About

Himalayan Foundation-USA and DeafCAN! are an integral part of the First World Deaf Refugee Day Conference June 10-12, 2021 at the beautiful Ware Center in Lancaster. Deaf refugees and immigrants from more than 20 countries will be the leads in most of the presentations and entertainment. The Himalayan Foundation-USA is the fiduciary for this event, World Deaf Refugee Day 2021 Conference.

WDRD Committees:

Bhawani Dangal is a Deaf American citizen who arrived as a refugee from Bhutan in 2011. He quickly assumed a leadership role in the Deaf Bhutanese community. He works as a Nepal Sigh Language to American Sign Language deaf interpreter and refugee advocate. In 2015, he was selected as one of Concord’s most fascinating individuals by Concord Community Television. Bhawani has an Associate’s degree from Shree Gomendra Community College, and is currently working as an advocate with Bill Lockard, Program Director of DeafCAN! He is co-instructor of virtual Deaf Refugee Education Classes with Deaf refugees and his co-instructor, Robert Tawney.

Oma Dhakal is a refugee from Bhutan and arrived in America in January 2011. In Nepal, he was a leader in Nepal camps as helping Deaf people how to haircut independently; helping Deaf people to apply in the center; a doll maker with embroidery teaching; worked at the Youth Friendly Center with Deaf people. He was volunteered in the Deaf Community in Nepal.  He is one of the WDRD leaders to involve this committee.

Robert Tawney is a bookkeeper and financial analyst at Rochester Refugee Resettlement Services (RRRS). Rob has been associated with RRRS for more than 4 years, first as a volunteer teaching sign language to a deaf refugee and now as staff. Rob is deaf and is co-founder of Deaf Refugee Advocacy and a past president of the Rochester Deaf Rotary Club (the only deaf Rotary Club in the World). He was volunteered to be a Rochester-based Deaf Artist in the prison. He expertise as a community leader in Deaf and Police Integrative, Rochester Deaf Awareness Week, New York Deaf Grassroots Movement. He has given his heart and soul through his participation in many non-profit organizations within the Deaf Community. He has been involved first Deaf Refugee Conference Committee in Rochester, NY.

Lesley Richardson has lived and worked in New Hampshire for over twenty years.  She is a Community Sign Language Interpreter and loves working with people from all over the world.  Her international view of interpreting comes from living in bilingual and multicultural homes in three different countries.  Whenever she’s volunteering, mentoring, or traveling she can always find commonalities conversing about cooking, gardening, and family life.  Lesley’s philosophies around the use of Deaf Interpreters and educating refugees about the value of communicative autonomy in interpreted settings gives her great satisfaction.  She is always learning from her colleagues and enjoys being a part of the WDRD team.


Bill Lockard has been the Program Director for DeafCAN! since helping to found its program in 2010.  He’s worked within the Deaf community since 1979.  DeafCAN! is proud to work with some of the Deaf community’s most isolated and vulnerable populations, including those who are DeafBlind, incarcerated or returning citizens, and refugees and immigrants, and honored to see so many come to believe and demonstrate that Deaf CAN!!  Bill is hearing and has been married to and partners with his wife of 32 years, Beth Lockard.


Emma DeCaro is involved in communications and project management for World Deaf Refugee Day. Based in Austin, TX, she works for ZVRS/Purple as a video interpreter, in addition to Social Capital as a strategist. She has been involved in the Deaf community since 2011 but has volunteered specifically with Deaf refugees, asylees, and immigrants since 2018. Inspired by these experiences and wanting to learn more, she plans to pursue an M.A. in International Development through Gallaudet starting in the Fall of 2021.


Hawal Abdullah is a member of the World Deaf Refugee Day community. He loves connecting people and sharing cultural experiences. He grew up in Iraqi Kurdistan for the first 18 years of his life without any access to language or education. However, in 2016, he moved to Texas and was exposed to American Sign Language. A graduate of Texas School for the Deaf and its ACCESS Program, Hawal will attend Gallaudet’s English Language Institute in the Fall of 2021 to continue pursuing his studies.

Margaret Teague is Deaf and a Deaf Education teacher in Plano, Texas. I have expressed interest in this organization because I have Deaf friends that are refugees from Iran. I want to understand more about their culture and support them the best way I can. Also as a Deaf Education teacher, I have served students from different countries not knowing any English. I strive to help deaf people from other countries to find a better future here in America. I am looking forward to the amazing things that the WDRD committee will do!

Julia Freeman-Woolpert, M.Ed., was the Outreach Advocacy Director at the Disability Rights Center – NH until her retirement last year. She has worked as a mentor and an advocate for refugees for the past fifteen years, and with Deaf refugees since 2011. She spent a week in 2010 visiting the refugee camps in Nepal. She is a former advisor to the Bhutanese Community of NH and served from 2016-2018 on the NH Commission on Deafness and Hearing Loss as the DRC’s designee.

Jennifer Ward has been a Deaf Educator for 15 years. Throughout her career, she has taught many Deaf refugee and immigrant students, many of whom have arrived in the United States with limited education and language. Jennifer has volunteered with various refugee organizations as a family mentor. She is currently completing her EdD in International and Multicultural Education with a concentration in Human Rights Education.

Annie Rai was Born and raised in India, Annie immigrated to the States seeking a better career and life. She earned her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Fine Arts/Graphic Design & a Master’s of Arts in Motion Graphic Design from Savannah College of Art & Design. Annie lives & breathes Print/Motion graphics, web design, & art. She’s exhibited her artwork at several galleries & has been published in some Atlanta magazines! When she’s not working, Annie enjoys rollerblading, indoor rock climbing, biking & hiking at Kennesaw mountain, cooking, & sketching.

Chloé Rayer is a first-year ASL/English Interpreting student at Bloomsburg University. She loves to stay involved in the Deaf Community. As a way of giving back to her wonderful friends in this community, she has offered support by attending the WDRD meetings and by trying to do her part in putting ideas together. Chloé is extremely excited to see everyone come together for WDRD. Besides ASL, she also loves painting, archery, singing, and animals.

Mary Hughes currently an ASL-English interpreting student at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester. Through her schooling and involvement with the Deaf community, she was welcomed into being a part of organizing World Deaf Refugee Day. She looks forward to working with the Deaf community in New Hampshire in the future, including Deaf refugees and new Americans.

Laxman Giri of Nepal has lived in New York City. He graduated with an Associate of Arts degree in Nepali Language, English, Nepali Sign Language (NSL), and American Sign Language (ASL). He has involved in deaf fields: he was former General Secretary of Gandaki Association of Deaf in Pokhara, Nepal, a former teacher at Srijana Secondary School of the Deaf in Lekhnath Nepal, a former teaching assistant at St. Joseph’s School for the Deaf in Bronx, NY and current President of Nepalese Deaf Society in the USA.

Chandra Pakhrin grew up as she was a Bhutan refugee to attend the hearing school to learn education and Nepali Sign Language. She was married to her husband and is a mother of her three children. Most time she has taken care of her children at her home. She loves to help Deaf people to do something as long as they can do it.  Now, she has involved in being a part of organizing World Deaf Refugee Day.

Upendra Khanal: Born in Gorkha: western Nepal, Lost his hearing abilities due to meningitis. He completes his High School Education in mainstream schooling in Kathmandu and Holds BA (Hons) Degree in Applied Linguistic from University of Central Lancashire; United Kingdom. His carrier illustrates as Nepali Sign Language Researcher, Educator of the deaf children and Manager of the National Federation of the Deaf in Nepal. Upon coming America his carrier shifted to culinary arts and has been working with Whole Foods Market for last four and half years.


Kristy Stellato: Kristy lives in New Hampshire and has worked and volunteered in various capacities relating to Deaf Education and non-profits for the Deaf and hard of hearing.  She is currently Vice President for New Hampshire Association of the Deaf, a member of the New Hampshire Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, training to be Deaf Interpreter, among other things.  She is looking forward to picking up more experience with working with Deaf refugees.


Marta Tawney: Marta has grown up in Poland and moved to the United States for new opportunities. She is married to Rob Tawney. She has volunteered to Deaf Refugees. Also, she is a co-founder of Deaf Refugee Advocacy. She has coordinated with World Deaf Refugee Day

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