It takes a village
The famous proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” still holds in villages of a developing country like Nepal. Most families here work their land for a living which is generally not enough to sustain the family. Hence, men often work as laborers to earn money, which leaves women with no alternative but to take care of domestic and farm work daily. Generally, mothers do not have sufficient time to take care of their children or play with them. However, families still live in a tight-knit neighborhood where everyone knows everybody in the village; So women let their children venture around carefree. As a result, children in the community grow with each other, devoid of much care from their parents. This leaves them to fend for themselves and watch out for each other, creating strong childhood bonds and happy memories.
Saru was born in one such village named Sokhel, located on the outskirts of Kathmandu valley. She is the youngest among her three siblings. Like many villagers, her parents are farmers and did not have enough time at hand to spend with their kids. So Saru grew up running about rice paddies and playing around in alleyways with village kids. She is one happy kid and becomes very cheerful while reminiscing about her childhood adventures.
Saru’s parents did not make enough to keep the family afloat by subsistence farming. They had a hard life filled with back-breaking labor. Despite their hardship, Saru’s parents fostered a loving environment at home for their kids. They wanted to educate their children with the hope of a better future. So, Saru’s parents admitted their two elder children to the local school, further jeopardizing their financial condition. To circumvent the situation, her parents rented a fertile plot of land in Pharping and started growing vegetables which are high in demand. To fetch higher prices, Saru’s mother sells those vegetables in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal.
Despite being in school, Saru’s elder siblings helped their parents in household and farm work as much as possible. Irrespective, their parents worked hard from daybreak to nightfall and came home covered with dirt and sweat at night. To save time, the family moved near the farm in Pharping from Sokhel. The move helped, but her parents still had a tough life. They worked from dawn to dusk religiously. At night her mother washed and packed the freshly picked produce and the next day traveled to Kathmandu city by the local bus carrying her produce to sell there. Rain or shine, Saru’s mother went to town with her vegetables. She couldn’t afford to miss a day; it became the ritual, and she follows it to this day. Seeing her mother’s toil, Saru longed to ease her mother’s burden. Saru developed a strong sense of urgency to earn money and free her mother from financial responsibility.
Becoming A Rukmini Bahini
Hearing about Saru from the Principal, our team visited the school to discuss the details about Saru and her family. They met with Saru, called on her home, and talked with her parents to understand their economic situation firsthand. Upon assessing, they felt Saru was a suitable candidate and decided to take Saru as Rukmini Bahini in 2016.
For a curious girl like Saru, Rukmini’s Programs became very inspiring and impactful. She loved “LitClub” and LitCamp,” learning many creative skills, meeting with other girls, sharing stories, and having fun. Listening to Didis’ stories of struggle and success, she learned many valuable lessons. Those stories also made her realize success does not come easily, and one must overcome obstacles to reach one’s goal. Further, Saru is expanding her knowledge beyond the classroom. She takes part in an English conversation class offered by our partner, Eduling academy, from Pittsburgh. She loves making conversation with students of other countries, learning and sharing about cultures, foods, and so on. She is one of the recipients of laptops from the Foundation, which she is utilizing fully. She regularly takes lessons from our technical staff to improve her computer skills. Saru gives credit to Rukmini foundation for her personal and educational growth, which has given her confidence to take leadership roles and public speaking.
Even if I fail to enter medical school, at least I can get a job in other fields if I have a bachelor’s degree.
Saru meets friends from Pittsburgh.
Supporters of the Foundation, Mr. William Laszlo Holman and Mr. Danny Haritan, visited Nepal in 2019 to demonstrate some photography lessons to the scholars. During that visit, they had the opportunity to meet Saru and show her how drones function. Mr. Laszlo remembers her by saying, “What struck me most about Saru was her energy, bright and full of life. And as she spoke, I heard a thoughtful intellect that matched that energy. She seemed to me, a young person very sure of herself, her ability to be happy, and certain of where she would go in life.”
“I was using the drone, and she was excited when I let her take the controls – Saru took to it very naturally.” William Laszlo Holman (Bill)
Saru graduated from the 10th grade Board Examination known as SEE (Secondary Education Examination) in 2020. Upon completing SEE, students either attend high school or obtain technical training and certification. Saru chose to train for a three-year medical assistance program (MAP) instead of joining high school. MAP certification almost guarantees a job upon completion. Thus, Saru’s decision to join the program is driven by her steadfast desire to earn money and alleviate her mother’s destitution. She has already passed the entrance examination and successfully secured a tuition scholarship for the MAP at Star Academy in Kathmandu. Her classes start at 6.30 a.m. and end at 1.30 p.m. She must commute by local bus from Pharping to Kathmandu every day, which is tiresome. But in her case, such inconveniences are obscured by a single-minded aspiration to make her parents proud and ease their economic burden. And also, this brings her a step closer to realizing her dream of becoming a doctor.
Planning with an open mind
Saru’s genuine aspiration is to become a doctor. Hence, Saru intends to enroll in High School education (11 and 12 grade) upon finishing her MAP. Once she completes high school, she will be able to pursue a college degree. For college, she plans to join a bachelor’s program in public health (BPH). BPH program is unique because it provides an undergraduate degree and offers a built-in track to enter medical college. She has thought through all her options before picking the BPH program. And she reasons, “If I fail to enter the medical college, at least I can get a job in other fields if I have a bachelor’s degree.” For a young girl, to have so much forethought about her career and future seems almost unbelievable in this age of Facebook, Instagram, and pointless internet browsing. But again, her choices are driven by the thoughtful reflection of her parent’s strenuous life and yearning to make them proud, which is rare in itself in today’s teenagers.
For now, Saru’s parents have some respite because both their elder children are out of school. Saru’s older sister finished high school, got married, and currently works as a health insurance salesperson upon completing high school. Her elder brother is also out of school and works as a cab driver. Since Saru has a tuition scholarship, her family only needs to cover expenses related to transportation, books, lunch money, etc. As a result, her parents are happy and we at the Foundation believe Saru will become an impactful leader and an asset to her society.