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Professional Nepalese-Canadian Mentorship Program expanding across the nation

Tulsi Dharel, a professor at Centennial College, came to Canada in 2000 and soon created a mentorship program to help Nepalese migrants build careers.

It's an all too familiar story: Binod Paudel, a science instructor at Kathmandu University, is currently working as a security guard to make ends meet in his new home, Canada.

His fate and those of dozens of others inspired Tulsi Dharel, a professor at Centennial College, to start a mentorship program to help Nepalese migrants build careers. He started the Professional Nepalese-Canadian Mentorship Program last year with 40 mentees and only 15 mentors, but now he's attracted 75-plus volunteer mentors, and is planning to expand the project across Canada.

Dr. Dharel says when he came to Canada in 2000, he found a teaching job at the University of Waterloo. With a PhD in business from the Institute of Management Studies (India), he then spent two years as a visiting teacher in Mongolia, as well as working as an adviser to the Government of Mongolia. On his return to Canada, he started teaching business at George Brown College and Centennial College.

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Not many Nepalese-Canadians are as lucky as he has been, he says.

"Many of our people are doing low-end jobs...working in factories, etc.," Dr. Dharel tells Ajit Jain for the Globe and Mail.

How large is Canada's Nepalese community?

In 1970s and 1980s, there were a few families. The flow of immigrants from Nepal started after 2000 as we felt there were lots of opportunities in Canada. So, our people started coming here. Many Nepalese also relocated themselves from the U.S., as getting the Green card became more and more difficult.

Right now we are close to 15,000, of which 7,000 to 8,000 are in the GTA.

Do they include Bhutanese who were in camps in Nepal as well as Tibetans from Nepal?

Yes, this number includes all of them. They are of Nepalese ancestry.

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How have they fared in Canada?

Only a few Nepalese are successful professionals or are in business. There are some medical doctors, engineers, accountants, lawyers, and authors like Manju Shree Thapa and Ramesh Goela. Dr. Kunjar Sharma is the Nepal's honorary Consul-General in Toronto for close to 20 years. He plays a leadership role in our community.

Sadly, many of our compatriots are doing low-end jobs just to make a living. It doesn't mean they are not qualified or they are not educated. Our people were not expecting this when they decided to come to Canada.

How do you explain this?

It doesn't matter whether you are from Nepal or from elsewhere, people go through the same difficult process to get Canadian experience, to get their credentials recognized here. Their knowledge and experience in their home countries doesn't count much.

There are two handicaps for them: Firstly, they don't have the Canadian experience in their professional fields and secondly, they don't even know the proper ropes for finding jobs.

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One story is very, very painful. This man came to the U.S. on highly prestigious Fulbright scholarship. I can't identify him. He got his MBA from the U.S. As under the rules he had to leave the country to apply for permanent residence, he decided to come to Canada. He never got a good job here in his field.

There are many such cases. We have medical doctors who are not able to practise medicine. Some people have passed the requisite exams but there are no internships for them. Without that they can't get their certification from the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

There was a large influx of teachers from Nepal?

Three years back, the Immigration Ministry invited teachers to come to Canada. Close to 500 qualified teachers, with university degrees, have come here from Nepal. Not even one of them has so far been hired as a teacher. What a waste of human capital?

I know firsthand the case of one Binod Paudel, 32, and his wife Sham, 29. Both of them have Masters in Chemistry. They taught Chemistry at the University of Kathmandu in Nepal. Now Mr. Paudel will take any job here. Both of them have completed one-year diploma courses as health technologists at the Centennial College.

What's the solution?

We have contacted authorities at the federal and provincial levels, but there's no response. The government should provide some financial support so that we could organize training programs for these people; organize some workshops as to how they should go about finding jobs.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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