The more I research and write about these wonderful selfless people, the more I realize what a difference they make to the lives they touch. Pushpa is one of those people. She may not have touched millions of people like some, but those she has touched will never forget her!
Pushpa lives in Nepal, India and her parents are relatively successful business people. When she was 21 years old, Pushpa decided to train as a social worker. Part of her studies was to visit a women’s prison.
She was shocked by the appalling conditions and to see young children in the prison. One little girl touched her heart when she grabbed her shawl through the bars and gave her a big grin.
When she got home to her parents’ house that evening, she could not stop talking about what she had seen. Her parents told her it was normal to see young children in prison with their mothers.
When the mother was sentenced, if the family could not help, with no places in the affiliated government children’s home and the mother did not want to put her child on the streets, the only option was for her child (or children) to accompany her to jail for the term of her sentence.
Pushpa’s parents expected their daughter to forget what she had seen and to carry on with her studies. But for many fortunate little children, she could not forget. Still only 21 years old, and only 2 months after her first visit to the prison, Pushpa decided to open a daycare center for children in prison.
At first, her parents were against the ide,a as she had no job to financially sustain the center, and officials, government workers, even prison mothers, thought she was too young to do the job. Soon, everyone realized how determined Pushpa was to make her plan succeed and her parents decided to give her some financial support.
With extra donations of money from friends, a building was rented in Kathmandu to be the base of her new organization known as, “The Early Childhood Development Center”. She furnished it largely by convincing her parents they needed a new table, chairs, refrigerator, etc. and when the new ones arrived, the old would disappear to her center!
This was the first program of its kind and took in 5 children under six years old. They were collected from prison in the morning and returned in the afternoon on weekdays. Some of these children had never seen outside the prison!
Two years later, when she was still only 23 years old, Pushpa established her “Butterfly Home”. (see video below) This became a residential home for older children from the prisons (all have their parents consent to be there) where they received an education, food, and medical care along with a chance to live a more normal life.
All the children help out with the daily chores and the older children help the younger children. Pushpa lived in the home herself for the first five years before handing it over to trusted staff members, but she is still very hands on!
She feels very strongly that the children must keep a relationship with their parents so the younger ones are sent back in the holidays to visit their parents.
Pushpa says she is rewarded daily for her hard work by the constant smiles of all the children, and it makes her even more motivated to rescue children from a life in prison when they have done nothing wrong.
“My mission is to make sure no child grows up behind prison walls”. Sometimes Pushpa will travel to remote parts of the country if she has heard there is a child in prison and with the parents consent, bring their child back to her ‘home’.
Since Pushpa started her scheme, there are now other similar schemes up and running and it can only be good for these poor children in India. The other really important aim of the project is to re-unite the children with their parents when the prison time is finished.
To date, 60 of her children have been able to do this: parents like Kum Maya Tamang who had spent 7 years in a woman’s prison for drug charges and who had to take her two daughters with her. She had heard about Pushpa’s scheme and decided to let her daughters join Pushpa outside the prison, otherwise they would never get an education. Laxmi, the 14 year old eldest daughter, said she could not imagine life without Pushpa.
By 2009, she had started her next idea. She wanted to teach the parents in prison to make handicrafts which Pushpa could then sell to raise money to help the children in care. Both mothers and fathers participated and they not only learned new skills that might help to support them when they leave prison, they also felt they were helping to support their own children.
Making enough money to support all Pushpa’s schemes has always been a problem and she has even had to sell her own jewelery and possessions in the past to keep things going, but it’s getting easier.
Now Pushpa is coming up with new ideas to give her children a future. A bank account has been set up to provide for their further education, as their happiness is always on her mind. I will leave you with a few of her own words.
“This is what I want to do with my life. It makes me feel good when I see that they are happy, but it makes me want to work harder. I want to fulfill their dreams.”
God Bless Pushpa Basnet!
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