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An Appeal to Help the Bhutanese Families, Victims of Tornado in MA.

VHPA has been working with the Bhutanese refugees in several parts of USA. As if it was not enough of a hardship to settle in a foreign land with no funds, no proper education, communication constraints, etc. some of these families got hit by the devastating tornado in Springfield, MA last week. Please see the appeal and details below and help generously. Vijay Dalal is a community activist who has been working with the Bhutanese refugees for last two years in that area.

Gaurang G. Vaishnav
(Blog Moderator)


The devastating tornadoes that hit the state of Massachusetts last Thursday caused Governor D. Patrick to declare a state of emergency.
But for the Bhutanese families who live in Springfield the tragedy was real!! The live, vivid account from Vijay Dalal Ji, who brought them over for the
HHD 2011 Cultural Program on May 21, explains the scope of this double tragedy with folks who were barely settling from a life disrupting move from Bhutan just a year ago.

We need help with:

1. Household items
2. Food items
3. Clothing
3. Funds …

Pease mail checks payable to VHPA (please write MA-Tornado Fund in the bottom) to:
(VHPA is a 501 (c)-3 charitable organization. Donations to VHPA are tax deductible)
Anit Gupta
15 Bryden Rd,
Southboro, MA, 01772

Any amount no matter how small would be welcome.

Hari Om!
Abhaya Asthana
General Secretary
VHP of America

From: Vijay Dalal
To: “Asthana, Abhaya (Abhaya)”
Sent: Sat, June 4, 2011 9:56:37 PM
Subject: Re: APPEAL – Please help Bhutanese families in Springfield MA hit by Tornado

Namaste everyone:

All Bhutanese victims of the tornado. are currently living in the Coburn School in West Springfield. Red Cross, Islamic Society of New England and local, state and national level church organizations are providing food and other essentials to them. Local school committee is arranging activities and helping them in their day to day stuff.

Today we went to the sites again. This time younger members of the families came with me. We were able to retrieve considerable amount of their belongings. It was dangerous to go into the debris but all of us took risk and secured many sentimental items and essential documents. Beenu Chhetri (Budhatoki) received his wallet full of social security cards, health cards, driver license etc. Adhikari family received essential documents, pictures, cameras, two computers, their TV. Pandit Khatiwada received his coats, gold chains, and we were able to get to a small closet where they kept cash and Nepali clothing. We secured two vans full of stuff from the collapsed houses. Many of these items have a tremendous sentimental value for them. The police gave us enough time to dig through and stopped us only when their boss came around.

In terms of their needs prioritized, at this time they would appreciate if dry Indian food items such as snacks (packets of Sev, dry samosa, Khari, Chakri etc) are sent to them. As I wrote before, the food provided is not ethnic for them and we don’t have any Indian food store close-by to request a donation. I heard the Islamic society priest inquiring about how many Muslims were living there, so I think (but I hope not) their help might stop soon as there are very few Burmese families living there.

If you are sending these food items, please mail them to Hari Khanal, 108 Commonwealth Ave, 3rd Floor, Springfield, MA 01108. Please write very clearly on the package that it is for the tornado victims. Hariji is one of the very trustworthy community leaders in Springfield. Today he and Indraji went door to door to all Springfield Bhutanese families and collected $20 donation from each family. They have collected $500 thus far.

I apologize for sending long email updates to you. We are isolated here, help from our community is absent here, and the gap is filled by other religious orders. I personally feel that it will be very hard for me to point a finger to them when they were the first and have remained consistent in helping my own people in crisis.

Thank you,
On Fri, Jun 3, 2011 at 9:34 PM, Vijay Dalal wrote:
Namaste everyone:

I spent a good part of my day with the West Springfield families today. I have also been talking with the Westfield and Springfield groups and they have begun visiting the West Springfield families. West Springfield families were initially sheltered in the Middle school and now they are transferred to Coburn school shelter in West Springfield. Pandit Adhikari was badly hurt, a piece of roof came down on his shoulder and his back was cut open and there are internal injuries. Kuber Adhikari also suffered back injuries. Several kids also suffered minor injuries. Red Cross is there and local volunteers are helping. The refugee resettlement agency, Lutheran, is useless, I had strong words with the social worker. They seem to be collecting data but no actual help provided yet.

All of their belongings are in their houses and as you can see, the houses are completely destroyed. The street to their house is closed for traffic. I talked to the West Springfield police and state troopers and took Kuberji and Khativada children to their house. The work crew and police officers were nice and they allowed us to dig through the rubble. I was able to climb up and retrieved some of their items. A desk was visible and we took out i-94, SS cards, medical information for Panditji family. We also retrieved purses, coats and some religious items including their traditional clothing. Kuberji lived on the 2nd floor and his living area was sandwiched so tight that no access was available. More police officers came there and asked us not to enter the property. I talked to the demolition contractor and they will allow us the go through the rubble when they start moving stuff around. For Kuberji and Bhudhatoki families, their identities are lost in those piles of debris.

Tomorrow, I will be taking few elderly family members from Westfield to visit the shelter. It has been tough for the elderly in the shelter to adapt to the living and the food provided to them. Springfield group has taken the responsibility to research and secure medication for the displaced families, as many of them are on prescription medication. Westfield group will try their best to provide food for the group. Lutheran has promised that they will actively search for living options for the families. Thus far, there has not been any state or federal aid. Their focus is on making the area safe and that will take some time.

It is a sad situation for these families. They did not have much to begin with, all they had was full of sentimental values. Panditji kept on asking about his prayer books which I could not find in the rubble. As days pass, we will find out what would be useful for them. One thing is for sure that monies collected will be highly appreciated. When the new housing is found, they will need security deposits and first month rent and they are on a very limited income. Dry Indian food items will also be highly welcomed. They are living on crackers, rice, beans and fruits provided by the Red Cross. More that the situation evolves, I will try my best to keep you updated.
Thank you,

On Fri, Jun 3, 2011 Vijay Dalal wrote:

Namaste everyone:

As you know, our area was struck by tornadoes yesterday. The area of West Springfield and Springfield were hit very hard and blocks of neighborhood are completely devastated. I supervise a foster care agency and my office is in Springfield. Fortunately the tornado passed approximately two blocks from my office and my agency’s foster families and children were spared from this devastation.

But, unfortunately, the same is not true for many of the Bhutanese families in West Springfield. A tornado swept through three blocks area in West Springfield and many of families live there. It tore down a three storied building on George Street and three of our families live there. Pandit Khativada who always comes and conducts our prayers has lost everything and along with his family, they are living in a temporary shelter. Kuber Adhikari and his family lived in the same building, and everything is destroyed. Kuberji’s mother is almost 80 years old, I brought her to the temple and HHD in my car, she was not found for two hours as she was scared and hiding in the rubble. The Budhtoki family and another Kshtriaya family living next door also lost everything and are in shelter at this time. I went to see them today but all roads were blocked. I am going again tomorrow and I will try to take some pictures to send to you. There are five families from West Springfield who are without home and lost all belongings. Is there something that could be done for them? If you help us collecting donation of monies, clothes, household stuff, I will come there to pick up everything and make sure that it is distributed to the affected families equally. Please let me know, any help is greatly appreciated.

Thank you,


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