Damanta Khadka, SBEC Seamstress, becomes a Naturalized Citizen

Meet Damanta Khadka. A native of Bhutan, Damanta and her family were exiled in 1993 and spent 19 years living as refugees in Nepal. Finally given the chance to re-settle, Damanta came to the United States. In December of 2014 she was hired as a seamstress at St. Benedict Education Center (SBEC), where she works in the Mending Place.

Damanta will tell you that one of her greatest challenges was learning English. She wanted desperately to become a citizen, but she knew that she would have to learn to speak the language. At SBEC she was tutored, but she seemed to reach a point where she just was not improving. She failed her citizenship test, and found herself somewhat discouraged. One day at lunch Damanta asked her co-workers, “What is truth?” It was that word on the test that had caused her to stumble. We tried to explain.

Enter Judy Lynch, teacher and former Erie County Executive. Judy had approached us and asked if there was any volunteer work she could do. We told Judy where Damanta had stumbled, and Judy’s response was “what a deep question.” Oh, that natural born citizens would ask something of such depth – “what is truth.”

We immediately paired Judy with Damanta, and together they worked to prepare Damanta once again to take her test. Damanta studied tirelessly. She practiced her English on her co-workers. She answered questions put to her about the United States. Judy showed her maps and taught her history and helped her improve her English.

And then it happened. Damanta took, and passed, her citizenship exam, and on March 8 she was naturalized. We were there when Damanta took the oath, and we celebrated with her and her family during a lunch at SBEC! Welcome, Damanta Khadka!

Visit the SBEC web page to learn more about the mission of St. Benedict Education Center.

Photo: Damanta with her husband and Judge Susan Paradise Baxter