Refugee’s story offers hope to survivors of trauma

Ambika Kharel (centre) with her children, their partners and grandchildren (The Southern Cross)

A Bhutanese woman who spent 18 years in refugee camps in Nepal before being resettled in Australia has shared her experience to provide hope to other survivors of trauma. Source: The Southern Cross.

Ambika Kharel last month released a short booklet, Butterfly, which recounts her life growing up with 14 siblings in Bhutan and then being forced to flee the country with her late husband and young family due to political unrest. It describes the trauma and hardship of living in two refugee camps in Nepal and the toll it took on her family.

Launched at Sophia – a centre established in Adelaide by the Holy Cross Congregation of Dominican Sisters South Australia in 1991 – the book’s title reflects the many transformations Ambika has undertaken in her life.

“In the beginning my family were altogether; we were united and strong. Now we are scattered all over the world like butterflies that have flown in different directions,” she writes in the foreword.

Through Butterfly, Ms Kharel tells of the heartbreak at losing her husband, Ganga Kharel, murdered for the wages he’d saved while working in a mine in India, and the tragic death of her two-year-old son due to the terrible conditions in the refugee camp.

In 2008, when her application to resettle in Australia was approved, Ms Kharel said her joy was tinged with great sadness as her oldest daughter chose to remain in Nepal.

Today, she lives in Adelaide with her adult children and grandchildren.

Dominican Sister Maureen O’Connell, who has supported Ms Kharel and her family for many years, said Sophia had been providing English classes for refugee women for the past 20 years.


Refugee’s story offers hope (By Lindy McNamara, The Southern Cross

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