Bhutanese Refugee Portraits

Hira Darjee, 30, sits outside his hut in Beldangi, one of two remaining Bhutanese refugee camps in eastern Nepal. His family—mother, father and two brothers, already live in Pittsburgh. Hira and his wife, Momta, have applied for third-country resettlement and are waiting. Hira was 6 when he left Bhutan. Unlike the adults who remember it as a traumatic experience, he recalls his excitement when the big trucks came into his remote village to expel them. "I had never been in a truck before," he said. Image by Julia Rendleman. Nepal, 2014.

From left, sisters Bhim Maya Poudyel, 30, holding her son Prashant, Sapuna Bhattarai, 12, Hari Bhattarai, 22, and Dilu Bhattarai, 25, stand outside a family friend's house during a Hindu wedding celebration in Carrick, PA in May. Bhim came to Pittsburgh in 2011. Her sisters arrived in 2008. Image by Julia Rendleman. Pennsylvania, USA, 2014.

Chandra Khadka and his wife, Januki Bhattari, both 19, sit outside their hut on a hot day in early July. This young expectant couple will arrive in Pittsburgh, likely before the year is out. "My mother told me to stay safe and come to the USA soon. I replied that it's not in my hands, so don't worry if I'm late," he said. Image by Julia Rendleman. Nepal, 2014.

Family matriarch Bishnu Maya Poudel, 68, and members of her family found refuge in Pittsburgh on August 3, 2011, after living in the refugee camps for nearly two decades. She lives with her son, Kul Poudel, and his young family in Carrick, but tears come to her eyes when she thinks of her daughter, Surja Maya. Surja remains in the camps—her process complicated by her son, Ganga Khanal, who has struggled with alcoholism. Image by Julia Rendleman. Pennsylvania, USA, 2014.

Purnawati Timsina, 81, has no desire to be resettled in a third country or leave the Sanischare refugee camp. "All my beloved died here and I will die here too," she said. Image by Julia Rendleman. Nepal, 2014.

Hari Maya Baswa, 30, and her son Rojan, 1, sit outside her hut in early July. She recently applied for third-country resettlement after being counseled that the application period was closing for good on June 30, 2014. Her case is complicated by the fact that she is the second wife of an Indian man, whom she married at age 13. She admits her alcohol addiction has also affected her ability and motivation to leave. Image by Julia Rendleman. Nepal, 2014.

Dhan Darjee, 22, stands on the Roberto Clemente Bridge during while taking a walking tour of downtown Pittsburgh with friends in August. Dhan lives in the Pittsburgh area with his mother and father. An older brother lives nearby but his brother Hira remains in the refugee camp with his wife. "Seeing his photo makes me miss him, yeah, but, what can I do? Wait and see what the future has," he said. Image by Julia Rendleman. Pennsylvania, USA, 2014.

Khagendra Prasad Timsina, 54, is a Hindu priest. He represents an older generation that is apprehensive about third-country resettlement. "We don't have any skill of working because we haven't worked for 20 years plus. We don't have the language, so what [will we] do there," he said. He also worries that a move to America would mean closing the door on ever returning to Bhutan or seeing his family there. "It's finished after going to the US...I don't know when we (my family) would meet again.” Image by Julia Rendleman. Nepal, 2014.

Kamala Biswa, 19, sits in her neighbor's home in Bildangi II, one of the remaining Bhutanese refugee camps in eastern Nepal, near the Indian border. Kamala, a shy girl, is immigrating to Akron, Ohio. Image by Julia Rendleman. Nepal, 2014.

These portraits introduce us to some of the Bhutanese refugees who have immigrated to Pittsburgh and to their family members who are waiting in the camps in Nepal to be resettled. A few tell the stories of people who either do not want to leave Nepal for “third countries” or have little chance of immigrating due to personal circumstances. The application period for third-country resettlement closed at the end of June 2014 and although most remaining refugees applied, over a thousand did not. We wonder what will become of them when everyone else is gone, where they might go when camps are closed.