Just 14 years old, Rupa has already endured significant hardship in her young life. When she was a little girl living with her parents in their home village outside of Kathmandu in Hetauda, her mother fell very ill and passed away. With no other immediate family who could take care of her, Rupa was sent to live with a distant ‘uncle’ in Kathmandu.
Before she died, Rupa’s mother asked Rupa to promise that she would go to school and study hard, and Rupa has taken this to heart. She understands the value of education, and every one of her teachers has remarked that she is creative and intelligent beyond her years. “Given the right opportunity,” her class teacher told us, “Rupa could be Prime Minister of Nepal”.
At home, however, Rupa’s situation was precarious. Before and after school, she was required by her uncle to work in a tea shop, and when she got home she was responsible for all the household chores. Her uncle put a roof over her head but did little else to support or care for her, while lavishing attention on his two daughters, neither of whom made time for Rupa. She began to fall behind in school, and the lack of so many things that every child should be entitled to – a loving and supportive home, regular healthy meals, friendship – was taking a toll on her.
NCEP worked for two years to try to help Rupa find a long term solution in which she would be in a safe, happy and healthy environment to go to school. In spring 2012, during a visit to Nepal by NCEP Edmonton Chapter member Lorna Thomas, we were able to find one. Lorna and Raju worked with Bina Basnet, the founder of Orchid Garden Nepal – who also runs a small hostel for girls in vulnerable situations – and found a place for Rupa. Ms. Basnet, a visionary woman described by friends and family as having a “heart of gold”, has been thrilled with Rupa’s progress; not only is she excelling in school, she has also shown great talent in art and dancing, and aspires to be a choreographer. But more than that, Rupa is happy. She has blossomed into a warm, friendly, hard-working girl who is always smiling and has made many friends. She sees Raju as an uncle, and we have been told that she often asks about Lorna, Bonnie, Sandeep and Luke in Canada. Finally, at age 14, Rupa has a chance to enjoy her childhood again.
NCEP Field Volunteer Tashi sits with Rupa.
Rupa and her once-guardian chat with visiting NCEP Co-Founder Sandeep.
Rupa with her teachers looking happy