A few days ago, BASE staff member Birbal took Adrienne and me out into the field to visit the local Child Clubs of two villages to learn about their activities and to encourage their participation in a district-wide advocacy project (which will be revealed in great detail at a later date). I had been under the impression that Tulsipur was rural, and indeed it is after the bustle of Kathmandu. But out in Chootkighumna, Tulsipur’s bus horns, political announcements via loudspeaker, clattering of spicy dishes and smells of sweaty, striving humanity are all a distant memory.
It would be very easy to romanticize the seemingly idyllic existence in Chootkighumna. The pastoral landscape is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, and all of the children seemed happy and well. But beneath the shy smiles and positive attitudes of the children lies a different story of poverty and desperation. The thatched roofs leak. The poorest children cannot afford school supplies. Too many children in rural areas, especially above age fourteen, become unmotivated, drop out of school, and turn to drugs and alcohol.
As impoverished as it is, Chootkighumna’s Child Friendly Village status makes it one of the better environments for children in this area. These particular Child Club members did not know any child laborers personally because the practice has been eradicated in their village. But they are still working very hard to ensure that all children of school-age stay enrolled in classes.
What impressed me the most in Chootkighumna was the resolve and strength of the Child Club members. They were courteous to the strange, older Americans, but they were not afraid to truthfully voice their concerns (a leaky roof and the drop-out rate) and hopes (education for all and good teachers) when we began a discussion about child labor and education in their village.
One young lady in particular, the 16 year old President of the club named Nilam Chaudhary, spoke many times about the club’s activities and the importance of education. I could see why she had been elected President, as her charisma and confidence demanded the attention of everyone in the room.
Nilam and her friends emphasized independence and standing on their own strength. They seem to realize that education is the one, sure-fire way they can help themselves. BASE and other NGOs will continue to do good work, but these kids know that the strength of their united voice is their own greatest asset.
Posted By Karie Cross
Posted Jul 28th, 2010