When people are asked to talk about their life, they usually start with “once upon a time….” Why? Because this life is like a dream bubble, a temporary thing, it is here one second and gone the next; something that happened once upon a time. But this story is different. When we asked Tsultrim Sangmo about her life, she said in her soft voice, “it is a journey, filled with a little struggle, hardships and lots of blessings, joy and courage.”

Here Tsultrim smiles brightly holding her books as a Rukmini Scholar

Yes, it has been quite the journey; a series of events, that no one would even imagine going through.

In 1999, May 30, Tsultrim Sangmo was born at Nubri village in Gorkha. Her village is a day drive and 5 days of hike from Kathmandu. There is neither school nor health post in her village. Life was hard. For a brilliant girl with lots of dreams, being confined to the rural village was not an option. So, she was sent to Kathmandu by her parents at the young age of seven.

She then started studying at a school for Buddhist nuns in Pharping. She was always diligent, hardworking, and good in her studies. The environment of the monastery, school schedules, and daily lifestyle had a profound effect on an inquisitive and thoughtful child. Everything was going well; she was paving a way with her hard work and dedication and chasing her dreams.

But, this way of life was short lived. After she completed her Grade 8 finals, Tsultrim’s nun school faced some problem. Due to which she could not continue her studies. Now she, along with other students, was in a big dilemma about how to move forward. They were at crossroads; afraid and confused. When the school was unable to help, they were stranded with no family, friends or relative to help them.

While her other classmates chose the easy way of returning to their family in villages, she chose a different path by looking for alternatives, as she was committed to her dream of pursuing her education. Initially it was hard. She could only think of working as a domestic worker and joining open school to complete her studies and earning livelihood by herself.

Fortunately she came across a woman (Tsultrim Sangmo likes to simply call her aunt) who decided to take care of her like her own daughter. But, the aunt wasn’t equipped to take her in fully as education costs are high in the long run.

Tulstrim and her aunt meet with a group of Rukmini staff

While looking for help, they approached Shikharapur School who then contacted Rukmini Foundation. Rukmini Foundation then readily accepted Shikharapur School’s proposal and provided Tsultrim Sangmo with a Scholar award.

Rukmini scholars share laughter in between class sessions.

It has been 2 months since Tsultrim joined Shikharapur School. She says, “Initially, it was quite odd to go to a school with completely different environment than a nun school. However with time, I got used to it and made friends. I like all the teachers and friends here. They are friendly and helpful.”

Despite leaving a nun school and joining a school with a totally different environment, she decided to keep up with her values. She says, “I still meditate, do prayers and follow teachings of Lord Buddha. While my other friends wear school uniform, I wear a nun dress and I’m okay with it.”

“We should never forget where we come from.” she added.

In her small age, she has taught us a lesson to never forget our values and core beliefs. We can imagine what impact she will create as she grows up and learns more.

She shares, “I used to be an introvert. I was shy to talk to people. The teachers and friends here motivated me to participate in extracurricular activities. Now, I can communicate to everyone easily. I participate in all programs. I even talk in front of a crowd and sing a song for them.”

She also became a member of Rukmini Foundation. She attended their “didi program” held on a monthly basis, which had involved games and songs. Participating in various programs helped her boost her confidence level. Her teachers and friends were always supportive which helped her adapt to the new surroundings.

For a person who is thirsty for knowledge getting a chance to study many subjects was a bliss. She really enjoys studying.

Niroj Shrestha, Program Officer of Rukmini Foundation says, “We are very pleased to see the transformation of Tsultrim Sangmo. She is no more the girl who was stranded 2 months back. She has now a clear vision and mission in life. She has all it takes to be a star. Thank you, Rukmini Foundation for the contribution.”

Her favorite subjects include science, math and English. In the future she wants to become a nurse and give back to the community she grew up in. She likes nursing also because she loves to connect with people, take care of people and make friends with them.

At last, she told us that she is grateful to Rukmini Foundation for helping her get over her past experiences and believe in her dreams.

Tsultrim playing with colors and bonding with her classmates.

The members of Rukmini Foundation frequently visit Shikharapur to keep track of her performance and talk to her about her experience at Shikharapur School. She says, “I feel like I am part of the family. They make me feel special. Never in my life have I been so happy and motivated. It makes me strive to be the best version of myself, learn more and work harder. I can’t wait to grow up and contribute a lot for the sake of poor and needy people.”

While children are returning to school in the US this month, there are still countless others, especially girls who aren’t able to do the same. Our work continues in an attempt to bridge this opportunity gap, but every once in a while we have a happy story like Tsultrim’s to share.

About Sangya Gyawali

Sangya is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Anthropology and Economics with a background in medicine and healthcare. She began interning with Rukmini Foundation on December, 2015. Since then she has been working closely with the Nepal Team to evaluate and improve project planning and reporting while also managing marketing strategies. She is interested in using business as a way to lift the bottom billion out of poverty. She is constantly motivated by her time in Nepal, and various parts of Africa where she worked closely on community development projects in the realm on healthcare to non-profit capacity building during the past three years. She is very excited to continue using her skills to strengthen Rukmini’s goals to empower girls in rural Nepal through education.
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