Members of the TCU Refugee Empowerment Partnership are hoping to help refugees pass their American citizenship test and bring speakers to campus to inform students about refugees. (Elizabeth Campbell TCU 360).

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Tek Ghimire spent most of his life in a camp in war-torn Nepal before coming to Texas as a refugee around four years ago.

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The Ghimire’s village in Nepal. (Photo courtesy of Tek Ghimire.)

Today he and his brother, Action Ghimire, are both sophomore computer science majors at TCU.

“Our family was like yours; we had a farm, we had a house, we had a country, but war broke out,” Tek said. “We didn’t choose to be refugees, it was impossible for my family to stay in that place.”

Action called the camp they grew up in,“a prison.”

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The Ghimire brothers in Nepal. (Photo courtesy of Tek Ghimire.)

“We couldn’t leave the camp and we couldn’t work in the camp,” Action said. “We were jobless and hopeless.”

Tek said his parents decided to move to the United States in order to give their family a better life.

“I was so excited when I heard I was going to be going to the America because I had only heard about a story that all the big buildings were going to be there and everyone would be driving cars,” Tek said. “I had seen Terminator and you know when they blast the whole building? I was so excited to be here.”

The excitement remained, but the brothers said that adjusting to a new life in America was not without challenges. Both said that learning English was the hardest part of the transition. Action also said that the different food and clothes were a surprise. 

“Everything was different,” Action said. “It was tough for me to adjust at first.”

Tek and Action had help, though. They both credit their time at the International Newcomers Academy, a Fort Worth Independent School District school focused on fostering rapid language learning and orienting students to U.S. culture. The school helped them adjust and realize they were not alone.

“That school is a great part of my life,” Tek said. “It was mostly international students, so seeing them and figuring out I’m not the only one who is going through that thing, that kept me going.”

The support Tek said he felt from his teachers and Catholic Charities was a “big help” and inspired him to start the Refugee Empowerment Partnership (REP) on TCU’s campus.

“We just want to make things smooth for refugees,” Tek said.

Tek is joined by his fellow students, including sophomore finance major Sam Witherspoon who is helping REP receive their service organization designation from TCU. Witherspoon is also helping to plan trips for the group to the Ladera Palms apartments, which according to Fort Worth non-profit The Net, is “populated primarily by resettled refugees from all over the world.”

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TCU students, including Tek Ghimire, volunteer with children at Ladera Palms. (Photo courtesy of Myrah Osmani)

“Refugees are really just normal people who have been put in extremely difficult circumstances,” Witherspoon said. “It’s really just important for us to understand that and to help from our position of privilege.”

Witherspoon said the group would be helping teach English to adults at Ladera in order to help them pass their citizenship test.

“Citizenship tests for this country are pretty intense,” Tek said. “I struggled with it, so I just want to help them achieve that goal.”

Senior news and media studies major Myrah Osmani said her work with refugees sophomore year as part of a service learning class inspired her to get an internship with the Refugee Services of Texas and join the REP.

“It’s a very humbling experience, I mean I think finals are hard,” Osmani said. “These people have gone through so much and one of the families I’ve been working with, they had a newborn baby and their plane almost crashed in the ocean. It just makes you realize how grateful you should be for the life you live here in America.”

Tek said that in addition to helping refugees transition, he is also hoping to change the current stigma many refugees face.

“Right now people have the connotation of the word terrorist with refugee,” Tek said. “They believe that all refugees are terrorists which is not true at all. I want people to know refugees better. Come and have a conversation with me, it helps.”  

The group has yet to set an official date for their first open meeting but Tek said that students should watch what2do.tcu.edu for more information on upcoming events.