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NASO End of Summer Picnic

बिराट नेपाल

From Feast to Focus Group:  Breaking Bread and New Ground
By Mark Gorkin, LICSW

Once again the weather spirits were smiling on the Greater Washington, DC Nepali community.  At beautiful Sandy Point State Park, in Annapolis, MD, overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, with a beach as well as grassy lawns for lounging and play, NASO held their annual picnic.  And again, the assistance of community leaders and volunteers made the Be Well Initiative feel graciously welcomed.  Talking with familiar members and meeting new folks all added to the spirit of camaraderie.

Early on we began to distribute the wellness surveys, and by late afternoon had a fairly good return.  One of the BWI team, Anshu Basnyat, sat with some of the women, and would answer any survey-related questions.  After a while, with initial guidance, she found the women to be more comfortable and capable of filling out the surveys on their own.  In general, this might be a good engagement strategy for anyone who seems hesitant about the survey.  Of course, survey-taking is always optional.

From Feast to Focus Group
In addition to the fabulous feast (based on this writer’s second picnic, no surprise; the grilled Tandoori Chicken is still my favorite, but the Goat dish was right up there), there was, in fact, a very moving development.  Today, we held our first Be Well “Focus Group.”  We invited people to sit under our canopy and to talk about their thoughts of personal and community health and wellness, to acknowledge the challenges and stressors of pursuing the “American Dream” in a new homeland away from home.  Much of the discussion/sharing was in Nepalese; with Anshu providing English summarization as needed.
We started with three community members in addition to the wellness team, which included doctoral student, Rupsha Singh, Anshu Basnyat, and Mark Gorkin.  Most surprising and welcome was that the Focus Group lasted for almost an hour; by the end nine community members were in attendance, most participating.

Specific Focus Group Issues
Very quickly we began to clarify some of the differences between mental health and mental illness.  In addition to the broad subject of migration stress, as people gradually became more comfortable voicing their thoughts, specific issues were brought up, such as drinking problems and even suicide. The need to recognize both strengths and vulnerabilities of some cultural practices was acknowledged.  Factors such as:

a) indirect or passive communication,
b) difficulty finding words to express one’s emotional state,
c) too often basing decisions on assumptions,
d) not questioning an authority figure or feeling it’s not safe to speak up,
e) always preserving harmony when you may be feeling frustrated,
f) navigating cultural values in a new homeland, and 
g) the issue of language barriers were raised.

Language barriers included not knowing how and with whom to ask specific resource questions; and, in general, feeling uncertain where to go for help.  In fact, one participant was given some specific suggestions re: seeking help by the group.  Another member shared how upon arriving in this country, he received support from fellow Nepalis (countrymen he had not previously known). Overall, the group emphasized the importance of strengthening community solidarity and support within the Nepali Collective.
In addition, this writer noted that an umbrella organization and structure to identify and coordinate the various and existing (or needed) community resources and services – a Nepali Regional Resource Center (NRRC) – for the Greater Washington area made great sense.

Finally, there was some interest in having a follow-up wellness group even with a nominal fee.
For Further Reflection:

1) Upcoming Nepali Holiday Social Functions provide an opportunity for the Be Well Initiative to further engage with the community
2) Several individuals suggested that the organization sponsoring the community event, the one that has invited the Be Well team to participate, such as NASO, should send out an announcement beforehand explaining the Be Well Initiative presence, role, and planned activities, e.g., survey, focus groups, availability for free, formal or informal discussion/consultation, etc.  This would enhance awareness and further BWI transparency and credibility
3) Explore ways that groups like NASO could be educational platforms for providing information about health-related resources and other immigrant relocation/stress issues.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Be Well Initiative is a grassroots effort led by Dr. Damber Kumar (DK) Gurung, Public Health Program Convenor in partnership with Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW. In addition to collecting survey data, BWI goals are: to start individual, family, and community conversations about Mind-Body Health and to connect or develop health, wellness, and daily living resources impacting the quality of life in our diverse Nepalese community.
 
The research is led by Dr. Surendra Bir Adhikari, Mental Health Administrator of the Ohio Mental Health & Addiction Services. The survey results will be shared with federal agencies such as SAMHSA that are concerned about the health and wellness of all Americans.

[Anshu Basnyat, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), provided invaluable input for this Be Well Initiative feature.  She can be reached at anshu.basnyat@gmail.com.]




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