Lauren Purnell

Lauren completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Virginia in Anthropology and East Asian Studies in 2011. After graduation, she joined the international law firm of White & Case LLP as a practice assistant. For four years she assisted on cases related to white collar crime and international arbitration. However, after assisting on pro bono cases for asylum seekers she was inspired to change the direction of her life and focus on the development of safer societies. She is currently earning her MA in International Relations and Economics from John Hopkins SAIS, with a concentration on International Development. After her fellowship, Lauren wrote: "I am so grateful for the opportunity the Advocacy Project has given to engage with an organization doing such meaningful and fulfilling work."

What’s a Child Friendly Room?

22 Jul

This week I had pleasure of interviewing Meera Gurung, who is a facilitator at a Child Friendly Room in Kathmandu. The Child Friendly Rooms came about after the earthquake last year when many schools were closed. The closing of schools and destruction of homes, meant that many children had no safe place to go during the day. These rooms that started as a temporary measure proved to be so beneficial to vulnerable children in the area that CONCERN chose to keep seven Child Friendly Rooms open so that students would have a place to go before and after school to study and play. Having this space allows children to remove themselves from environments that may lead to coerced labor or other abuses. It also helps them to improve their school work through the support of the facilitators and fellow students.


Children playing a game during my visit to Meera’s Child Friendly Room.


The Child Friendly Room that Meera runs is a simple space that actually becomes Meera’s living space when the children aren’t present. There were 17 students present during my visit and about 30 students come regularly. The room has many games and books available for the children, but most importantly it has Meera.

Meera leading the children in a game during my visit.

Meera leading the children in a game during my visit.


Meera is intelligent, caring, friendly, and she definitely understands the situation these children are facing. When she was about 12, CONCERN began funding her education. She was the child of stone quarry workers and had started wage labor in the quarries. Her job was to carry stones in a basket around her head (see the picture below.)

Example of the basket Meera would carry stones in.

She said the basket would weigh 50 kilos (or about 110 pounds). Carrying these kind of heavy loads at such a young age was obviously tiring and dangerous. At that time, her father wasn’t supportive of her education so she found herself working in the quarries, as well as other odd jobs, such as washing dishes at weddings.

This is a photo from a community theater production of an original play called "Ludo." Meera is playing a lawyer.

This is a photo from a community theater production of an original play called “A Different Cultivation of Maize.” Meera portrayed a lawyer.

Without CONCERN’s support its likely that Meera wouldn’t have been able to continue going to school at all. But now, Meera has finished secondary school and is studying to work in theater. She is active in community theater in Kathmandu and hopes to become a director one day. Meera strives to set a good example for her students and even though things are still hard for her she radiates positivity. I think we could all use someone like Meera in our lives, and I’m certain she is making a difference for every child taking advantage of her Child Friendly Room.

To hear more about Meera’s experiences and the Child Friendly Rooms straight from the source, please check out my first attempt at a podcast! It was definitely a learning experience for me, but I think Meera’s personality and strengths really come through, so enjoy!

Posted By Lauren Purnell

Posted Jul 22nd, 2016


  • Mary Riley

    July 25, 2016


    Excellent podcast, Lauren! And, yes, Meera’s strengths and personality shine through. Thank you for sharing it.

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