New Country, New Home

When Bal and Aita arrived in Atlanta at 1:00 a.m. on a Tuesday summer morning with their three-year-old son Abishek, they were exhausted from their long journey. They had been traveling from Nepal, where they had lived as refugees after leaving Bhutan, their country of birth, many years earlier. After several long flights, they just wanted to sleep.

Thanks to some folks from Valparaiso University, Bal, Aita, and Abishek could go straight to their new home, crawl into bed, and sleep the night away. A few days earlier, on Saturday, June 8, members of the Valparaiso University Alumni Association and the Valparaiso University Guild drove over to Clarkston to set up an apartment for this family from Bhutan. When the volunteers arrived at the apartment, it was empty. Three hours later, it looked like a home.

In the weeks before the apartment set-up on June 8, the group had set up a storage unit in the parking lot of Rock of Ages Lutheran Church in Stone Mountain so that people could donate furniture and other household items before they took them over to Clarkston. Valparaiso alumni and friends across Atlanta responded generously. People from Lutheran Church of the Ascension, Grace Lutheran Church in Atlanta, and Rock of Ages Lutheran Church brought extra furniture for the Bhutanese family and food for their pantry.

At the end of the morning, after the crew had hauled the furniture inside and arranged it properly, one of LSG’s new staff members, Cynthia McGuinness, popped in with a surprise. In addition to providing four chairs for the family’s dining room, her two children brought stuffed animals and toys for three-year-old Abishek. While growing up in the refugee camp in Nepal, Abishek probably never had a stuffed animal or toy to play with. Thanks to Cynthia’s children, he now has many!

The volunteers were delighted to be able to welcome a family to the United States. “We had a really great time helping out,” said Ashley, one of the Valparaiso alumnae. LSG thanks these volunteers from Valparaiso University who helped set up the apartment, all the donors who contributed the furniture, and PODS for providing the storage unit. If you would like to set up an apartment for refugees with your company, congregation, or other group, please contact Melanie Johnson at or 678-686-9619.