Most of the children seen through the CHOP Refugee Program are from Bhutan, a Southeast Asian country located between India and China. The majority are specifically Lhotshampa, a Bhutanese ethnic group of Nepali descent that lived in southern Bhutan and accounted for between one-third and one-half of Bhutan’s population. The southern-Bhutanese speak Nepali and often dress in traditional Nepali clothing.
After being granted citizenship in 1958, some southern-Bhutanese rose to prominent positions in government. But not long after, the bureaucracy began to see these people as a threat to political order. As a result, a series of laws were passed in the 1980s and 90s that discriminated against their culture. When demonstrations against unfair regulations were met with torture and imprisonment, thousands fled the country.
About 105,000 southern-Bhutanese left the country for refugee camps in Nepal in 1991 and 1992. None have been allowed to return home. In 2007, the U.S. launched a program to help resettle at least 60,000 refugees. The southern-Bhutanese come here with the help of resettlement agencies, which are instrumental in helping them start a new life.
The CHOP Refugee Program works with three of the ten resettlement agencies to see southern-Bhutanese children who come to Philadelphia within the first 30 to 60 days of their time in the U.S. CHOP physicians perform physicals, give immunizations, and ensure the children will have no medical barriers to enrolling in school.
Learn more about Bhutanese refugees with these resources: