Roshika Bhattarai traveled to her native country Nepal during a study abroad program. The experience shocked and inspired her.
Roshika Bhattarai traveled to her native country Nepal during a study abroad program. The experience shocked and inspired her. Photo: Bryce Mysona

Roshika Bhattarai wants to eliminate hurdles many immigrants face

Organizing an art event proved to be a successful first step

By Carole Johnson, university news and communications

A volunteer's story: Transcript available.

Miami University’s Roshika Bhattarai gets it. The anxiety many immigrants face when moving to a new city, in a new country, with a new language. She’s lived it.

The third-year, premedical studies co-major and medical laboratory science major came to the United States from Nepal with her family when she was 9. Grateful that her family had the perseverance to succeed in their new Colerain Township home, Bhattarai wanted to help others.

She volunteers with the Bhutanese Community of Cincinnati, a three-year-old organization that connects immigrants to resources in Southwest Ohio and promotes their language and culture.

In Cincinnati alone, there are 15,000 Bhutanese deported from Bhutan. Many of them stayed in refugee camps in Nepal before coming to the United States through the UN Refugee Agency. Many are illiterate.

Art empowers through expression

Fluent in Nepali, Bhattarai helped families apply for green cards and citizenship. The elders, whose questions led her to want to share her journey, inspired her to spearhead an art event. “Empowering through Expression of Art,”
held this past summer, encouraged cultural preservation and emphasized education.

Roshika Bhattarai volunteering with a group of Bhutanese children in Cincinnati

As a volunteer for the Bhutanese Community of Cincinnati, Roshika Bhattarai (in the yellow shirt) knew that art would be a great way to reach out. (Photo courtesy of Roshika Bhattarai)

The event focused on education and the steps their children need to take to be successful in the United States, such as tips on applying to college. About 50 children and their parents explored their goals for the future and addressed hurdles they may face along the way.

“I took the initiative to organize this art event to inform them about the opportunities that lie ahead,” Bhattarai said.

She received funding from Target, Walmart and other local businesses, including those owned by members of the Nepali community.

“I wanted this to also focus on the art aspect, because I think it's important to let them know that it can be fun and educational at the same time,” she said. “It was very emotional to see the kids happy and playing with each other. It gave me so much joy,” she said.

Trip back to Nepal opens her heart

Bhattarai is planning more events in Cincinnati, but someday, she would like to work to help the people of Nepal, still suffering from the aftereffects of the deadly earthquake in 2015.

This past winter, Bhattarai traveled to Nepal with one of Miami’s study abroad programs led my Mark Walsh, associate professor of kinesiology and health. What she saw shocked her.

“There were amazing views, but I also saw the bad side: starvation, citizens not getting enough treatment for health issues,” she said.

Presenting during Miami’s Undergraduate Research Forum this past spring, Bhattarai described the devastation that still exists in Nepal. To her it appeared that even basics needs — proper housing, water, food — were not being met. She is concerned that the children are not able to get proper vaccinations.

“My perception of the world changed when I saw this. I want to go back and help them. Rejuvenate their souls,” she said.

She hopes to return with Walsh’s program to Nepal. In the meantime, along with her studies, she works with Anna Kay Radke, assistant professor and director of the Reward and Addictive Disorders Lab. This semester, Bhattarai is studying the inner workings of the brain.

On her mind now is a family she learned about in the Bhutanese Cincinnati community that could use some help dealing with some “hurdles.” She’s already on it, reaching out to others who can provide support.

Group shot of participants in the Art program

“Empowering through Expression of Art,” held this past summer for the Bhutanese community in Cincinnati, encouraged cultural preservation and emphasized education. (Photo courtesy of Roshika Bhattarai)