When I was 7 years old, we had to leave Bhutan because the government kicked out all the people of Nepalese origin. But in Nepal we were not considered citizens either so we had to live in a refugee camp. I lived there for 20 years. It was a very hard life. Nothing was good. We lived in a hut with no protection from the rain and they gave us only 5 kg of rice, vegetables and dahl fortnightly. It wasn’t enough but it was hard to get more food, so we were always hungry.

When I was 12, I was forced to get married. At that moment, I was very sad. It is not normal in the refugee camp for girls to get married so young, but my mother passed away when I was a baby, and so my father had to take care of three girls and a boy. He thought my ex-husband was a good man and would take care of me. But it turned out to be a bit different. After I had my two daughters, he left me and married someone else.

Because I got married so young, I didn’t go to school in the refugee camp, so I couldn’t speak any English when I arrived in Australia. Although someone met us at the airport, I couldn’t understand a word they were saying, and everything felt very strange and scary. But when they took us to Albury, I spoke with a Nepalese interpreter and met some other Bhutanese families, and after that I started to feel more normal.

We are all happy now. At first my girls were crying about going to school because they couldn’t speak English, but now they love it! And I went to the Adult Migrant English Program, which I really liked because as well as learning the language, I made friends with people from many different countries. Best of all, we are no longer alone here. I was the first to arrive, but now all my family are here with me in Albury too.

Australia feels like home to me. I would like to thank everyone, the people of Australia and the Australian government for accepting me, and I would like to welcome all refugees who are here from around the world.

Arrived 2008

Photographer: In 2 Photography – Photography by Kerry Devereaux

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