Interview for

Som Subedi

2/21/2022

Interviewed By:

Katherine Clifton

Date Interviewed:

Audio Recording of Interview
00:00 / 1:32:12
Summary

Som shared his experience coming to the United States as a refugee from Bhutan. He described his childhood in a refugee camp in Bhutan, his experience being resettled in Portland, and the work he does to support other refugees from around the world in his Portland community.

Transcript
Other Interviews

Other interviews of this person can be found below:

Additional Notes
Outline

Narrator: Som Subedi

Date: 2/21/22

Location: Portland, Oregon


Content Warning: Briefly discusses his work with suicide prevention.

Summary: Som shared his experience coming to the United States as a refugee from Bhutan. He described his childhood in a refugee camp in Bhutan, his experience being resettled in Portland, and the work he does to support other refugees from around the world in his Portland community.

Topics: Religion, Cultural adjustment, Entrepreneurship/Leadership


Outline

Section 1: (00:00-22:27)

  • Childhood - grew up in a refugee camp in Nepal after being forced out of Bhutan by the king; remembers not having enough food to eat, water to drink, or activities to do; would sleep on a mud bed that would be washed away if the rain was too hard; when he grew up, he became a soccer player, community organizer, and teacher; was very committed to giving back to his community

  • Religion - family was persecuted because they were Hindu and the Bhutanese king was Buddhist; doesn't identify strongly with a religion now because of the trauma related to being forced out of Bhutan

  • Sports - soccer was a huge part of his life in the refugee camp; he used to play with other Nepalese soccer players and it helped him gain a purpose; he shared that knowledge when he came to Portland and organized a soccer league for refugees from around the world

Section 2: (22:29-40:00)

  • Immigration process - community was one of the first ones to be resettled in the United States; didn't have a choice of where to go, but he's grateful to have landed in Portland; was vetted six times by various intelligence agencies and wants us to know that refugees are vetted more seriously than US politicians and Supreme Court justices; came in 2008 and struggled to find work; lots of cultural shock when he first came to the US

  • Employment/Service - was very involved in combatting the mental health crisis among resettled Bhutanese refugees; tried to organize culturally appropriate response measures; was committed more in serving his community than in investing in his future; took a job at a knife factory for a few months, then a medical part production company; eventually became a case manager with Lutheran community services and helped refugees being resettled in the US

  • Family - lived with his family in Portland; would share their incomes so they built a community together and were each able to buy houses

Section 3: (40:00-51:00)

  • Sports - organized World Cup soccer to involve different refugee communities in a shared activity; many communities would come watch and enjoy the matches

  • Leadership - organized a protest against the refugee ban that the Trump administration instituted in 2018; protest was the first one to ever happen at the Portland airport; was very involved in advocating for refugee rights and supporting his community; later in the year, Senator Jeff Merkley sent him a video message for his 10 year anniversary in the United States that they played before a crowd; his work has been covered by many major national and international news outlets

  • Cultural Adjustment - coming to the US was a very huge culture shock; case managers can help at first, but he needed to learn how to navigate America’s complicated bureaucratic system; needed to work on his English because people couldn't understand him through his accent

Section 4: (51:00-1:12:41)

  • Leadership - as a case manager for incoming refugees, he makes sure to reach out to their community to best meet their needs; he learns how to get them culturally appropriate food and to match them with people who speak their language; tries to promote cultural awareness for the people working with refugees upon their arrival to the US

  • Politics - wants to help resettle Afghan refugees; refugee resettlement agencies were really dysfunction under the Trump administration, and he's working to try to boost their capacity; also, a lot of the media made refugees look bad and he wants to disprove those myths

  • Religion - explained that religion plays a major role in refugee resettlement, but it doesn't coerce people to convert or change who they are; religion is behind many of the conflicts that lead to people becoming refugees; even though he isn't interested in religion, he respects other people who are involved and appreciates the help from faith communities

Section 5: (1:12:41-1:32:13)

  • Leadership - over the years, he's learned how to properly organize events and how to rally a community; has many wonderful mentors in his life who are always eager to support him; he's eager to support younger leaders as they too work to serve their communities

  • Family - tries to teach his kids to be grateful for what they have; wants them to know how hard the world can be and how lucky they are to have the opportunities they have;