Tsultrim, or Pema as she was known as a child, begins her story in the rolling hills of Nurbi, a village located on the lap of the northern Himalayan range in the Gorkha district of Nepal. Mount Manaslu is the highest peak in that range, which is the 8th tallest mountain in the world, thus Nurbi is a blend of captivating beauty and remoteness of nature. Since Nurbi lies on the Manaslu trek circuit, villagers earn their living primarily by selling milk-based products and woolen handicraft products made from the fur of Yak and Sheep to tourists. Due to high biodiversity, some people earn by collecting medicinal herbs. Most village children helped their parents in these activities. So, Pema, like other children, used to herd cattle in the mountains singing and dancing and attending various folk festivals with her sister. She has a beautiful voice and people used to say that she would be a good singer in the future. Hence, she has nothing but happy memories of her childhood with her family in her beautiful village.
Little girl with Big Dreams
As Pema grew older, frolicking around the village was no longer enough; now, she wanted to get an education and become a doctor. In the local community sending children to school was unheard of. They were needed for cattle herding and household chores. In any case, there was no proper school in the village. There was a building designated as a school with one teacher who hardly showed up. So, it was a bold dream for a girl from a place where the culture of schooling did not exist. But, seeing her determination, her father decided to find her a school in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. Hence, Pema left her home at age 7 to follow her dream of becoming a doctor.
Pema’s uncle arranged her enrollment in a school for nuns at Pharping, Kathmandu. It was here that Pema became Tsultrim as her uncle enrolled her as Tsultrim Sango Lama. Due to her eagerness to learn, Tsultrim adapted quickly to her new environment. That was extraordinary since she was living among strangers, away from home at age 8. She learned to live in harmony with other girls attending prayers, meditation, and Buddhist teachings, including Tibetan Scriptures. After that, everything went smoothly until 8th grade. Since all the girls in the school were studying to be Nun, they were sent to India for further studies upon completing 8th grade. However, Tsultrim wanted to become a doctor; now, she needed to enter a school with a regular curriculum. For her, this was a dead-end, and now she needed to forge a road ahead.
Where there is a will, there is a way:
By now, she was a teenager. So, she contemplated working as a domestic help to support herself and join a public school in Pharping. Luckily, Tsultrim came across a woman named Sange Palmo. This good-natured woman was so impressed by Tsultrim’s enthusiasm to pursue her education, and hence Sange Palmo decided to take her in as her own.
Thus, Tsultrim found a new family again, with an aunt, uncle, brother, and sister. They treated her like their own and decided to support her in any way they can.
Approaching Rukmini Foundation:
Sange Palmo was good at heart, but economically she was unable to bear the cost of education and living, so she contacted Shikharapur School for help. After hearing Tsultrim’s story, Shikharapur school contacted Rukmini Foundation. After observing Tsultrim’s enthusiasm for education firsthand, the Rukmini Foundation decided to support her education financially. Thus, in 2016 Tsultrim became a scholar of Rukmini foundation and joined Shikharapur School.
I like all of the programs organized by the Rukmini Foundation, especially the Didi program. Didis (older sisters) who have attained their position in various fields come to share their stories of success and struggle. These stories are very inspirational, and I get motivated to work hard because of that. I was an introvert and a shy person, but the personal stories of courage and determination of Didi’s helped build my confidence to face any obstacles and move forward.
Adjusting to an unfamiliar environment
Tsultrim was enrolled in a school with a regular academic curriculum. It was overwhelming for a girl who grew up in a monastery to attend a traditional school initially. But soon she found her classmates and teachers incredibly supportive and willing to help her in every way possible. Tsultrim was learning the ways of the world as a teenager. Now she had to adapt some of her old ways or form anew while deciding to keep some. She decided to keep up with the values she learned at the monastery. She says, ” I still meditate, do prayers, and follow the teachings of Lord Buddha. While other friends wear school uniforms, I wear a nun’s dress, and I am okay with that. We should never forget where we come from.”
Tsultrim showed tremendous strength and adaptability to fit in this new situation. She tries her best to help her new family with household chores. She is an excellent cook, and her family loves her cooking. All these changes must have been impossible for many, but she took everything in stride. Yet, she has not forgotten her lovely village where she spent her childhood. The thought of her childhood village and family inspires her to move ahead. Further, the love and support of her new family provides additional support to reach her goal.
Excelling in School
Tsultrim did very well in her new school. She gives credit for her improvement to her friends and teachers, who encouraged her to speak up and participate in extracurricular activities and programs in school. Her favorite subjects are Math, Science, and English. In addition, she is an excellent painter and makes banners and drawings for School activities.
Her aim in life is to serve the people in the community. She plans to be a social worker and help the needy, especially children. Her childhood dream was to become a doctor. She was hoping to study medicine after completing high school. She recently passed the 12th Grade board examination and appeared in the entrance examination of Optometry. Sadly, she could not pass the test. Now, she wants to continue her bachelor’s degree in Management. She says, “We can help people regardless of our field of study. The desire to help has to come from within”.
We have enough reason to believe that she will be successful in her studies and do well for herself and others. Recently, she left her family home in Pharping and is living with her sister in Kathmandu, who came to study for SEE (High School) like her. She is looking for a job to support herself and her sister. We are so proud to see a girl like Tsultrim who went from being a shy girl who left her family and friends to pursue an education and has now turned into a confident young lady on her way to higher education and is looking to support her sister and inspire other girls.