Gaura Khanal’s Brave Path to Citizenship


Printed with permission from Gaura and her family.

While physically petite, Gaura Khanal of Mechanicsburg is a pillar of strength, perseverance and love for her family and community. Last fall, she became a United States citizen at age 96.

“My grandmother beamed with pride the day her citizenship was finalized,” Devi, her grandson, says. “She held on to her flag for three days.”

Devi, his wife Maya and sons help care for Gaura, who they affectionately call Granny. She receives services through Homeland Hospice. Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

Gaura’s dream of citizenship began more than a decade ago when she moved to the United States at age 85 after a lifetime of transitions and challenges.

Gaura was born in the Kingdom of Bhutan in the Eastern Himalayas. According to tradition, she was committed to an arranged marriage at age five and lived with her family until she turned 16 when she was united with her husband. A year following her marriage, Gaura gave birth to her son and only child. Six months later, her husband died. Gaura never remarried.

When she was 65, Gaura joined her son (Devi’s father) and his family at a refugee camp in Nepal after years of living under political unrest in Bhutan. While Gaura lived close to her immediate family, many extended family members lived in other camps, making communications difficult.

In 2009, Gaura moved to New Hampshire with her son, daughter-in-law and Devi’s family. The trip from Napal took two days and left Gaura tired and very weak. She was overwhelmed by the language barrier and drastic changes in her environment.

“Granny is a very strong woman,” Maya says. “She was determined to make it to the United States with her family.”

Several years ago, the family relocated to Mechanicsburg to be closer to extended family members and the growing Nepalese community. Gaura often spends time with her extended family in Harrisburg. She has seven grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

“My sons love Granny,” Devi says. “They have a unique and special bond.”

Gaura’s determination to become a U.S. citizen is grounded in her search to find a place to call home. Her native country of Bhutan was rocked by civil unrest and her time in Nepal was always intended to be temporary. Finally, in a quiet neighborhood in Mechanicsburg, Gaura is home.

“Becoming a U.S. citizen has brought Granny peace,” Devi adds. “Our entire family is full of pride and happiness.”

Homeland Hospice serves 14 counties throughout Central Pennsylvania by providing end-of-life care in either a person’s home or wherever they reside, including nursing facilities. Homeland also provides bereavement support to families for a full 13 months following the death of their loved one. This service is available to anyone in the community who is experiencing grief.