A Refugee and Two Immigrants Will Bring Perspective to ‘America Is My Home’

As part of West Hartford’s ‘One Book, One Town’ initiative, the program ‘America is my home, Reflections of a Refugee and Two Immigrants’ will be held at the Faxon Library.

From left: Lhakpa Sherpa, Marc-Yves Regis, and Aiti Rai will share their stories at a March 11 forum at the Faxon Library in West Hartford. Courtesy photos

From left: Lhakpa Sherpa, Marc-Yves Regis, and Aiti Rai will share their stories at a March 11 forum at the Faxon Library in West Hartford. Courtesy photos

By Ronni Newton

West Hartford’s second “One Book, One Town” initiative has the entire community reading Of Beetles and Angles: A Boy’s Remarkable Journey from a Refugee Camp to Harvard by Mawi Asgedom, and a special program scheduled for March 11 at the Faxon Library will bring that story, and three other unique journeys to life through the forum “America is my home: Reflections of a Refugee and Two Immigrants.”

The free forum, scheduled for March 11 at 2 p.m. at the Faxon Library, will feature Lhakpa Sherpa, Marc-Yves Regis, and Aiti Rai – all of whom have extraordinary and powerful stories to tell about their experience seeking a new life in America.

Sherpa broke a women’s mountain climbing record when she ascended Mount Everest last May for the seventh time. Even before that ascent, Sherpa had climbed Mount Everest more times than any other woman. Her first climb, in 2000, was the first successful ascent and descent of Mount Everest by a Nepalese woman.

Sherpa, one of 11 children, grew up in Makalu, Nepal. She now lives in West Hartford with her two daughters and is currently preparing for her eighth climb to the Mount Everest summit on April 10, 2017.

Regis is a native of Haiti, a country he was forced to flee as a teenager. He is a photojournalist and author, as well as founder/director of Camp Hispaniola, Inc., a summer camp serving 150 children in the Dominican Republic and another 150 children in Haiti.

Regis has worked as a photojournalist for the Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times, and the Hartford CourantHe has also authored five books inspired by his experiences and commitment to Haiti, including: Haiti Through My Eyes, a selection of poetry about Haiti; Deadly Road to Democracy, a first-person account of Haiti’s violent struggle for democracy; Two Good Feet, a photographic documentary of physically-challenged Haitian children; Haiti After the Shock, a selection of poems and stories about the earthquake in Haiti; and Headstrong: Children Carrying Haiti’s Economic Burdens.

Like Sherpa, Rai is a native of Nepal. She is a 2015 graduate of Hartford Public High School Law & Government Academy, and a current student at Manchester Community College. She plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science followed by a law degree, and eventually put her skills to work helping her community.

Rai became a U.S. citizen in 2016, after taking a citizenship class offered through the schools and the Hartford Library that was funded by a grant from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

“I lived as refugee in my own country, Nepal, for 21 years. I did not have citizenship [anywhere]. I felt hopeless. I experienced discrimination. When you hear the word “home” you think of a place where you feel safe and comfortable, and where you share a common culture and identity. I had no such place to call home, no place where I shared traditions, food, a set of beliefs, and a common language,” Rai said in a statement.

West Hartford community engagement librarian Pramod Pradhan will serve as moderator for the forum. Pradhan is a West Hartford resident who emigrated from Nepal in 2004, and according to forum organizers, “knows firsthand the value the library has in lives of families who are settling into a new country.”

“The stories of Lhakpa, Marc-Yves, and Aiti put faces on a national topic of the plight of refugees and immigrants seeking a better life in our country,” Renée McCue, public relations specialist for the Town of West Hartford said in a statement. “This special event could not be timelier,” she said.

The Faxon Branch Library is located at 1073 New Britain Ave. in West Hartford. The forum begins at 2 p.m. and all are welcome. Registration is not required.

This year’s One Book, One Town selection, Of Beetles and Angels, is a true story of a young boy’s journey from civil war in east Africa to a refugee camp in Sudan, to a childhood on welfare in an affluent American suburb, and eventually to a full-tuition scholarship at Harvard University.

For more information about the initiative, visit www.WestHartfordCT.gov/1Book1Town or call 860-561-7521.

Event sponsors and organizers include: Barnes & Noble Booksellers Blue Back Square, Town of West Hartford, West Hartford Library, West Hartford Public Schools, Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society, and the West Hartford Human Rights Commission.

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