Post by: Shruthi Shankar
Field Report by: Prabriti Nepal

May 28th marked the beginning of a new step in the development of Rukmini Foundation’s Didi program. Not only was it the first Didi program of the new school-year, it was also the first mentoring program held outside of Pharping. The team in Nepal organized a Didi program visit to the Butterfly Home at Budanilkantha, which was founded by Ms. Pushpa Basnet in 2005 for children whose parents are in prison. For her work, Ms. Basnet, or Pushpa Didi as we called her was named CNN’s Hero of the Year in 2012. She is a national hero and an inspiration to not only the scholars, but all citizens of Nepal.

way towards Butterfly home

Rukmini Scholars and Didis journey to the Butterfly Home

The field trip, composed of 36 scholars, assembled in front of Shikarapur Community School by 9 AM sharp, where they waited eagerly with their chaperones for the shuttle bus. They were joined by 4 Didis (mentors): Mr. Rojin, Mr. Niroj, Mr. Shashi, and Mr. Ramkamur from Setidevi School. The students enjoyed talking and sharing stories with their Didis during the two hour bus ride from Pharping to ECDC, and also had the opportunity to see several famous buildings around Kathmandu. The scholars were welcomed upon their arrival to the Butterfly Home by Pushpa Didi, who was very friendly and caring towards all of the girls. She led the group on a tour around the Butterfly Home, which is extremely well-kept and caters to the well-being of the children and the disabled, and also to the environment. In founding the home, Pushpa Didi made an effort to use local products and to construct the buildings in the traditional Nepali style.

Ruku Graduate Scholar Sushmita takes the opportunity to take a photo with Puspa Didi

Our Rukmini graduate Sushmita smiles at the opportunity to spend time with Ms. Pushpa

After the house tour, Pushpa Didi recounted the impressive journey of her life to the Rukmini scholars and mentors. She remarked upon her transformation from a pampered and close-minded child to a worldly philanthropist, as evidenced by her title as CNN Hero of the Year. Pushpa Didi told her audience about the difficult times she had faced in her life, and provided reassurance to the Rukmini Scholars that one can overcome even seemingly insurmountable of obstacles. She mentioned that her own heart and her feelings served as inspiration for her social work- this helped teach our girls that the most reliable source of change one can hope for in the world is yourself. Pushpa Didi added that her family had been a valuable source of guidance too. She concluded by asking our scholars to follow their hearts, as being true to yourself will lead to much more success than living a life influenced only by what others tell you to do. At the same time, she taught the girls that having reliable mentors was also important.

Exposure Participants from Rukmini at Butterfly Home

The group sit around excitedly as they wait to be engaged in a discussion with Ms. Pushpa.

Pushpa Didi has taken in more than 40 children under her care in the lovely Butterfly House. One of these girls, Laxmi, has been a resident of the Butterfly Home since its establishment, and she bravely shared her story with us. Laxmi is very close to the age of our scholars, and many of them see the struggles of their own lives mirrored in hers. As the child of an imprisoned parent, Laxmi arrived at ECDC when she was only 8. Even though she fled from a terrible situation, Laxmi has managed to find true happiness at the Butterfly Home, and feels indebted to Pushpa Didi for giving her a chance at a new life. Says Laxmi, “In a way we all are lucky in a sense that we are able to call Pushpa Didi as our mother and have this life and opportunities. We get a quality education and other great programs like Taekwondo classes, dance classes, sewing and other handicrafts training, a better standard of living, and much more here.  It was not possible if we were with our own parents.” Laxmi wants to continue looking after the branch office of this organization in order to help other girls like her. She set an example to our scholars that anyone can reinvent themselves, no matter how many difficulties they have faced, if they have the right support and are willing to work for their dreams.

Our scholars were mesmerized by the stories of Pushpa Didi and Laxmi, and felt even more motivated after their conversation. Many of them commented on the lessons learned that day, including never giving up hope. They were also happy to have found such strong female role models, as they demonstrated that women are truly capable of changing the world. In the few hours since they had left home, the whole group had suddenly become much more emboldened to do something significant in our life and society. This is the type of lessons we want to share with our scholars, and we are very grateful to Pushpa Didi for giving us an opportunity to learn from her and the great work she is doing.

Group Picture with Pushpa Didi

A group picture taken after the successful and inspirational outing!

About Shruthi Shankar

Shruthi is a junior neuroscience major at the University of Pittsburgh, and is pursuing certificates in Global Health and the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. She is excited to be a part of Rukmini because she is interested in the intersection between women’s health, rights, and education. Throughout the next several years, Shruthi will be supporting Rukmini’s various community events, as well as raising awareness of South Asian women’s issues within the Pitt campus by coordinating the foundation of a Pitt Rukmini club. Shruthi hopes that her work here helps pave the way so that a girl’s education is no longer seen as a privilege, but as a right.
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