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DOING GOOD

The Doing Good blog follows area charities and social service agencies.

About Amy Umble: Amy Umble writes about religion and social issues affecting the Fredericksburg community. You can email her at aumble@freelancestar.com.

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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Happy Fourth of July! Today’s package on Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness was designed to be a quick, easy read–for those of you rushing to holiday plans.  And the design needed to be fairly uniform. But there were a few more details that I thought would be good to share:

First, for the liberty portion, I interviewed refugee Bhim Dahal. His father and grandfather were Bhutanese citizens, but by the early 1990′s, their Nepalese heritage was becoming an issue. They and hundreds of thousands of other Bhutanese citizens of Nepalese descent fled the country. Nepal did not recognize these people as citizens, and they lived in refugee camps for years. In October, Dahal and his wife resettled in Fredericksburg.

The issues of Bhutanese refugees has not received a lot of attention, and for those unfamiliar with the situation, here’s a site that walks you through life in a camp, provides a timeline of the issue and more. It also gives you images and words from the children in these camps.

Also, from Dahal’s interview, a few things struck me. First, he is 29 but has never been a citizen of any country. In five years, he can apply for American citizenship.  “I have a hope now,” Dahal said. “The five years will come very soon.”

I also loved his quote contrasting life in a refugee camp to life in America. It echoes a sentiment I hear often when interviewing refugees, and it makes me so grateful to live here. So I thought it would be appropriate to share on the day we celebrate America:

“If you are living there, you have no hope, you are hopeless. You are citizenless, you are homeless. We thought, if we come here, we will have a better future. When I was there, I had no hope to sustain me. When I came here, I got free from that, and I have a little hope to sustain.”

On a somewhat lighter note, I also loved interviewing Ellyn Hartzler. As a homeless prevention specialist, she’s someone I see on my beat quite regularly–and at the farmer’s market when I’m not working. Hartzler is a tireless advocate and knows the services and the system inside and out. She’s amazing to see in action. She talked about finding happiness from helping people. But I know that sometimes, you can’t help. So I asked her about those moments, and I loved her reply,

“Even when I can’t help, the exchange helps, even if I’ve just listened, it helps people.”

She then continued:

“My grandfather was a great man, and he would always ask, ‘Where’s the lesson, girly?’ And I ask myself that all the time, ‘What’s the lesson?’ And sometimes, the lesson is that I get a kick out of doing this.”

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/doinggood/2010/07/04/1265645129/