International Rescue Committee (IRC)

The Mother of Disabled People

Meena Darjee was born in southern Bhutan in 1977 and lived a happy childhood. When Meena was fifteen, her family along with many others in their community, faced persecution for their ethnicity and were forced to flee to neighboring Nepal.

Meena married a few years later in the refugee camp (The Beldangi II – Extension Camp )where she would stay for the next eighteen years.. Throughout Meena’s many years in the camp, she gave birth to two beautiful children and adopted two children that were born to her brother-in law.
One of Meena’s birth sons was born with a cleft foot, which made it impossible for him to walk normally as his feet were rotated inward. Some viewed this disability as karmic retribution for a sin Meena or her husband had committed in the past and treated her son badly. But Meena loved her son dearly and knew that with perseverance and commitment Arun would heal.  After advocating to doctors for several years, Meena found a doctor to operate on Arun’s feet when he was six years old. Although her son healed from his surgery and learned how to walk, Meena’s work with the disabled was just beginning.

Meena was inspired through her experience with her own family to work on behalf of disabled people in the refugee camp where she resided.  In 1996, Save the Children began a program for disabled people in Meena’s camp. Meena was involved from the program’s inception as the “Disability Program Supervisor.” In 2001, CARITAS Nepal began coordinating the work and Meena worked with them, coordinating services for disabled people until she left for the United States in November of 2011. By the time Meena left the camp, she was affectionately called “The Mother of Disabled People.”  CARITAS still runs a program in the Beldangi II Extension Camp.

Since Meena’s arrival in Baltimore in 2011, she has been working to make positive contributions to the Bhutanese and special needs community. She helped the IRC plan the annual International Women’s Day celebration, where she shared her personal story and contributed to an inspiring dialogue between native-born and immigrant women about common issues that affect all women. This event led to the creation of the Baltimore Women’s Forum, a monthly dialogue group of women from different backgrounds.  Meena has also been involved in several public health initiatives through the IRC’s public health program, including a recent mental health interpreter training at Johns Hopkins.

Meena is continuing her work with the disabled here in Baltimore, as she was recently hired by the Baer School to work as a one-on-one Aide with a disabled student from Nepal.  She also works one-on-one with a young man she has known since he was a small child in the same refugee camp.  Meena wants to continue her professional development by learning how to work with people with cerebral palsy. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Baltimore Women’s Forum, please contact Holly Leon-Lierman at Holly.Leon-Lierman@Rescue,org.