At Lutheran Social Services, all our programs focus on giving people the support they need to become self-sufficient. In fact, some of our own staff members know firsthand what it’s like to be in the client’s shoes—like Govinda Gurung.
Govinda arrived in America seven years ago with his mother, two brothers, and not much else. They fled Bhutan during the ethnic cleansing of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck and, as so many refugees do, spent time in a refugee camp before the United Nations was able to resettle them.
Govinda and his family resided in a refugee camp in neighboring Nepal for several years. As in most camps, the living conditions were very difficult. Unlike many camps, however, theirs had a decent education system. Govinda, a teacher in his hometown before fleeing Bhutan, was lucky enough to find employment as an educator in the camp.
In 2011, the UN notified Govinda and his family that they were approved for resettlement, and that they were going to start a new life in the far off city of Jacksonville, Florida! Upon arrival, they were resettled by LSS’ fellow resettlement agency, World Relief. Govinda immediately focused on improving his English so he could find an entry-level job and start earning money.
Once he started working, Govinda saved up and purchased a car, which is very helpful in a city like Jacksonville, where public transportation can be difficult. One neighbor remembers how Govinda would go door to door asking his fellow refugees if they needed rides to medical appointments, English classes, or the grocery store. If they did, he quickly told them that he would be glad to take them for only five dollars!
Govinda continued to work hard and improve his English skills. Eventually, he took a job at Lutheran Social Services as a resettlement case manager, helping newly arrived refugees the same way he had been helped when he first arrived in the U.S. His own experiences as a refugee plus the organizational and people skills he had developed as a teacher made him a very effective case manager. In addition, he became a certified tax preparer for H&R Block, yet another way to be help refugees in their new country. Eventually, Govinda became a U.S. citizen as well.
After joining the LSS family, Govinda grew his own family—he married Pat, a fellow refugee from Bhutan who had found stability here in America as a CNA. This past year they welcomed their firstborn, Rowan. Though both Govinda and Pat had begun to settle down in Jacksonville, the rest of their families had not. With their little boy in mind, they made the decision to move out of state to be closer to family.
Govinda did research to learn as much as he could about his future hometown in New York. When he learned there was a community need for elder home care, he realized that he and his wife’s combined skills in healthcare and management made them the perfect team to start their own elder care business. With the investment of a family member, they did just that.
Govinda’s story is inspiring, but not unique. He was brought to this country not by his own free will, but to escape persecution. Yet, because of the freedom in this great country, he was given an opportunity to find success—and helped others to do the same. That is, after all, the “American dream.”