Bhutanese refugee achieves his CA dream in NZ
Newly qualified CA Diwash Bhattarai grew up in a refugee camp loving numbers and hoping to help people achieve prosperity.
- Bhattarai arrived in New Zealand through a UN resettlement program
- Becoming a CA was just a wild dream
- Aims to support SMEs, the fulcrum of the economy
By Seamus Byrne
Dreaming of becoming an accountant isn’t common among children. But Diwash Bhattarai stands out even more as he held such dreams while growing up as a Bhutanese boy in a refugee camp in Nepal.
"From a very young age, I was really into maths and graphs," says Bhattarai. "I just found it really cool to read numbers this way.
"Accountancy is actually a very highly recognised and valued career in Nepal. So, I knew being a CA was that profession that would allow me to understand businesses and how you grow them and gain prosperity. I feel lucky that from a young age I knew so clearly what I wanted to do.”
While Bhattarai was fortunate to receive a free education in the camp to Year 10 level, with nothing else and no rights to work it was a very difficult path after his schooling ended.
"Becoming a CA was just a wild dream," he says. "If I had still been there, there was no way I would get to be one. But if you want something badly enough, the world can conspire to make it happen."
At age 15, Bhattarai arrived in New Zealand with his mother and older sisters through a UN resettlement program – his father sadly passed away before this moment arrived.
"At first everything seemed so daunting. Just learning English seemed like that would be enough for me. Becoming a CA? I had zero hope."
Becoming a CA was just a wild dream. But if you want something badly enough, the world can conspire to make it happen.
Being a teenager with no English made for a difficult start to his new life, but his mother and sisters – "they've been a rock to me" – and the Bhutanese community of New Zealand all stood behind him. He recalls a key moment when his sister helped push to ensure he was given a place in an accounting class, and another with a mentor in Year 12 who encouraged him to keep working towards his goals.
Picture: Diwash Bhattarai CA
"There were times I had very little hope that I could do this,” he says. “But [my mentor] spent a few sessions with me and told me 'You've got it in you, I know you can do it, you can become a CA, you just have to work hard'. For her to see something in me just gave me so much belief."
As an accountant working for PKF Goldsmith Fox in Christchurch over the past three years, he feels his background has given him great perspective on how business owners take risks to build a better future for themselves and those around them.
"I've come from nothing,” he said. “I know what that feels like. SMEs are really the fulcrum of the economy and supporting them is just such a big thing for me to be able to do that."
On January 20, 2021, Bhattarai was given his full membership as a CA, making his lifelong dream a reality.
"I got the email saying 'Congratulations, you are now a full member' and I just sat there," he says. "I really did think back over the whole process. It was such a good feeling and so very fulfilling.
"As accountants, we have such a big role to play in giving businesses clarity in a world that is currently so competitive and margins so tight. Especially with COVID-19, we have a huge role to play in how businesses come out the other side.
"I think it's such an exciting time to become an accountant. We can really help to shape the future of our local economy and, ultimately, the national and global economy."
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