Powering All People

Hero: Hasta Basnet

Hasta is “very passionate about helping people,” so he rarely tires of assisting others whether he is at the Namaste Market or Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota. / Special to The Forum

Hasta Basnet is a modest man. He uses simple tactics to stay positive:  “be determined and smile.” Having lived as a Bhutanese refugee in Nepal for 22 years, his resilience now shines through his work at Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota and within the New American community in Fargo.

As an employment specialist at Lutheran Social Services, Basnet helps others to self-sufficiency.

“Hasta is always very pleasant, respectful, fun and does an amazing job in helping refugee families find work in their new home, regardless of the barriers the client might face,”  says Shirley Dykshoorn, vice president of senior and humanitarian services at Lutheran Social Services.

Basnet works with 10 to 15 families weekly, treating each of them with care while offering valuable insights about resettlement.

“Hasta is very creative in planning, so the family is able to manage their expenses with their employment,” Dykshoorn says.

One of Basnet’s primary responsibilities is to match employers with a client who has the skills to be successful in that particular position.

“Recently a case with severe medical need arrived. Hasta made sure that he helped the case manager to give the family additional support,” Dykshoorn says. “He is always ready to lend a hand to team members with any situation that arises, and he does all this with a smile and professionalism.”

Basnet’s spirit of service was carved through a turbulent past as he and his family fled Bhutan, a small kingdom between India and China in 1991.

In 1988, several edicts from Bhutan’s King Jigme Singye Wangchuck established Bhutan’s “One Nation One People” policy, forcing all citizens to use only one language, Dzongkha, and one style of dress and social etiquette called “driglam namza.” Because of this many Lhotshampa, like Basnet, lost their citizenship and the use of their Nepali language. Like others, Basnet and his family were not allowed to practice their religion, language and dress.

“We left home at midnight with my family, parents and siblings to escape the brutality of the army and police,” Basnet says.

Approximately one-sixth of Nepali ethnicity were stripped of their citizenship as the Bhutanese army rounded up people forcing them over the border from Bhutan to Nepal.

In the 1990s, more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees initially settled along the Mai River in Nepal. Dysentery ran rampant, the refugees had to beg house-to-house and boil rotten rice for food. Eventually, the Nepalese government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) established seven refugee camps in 1991.

Today, approximately 18,000 remain in two camps, the UNCHR and the International Organization for Migration considers its program to resettle Bhutanese refugees from Nepal to third countries a success.

Basnet received resettlement in 2011.“We came to straight to Fargo from Nepal to join my brother who arrived in 2010,” Basnet says.

Once in Fargo, Basnet’s deep desire to help other refugees spurred him to seek employment at Lutheran Social Services.

“I feel so happy when I see my client attain financial self-sufficiency,” Basnet says. “I am very fortunate to work for this great organization with its mission of ‘Healing, Help and Hope’.”

Basnet lives with his mother, wife and two-year old daughter, Kripa.

“He takes great care of his aging mother, along with his wife and two-year-old-daughter. He clearly adores his family,” Dykshoorn says.

Basnet and his family live a very busy “American” life as his wife works a full-time job at Bethany Retirement Living while Basnet works two jobs; he serves clients at Lutheran Social Service and co-manages Namaste Market at 240 42nd Street South in Fargo, N.D.

The new Namaste Grocery store in south Fargo caters to fans of Indian food. Owners of the restaurant are, from left, Tirth Kharka; Kul Basnet; Tika Bhattarai; Diwash Khadka Chhetri; and Hasta Basnet. Dave Olson/The Forum.

Opened in 2014, Namaste Market is owned and operated by a small group of friends, including Basnet’s brother Kul. The market feels familiar to those who lost much when they were forced from their home; it provides many spices and ingredients for traditional Bhutanese cooking.

No matter how busy Basnet gets with his work at the Lutheran Social Services or the Namaste Market, he with his wife and mother always make time for a family dinner.

“We eat dinner together, talk for a little while and play with my daughter. It’s fun,” Basnet says. “I get a lot of support from my mom and my wife; they fill me with courage positive energy every day.”