Sidartha Biswa lived in a Nepali refugee camp until he was 16.
An aspiring filmmaker, Biswa remembers huddling with friends and family to watch movies on a “communal” television in the camp.
“I always wanted to make films because since I was a kid, I was fascinated with them. That was like an escape for me,” said Biswa, 25. “How you live in that life, you can’t even dream because you are eating and just trying to survive. Dreaming is a big thing. Movies are an escape for me because they’re happy, they’re going places. In the whole community, there was one person who had a black-and-white TV, and we would go over there. There was no electricity. We used batteries. I watched a lot of Hindi movies. We know Tom Cruise, Jet Li, Bruce Lee, a lot of those guys.”
Biswa now is a contractor for Southeast Christian Church’s Blankenbaker Campus, working as a camera operator and video editor with SE!KIDS and SE Online.
“I am so thankful, and I love Southeast and the people so much,” Biswa added. “I remember looking at the big Southeast building the first time and wishing I could be a part of this place in some way, and now I am. It just feels like God is constantly working. All you have to do is pray and God will make it happen.”
Nepal is nestled between China and India and has a population of 30 million people.
Biswa lived with his family—his parents and two sisters—in a house with bamboo walls and a straw roof in a refugee camp. Biswa’s parents fled to Nepal from Bhutan due to ethnic persecution, and Biswa was born in a refugee camp.
“We were called unwanted people because we weren’t given Nepali citizenship,” Biswa said.
Nepal’s hot summers and frigid winters were, as Biswa says, “cruel to me.” Though external conditions were unkind, Biswa’s family remained close-knit.
“Our culture is mainly rooted in family,” Biswa added. “We take care of each other and always value our relationships.”
Biswa loved playing soccer, riding in cars filled with a couple dozen people and exploring the jungle. He and his family were Hindus.
“I didn’t really believe in Hinduism because there were like 33 million gods, but I was introduced so many times to Jesus through friends and cousins,” he said. “I never got interested. In Nepal, if you say you are Christian, you’re essentially saying you’re not a good person.”
When Biswa’s younger sister got saved, baptized and stopped celebrating at Hindu festivals, he hated her for it.
Welcome to America
When Biswa was 16, the International Organization for Migration allowed him and his family to move to the United States.
They settled in Louisville because some cousins already lived there.
“My life took a complete turn. My future seemed obscure because of limited opportunities, lack of quality education and extreme poverty,” Biswa said. “So that was like a dream because we always thought the USA was very near to heaven. The opportunities I received here overshadowed the adversity I faced while transitioning to adapt to living in the United States.”
Reality set in pretty quickly when he began attending Iroquois High School and had to learn a new language. Biswa’s first language is Nepali, but he also speaks Hindi.
“In school, I got bullied so many times because of my race,” Biswa added. “I was depressed and sad. Whenever I looked outside, I saw emptiness. I had no friends. Whenever you went to school, no one talked to you and no one understood you. I used to cry in my chair because the English language is so hard.”
Things changed when some Christians invited him to a Nepali church later that year.
“I felt welcomed when I was invited to church,” he said. “They were so nice. They used to bring us food. They invited us out to places to eat.”
Biswa and his parents were baptized together in May 2012.
“I could see there was such a difference between Christian and non-Christian people,” Biswa said. “Christians always have hope. They put other people before themselves, and you can see it in the way they talk. Back then, I didn’t have hope and Jesus, but now, I do. There is one song that comes to mind, ‘Our God is an awesome God, He reigns.’ It just gives me peace. I know if I died right now, I would meet Him in heaven. It was just a totally different conversation when I wasn’t a Christian.”
Biswa was invited by a friend, Lane Tucker, and began attending Southeast. He went to Bible & Beach his senior year and “it completely changed his life.”
During high school, Biswa’s interest in filmmaking grew with the support of his parents.
“When I turned 17, my parents bought me an iPod,” Biswa said. “I started to take videos of our church celebrations, friend’s birthday parties and began to create short movies. I would spend countless hours teaching myself how to edit videos. When I first released my short movie, I was overwhelmed with joy to receive appreciation for the content I created.”
When Biswa graduated from high school, he was “confused with what do in life” because filmmaking seemed like a tough business to get into.
“Everybody was saying to do IT because it is a secure job,” Biswa added. “I went to IT school for two years at Jefferson Community College, but I was cheating myself.”
In March 2018, Biswa took a risk and enrolled at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in filmmaking in December 2019, he took low-paying jobs helping shoot commercials for companies like Disney and Chevy to get his foot in the door.
When Biswa was let go because of COVID-19 budget cuts, he returned to Louisville and has since helped at Southeast.
“I’m always trusting God because if God put me where I’m at right now, God brought me all the way here, so I know He’s going to take care of me,” he said.