One of the highlights of the Didi Program is a monthly event where a role model Didi (elder sister) from various fields is invited to lead the mentoring session. Our scholars have always been enthusiastic about these events. The main goal of this type of program is to encourage our scholars by showing them a real life example of an empowered girl or woman and to show them that they too can be empowered through education. One of our recent programs was even more special because the girls had a chance to go on a special field trip to visit the Special School for Disabled and Rehabilitation Center (SSDRC). The SSDRC was established by a very inspirational woman, Ms. Sabita Upreti, from the Dolakha District. In this program she shared about her life, her struggles, and her dream to help students who are overlooked because of disabilities.
Sabita didi shares her life story with Rukmini scholars
“Be Strong, because things will get better. It may be stormy now, but it never rains forever.” This inspirational quote is how the program started, and relates quite well to the life of Sabita Didi. Her journey to Kathmandu started after she graduated from high school and completing her SLC from her village. Kathmandu city taught her to face her challenges because not only did she have to take care of herself, but she also had to take care of her siblings who came with her to get an education in Kathmandu. Sabita Didi worked very hard to become a teacher and eventually a journalist. During her early years in journalism, one story changed her life forever. She found cases of autistic children who were tied to chains by their parents because the parents thought they were out of control. The realities of these children led the journalist in her to become an activist. The article below has more details on this transformation of Sabita Didi.
Sabita Didi spoke about her tireless work to campaign for autistic children. The most interesting thing for all of us was to learn about how she raised the money for the school she started. She used the time her family was using to plan for her marriage as an opportunity. She was able to convince the maximum number of relatives and guests to give her dowry money in advance. The total came out to be 5 Lakhs Rupees, which is almost $5,000. She used this money to start the school and started by supporting two children. Today, the school supports over 45 autistic children. The school provides daycare, therapy, and rehabilitation. These are services that are very needed for these children and their families.
Girls listen intently to Sabita Didi’s stories
Hearing the inspirational story and the journey, the Rukmini scholars, the Nepal team, Head Teachers, and Teachers of partner schools were inspired by Sabita Didi. She gives all of the credit of her successes to her mother who has played a vital role in helping her through every difficult situation on her journey. Both Sabita and her mother are examples of what girls and women can do to change their communities.
Spending time with the staff at SSDRC, many of whom are autistic, but get an opportunity to work as equals to help the organization.
It was amazing to see just how much of a difference the organization has made in the lives of children with autism. Through their support, many of them go to regular schools and also help out in managing the SSDRC activities. While we were visiting, some of the children at SSDRC greeted us and even provided us beverages. Some of other students were managing the store at the vocational training center. During the visit, we sat in on some classes, saw students in different grades, and visited the therapy center. Many of our scholars and participants also purchased some gifts in the store, which helps the organization.
Visiting the Vocational Training center at the SSDRC
We wrapped up this inspirational trip by taking a short tour of the ancient city of Bhaktapur where we enjoyed a picnic with the whole group. As we headed back to Pharping we reflected on Sabita Didi’s willpower and hard work. The girls were not only inspired by her, but they also found a renewed sense of kindness to make sure that they treat everyone, including people with disabilities with dignity and respect. Sharing and partaking in storytelling allowed them to find a connection with something new, which they wouldn’t otherwise have. We want them all to dream like Sabita Didi.
Ending the trip with the group picture at the historic city of Bhaktapur
Report: Niroj Dai