Sunday, May 21, 2017

Nepali Association of Oregon: Pioneering Organization of Nepalese Community in Oregon

By Dr Rabin Man Shakya

When Nepali Association of Oregon shortly known as NAO was launched in the fall of 2000 A.D., the total number of the Nepalese people in Oregon was not more than 150 people. 

Therefore the establishment of NAO 17 years ago in Portland was a landmark event in the chronicles of Nepalese diaspora in Oregon. 

The founder president of NAO is Raju Mali, whereas Kush Shrestha, Anupama Shrestha, and Darshan Rauniyar are the founder vice president, founder secretary and founder treasurer. Likewise, Bal Joshi, Daya Shakya, Girish Ghimire, Purna Ranjitkar and Urmila Mali are the founding members of NAO. 

Nepali community members at a New Year's Party. 
Ganga Sharma, immediate past president of NAO addressing a function in Portland.
Quintessentially, NAO is a community organization which champions the cause of preserving Nepali cultural heritage among Nepali people, strengthening community bonds and fellowships in the Nepali community in Oregon, promoting Nepal and Nepali causes in the local community, helping Nepali people in Oregon in the time of need and difficulties. 

NAO also aims to help people in Nepal through a monetary as well as in-kind grants. Likewise, NAO also raises, receives and manages funds, charities and donations to carry out the humanitarian causes directly or in cooperation with other organizations. 

NAO is the oldest Nepali community organization in Oregon, and herein lies its historical significance. Just as significantly, however, the 17 - year history of NAO mirrors the trajectory of activities and vicissitudes of a community organization dedicated to the cause of Nepalese people in Oregon. 

No doubt, NAO has developed into a formidable and resilient community organization of Nepalese people in Oregon. New immigrants coming to Oregon from Nepal find it hard to assimilate into American culture and way of living. Cultural assimilation is very important   for the new immigrants and NAO is always lending a helping hand to the newcomers. 

Above all, NAO's efforts and endeavors for fundraising for Nepal's earthquake relief in 2015 was especially noteworthy and commendable. 

NAO has been carrying out a lot of community activities for the benefit of the Nepalese residing in Oregon. For example, a conference of Nepalese in West Americas was organized by NAO in September 2016. Similarly, NAO has been organizing Nepalese movie shows in Portland. Furthermore, NAO continues to host community events to mark the Bikram Sambat New Year, the Bijaya Dashami festival and the summer picnic. 

It's a good thing that NAO is a non-political, non-partisan, and non-profit social, cultural and educational organization. This is more important at a time when a number of Nepalese community organizations in the United States have been contracted by the viruses of political maneuvers, internal bickering and infighting. 

It goes without saying that tens of thousands of Nepalese have made the US their new home. People of Nepalese origin have been living in Portland, Hillsboro, Beaverton, Salem, Corvallis, Eugene, Ashland, Bend, Medford, Grants Pass, and some other cities in Oregon. 

President of NAO Bharat Banskota says: "Geographically, Oregon and Nepal have lots of similarities. Oregon just like Nepal has lots of mountainous areas. The Nepalese can easily bear the winter and summer in Oregon. That is why a lot of Nepalese are pouring into Oregon from other US states." 

"In a small city of Medford, there are six Nepalese doctors working at local hospitals while two Nepalese doctors are also working at a hospital in Grants Pass. 50 Nepalese engineers are working at the Intel office in Portland alone," adds Banskota.  

Banskota went on to say, "The number of people in our community was 400 just 10 years ago, but today that number has surged to more than 800 people." 

That is less than surprising given that global migration is on the rise and also that people are coming to the US through DV lottery. 

There is also no denying the fact that the Nepalese people make up only a small number of Oregon's immigrant population. But, with various Nepalese activities of different community organizations, including that of NAO, Nepalese people's comparatively low demographic presence has  already been felt stronger and more effective in Oregon. 

The role played by NAO in the everyday lives of Nepalese in Oregon is incredible. NAO as the first community organization of the Nepalese in Oregon to cater to the social, cultural and educational needs felt by the Nepalese across Oregon has a tremendous task ahead. 

*Also please read: (1) Nepalese Community Organizations in Oregon: A Short Glimpse and (2) Nepali Association of Oregon Organizes Conference of Nepalese in West Americas.

**Dr Shakya, a Portland based writer, is former assistant editor at the RSS, former associate editor at The Rising Nepal and former lecturer of journalism at the Peoples Campus. He is also advisor of Nepa Chhen, a Portland based non-profit and Education Director of NRN-NCC-USA Oregon Chapter.