Interview with Abishkar Chhetri


photo of Abishkar by Bryce Vickmark

Last week I interviewed Abishkar Chhetri, my friend and housemate, and an inspiring advocate for young refugees. His work encompasses both education and mental health for refugees.

His passion for helping refugees stems from his own experience coming to the United States as a refugee from Nepal. He managed to excel in school in Atlanta, Georgia and eventually find his way to MIT, but he considers himself one of a lucky few.

For many refugee children, school poses a variety of challenges. Many had missed months or even years of schools in their former country, and therefore enter American schools far behind their classmates. They also struggle with language barriers and mental health issues, which make it hard to catch up.

Abishkar has worked with organizations in Atlanta that help provide supplemental educational resources to refugee students entering public schools. While most schools offer ESOL classes to immigrant students, they are ill-equipped to handle the unique needs of refugees, and these groups step in to pick up the slack. Unfortunately, Abishkar says, there are not nearly enough of these groups to support all the refugee students who need help succeeding in school.

He also is currently doing research with the Harvard School of Public Health. His lab is trying to reduce the high suicide rate among refugee communities. They are partnering with local organizations to work on developing and testing new mental health resources that fit the needs of refugees.

For the full interview, click here.

abishkar nytimes

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