Rukmini Foundation’s Didi Program is an initiative that brings together the Rukmini Scholars with various inspirational women from both their close community and the greater world beyond. Each month, the RF scholar Bahini’s have an opportunity to spend time with women who have overcome hardship, pursued their goals and achieved success in fields of education, community development and/or business.
One such inspirational figure is Didi Pearly Wong from Malaysia who is currently Nepal as a part of her Ph.D. program. And on August 6th, Didi Pearly Wong was at Champadevi School with 31 Rukmini Foundation scholars and mentors, sharing the story of her education and travels to over 40 countries in pursual of her work and education in Developmental Studies.
Born in a middle-class family, Didi Wong attended the local government school and told the scholars that she was encouraged to pursue a career of Doctor or Engineer. To this end, she studied Biology for two years after high school and received a scholarship to pursue her Bachelor’s degree. A diligent and hardworking student, Didi Wong aced all her exams and she encouraged the scholars to take pride in their academic achievements. However, she did not want to become a doctor or an engineer. Instead, she wanted to go abroad to continue her education.
While there is no gender-based discrimination in Malaysia, Didi Wong told the Bahini’s that her parents were not happy about her going to the U.K to work as a homestay caregiver, so that she could continue her higher education in U.K. Didi Wong told stories about her struggle of working in a new place, getting lost in a foreign country and making new friends who provided support and guidance; and as she told her story, she inspired the scholars to not give up on their goals when life throws hurdles towards them. The relentless perusal of her goal eventually led her to Poland where she studied Development Studies. After graduating, Didi Wong volunteered for six months in Africa before joining UNESCO to work in Nepal.
The scholars were captivated by Didi Wong’s story as she told them about different family and social dynamic she encountered through her travels to over 40 countries between 2009-2015. She encouraged the scholars to be open-minded and to be understanding of people of different age, caste, race, and economic backgrounds as they all have different stories and different lives they live.
“Some people in developed countries in Europe don’t care much about their family. In my country, people lead a very busy life too, so they don’t have time to care for one another. But a country like Nepal has kind and helpful people.”
Different developmental stages encourage different behaviors from people and Didi Wong told the scholars the best method of community development comes from understanding people who are different from us.
To encourage the habit of open-mindedness and understanding of those different than we are, Didi Wong taught the RF Bahini scholars a communication game called “Yes and, yes but/no and, no but”. The purpose of this game, Didi Wong explained, was to better understand the thoughts, likes, and dislikes of our friends. Further, the game encouraged creativity and open-mindedness as they came up with “and/but” sentences.
When a scholar asked Didi Wong what she thought was needed for sustainable development of a country like Nepal, Didi Wong explained to the scholars that there should be more control on foreign employment so that we did not lose all our skilled youth and manpower to foreign nations. She encouraged scholars to apply their education and skill to help their community for its development.
As the program ended, the RF Bahini’s thanked Didi Pearly Wong for sharing her story and teaching them about open-mindedness. Didi Wong’s story of her education, career, and life inspired the participants to not only be understanding individuals but also to work in their community, to be helpful and kind to people from all walks of life. It was a day of stories, laughter, and new understandings.