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Story by Franklin Hamilton. Photos by Susan Brown.

Richmond’s First Baptist Church assists in the resettlement of Bhutanese refugees.

calloutI first became involved with Richmond’s Bhutanese American community by helping them with job searches. Their response was always to invite me into their homes for conversation and food, because they so highly value hospitality. That became my impetus to introduce these recent immigrants to more of their new culture.

A Day at the BeachFirst, I invited some of the New Americans to a Thanksgiving dinner at my house. Next we had a day of window shopping, pizza and a movie at the Byrd Theatre in Carytown. Other outings included the Metro Richmond Zoo and Halloween “trick or treating” in Carytown.

Then I thought about my childhood time at the ocean and wanted to share that magical experience with the New Americans. In August, Siyano Prach, FBC’s Refugee Outreach Worker, and I organized our second annual trip to Virginia Beach for more than 40 Bhutanese Americans. While they had encountered many facets of American culture, until last year, none of them had been to the beach.

Although most could not swim, the New Americans mA Day at the Beachade a beeline for the surf. Sellina Limby and Smrit Roi said they “liked the taste of salt on the water foam.” With total joy and abandon, the children body surfed, buried each other in the sand, and made sand castles. Deepan Rimal, Shara Mangar and Bibas Gurung declared the trip “was more fun this year because there were more children” and they had learned to swim since the last trip.

A Day at the BeachThe parents did what all American parents do. They enjoyed the water, watched over their children, sat on the sand and chatted, made sure everyone had enough to eat – fragrant rice, curry chicken and homemade humus and pita bread, and thought about next year’s trip to the beach.

Om Adhikari told me about another kind of trip he is planning. He wants to go back to the refugee camp in Nepal where there are family members afraid to come to America because they don’t understand the culture here. Om plans to tell them about his life and that of others on the beach that day. He wants to give these people courage. Maybe he should tell them about Sangay and Thinley Dorji who thought “we saw a whale and were scared but then they showed us that it was a porpoise and we laughed.” These New Americans have learned that fears are more easily overcome when they’re faced in a community of family and friends.

A Day at the Beach

Editor’s note: If you want to introduce New Americans to a cultural experience, call Franklin to help you get started (938 4264). Find more information on the Bhutanese at http://www.bhutaneserefugees.com/.

See related story: Green, Not Concrete


Franklin Hamilton

Franklin Hamilton is a third-generation member of First Baptist. As a father of five children and grandfather to three he is always active in their lives. He has a passion for the active and contemplative dimension of spiritual development in everyday life. He enjoys reading, and all outdoor activities including sailing on his new “old” sail boat. Franklin is a real estate broker with Hamilton Realty and Development. He and his wife, Linda, live in Carytown in a 110-year-old house with their two teenage daughters and a menagerie of pets.

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