Celebrating Tihar (Nepali festival of lights) with Tika (blessings placed upon my forehead)
My name is Katie Brown and I’m a student, social worker, Rukmini volunteer, native Pittsburgh-er, and current resident of Nepal. I graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School last June, and before heading off to Northeastern University I decided to return to my second home, Kathmandu, for a semester. I’ve been working with an organization called Prisoner’s Assistance Nepal in their efforts to provide social services to prisoners and their families while soaking up as much culture (and daal bhat!) as I can. I first came to Nepal in the summer of 2012 and absolutely fell in love, prompting me to return again last year, making this my third visit to my favorite place on the planet.
Beautiful and scenic Nepal
Since then, I have had the pleasure of being involved in some of Rukmini Foundation’s fundraising efforts like last year’s bracelet campaign, so I was so excited to finally meet the Rukmini girls that I had been hearing so much about. My chance came on Rukmini Foundation’s 3rd International Day of the Girl, both excellent reasons for a workshop with our scholars.
Friendship bracelets to promote girls’ education
On the appointed day, beloved Rukmini Didi Prakriti, fellow American student Isabelle, and I made the urban trek from our various corners of Kathmandu to the village of Pharping on the outskirts of the valley. It’s quite a lovely place to grow up and go to school; much quieter and about a million times cleaner than the bustling city. We met the Rukmini scholars, LitClub members, and Rukmini staff at the Sisi Ghar, or “glass house,” a structure that true to its name is made of recycled glass bottles and houses everything from teacher training sessions to workshops for the girls and other local students.
Enjoying tasty snacks with a new friend Isabelle at the Sisi Ghar (Bottle House). A very literally named building that is a testament to the resourcefulness of this community.
#StandUp4Girls with Rukmini scholars and LitClub Nepal members
I spend every day in a children’s home full to the brim of young, screaming, playing kiddos, so that’s rather what I was expecting. Anniversary, which also happens to be the Instead, the twenty or so girls that met us in the garden were very quiet, all smiles and polite hellos. When we started our program, we were a bit worried that everyone seemed reluctant to join in, but as the day progressed, each girl began to come out of her shell. We gave everyone the task of selecting one of LitWorld’s keywords, like “courage,” “friendship,” or “hope,” and writing a few paragraphs about a female who inspired them with their representation of that quality.
The girls started a bit quietly, but were increasing in confidence throughout the event.
At first, only a few of the more outspoken girls volunteered their responses, but after a few moments of silence, one after another every other girl stepped forward to share her reflection. The women selected included Florence Nightingale, Malala Yousafzai, Indira Gandhi, and many mothers, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers who, above all, inspired the girls to continue to pursue an education. The more girls spoke, the more comfortable everyone became, until the feedback session we held at the very end of the day was taken over by opinions and suggestions shouted from all corners of the room.
The program ended with the biggest smiles and cheers from the girls.
I loved seeing each girl open up, smile more, laugh louder, and share her story as the day progressed, revealing incredible maturity and a vast appreciation for the opportunity that they have each been given. A challenge that many nonprofits face is the disconnect between the battles they fight and their supporters back home; for example, from my couch in Pittsburgh, it’s easy to see the number of girls in Nepal who are denied an education as just a number. I can assure you, the Rukmini scholars are smart, funny, sweet, and sassy individuals who, because of the education that they so cherish, are well equipped to run the world someday. Now isn’t that better than a number?
Rukmini Foundation Didi