Chandra doesn’t remember much of her life in Bhutan. When she was young, the country was thrown into turmoil from what was described as a systematic “ethnic cleansing,” and Chandra’s family fled to Nepal.
“We spent almost 20 years in a refugee camp in Nepal,” Chandra says. “There was no electricity, there was a struggle for food. You had your roof dripping on you in the middle of the night. The only good thing about the camp was that we got to go to school.”
Chandra always had a passion for helping family and friends, so she spent her time in the camp studying to become a medical lab assistant. She had just finished college when she resettled to the Des Moines area.
“I was in the process of finding a job. But the system in Nepal is different than in the U.S., so I felt like I needed to go back to college and get more education,” Chandra says.
That’s when she began working with LSI’s Refugee Community Services. The team helped her find college programming in medical assistance, and her family participated in LSI’s English as a Second Language classes.
Now 28, Chandra is finding a way to give back to her new community. She works as a lab assistant in the Mercy Pediatric Clinic in Des Moines.
“I like helping kids. I can help them feel a little better,” she says. “I can get a little smile on their face, and that makes me happy too.”
Chandra says she is grateful for the help and support she received from LSI when she first came to Des Moines. From ESL classes to simple words of encouragement, Chandra says her family felt empowered by the resources and services provided to them.
“We feel Des Moines will be our permanent home. The U.S. is a place of opportunity. When I moved to Des Moines, I felt that,” Chandra says. “It’s a place to grow, and I grew myself. I can see that in myself, and my family, and my community.”