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