Hometown Hero: Ghana Sharma works to ensure immigrant community’s needs are met

  • Ghana Sharma, math tutor at Concord High School, serves the community in a variety of ways, including helping new Americans at Overcomers Refugee Services, teaching citizenship classes, and being an interpreter in medical and legal settings. Eileen O'Grady—Monitor staff

  • Ghana Sharma, math tutor at Concord High School, serves the community in a variety of ways, including helping new Americans at Overcomers Refugee Services, teaching citizenship classes, and being an interpreter in medical and legal settings. Eileen O’Grady / Monitor staff

  • Ghana Sharma, a math tutor at Concord High School, serves the community in a variety of ways, including helping new Americans at Overcomers Refugee Services, teaching citizenship classes, and being an interpreter in medical and legal settings. Eileen O’Grady / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/12/2022 4:49:01 PM

Ghanashyam “Ghana” Sharma Dahal has been helping refugee students and families in the Concord area for over a decade. So when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, he was quick to identify the problems the pandemic would pose for new Americans.

Sharma spent hours in the early months of the pandemic, knocking on doors of new American families, handing out masks and hand sanitizer and asking if anyone was sick or needed assistance from the local organization Overcomers Refugee Services.

An ELL math tutor at Concord High School, Sharma quickly noticed that some new American students took on day jobs to support their family members instead of attending online school, and Sharma put in extra hours voluntarily, tutoring students at night to help them avoid failing their classes.

He made himself available around the clock, putting on his mask and driving people to the hospital when they needed a ride, all while hoping he wouldn’t catch COVID himself.

“That’s my interest, to work with the people,” Sharma said. “If somebody needs help, then we have to help. If somebody has a problem, then we have to help them. Selflessly. From the heart.”

Sharma describes much of his work as “problem-solving,” helping families access certain services, get a ride from one place to another or otherwise filling areas of need for new Americans in the Concord area.

Besides his job at Concord High School, he’s also on the board of directors at Overcomers Refugee Services and is co-chair of the Concord Multicultural Festival, an annual celebration of diversity with food, performances and a flag parade. He enjoys being busy and lending his support to every community effort.

“If I’m not there at any kind of event organized by a new American, I feel myself short-ended,” Sharma said. “Because I like to help everywhere.”

Sharma, originally from Bhutan, left the country in 1992 for a refugee camp in Jhapa in eastern Nepal, where he lived for 18 years. He attended high school in the refugee camp, and studied math at colleges in Jhapa and India. Sharma worked as a math teacher at a private boarding school that used English-medium instruction, so when he came to the U.S. with his wife as a refugee in 2009, he was eager to continue working in education.

Sharma soon got a job as math tutor for English Language Learners at Concord High School, where he now works with new American students from all different backgrounds. Sharma says he enjoys working with teenagers, and feels fully motivated every day at work.

“I like those mathematic, kind of fun subjects to discuss with the kids,” Sharma said. “Math never goes wrong.”

Sharma says many Concord High School alums who have gone to college still bring him their college math assignments when they’re having trouble understanding a problem.

“I am the one to help them,” Sharma said. “If they have a problem, definitely they ask. If they don’t, then that’s okay. They’re very honest.”

Sharma lives in Concord with his wife Nirmala Niroula Sharma. They have two children.

On weekends, Sharma leads citizenship classes in Concord, to help prepare adults who came to New Hampshire as refugees to apply for naturalization and take the citizenship exam after living in the U.S. for the required five years. In the classes, they work on English language skills and learn about the U.S. Constitution, American history, democracy and voting.

Sharma, who became an American citizen himself in 2014, said he enjoys teaching the classes because he knows getting citizenship will help refugees in New Hampshire access needed benefits like social security, and allow them to have a voice in their community through voting.

“Some of our students, they had a hard time to spell and pronounce the word ‘democracy,’ at the beginning,” Sharma said. “But they got citizenship when they took the classes, after three months or three years.”

Jessica Livingston, who nominated Sharma to be a Hometown Hero, described him as a “true community leader,” who takes on tasks that range from planning an annual Diwali celebration to organizing leadership opportunities for groups of Bhutanese youth to doing community outreach on behalf of a local Hindu family who planned a sacred religious ceremony.

“I’ve been working with Ghana for the past 10 years and am always in awe of his energy and commitment to empowering other Bhutanese New Americans and bettering the whole community, which he now considers home,” Livingston said. “Ghana is a very humble and unassuming person, and I am grateful to call him a friend.”

Sharma also does voting advocacy work with new Americans during election season, raising awareness about voting rights for Concord residents who may have previously lived in a country where they couldn’t vote.

In his spare time, he is also a professional medical interpreter, helping Nepali speakers access medical care. He serves on the board for the City of Concord Public Library Foundation and the board of the International Nepali Literary Society of New Hampshire, and he is a counselor for the Greater Concord Interfaith Council. He has also been a tutor at NHTI community college and a garden manager for the Sycamore Community Garden.

Despite the number of ways Ghana Sharma is already involved in the community, he continues to add more activities. He has nearly completed the process of becoming a licensed foster parent, and is currently taking classes to become a court interpreter so he can help Nepali speakers who are involved in legal proceedings.

“I am young still,” Sharma said. “I have a goal to keep busy all the time.”


Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.



Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2021 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy