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  • Writer's pictureShivali Yadav

Pushpa Basnet

At age 21, most people dream of getting their first car. For Pushpa Basnet, a social worker born in Kathmandu, Nepal, it was at age 21 that she realized her life’s purpose - to help the children stuck in prisons. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a majority of the population dwelling in conditions below the international poverty line. In this case, the security in the streets leaves a lot to be desired. There is hardly any space in the government-sanctioned children’s homes. Consequently, when a parent is imprisoned, and no guardian is available, they are faced with a significant decision - should they take their kids to prison with them, or leave them to the mercy of the streets? For a social service project, Pushpa visited a women’s prison and was taken aback by the dire conditions. One particular moment that stuck with her forever was when a young, sweet girl grabbed her shawl and gave her a tentative smile. That one moment, that one smile- that changed everything for the better. Only 21, still an undergraduate at St. Xavier’s College in Kathmandu, Pushpa began her journey to fulfil her self-appointed mission to make sure no child grows up behind prison walls. Since 2005, she has helped more than 100 children of incarcerated parents. From the very first step, she was defying all the people who doubted her. Initially, she raised an impressive amount of Rs. 70,000 from her close friends and sister, and utilized it to start a non-profit daycare called The Early Childhood Development Center. She took the kids to the daycare in the morning and returned them by afternoon. At the daycare, the kids, mostly aged 2-4 years old, were lovingly nurtured and took part in various activities such as reading, drawing, and colouring. These few hours at the daycare delighted them to no end. Basnet’s program was the first of its kind in Kathmandu - when she started, some of the kids had never stepped foot outside prison. After 2 years, still being a staunch believer in the fact that kids don’t deserve to be in prison as they have done no wrong, she started a residential home, The Butterfly Home, that housed 40+ kids above the age of 6. This home provided them with education, food, medical care, a shot at a more normal life, and most importantly - opportunities to fulfill their own dreams. In 2009, she undertook another endeavour, this time with the parents in mind. Sponsored by ChangeFusion Nepal, she began to coach parents to create handicrafts inside the cell. The main objective? To involve the adults in not only incoming generating activities but also help them feel connected to their children, as the money raised by selling the products is used towards raising the children. This handicraft business, along with greeting cards that the kids’ create are some of the only income sources for them, and yet they work with smiles on their faces. Pushpa says that everyone partakes in the small chores to be done. Although Pushpa herself is very hands-on, the smiles of the children keep her motivated and she never tires. Pushpa’s efforts have received global appreciation. She was rightfully awarded the CNN Heroes Award in 2012. A documentary named ‘Waiting For Mamu’ has also been released, highlighting her struggles. A kind-hearted woman, with a strong desire to help, Pushpa Basnet changed our world.

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