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Bhutanese Refugees Find Community in Northeast Ohio Through Urban Gardens, Farms

Bhutanese refugees gather at Victory Garden in South Euclid. (Photo: ideastream)
Bhutanese refugees gather at Victory Garden in South Euclid. (Photo: ideastream)

Since 2000, over 7,600 refugees have been resettled in Cleveland — the largest percentage of whom come from Bhutan, a small country in South Asia that borders China and India. Among the total number of Cleveland's refugees hailing from Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Ukraine, and other countries, 22 percent are Bhutanese refugees. They were expelled from their homelands in the 1990s and lived in refugee camps for decades before their resettlment in Ohio.

The community expands beyond Cleveland — with thousands of Bhutanese settling in the North Hill neighborhood of Akron, as well as Columbus and Cincinnati.

But the Bhutanese community continues to face a major challenge: the unusually high rate of suicide and mental health issues. In the Be Well series focused on health disparities among different racial and ethnic groups, reporter Lecia Bushak examines the ways refugees are using community, nature, and the land in Northeast Ohio as their own form of therapy.

lecia.bushak@ideastream.org | 216-916-6062