Alex Smith

Alex Smith began working in radio as an intern at the National Association of Farm Broadcasters. A few years and a couple of radio jobs later, he became the assistant producer of KCUR's magazine show, KC Currents. In January 2014 he became KCUR's health reporter.

 

On a chilly winter morning, dozens of truck driver trainees file into a classroom at the headquarters of Prime Inc., a trucking company based in Springfield, Mo.

At the front is Siphiwe Baleka, an energetic former swimming champion in his mid-40s. He delivers grim news about trucker health to the new recruits.

"If you haven't started to think about this, you need to start right now," Baleka says. "You are about to enter the most unhealthy occupation in America."

Son and mother featured in the story
Alex Smith / KCUR

It’s always a struggle to resettle in a new country, but for Bhutanese refugees, the challenge has been especially difficult. Bhutan, a largely Buddhist country, is known for having created a ‘national happiness index,’ but it has also forced out many of its ethnically Nepali, mostly Hindu, population. Since arriving in the United States, many of these refugees have suffered serious mental health issues.

Making the rounds at a public housing complex in Kansas City, Kan., community health worker Rinzin Wangmo is greeted by cheery voices and faces.

As she enters a home, the heavy aroma of chopped onions stings her nose, and she hurries up a short flight of stairs to escape the burn. After gently knocking on a door, she walks in to meet with a woman who’s bedridden with pain. 

The woman’s condition is not unusual among Bhutanese refugees, according to University of Kansas professor Dr. Joe LeMaster.