभुमि गाडा नीला जसमा लाखौं साना बतीहरु वार र पार झल्कि रहेको थियो | त्यो अमुल्य दृश्य आज पनि मेरो मन्न मस्त्मा छापिएको छ | उक्त प्रस्तुतिकर्ताले आफ्नो हिमालयको टुप्पो सम्म पुग्ने श्रेय नेपाली शेर्पालाइ दिनु हुन्छ र भन्नु हुन्छ कि शेर्पाले वहाँलई धेरै मदत पुराउनु भएको थियो | हामी सबै जना चकित थियौं कि त्यो अति सुन्दर द्रश्य के थियो | वहाँ एक छिन् रोकेर अनि हास्नु भो अनि भन्नु भो कि वाहाँले त्यो सुन्दर दृश्य हिमालय को टुपो बटा खिच्नु भएको थियो|
त्यो नेपाल सित मेरो पहिलो दर्शन थियो| पछि त्यस वृतचित्रले मलाई भारत तथा अरु विभिन्न इश्वरले बनाएका रमाइलो राम्रा सुन्दर देशहरु तर्फ मलाई दोराउन्दै लाग्यो, तर मैले त्यो दृश्य र विभिन्न देशहरुको कथाहरु , जस्तै हिमालय चड्ने व्यक्ति जसले भुटान र नेपालको वर्णन गर्नु हुदै, त्यो ति सब मैले आफु संग लगे | त्यस वृत्तचित्र काठमाडौँको त्यो बेलाको मुख्य चौरास्ता, त्यहाँ एक ठुलो गाइ बीच बाटोमा बसिरहेको र साथै तारा ले भरिएको माथि आकाश र मुन्तिर उपत्यका |यो द्रश्य यस प्रकारको थियो कि कसैले छुटयानु सग्दैन थियो कि कहाँ आकाशको अन्त हुन्छ र कहाँ पृथ्वी सुरुवात हुन्छ|यौटा चरा गाइको ढाडमा उफ्री रहेको ,एउटा सानु बाँदर दौडी रहेको, मानिसहरु राम्रा पोशाक लगाई सान्त भै हिडिरहेका|त्यस दृश्यमा एक शेर्पा जसको दाड़ी लामो वहाँ हांसी रहेको थियो , मलाइ यस्तो लागि रहेको थियो कि त्यस शेर्पाले हामीलाई "म तपाइहरुको स्वागत कर्ता हुन, तपाइँहरुले पिर नगर्नु सब ठिक हुने छ" एउटा द्रश्य पर र दुर यस्तो लाग्दै थियो सबै सामान र सबै जनाको जीवनमा एकता थियो |
हाम्रो प्रथम नवीकृत प्रकाशन इज्ज्वोर :" हामिले प्रतिज्ञा गर्दै तपाईंहरुलाइ यात्र गराउंदै त्यस यात्राको दुनिया जो सबै भन्दा बेग्लै, जस्तै हरेक दिन को समचार | त्यसकारण म भुटान,नेपाल , हिमालयहरु र शेर्पाहरु बारेमा लेख्दै छु | यो प्रकाशन दुनियाको त्यस क्षेत्र र हाम्रा कर्माचारीहरु गोपाल , ज्ञान, ललिता, लोक | हामि भाग्यमानि छौं कि हामी सब एक समूह, एक संस्थामा छौं |
ई अतिउतम जन जातिहरु सबै त्यस मुलुकबाट आएका हुन , कोहि शरणार्थीहरु नेपालको कम्पमा १५ बर्ष तम्भु (टेन्ट )मा , र कोहि प्रवासी नागरिकहरु अमेरिकामा आफ्ना बालबालिकाहरु को एक राम्रो अवसर र सफलताको जीवन सबैलाई दिनुमा मदत गर्दै आइरहेका छन् | हालचाललाई ललिता र ज्ञानलाइ म धयाँबाद दिन्छु | मलाई हिमालय लायन्स क्लबका एक कार्यकर्ता दुवारा वेय्मोउन्थमा आयोजित एक कबि गोष्ठी समारोहमा भाग लिन निमंत्रना दिनु भएको थियो , वहाँ मैले नेपालको एक प्रसिध शैशिक संग भेट गर्नु पाउँदा मेरो निम्ति एक सम्मान थियो |
दोक्टर तुलिसा दिवस एक कवि अल्प संख्याक नेपालका समूह, सीमा शुल्क, परम्परा माथि आफ्नो दृस्टीकोकोणको भूमिकाबारेमा केहि समय म संग कुराकानी गर्नु भो| यो एउटा रमाइलो साँझ थियो र एक उपहारको रूपमा हामीले वहाँ बाट लिखित एउटा किताब र नेपाली संकृतिको प्रदर्शनको एक डी वि डी प्राप्त गरेका छौं |
हामी अमेरिकन रेड क्रोस र हिमालय लायुन्स क्लुब ले आयोजना गर्न गइ रहेको रक्तदान कार्यक्रममा पनि मदत गर्ने छौँ |
प्रिय दर्शक दुनियाको दिनप्रतिदिनको पिडित जिन्दगि, भाडा,लॊन ,( बन्धक) , पानि ,बतीको रकम बिल तीर्दा तिर्दै हैरान हुन्छौं | हामि अक्सर बिर्सी दिन्छौं त्यो चित्र हाम्रो यात्रा भन्दा पनि ठुलो छ |
हामी हिडिरहेको मानिसहरुलाइ देखछौँ, तर हामी अक्सर उनीहरु संग सम्पर्क र कुराकानी गर्न चाहदैनौं र वास्तवमा हामी आफुलाई मौका दिन चाहँदैनौं उनीहरुको नियति आशा र सपनाहरुको बारेमा जान्न |
यस परिचयको अन्तमा म तपाईंहरुको सामु त्यहि दृश्य फेरि लाउनु चाहन्छु जुन मैले शुरुमा वर्णन गरेको थिए त्यहि कथा, निलो आकाश र पृथ्वी आफ्नो सिमानाको कहाँ अन्त हुन्छ भनि केहि मतलब नराखी शान्तभै बसेका छ्न | त्यसैले आफ्नो आखा बन्द गर्नु र त्यहाँ यात्रा गरौँ जस्तै हामी भुटान र नेपालको यात्राको बारेमा कलपना गर्यौं ठिक त्यसै गरि हामी कल्पना गरौँ एक पृथ्वी छ, ब्रह्माण्डको नाडीमा हली रहेको र यसै संसारका हामी हौँ | हामीलाई मदत गर्नुहोस यस नया समुहको शेर्पा बन्नमा| र नया आगमन समूहलाइ खुशी साथ् अगाडी बढाउँ |
यही यस ग्रहको लागि हाम्रो उपहार हुनेछ | तब हामी पृथ्वी नामक ग्रहको एक नागरिक हुन लायक हुन्छौं र त्यही नि धेरै हुनेछ |
Meaghan A. Culkeen, Staff Member
Terminology and Sensitivity Issues:
Sexual orientation- An individual’s capacity for emotional and sexual attraction regardless of previous actions or partners. "Who you love"
Gender Identity(ID)-the deeply felt gender, not necessarily the gender assigned at birth. "Who you are"
LGBTIQ- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer. Not one community, but several different communities with different background, struggles, experiences, and needs.
Lesbian- a woman who is physically, emotionally, and romantically attracted to another woman.
Gay- a man who is physically, emotionally, and romantically attracted to another man.
Also sometimes used as a term to refer to entire LGBTIQ community.
Bisexual- a person whose physical, emotional, and romantic attraction is to both men and woman
Sex- refers to the physical reproductive organs one has.
Gender- a psychological, personally-felt identification in the spectrum of gender.
Transgender- an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender
expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.
Intersex- an umbrella term covering differences of sexual development, which
can consist of diagnosable congenital conditions in which development of
anatomic, chromosomal, or gonadal sex is atypical.
Queer- An umbrella term encompassing a variety of sexual orientations and gender identities excluding heterosexuality. The term was originally used as a slur but has been reclaimed by the LGBT community to also refer to political ideologies and sexual/gender expressions not adhering to a gender-binary
Homophobic- a policy or ideal that discriminates against LGBTIQ individuals
Ally: Refers to individuals who support and advocate for a community of which they are not members.
Heterosexual: Describes an individual whose enduring physical, romantic, and/or
emotional attraction is to someone of the opposite sex.
Heterosexism: Describes institutionalized oppression against non-heterosexual
individuals and experiences.
Internalized homophobia- a homosexual individual who feels shame and self-hatred because of societal pressures.
Transphobia: Refers to hostility, negative attitudes, and/or fear directed at transgender individuals.
- Gender and Sexual orientation exist on a spectrum, and are often not simply one or another but are somewhere in between existing labels.
-Most LGBT individuals describe their sexual orientation as being inherent. Choice plays a role in whether an individual decides to live openly as LGBT. LGBT refugees may not feel as if they ever had a choice to liven openly as it could have resulted in their persecution.
-Bisexual individuals are not confused about their sexuality. Some people wrongly believe that bisexual individuals will transition from being bisexual to lesbian or gay; while this may be the case in some instances, most bisexuals will live their entire lives attracted to both males and females
-LGBT individuals are more susceptible to mental illness or substance abuse, but this is a result of the isolation, hostility, or discrimination they endure as LGBT individuals, not because of any predisposition based on sexual orientation or gender identity
-Cross dresser is the preferred term over transvestite.
-If the person identifies as female, feminine pronouns should be used. Transgender individuals though may circumstantially alternate what pronouns they prefer, depending on where they are and how they are feeling. If someone identifies as transgender, it is best to ask them what pronouns they prefer
-Gender identity is different from sexual orientation. One’s gender identity does not determine who one is sexually attracted to. Transgender individuals may identify as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
-Regardless of personal feelings, supporting LGBT participants is human rights work and is part of providing culturally-competent resettlement services as mandated by the US Government. As a practical matter, assigning case workers who are more comfortable with LGBT persons to work with those program participants may make all more comfortable, but all refugee resettlement workers have an obligation to create a safe and welcoming environment for all refugees, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
In addition to being known as America’s most LGBTI friendly President, in December 2011, President Obama issued a memorandum creating a strategy for U.S. government agencies to combat LGBT human rights abuses internationally. He states that all agencies that are engaged abroad should be making an effort to improve the rights and quality of life of LGBT individuals.
There are an estimated 175,000 people in danger in their home countries due to sexual orientation or HIV status. Of these 175,000 individuals, an estimated 18,000 seek asylum worldwide. Of these 175,000 individuals, only about 200 are resettled as refugees each year worldwide. This is no way means that there are only 200 LGBT refugees, but that only 200 of them are resettled solely for this reason.
The UNHCR, USCIS office for Asylum or Executive Office for Immigration Review does not track LGBT status. This is because none of these resettlement agencies want to “tip off” the country of an individual’s origin. Often times LGBT refugees need to be resettled into a third country because the second country, or refugee camp in which they are sent, is just as dangerous as their home country. This is also a major problem, as the resettlement process takes too long for most urgent cases. LGBT refugees have a double marginality- isolated from state protection, because of their sexual orientation or HIV status, and by the overwhelming societal pressures.
There is a high rate of depression, substance abuse and suicide among the LGBT community due the prejudices in the world. Open hatred and outward disapproval of LGBT individual’s leads to internalized homophobia.
No matter what is said, homosexuality is not a choice. Homosexuals make the choice whether to be open with their sexuality or not, although in many regions of the world they do not have this right.
It is a myth that homosexuality is a western idea. This is untrue, as societies throughout the entire world and throughout time have members who show homosexual tendencies. Some areas of the world however, may not be familiar with these terms and may not categorize sexuality. Nepal is one such example. In Nepal, they do not use the terms LGBT, but see a gender nonconforming individual as being “twin spirited.”
Countries that are the most dangerous for LGBTIQ Individuals
Only nine countries on Earth have no official, institutionalized, homophobic discrimination or heterosexism. They are; Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Sweden, Spain, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway and South Africa.
This is not to say, however, there are no discrimination issues in these countries. What is most troublesome about this kind of discrimination is that often times, countries with strong anti-homosexual laws are not the most dangerous. It is not necessarily the government that is discriminating against this population, but the citizens as well. This is what makes refugee status difficult to prove necessary- as often times governments have no official stance on homosexuality.
The seven most dangerous countries for LGBTIQ’s, as defined by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, are Cameroon, Egypt, Honduras, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and South Africa.
Examples of Specific Abuses in Dangerous Countries:
Uganda -lesbian "corrective rape"
-cases of men locked in home and burned alive
-Teen escaped before being sent for an honor killing
- Those associated with LGBT individuals reported being abducted, beaten/raped.
- Police abuse, threat to arrest, denied access to NGO, local offices on
-Police killings of known homosexuals, as federal government can’t.
Kenya -5 year jail sentences for consensual sex between two men
-Demonization of homosexuals and misinforming the public about LGBT
Brazil -Highest transgender killing rate in world
South Africa -High rate of blackmailing, for political or social gain, against homosexual men
Iraq -Homosexual killing campaigns in 2009 and 2012
Further Reading and organizations:
The Gray Area of Gay Refugees
December 1, 2011
Road to Safety; Strengthening Protection for LGBTI Refugees in Uganda & Kenya
Duncan Breen, Author/Head Researcher
Human Rights First
See also, Equality Talks w/ HRC and HRF. Video available online
LGBT refugees need expedited resettlement system
May 18, 2012
Human Rights First
Dr. Adnan Zubcevic
We were alone, sitting in his living room, as we discussed his future visit to his village-Turovi . “Next year, I will go with you to Bosnia. We must hike up to the Silver lake and visit Djokin Toranj on the top of Treskavica . You must remember how on those clear summer days one could see all the way to the Adriatic sea from there. ” His green eyes became even greener and softer when we last talked. In his 16 years in US, Hamza never went back to Bosnia. He was afraid to fly.
Hamza loved to tell me stories –about days of his childhood spent riding horses or of rare and unique forms of life found only in this part of Bosnia like the frogs which grow as big as tree trunks, and of legends passed through generations of people and times long gone. On a summer morning during his childhood, while on the Treskavica plateau he had once crossed paths with the huge “king snake” more than 15 meters long.
His stories would carry him away to a land and the time far, far away from Chelsea. His life as a refugee, and problems in modern day would fade away as he narrated, while I would sit back and listen. He could make me laugh in the way I used to laugh when I was a child. We would get forever lost in the images reborn from his stories. Images filled with shadows of Treskavica’s forests. His memory was a train, taking us away to a simpler time. With just a short trip on this train pleasant memories and images would grow everywhere around me. I would see myself sitting on a stump of a huge pine tree, picking small blueberries, full of juice. My body remembered fresh and sharp misty mountain mornings air mixed with the scent of freshly cut timber.
Hamza loved to talk about days when he would, as a young shepherd, bring his father’s heard to the highlands’ pastures in the early Spring. There, he camped in an old log cabin. All the way from late spring until the time when mountain peaks would begin turning white with the first and early October snow.
Treskavica was the first thing Hamza saw when, on one late day of September 1969, his mother, a strong but soft Bosnian village woman brought him to the world. As a young student, I remember, we, the adventurous and reckless city youth, would go hiking on Treskavica. It was usually during winter or summer vacation. In our search for the excitement only the wilderness can bring, we would pack our gear and hit a bus to Trnovo.
Trnovo is a small town, 1-hour ride from Sarajevo. Not even 20 minute’s walk from Trnovo was Turovi, a village of mills and legends, which was tucked comfortably under the skirt of Treskavica mountain. With scattered red roofs peaking behind orchards, a strong smell of manure coming from stables nearby and the sound of running streams around, it looked like a place from a fairy tale. We would pass through Turovi village on our way up, and often, stop at his father’s home, to get milk, or buy handmade socks. Those were woolen, knee-high socks made by his mother out of wool shaved from their sheep and the best for hiking. Wool would be shaved and spun in early spring and then turned into sweaters, socks or blankets.
Hamza was a young kid then, a troublemaker from the start, but one of those who knew how to make life meaningful and memorable.phone and, to my full astonishment, Hamza was on the other end of the line. He just said :”Ado, this is Hamza from Turovi”.
He had somehow made it possible for his family to come to Boston. I went that same day to visit him in Chelsea. I found him and his wife, who was very ill at the time with their 2 young boys living in a one bedroom apartment on the 4th floor of the rundown Chelsea building. The only restroom was attached to the only bedroom. I remember how his wife Rasema, although ill, spent days trying to wash the whole place with bleach.
The whole thing felt almost surreal. Hamza did not speak any English. Neither did his wife-Rasema, nor his boys-Senad and Sanel. His wife was so ill that she could not talk (thyroid pressure on her voice cords) nor walk up the stairs (swollen and enlarged legs-lymphedema). Within the next few weeks, we connected the family to services, did all we could. For Rasema, as her condition was our primary concern, we had scheduled numerous medical visits. Hamza started working and boys went to school. With Rasema scheduled for thyroid surgery on March 11 1998, boys’ school, financial struggles and else, no one really had time to pay attention to Hamza’s health. On the day of the surgery, while on the op. table his wife went into toxemia. Medical personnel figured out (after 5 months of her visits) that she was 5 months pregnant.
On March 25 1998 she gave a birth to a baby boy weighing 250 grams (8.8 ozs.) and said ”I do not understand what went on and where did this child come from.” On the day of discharge, I took Samir out of the hospital. He comfortably fit in the palm of my hand. I became his Godfather..
Then, life went on and the family bought a little house with a back garden in 2006. I was the first one to be invited and give my “expert opinion” as to whether this was a good investment. Hamza was so proud to show me around. There, he built a big stone grill, a smoke house and planted a vegetable garden. It was not easy life at all, but slowly, things started to improve over next few years.
All until Hamza fell from the scaffolding at the construction site, where he worked and barely survived. This left him unable to continue working. He became disabled. We found a lawyer to sue the insurance for his injuries. As too often things worked for Hamza, his lawyers could not prove with the medical evidence on hand that his back and other injuries were resulting from the accident. In my mind, one does not have to be an expert to prove the obvious in a situation like this. However, nothing came easy to Hamza. After several years and various experts giving their “opinions”, in late 2012 we were coming closer to the final stage of his law suit. Hamza began day dreaming-how he would build a house in Turovi (his own was destroyed in the war), leave some money for his youngest child to finish school and “become somebody” as he would say and give the rest to Rasema.
Hamza got a nickname from me-a Bosnian Rambo. A man of steel, with a heart of cotton. December 6th 2012, was a quiet and a sunny day. Hamza took his truck he fixed recently and drove away to Saugus to see his friend there. That is what Rasema recalled later. She called me around 10 am to tell me, that Hamza has just been taken to the hospital. Rasema was beside herself and, for the first time since I knew Hamza, I felt a stroke of fear that tore through my stomach. 15 minutes later Rasema called again crying and said “Adnan, Hamza died”.
Hamza, I just hope you can now freely roam over your mountains. Watch first violets break through the receding snow. Chase deer and follow steps to Dedo’s cave that only you knew about. I know I miss you. And if it makes any sense now, I want to thank you for all you were to me. Thank you for building the house for my cat Soccer when he got ill. Thank you for building walls in our new office in Lynn.
In order to fully comprehend the work of the Bosnian Community Center for Resource Development, Inc. (BCCRD), one must first become familiar with the term refugee, and some of the intricacies involve with refugee resettlement in the United States; because BCCRD was founded on the premise of providing support to refugees from Bosnia resettled in Massachusetts (MA) as a result of the Bosnian civil war in 1991-1995. BCCRD’s reach has far exceeded that of the Bosnian community since its inception, and is today working with refugees (immigrants) from all over the world regardless of ethnicity or religion. BCCRD’s mission is to “provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services to refugees and immigrants with one goal in mind; that is- empowering refugees in their newly adopted home by enabling them to become full participants in all areas of life in the U.S.”
This paper will provide a brief insight on what/who is a refugee?, the various ways through which a refugee can put an end to exile, and how the U.S. is helping with the refugee crisis with regards to refugee resettlement in the United States.
Brief Overview of Refugee
What/who is a Refugee?
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR), a refugee is someone forced to flee her or his home country as a result of a well-founded fear of persecution or violence. The definition of refugee was enacted in a United Nations (UN) convention held on July 28, 1951. The idea behind reaching a formal definition of a refugee was first: to address the large number of displaced people, which was mainly affecting Europe following the end of World War II. Secondly, there was a need to establish a uniform international standard under which refugees would be treated.
Nine years after the definition of refugee was put in place, a special office for refugee known as the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) was created within the world’s largest international body. UNHCR was formed so that it could help with the resettlement of European refugees to places or countries where their basic human rights would be ensured.
Determination of Refugee Status
Refugee status is sometimes broadly granted by UNHCR to citizens living outside of their home country due to an all-out conflict, or a well-founded fear affecting a large scale of people because of their ethnicity, race, etc. and cannot be protected by their home government. The Bantu ethnic group of Somalia is an example of the latter. In cases where the issue is not affecting a large group of people, determination of refugee status is carried out on a case-by-case basis (asylum seekers for example), to determine whether they are qualified for a refugee status. Individual(s) with refugee status are ensured certain rights; for instance, they cannot be forced to return home, they should have access to food, shelter, and medical care.
According to UNHCR, there are three options for refugees in terms of putting an end to exile, and seeking safety: repatriation, local integration, and resettlement.
Repatriation in this case means voluntarily returning to one’s home country. Voluntary repatriation is usually encouraged by UNHCR when a conflict has ended, and the affected area is deemed stable. Those who opt to be repatriated are sometimes brought back to the very region they fled, or relocated to a different location from where they previously called home. Those who choose to stay in the “host country” (country where they seek refuge, usually neighboring countries) after their home country is deemed stable would end up losing their refugee status. That means they are no longer protected under international refugee laws- meaning their host government is no longer obligated to provide them food, shelter, and medical care- to name a few things.
Local integration is very similar to resettlement. The difference is it occurs in the host country- whereas resettlement is in a third country. In other words, refugees become integrated in the country of refuge with the consent and support of the host country’s government. This process is facilitated by the UNHCR together with the host government.
Resettlement is relocation to a third country, often times a Western country. Resettlement is arguably the most preferred of the three categories despite the challenges that come with it. In some cases, refugees are resettled in countries that are completely different from what the refugees are familiar with, and therefore can be challenging for many. Some of the challenges include, but not limited to learning a new language, learning new norms, and learning a new culture.
Still, many refugees prefer resettlement because it is an opportunity to start life anew in a different region; perhaps because it enables parents to raise their kid(s) (who are also quick to integrate into their new country) in an environment that is free from mortar shells falling on the roof top, a chance at a good education, stability, or a place where their dreams can become a reality for the first time.
Out of 14 to 16 million refugees in the world today, less than one percent receives the opportunity to be resettled in a third country, according to UNHCR report. One of the reasons for that is due to the small amount of countries that participate in the resettlement program.
UNHCR’s 2012 report states that twenty-six countries are currently participating in the refugee resettlement program. Of these twenty-six, the U.S. resettles the most refugees out of all twenty-six nations combine.
The Process of Refugee Resettlements in the U.S.:
Formal refugee resettlement in the U.S. has its roots in 1980, with the passage of the Refugee Act. This law aligned U.S. criteria for resettlement with UN definition of refugee. Current refugee resettlement in the US still functions under the Refugee Act of 1980, which is “operated by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) of the U.S. Department of State in conjunction with the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and offices in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).” The multiple number of offices under which refugee resettlement falls under gives an idea of the program’s complexity.
The process of resettlements starts with the Executive Branch in collaboration with the U.S. Congress to designate the amount of refugee, funds needed, and the quota from each region to be administered in the U.S. each year. The U.S. State Department (through the Refugee Admission Program USRAP) then selects the names of individuals eligible for U.S. resettlement from the list provided by UNHCR.
The names of selected individuals are thoroughly screened by the appropriate security agencies within the U.S. to ensure that they pose no security threat to the United States. Those that receive preliminary security clearance are then notified by UNHCR that they have been selected for resettlement in the U.S. pending the outcome of the USCIS interview.
A one-on-one interview with a USCIS official to determine whether the individual(s) is eligible for resettlement in the U.S. under U.S. laws then takes place in the host country (country of refuge). If the USCIS official determines that the individual(s) is qualified for resettlement in the U.S., a medical examination is then conducted to ensure that the refugee is free from any inadmissible condition that might prevent entry into the U.S. The names of those that passed the medical examination are then sent to the Refugee Processing Center in Arlington, VA. There, the names are distributed to the ten voluntary organizations (VOLAGS) in charge of resettlement within the U.S. to facilitate resettlement across U.S. cities. The number of refugees and persons with Special Immigrant visa (SIV) resettled in the U.S. from 2008-2012 is 322, 815 according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Majority of the refugees resettled in the U.S. over the past few years have come from Bhutan, Iraq, and Burma. This trend is likely to continue for Bhutan and Burma according to future forecast.
2008-2012 Refugee Resettlements in MA:
According to MA state website, 9,652 refugees have been resettled in Massachusetts from 2008 to 2012. The resettlement program is under the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS).The Refugee Act of 1980 gave persons admitted into the U.S. as a refugee some important rights that are not otherwise readily available to regular immigrants. Some of those rights includes: shelter, food, cash assistance for up to eight months, assistance finding first job, eligibility to become a U.S. resident (Green Card) after a year, and citizenship after five. These benefits are essential because many of the arriving refugees have no family ties in the United States. As such, they have no one else to turn to for support. These benefits are also vital because it help speed-up the path to self-sufficiency. To make all this possible, local VOLAG agencies in Massachusetts are in charge of administering these programs to newly arriving refugees for up to 90 days.
What I mean by this is that VOLAG employees make sure that newly arriving refugees receive a post medical screening, work authorization card (social security card), school enrollment for school age children and orientation with the public transportation system.
At the end of 90 days, refugees in need of further assistance are usually referred to other local nonprofit agencies in their area. These agencies are equipped with a diverse range of staff members (former refugees in some instances) of different nationality who then render further assistance. In Massachusetts for instance, this work has been headed by the Mutual Assistance Association (MAA) coalition.
MAA coalition comprises of eleven non-profit individual ethnic groups- (many) founded by former refugees that saw the need to form a coalition in order to increase their impact in the communities they serve. Today, with assistance from the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants (MORI), these groups provide ESL classes, assistance finding available community resources, civic classes etc. to immigrants (including non-refugees) with the idea of building respectable self-sufficient individuals within communities. BCCRD is a proud member of MAA coalition; and its founder, Dr. Adnan Zubcevic, is currently serving his second term as Chair of MAA coalition.
Refugee Case Manager:
The work of a refugee case manager is as diverse as the people they serve. A typical workday could range from interpreting letters for refugees, enrolment into English as Second Language (ESL) class, working to resolve issues with landlords, accompany clients to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) office, or help with translation at the doctor’s office.
Rendering these services entails empathy and the use of emotional intelligence. Because in many cases these individuals were completely independent at one point in their lives; as such, requesting assistance can cause anxiety and frustration for some. One reason, according to Dr. Zubcevic, is that “some refugees were doing quite well for themselves in their home country. The idea of going from being an executive director, doctor, teacher etc. to now working menial jobs with wages that can barely support one person, let alone an entire family of four (in some cases), can be very challenging.”
Understanding that refugees come from all works of life is a good start; because they range from doctors, professors, nurses, subsistence farmers, etc. or illiterate. Given this fact, assistance should be tailored on an individual basis to the extent possible. Understanding each client and designing a plan for success is what the “Intake Forms” are meant to do- at BCCRD, for instance. Based on the client’s response to the questions on the intake form, a plan to self-sufficiency is put in place. That may mean enrollment into ESL class, civic classes or help find ways to affordable living.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a great deal of emphasis on refugee self-sufficiency. The quicker refugees can become self-sufficient the better it is for all the stake holders. As a result, there is a constant push for refugees to become independent within the shortest amount of time- and rightly so. However, based on primary interviews of refugee case managers, the necessary tools to achieve self-sufficiency are abysmal.
One of the issues refugee case workers face is finding available resources, especially when it comes to developing language skills for resettled individuals. Case managers find it difficult to enroll adults into English classes because classes are scarce due to lack of adequate funding for such programs. Current wait time to enroll into an ESL class is about a year to a year and a half. This is a severe road block toward attaining self-sufficiency, because the ability to communicate is a must in order to become self-sufficient.
Working with refugees also means understanding who is a refugee and how refugees are resettled in the U.S. It also means becoming familiar with refugee rights and the challenges resettlement comes with. My understanding so far is that agencies task with providing assistance such as BCCRD for example, are in need of funding and a better allocation of resources on the federal and state level. Because attaining self-sufficiency requires the planting of seeds that would yield such fruits. In this case it might mean equipping refugees with language skills and other necessary skills that might lead to self-sufficiency and a sense of fulfillment. The U.S. is arguable willing to open its doors to refugees; we must also make sure that self-sufficiency is tangible and attainable to those willing to reach for it. And that means providing refugees the necessary tools at the very unset.
UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency. (2011-2013, Unknown Unknown). Retrieved June 18, 2013, from http://www.unhcr.org/pages/4a16b1676.html
Mutual Assistance Association Coalition. (2013, Unknown Unknown). Retrieved June 19, 2013, from MAA Coalition: http://www.krichevsky.com/maac-3/
Refugee Health Techinical Assistance Center. (2013, June 19). Retrieved June 19, 2013, from Refuge: http://refugeehealthta.org/files/2012/10/Proposed_Refugee_Admissions_FY13_Summary.pdf
BRYCE. (2013, Unknown). Refugee 101. Retrieved June 19, 2013, from Bryce.org: http://www.brycs.org/aboutRefugees/refugee101.cfm
Center, R. P. (2013, June 19). RPC. Retrieved June 19, 2013, from Refugee Processing Center: http://www.wrapsnet.org/WRAPS/Reports/AdmissionsArrivals/tabid/211/Default.aspx
Health, U. D. (2013, January 24). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services . Retrieved June 24, 2013, from 2012 Refugee Arrival: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/resource/fiscal-year-2012-refugee-arrivals
Irin. (2013, Unknown Unknown). Irin Humanitarian News and Analysis. Retrieved June 19, 2013, from irinnews .org: http://www.irinnews.org/indepthmain.aspx?InDepthId=16&ReportId=62482
Nellie Pierre, Intern Summer 2013
En 1492, Christophe Colomb quitta le port de Pallos, Espagne avec trois Caravelles, la Nina, la Pinta et la Santa Maria. Le 5 décembre 1492 il débarqua sur l’ile d’Haïti. Des Indiens y vivaient paisiblement. Assoiffés d’or, d’épices et de biens précieux, les espagnols réduisirent les Indiens en esclavage, qui mourraient par milliers. En 1503, les français la baptisent Saint-Domingue et font venir d’Afrique des noirs pour travailler les terres.
Durant plus de 300 ans l’esclavage régna à Saint-Domingue. En 1800, avec Toussaint Louverture, Jean Jacques Dessalines, Alexandre Pétion, Henry Christophe commence la lutte pour la liberté et l’émancipation des esclaves noirs. Le 1er janvier 1804 L’indépendance d’Haïti est proclamée. Haïti devint la première république noire indépendante.
Située au cœur de la Caraïbe, sa capitale est Port-au Prince, Haïti, pays tropical, a une superficie de 27750 kilomètres carrés et est divisé en 9 départements. Aujourd’hui, la population haïtienne est forte de 10 millions d’habitants dont plus de deux millions vivent à l’extérieur du territoire national (États-Unis, Canada, France, etc.).
En Haïti, le créole et le français sont les deux langues nationales. Les principales religions sont le vaudou, le catholicisme et le protestantisme. Le vaudou, bien plus qu’une religion, s’associe de près au vécu haïtien et a une incidence réelle sur l’imaginaire haïtien. Il joue un rôle important dans la médicine traditionnelle.
Haïti est connue au monde pour son art, son artisanat, sa littérature et sa musique. La peinture haïtienne (naïve et moderne) est l’un des motifs de fierté de l’île. Danser, chanter, rire, pleurer font partie de l’identité de l’Haïtien. Le carnaval est l’une des manifestations les plus populaires au pays. La cuisine haïtienne est aussi très appréciée. C’est l’une des meilleures de la Caraïbe : épicée, métissée et variée, elle offre des plats succulents : riz aux haricots, poulet créole, griot de porc, banane pesée, riz djondjon, tasso cabri, soupe au giraumont, etc.
Haïti, dite la perle des Antilles, a été, pour toutes ses raisons, jusqu’aux années 1950 un des grands sites touristiques de la Caraïbe. Les plages de sables, les maisons en dentelles de bois (Gingerbread) et la douceur de la vie ont contribué à faire de cette île une destination touristique de choix.
Mais avec la dictature de Duvalier (1957) et avec les catastrophes et violences à répétition, ouragans, déboisement, séisme, exode rural, le pays a connu un grand revers jusqu’à devenir le pays le plus pauvre des Amériques. Par ailleurs, plus de 80% des cerveaux haïtiens vivent a l’extérieur, la plupart en Amérique du Nord. En janvier 2010, un violent séisme a détruit le pays, plongeant dans le désespoir et la misère des milliers d’Haïtiens.
Malgré la fragilité de la vie et le dilemme de la coopération avec les pays étrangers, puisque les dons ne profitent qu’aux pays donateurs, Haïti lutte encore pour sa prise en main, et pour sortir dans la dépendance de plus en plus criante vis-à-vis de l’aide internationale. Une raison d’espérer est que l’art est encore présent dans l’île. Les Haïtiens refusent la fatalité. Les peintres, les musiciens, les écrivains… continuent à rêver d’un pays où il fait bon vivre.
In 1492, Columbus sailed from Pallos, Spain with three ships, the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. On December 5, 1492 he landed on the island of Haiti. Here, the natives lived peacefully. Thirst for gold, spices and precious goods, brought the Spanish to enslave the natives, who died by the thousands. In 1503, the French named it Saint-Domingue and began a slave trade from Africa to provide people to work the land.
For more than 300 years, slavery reigned in Santo Domingo. In 1800, with Toussaint Louverture, Jean Jacques Dessalines, Alexandre Petion, Henry Christophe began the struggle for freedom and emancipation of slaves. On January 1, 1804 independence of Haiti was proclaimed. Haiti became the first independent black republic.
Located in the heart of the Caribbean, its capital is Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a tropical country, has an area of 27,750 square kilometers and is divided into nine departments. Today, the Haitian population is composed of 10 million inhabitants, more than two million live outside the country (United States, Canada, France, etc..).
In Haiti, Creole and French are the two national languages. The main religions are voodoo, Catholicism and Protestantism. Voodoo, more than a religion, is associated closely to the experience of Haiti and has a real impact on the imagination of Haiti. It plays an important role in traditional medicine.
Haiti is world famous for its art, crafts, literature and music. Haitian painting (naive and modern) is of national pride. “Dance, Sing, Laugh, Cry” is a saying that is part of the identity of the Haitian people. Carnival is one of the country's most popular events. Haitian cuisine is also very appreciated. This is one of the best of the Caribbean: spicy mixed and varied, it offers succulent dishes: rice and beans, creole chicken, pork griot, banana weighing djondjon rice, goat tasso, giraumont soup, and many more delicious dishes!
Haiti, known as the Pearl of the Antilles, was for all these reasons, until the 1950s one of the major attractions of the Caribbean. The sandy beaches, houses lace wood and the sweetness of life have made the island a tourist destination.
But with the Duvalier dictatorship (1957) and disasters and repeated violence, hurricanes, deforestation, earthquake, rural exodus, the country was a great setback to become the poorest country in the Americas. In addition, more than 80% of Haitians live in the brain outside, mostly in North America. In January 2010, a massive earthquake destroyed the country, plunging into despair and misery of thousands of Haitians.
Despite the fragility of life and the dilemma of cooperation with foreign countries, as donations benefit the donor countries, Haiti is still struggling for its handling, and out into the dependence increasingly glaring screw- in relation to international aid. One reason for hope is that art is still present on the island. Haitians refuse fatality. Painters, musicians and writers continue to dream of a country where life is good.