In 2009 BASE performed a raid and rescue and rescued many child laborers under one its programs at the time. Among those rescued children were then 8-year-old Sabita and 8-year-old Sima. Both Sabita and Sima were profiled by a few of the former Peace Fellows (Kan Yan in 2009 and Adrienne Henck in 2010) and Sabita features in the documentary made by Kan Yan, The Price of Childhood. Typically with the children rescued by BASE would spend about a month at the BASE children’s rehabilitation center before being returned to their parents. Unfortunately for both Sabita and Seema their families were unable, or unwilling to take them back after BASE rescued them. In light of their family situation BASE pledged to send the girls to boarding school so they could continue their educations and have a safe place to live.
Sabita hiding behind Sima as I showed her a clip from The Price of Childhood: a documentary featuring Sabita
Sujita Basnet and I went to visit Sabita and Sima to check in on them at the Hindu Vidyapeeth School where they are both enrolled, and deliver a donation made by a former Peace Fellow to cover their school fees. We arrived during the school’s lunch break so we could talk to the girls without disturbing their classes. Neither of us was prepared for the angry and hostile greeting we received from Sabita. Sabita, who mistakenly thought we were BASE employees, quickly became angry and started yelling at us, asking where the money for her school expenses was and why she had not been taken to see her family in so long. Unknown to either Sujita or myself before we arrived at the school BASE, which had pledged not only to pay for both the girls school fees (which covers not only tuition but clothes, books, food and board as well) but also to take the girls home to visit their families during school breaks, had not fulfilled either of these promises for the past year and a half.
Sabita, left and Sima, right, discussing their life at school and the Children’s Peace Home in Ghorahi, western Nepal
Sabita began crying as she told us how much she misses her family and how upset she is with BASE for not coming to take her home as promised. After recovering from the initial shock of these revelations we clarified that we were not BASE employees but there on behalf of former Peace Fellows who wanted to help them with their school fees. Once Sabita calmed down a bit we were able to talk with her and Sima about their experiences at the Hindu Vidyapeeth School and how things had been going for them. They both said they were enjoying their time at school and staying at the Children’s Peace Home (the orphanage founded and run by the school’s Principal, Bhola Nath Yogi) but wish that BASE would better support them.
Hindu Vidyapeeth School in Ghorahi, Dang
I later inquired about Sabita and Sima back at the BASE office and was told that once the raid and rescue program came to a close they no longer had funding for the girls’ school fees or transportation to visit their families. BASE employee Pinky Dangi, who was heavily involved in the original raid and rescue of Sabita and Sima, took it upon herself to fund the girls’ education once the funding ran out. She personally paid their school fees and bought them new clothes. This past year she was only able to raise half the necessary amount however and now that she is away pursuing her Masters degree in Thailand she is concerned that she won’t be able to find a way to pay for the girls.
Bhola Nath Yogi looking through the records to find out the exact amount of the girls’ outstanding balance
Bhola Nath Yogi, the founding Principal of the school and orphanage, is happy to support the girls in the mean time, but there’s only so much he can do. He personally sponsors the 35 children living at the orphanage (which he built on his family’s land in 2005) and an additional 133 children who attend the school. He also takes the children who live in the orphanage home to visit their families during school breaks, but due to liability issues he cannot take Sabita or Sima home as BASE still claims responsibility for the girls.
Sima (far left in gray) and Sabita (far right in pink) having breakfast at the Children’s Peace Home before heading to school
Fortunately the donation provided this time was enough to cover the amount owed on the girls’ school fees, but their future funding remains uncertain. When NGOs are dependent on funding for specific programs it does allow them to potentially do some amazing work, such as BASE did in 2009 with their raid and rescues, but makes long term planning difficult. BASE promised to take care of these girls but given the specific project driven nature of their funding it will be difficult for them to continue funding the girls’ education. Anyone interested in donating to the girls’ education can do so here and can find more information on the school and orphanage here.
Posted By Emily MacDonald
Posted Aug 7th, 2013