Jan 11, 2019

Anju's Story: from poverty to gold

Anju’s childhood had all the hallmarks of a potential traffick­ing victim. She was born into poverty, orphaned at age four. Passed among relatives obligated to be her caretakers, she was overwhelmed with household chores, and never had a home she could call her own.

When SGT found her, Anju was living with her uncle and was only able to stay in school with of SGT’s support. Tragically, her uncle, the man she thought of as her father, died, and his family began to torture her by constantly asking her to leave their house. She finally did and moved into her older sister’s small rented room, but at least she could continue her education.

It was at school that she discovered Taekwondo. One day, a Korean Taekwondo group came to give a demonstration and she knew immediately she wanted to learn it. The confidence that she would be safe in school because of SGT gave her the courage to try something she could call her own. By the time Anju completed 10th grade, she had earned her black belt.

Last winter, Anju’s instructor Sunil Singh Thakur helped her participate at an International Taekwondo Championship in India – and she won the Gold Medal! She is also the first member of her family to reach 12th grade. Now, she is a powerful role model for other SGT stu­dents and an emerging national star athlete.

Anju's incredible story speaks to her determination to reach her full potential against all odds – and to your kindness, which gives the 12,000 girls in STOP Girl Trafficking the opportunity to stay safe, keep learning, and dream big. We are all deeply grateful. 

Kicking her way to the top!
Kicking her way to the top!
And she wins gold!
And she wins gold!

Links:

Oct 24, 2018

Everything is possible at HRDC: Saraswati's Story

Being fitted for the braces that changed her life.
Being fitted for the braces that changed her life.

No matter where they live in the world, a child with a physical disability experiences struggles that many of us will never have to face. In Nepal, these difficulties are compounded by the country’s challenging terrain, scarcity of health clinics, and deep poverty. As a hospital dedicated to caring for children with disabilities, The Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for Disabled Children's (HRDC) medical team is committed to meeting each child’s unique needs to heal both body and mind. And this is exactly what happened for Shanta and her daughter Saraswati.

Just a year ago, it seemed Saraswati was destined for a life of hardship. Shanta’s husband passed away years ago, leaving her with five children to raise alone. As a widow without a permanent source of income, she struggles to find daily work and take care of her family’s needs. Saraswati’s disability was first noticed when she was a baby and had difficulty crawling. Later on, at school and in her village, children mocked her inability to walk normally. She felt anxious and ashamed. But her family’s poverty made treatment impossible.

When a local health worker learned of Saraswati’s situation, he referred her to HRDC. Hopeful, Shanta and Saraswati traveled to the main HRDC campus near Kathmandu. Saraswati was diagnosed with two conditions: the rare Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, which causes multiple joint contractures affecting two or more areas of the body prior to birth, and bilateral clubfoot. She was admitted immediately, undergoing a successful surgical intervention and receiving corrective braces for both her feet. While at the hospital, Saraswati was able to continue her studies on site at the HRDC School.

Back in school, the now sixth grader walks and participates in ways she had only dreamed of. Motivated by her experience, she wants to become a social worker. “What has happened to me is nothing short of a miracle,” she says. “Everything is possible at HRDC,” she added, beaming with joy, a new-found confidence, and gratitude.

Thank you for helping HRDC transform the lives of more than 80,000 children so far. We are deeply grateful.

Saraswati in front of HRDC's main hospital.
Saraswati in front of HRDC's main hospital.

Links:

Oct 2, 2018

My experiences, Then and Now: A letter from Dr. Aruna Uprety

Dr. Aruna Uprety, Founder of SGT.
Dr. Aruna Uprety, Founder of SGT.

This year we are thrilled to celebrate 20 years of STOP Girl Trafficking, so we asked our partner Dr. Aruna Uprety, the fearless leader and founder of SGT, to reflect on her early experiences preventing girls from being trafficked. When we began, she was going door to door persuading parents to let their daughters go to school to keep them safe. From 52 girls then, SGT has now enrolled more than 23,000 Nepali girls. We are so grateful for Dr. Uprety’s ingenious idea to keep girls safe by providing education and her tireless work to help girls in Nepal have a real future.

It was a typical winter morning in the middle hills this February, as the fog lifted and made way for the warm sun. I had traveled from Kathmandu to meet with local government officials. As I spoke with them, one young woman greeted me with a big smile.

“Hello Dr. Aruna, I am so happy to see you here!” she said.

I was surprised. How did she recognize me?

She saw through my confusion.

“You don’t remember me? I am Nirmala from Barabhise,” she ex­plained. “You had come to our community ten years ago, visited my home, and insisted to my mother that I be allowed to attend school. My mother was hesitant. But you insisted, and my mother eventually allowed me to attend school.”

STOP Girl Trafficking supports at-risk girls’ education all the way through 12th grade. Nirmala then went on to university and found a government job. She said I had not changed much through those years, but her life had transformed dramatically.

When I meet or hear about our students, it makes me think of the early days when we had initiated our program to motivate and assist girls to go to school. As far as the parents were concerned, girls were expected to do household chores, and sending them to school meant extra expenses while losing help at home.

It was not always easy to convince reluctant parents to send their daughters to school, even if we were offering to cover all the costs. We often had to collaborate with local teachers, social workers, and even political leaders, to convince the girl’s parents. Gradually, though, parents did realize if girls went to school, she and the family would both benefit; she could be safe from harm, learn to make informed decisions and earn a living.

I always thought our effort would be small, supporting perhaps a few hundred girls. That changed when I met AHF’s Richard Blum and Erica Stone 20 years ago. At the time, we were supporting 52 girls from Dalit (“untouchable”) communities in two districts. After partnering with AHF, we were supporting 1,000 within two years.

Then, they asked if we could grow to 5,000 girls. I gasped. Impossible for a small organization like mine, I thought. Little did I know, with AHF’s help and our great team, we would support more than 23,000 girls over time.

Twenty years ago, many rural areas did not have roads, and the communication system was poor. Sometimes, to reach commu­nities and schools we would need to take a long bus ride and then walk 12 hours.

Today, our former students are working across the country. Seeing a vulnerable girl making it through high school, and developing a career despite all the challenges, is a big win for her, her family, and Nepal.

Thank you, I am grateful for your help.

-   Dr Aruna Uprety

Aruna with SGT students in the early days, 1999.
Aruna with SGT students in the early days, 1999.
SGT girls are eager to learn!
SGT girls are eager to learn!
Aruna meeting with mothers of SGT students.
Aruna meeting with mothers of SGT students.
Bonus photo of Aruna with a baby goat!
Bonus photo of Aruna with a baby goat!

Links:

 
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