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Former refugees in memory mode

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 12:29 19/06/2014
Bhutanese refugees
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ
REFLECTION: Former Bhutanese refugees Govinda Regmi, left, and Netra Sharma at the Nelson Multicultural Centre.

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World Refugee Day is a time of reflection on their former countries, their new homes and hopes for the future, say former refugees in Nelson.

Tomorrow is the 14th international United Nations World Refugee Day.

Bhutanese Society of Nelson president Govinda Regmi said at this time of year, he reflected on where he had come from and what life was like in New Zealand.

Regmi, who has lived in Nelson for 3 years, said he worked to unite and represent the 160 Bhutanese living in Nelson and build relationships with other groups and communities.

The chairman of the newly formed Nelson Refugee Forum, Netra Prasad Sharma, also from Bhutan, looked back and to the future.

"We spent a long life in camps, that should not be forgotten," Sharma said.

He said he felt welcome in Nelson and the support refugees got when they came helped them to settle and create futures, and were free to practise their culture.

"We have had a lot of force behind us in the community, making us strong."

He praised the support of Settling In and the Red Cross Refugee Services.

He helped to organise programmes and events for the Bhutanese people here to keep their culture alive.

While World Refugee Day is tomorrow, this Monday, Regmi and Sharma would be celebrating their culture by screening a documentary about former Bhutanese refugees.

As a Red Cross Refugee Services fundraiser, the film, Memories of Bhutan, features six elders from Bhutan who describe what life was like there, before they were forced to flee to New Zealand. The six had all originally been placed in Nelson.

They were older and so had experienced life outside of refugee camps, whereas many younger refugees from Bhutan had not.

Regmi said the film would be good for younger generations to see where they had come from, as well as the wider public to understand their home country better.

Both men are part of the Nelson Refugee Forum, which had just been formalised in time for World Refugee Day.

It represented seven different refugee communities in Nelson - Burmese, Khmer, Afghani, Chin, Zomi, Kayan and Bhutanese Nepali.

Former Settling In Nelson relationship manager Claire Nicholls had worked for years to get the former refugees to take ownership of the forum.

"It's now about them owning it themselves and seeing the value in a forum."

Tickets for the Red Cross Refugee Services fundraiser Memories of Bhutan are $15, available from the Red Cross office at level one, 132 Bridge St. The film will be screened at 5.30pm on Monday. .

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- The Nelson Mail

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