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Sonam Tsering Lama
President of the Mustang Community

Our section on community profile this issue features Sonam Lama, president of the Mustang community of New York.

As recent as 1992, Mustang, a Tibeto-Burman ethnic settlement in Nepal was largely referred to as the Forbidden Kingdom. Nestled in the inner Himalayas, Mustang lies north of the country and falls along the popular Annapurna circuit route. Perhaps one of the most distinctive features of Mustang is that it is the only district in Nepal, which to date, has a king ruling over its domain.

One of the more recent Himalayan immigrant communities in the United States, the Mustangeys have rapidly risen in population to an approximate 450 members now. Considering that the first group arrived here only sometime in the early 1990s, the Mustang community has steadily grown in number and strength.

Mr. Lama himself came to New York in 1994 on a business venture, however not long after, realizing the potentials that lay in this land of opportunity, he decided to permanently settle here. In 1998, along with other associates, Mr. Lama initiated an establishment of the Mustang Community as an informal association primarily to foster a sense of togetherness. Since then, Mr. Lama, although a busy business man, has made time to actively remain involved in various causes within the community.

Your personal journey to the US?

I came to the U.S. regarding a business venture in 1994, and later I moved here permanently with my entire family in 1996. I really liked it here in New York, so I decided to settle down here.

Story of your struggle and survival? How have you sustained integrating into the American way and maintained your native cultural roots?

I opened up a few health food stores here in NY, and did business. To make sure the younger generations keep up with the native tradition and culture, the Mustang community has the New Year/Losar party every year. We celebrate by performing cultural shows at the party so everyone can cherish and remember their native cultural roots.

What is role as a community leader?

I am the president of Mustang Kyidug here in NY. The Mustang Kyidug is run by 16 committee members. As president I overlook the needs of the people in the Mustang community. We help people who are sick and unable to work, also people who have recently immigrated to the U.S. and need help adjusting to the new environment. In Katmandu, we now have made a Mustang monastery by fund raising here in New York.

What is the main mission and objective of the association?

To help those in need, like the sick and needy people of our community. Also to uplift our community in Mustang, Nepal.

What meaning does community service hold for you?

It means helping those who are sick and unable to work, do not clearly speak or understand the English language and find it difficult here, and those who are new to the States and have difficulty adjusting here.

How do you coordinate with other Himalayan associations here and why do you think it is important?

All the people from the Himalayan region share the same religion and culture, and by going to the meetings of the other communities, we learn a lot from each other about maintaining our cultural roots.

How strong is the support from within the community?

Every member is a strong supporter of the community, and they make the effort to help uplift the society in every way they can. They participate in fundraisings, attend parties and annual functions, and cultural meetings.

As a community leader, what are major drawbacks that you face?

Sometimes it is very hard to please the different needs and opinions of a lot of people, and the situation becomes stressful. But overall, its an honor and a privilege, and I hope the best for my people, and I will help them as much as I can.

Finally, what changes and growth have you observed in your community since your initial involvement?

There has been a lot of positive changes. We have meetings twice a year in which we get together and decide how to help and improve out society. After coming to this country. people of our community have changed a lot. They have become smart and intelligent, and have become successful in their careers.