For refugees coming to Upstate New York from another country for the first time, the experience can be overwhelming. Monu Chhetri knows how much more difficult that experience can be for those in the deaf community.

Chhetri has used her own experience to create a nonprofit called Deaf New Americans, dedicated to helping make that experience a little easier.

“We provide services such as education, advocacy, job-related help," she said. "We help individuals fill out job applications.”

Each day, Chhetri arrives at her office at Syracuse Nepali Church with the drive to help others, a desire she said was instilled in her since childhood.

“When I was a young girl, inside I developed a passion for helping the deaf refugees in my refugee camp because I had the same experience as them when I came here,” she said. “I could see that the deaf new Americans needed services. They need to have a place.”

Over the course of the past 10 years since she came to the U.S. from a refugee camp in Nepal, the effort to help others who were deaf in a strange and new land became Deaf New Americans. While the effort has been ongoing for a decade, it was recognized earlier this year as a nonprofit.

“There was a center in the refugee camp, and I wanted to duplicate that idea here,” she said.

She stresses that one of the most persistent challenges is access to reliable methods of long-distance communication. Deaf individuals at the center utilize video phones, used to make phone calls through a video interpreter.

On a recent morning, she tried multiple times with no connection.

“Right now on the video phone, there’s not an interpreter available, so that’s one difficulty. Here, I’ve already spent 10 minutes trying to place this phone call,” she said. She was accompanied by a volunteer interpreter, so she was able to make a traditional phone call.

But funding for better access to interpreters (fluent in both American and Nepali sign language) is just one of many things Deaf New Americans is pushing for. Another primary fundraising push has been raising enough money to purchase a transportation van so the nonprofit doesn’t have to rely on outside vehicles.

“The van is really going to be most useful for transporting groups to medical appointments and educational events. Also there’s a farm that we’re beginning to work on,” she said.

With the community’s help, Chhetri said there are big things in the organization’s future. Part of her determination to give those looking for a new start in the U.S. is the best Syracuse has to offer.

“Our goal in the future is to have our own building so that we can have a place to come and actually have staff, have a van and have our community be able to come to that building and enjoy themselves,” Chhetri said.

You can find out more information about how to help by going to the organization's website.