The Didi program has been inviting female leaders to empower scholars by showing them how women are capable, if they are provided with opportunity. On Sept. 17, Rukmini held a session for the scholars to show how empowerment changes the lives of women. The theme of this didi program was different than usual. With an understanding that it’s important for scholars to have a focused mind, we organized a session with a leading lady of Art of Living, Mrs. Leela Lamichanne. Art of Living is an international organization working to lead a movement in education and humanitarian issues. The organization leads stress management and service initiatives through yoga and meditation teachings. Mrs. Leela Lamichanne was invited as a didi to share some meditation techniques with girls and also to share her story about how she became a successful teacher in Art of Living.

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Mrs. Leela Lamichanne from Art of Living visits Rukmini Foundation for a didi program.

In this session, about 32 people participated including 24 scholars, 5 didis (Pramila, Sabina, Prakriti, Usha and Sushmita), and 3 dais (Niroj, Nabin and Sashi Sharma Aryal). Despite the early start to the session at 7 am our scholars were excited to participate.

First, the session started with a warm up exercise to active the body which was a very refreshing start to the morning as it added a lot of energy to the didi program. Next, another activity followed to increase everyone’s concentration level. Leela didi explained that concentration is vital to complete any task successfully. She explained, “It is important for one to have focus on the present by forgetting about the past and future. This makes a person more attentive in work which leads them to success.” She further said that this was her mantra in living her life free of stress.

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Scholars perform yoga exercises with Rukmini staff and friends.

Leela didi went on to talk about meditation techniques while also demonstrating them. Everyone followed. She mentioned that having a smile on your face while meditating is the best way to meditate as it activates 72 facial muscles at once. These muscles, which are connected to the brain, go on to active and energize the mind. This creates a positive flow of energy. She advised scholars to smile all the time as it’s a good practice for the mind and helps a person become happy through practice.

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Trying out different meditation techniques to create focus.

After meditating for about 10 minutes, the environment of the didi session turned peaceful and calm.  Leela didi was impressed by the session and the work done by Rukmini Foundation. To keep the program interactive, she invited the scholars to ask any questions they had about Art of Living and her life in general. One of the Rukmini Scholar, Smriti, being curious, asked about her journey of becoming a teacher and experiences during childhood.

Didi said her childhood was like that of a simple village girl, who had to help her mother carry out household chores. Thus, she sometimes had to skip her classes to complete these tasks. She was very interested in her studies and did well with the help of teachers and friends. She recalled a time when she held first rank in her class despite not attending school regularly. This changed when her family moved from the village to a city. Luckily, she was still able to attend school despite this move. But, she wasn’t able to focus on her studies all the time as she had the responsibility of managing household tasks. With all these struggles she still managed to pass the 10th grade with 2nd division.

Dissatisfied with her scores, her parents thought it was no use to send her to higher education. Therefore, they had her married at the young age of 16. But, Leela didi was a very strong girl, she still wished to pursue education and sought help from her teachers despite her parent’s disapproval. Luckily her teachers were convinced of her passion to study so they provided her with a grant to pursue her education. With the help of such a grant she was successful in completing her bachelors while also having a job on the side. This made her independent and happy. Later, after working at an NGO for a long time, her health deteriorated. To practice a healthy lifestyle, she joined the Art of Living. She enjoyed her time there so much that she continued to serve as a teacher and she couldn’t be happier.

Leela didi’s life story was very inspirational to our scholars as most of them could relate to her story about balancing household tasks and school. Leela didi’s story of bravery in fighting for her dreams served as a motivation for our girls. It provided them with just the right kind of energy to keep following their dreams. This is exactly what the didi program aims to do by bringing successful didis and mentors from various job sectors to help relate to our girls with real life stories. The scholars are then able to take the story as an example to inspire them and use it as momentum to help them pursue their hopes and dreams.

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Didi shares here inspirational life story with students

After this interaction, Nabin Aryal, advisor of Rukmini Foundation asked didi to share some techniques for girls to develop interest in asking questions in general. Leela didi arranged one more activity to help the scholars develop this skill. She made girls play a simple game called Tom and Jerry. It was a two player game, where one girl had to be Tom and the other, Jerry and the task was for Tom to chase Jerry. Through the exercise students were taught the power of focus. She went on to explain, “When 100 percent is given to a task it will naturally develop curiosity in us as we try to understand more. Therefore, to be curious and raise questions one has to be focused on the activity.” This little exercise engaged and inspired all the participants present in the session.

Having such an energetic and motivational session of the didi program was a great experience for the Rukmini team. We appreciate the time Leela didi gave to our scholars. Mr. Sashi thanked her for leading such an influential session which helped our team learn techniques on living in the present moment. He asked our girls to implement all the ways they learned to maintain focus moving forward in pursuing their goals and ambitions. After the session, scholar Akriti Mahat, shared that yoga and meditation has helped her be more calm and patient. When she entered the didi program she found herself to be very restless but after the yoga and concentration increasing activity she felt quite focused and calm. Another scholar, Sainai, shared that she related very well to Leela didi’s early life struggles and found herself very motivated to continue reaching for her dreams.

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Group of scholars and mentors gather for a photo during the session

The group gathered to take a photo with a smile of all their faces and said goodbye to each other promising to be focused in activities they are involved in. This didi session had great impact on all our scholars as they learned that utilizing their time and resources while practicing a level of concentration is vital in achieving their dreams.

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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