From a refugee camp to Launceston - Yashoda Koirala shares her story

NEW LIFE: Yashoda Koirala spent 15 years living with her family in a refugee camp in Nepal, before moving to Tasmania and studying to become a nurse in Launceston. Picture: Phillip Biggs
NEW LIFE: Yashoda Koirala spent 15 years living with her family in a refugee camp in Nepal, before moving to Tasmania and studying to become a nurse in Launceston. Picture: Phillip Biggs

Born into a refugee camp in Nepal, Yashoda Koirala faced a life of fear and desperation, surrounded by disease, crime and extreme poverty.

Fast-forward 21 years, and she is now living in Tasmania and preparing to start her new job at the end of the month as a graduate nurse at the Launceston General Hospital.

While her future is strong, Yashoda said it was her past that made her the person she is today.

Her story began before she was even born.

Yashoda’s father, who was originally from Nepal, was 19-years-old when he was thrown in jail in Bhutan due to cultural conflict between the two countries.

He was badly beaten and left with injuries he still suffers from today.

Given a choice to leave Bhutan or die in jail, her father fled to a refugee camp in Nepal.

The camp is where he met Yashoda’s mother and a few years later, she was born.

Surviving off fortnightly rations supplied by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Yashoda described daily life in the camps as a “completely different world” to Australia.

Living in a two bedroom home with her parents and three siblings, she was cooking her own food by the age of 7, walking an hour just to get to school and trekking through deep rainforests to get supplies.

With minimal security at the camps, sexual assaults were something women faced daily.

“The crime was very high, especially raping,” Yashoda said.

“If you needed to cook food you had to go into the forest to collect firewood and if you go by yourself, there’s a higher chance of getting raped.

“It could have been the cultural difference ... in Australia you talk so openly about [rape] but we didn’t talk about it.”

Yashoda as a child with her family in a refugee camp in Nepal. Picture: Supplied

Yashoda as a child with her family in a refugee camp in Nepal. Picture: Supplied

After 15 years of only knowing life as a refugee, Yashoda was given an opportunity she would be forever grateful for - the chance to leave the camp and start over in Australia.

“It took us about a year-and-a-half to get all the processes done and to prove we actually needed help. I am so thankful for those who are very understanding and accepting, because of them I am where I am now,” she said.

“I’m not saying all refugees or all asylum seekers are good … it’s complicated … but generally we really need help, that’s why we come into other countries.”

While she hopes to return to Nepal again to see how the camp has changed, Yashoda said she was focused on using lessons from her former life to help others in Australia.

“I don't think I'll ever forget who I was, it's part of me, I'm always going to carry that with me,” she said.

“We may have had a hard life in camp … but we were still so sharing and caring, we always helped each other, helped our neighbours and I just want to keep that with me wherever I go and always be caring.”

After being the first one to attend university in her family, Yashoda graduated from the University of Tasmania last month and will start her new role at the LGH on January 31.

Yashoda (right) with her sister Kesabi before her graduation ceremony in December.

Yashoda (right) with her sister Kesabi before her graduation ceremony in December.