My story – Charting your own course and destiny
I was born in a village called Lamidara, in Bhutan in the Himalayas. I am the 6th of the 13 children born to my parents Damanta and Durga Prasad Dhungel.
I studied Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) through a Bangladesh government scholarship and later trained in telecommunications in the USA and Japan. I started working in the Department of Telecommunications in the Government of Bhutan in 1987 and quickly rose through the ranks and became the head of Planning and Development Division.
When it was looking like a perfect career and building towards a very fulfilling and a happy life, my life turned upside down. Having seen the fate of my father who had earlier left the country after being arrested and tortured severely, I fled the country on 20 April 1992 for fear of arrest and torture leaving behind my wife, Saroja and our two and half year old daughter Smriti.
I spent the next six years volunteering in the Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal, mainly involved in advocacy work and education of refugee children. Among others, I was the Spokesman for the Bhutanese Coalition for Democratic Reforms (BCDR) and co-edited and published The Bhutan Review on behalf of the Human Rights Organisation of Bhutan (HUROB).
I came to Australia in 1998 and completed a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). The resource constraint that I faced to support my studies forced me to think outside the square and has resulted in one of my current workshop offerings:
‘RETHINK: Solving Problems by Breaking Them Into Smaller Parts”.
After 10 years of working at Telstra Corporation in my dream job I left in 2013 to pursue my passion in the social sector and commenced a role as the Chief Executive of SEVA International.
According to UNHCR, there were 19.5 million refugees worldwide at the end of 2014 of which 14.4 million under their mandate. A staggering 51% of refugees were under 18 years old. Whatever race, religion or ethnic background they are our precious children!
Those of us who had the opportunity to be resettled are the lucky ones. I see a huge responsibility and also consider it a privilege to be able to assist others once we are able to stand on our own. As a proud Australian now, I look forward to being an active participant in lending a ‘hand up’ and to actively assist and collaborate with those in need.
In Australia, as the Founding President and currently a senior Advisor of the Association of Bhutanese in Australia (ABA) Sydney, I have been able to follow the journey of fellow Bhutanese refugees since the resettlement began in 2008 by assisting them with smooth settlement in to the country. By adopting a ‘strength-based approach’ utilising the strengths and assets from within the community and collaborating with service providers to fill any gaps, the Bhutanese community in Sydney has achieved significantly with high level of education, employment and house ownership.
A Fellow and a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD), I have been very fortunate to be on the Boards of organisations such as Settlement Services International (SSI) and SydWest Multicultural Services and have the opportunity to observe and influence the settlement process from a service providers’ point of view. Both these organisations work on refugee and other humanitarian settlements in NSW in addition to offering other programs. I am also the inaugural Community Ambassador for MTC Australia, which offers Employment services, Training, Youth and Community related services nationally, where I was a long serving Board Member.
I am currently a Westpac Social Change Fellow working further on strength based approach to refugee settlement and community development including international experience. Having experienced the life of a refugee and seen stars rising from those refugee camps, I firmly believe that no matter where you grew up or what your past circumstances was, you can chose and work towards where you want to be in future
Through presentations, workshops and mentoring, I am keen to work with individuals and organisations to help them make their own track, not just follow the well-trodden path and ultimately chart their own course and destiny.
“Creating a paradigm shift – Moving from ‘What do we need’ to ‘What do we have’?”