“I’m living with my younger sister in a small rented room. Being 16 years old myself, the things are not easy; doing chores, looking after my younger sister and everything that comes by. I studied in a community school in my village till 3rd grade. After I came to Kathmandu, I joined one of the schools in Kathmandu and got enrolled in first grade. Writing and speaking English is one of my limits. So, improving my English and turning it into my strength has become one of my goals. My dream is to educate and empower children like me who do not have any privilege in their lives” says one of the 16 years old scholars of Canopy Nepal Scholarship Programs (CANSHIP). This is one of the many inspirational stories of the scholars that left me stunned and utterly inspired.
It was October 2019, when I first saw the volunteer tutor call from Canopy Nepal posted in National College’s official Facebook page and came to know about Canopy Nepal and how it has been working to access better education to the children from marginalized communities. I always had a strong passion for working for children. Since my time in middle and high school, I’ve volunteered with younger children and have always loved being with the kids. I absolutely love it. There are millions of reasons why I believe it’s the most heartwarming and rewarding job to work with children and their families. That’s why, without giving any second thoughts, I filled out the form for the opportunity. After some days,my selection mail arrived. Undoubtedly, I was excited for my interview. I was interviewed by Program Manager and Associate Program Manager at CANSHIP, (who are now my amazing mentors) and the interview was as comfortable as it could be. After a few days, I was thrilled to receive a call unexpectedly which said, “You’ve been selected as School Liaison Officer.”
A week before I joined my work formally, I was given brief orientation about the job description. What caught my attention was the bright photos of the scholars hanging on the wall. I was briefed on their details and the uniqueness. Only if anyone knows the level of excitement I had, to work with them for the coming six months. I was clueless of how the children would be but was certain that they would be the best ones to work with. My supervisor assigned me two of the public schools, namely Balkumari Basic School and Shree Janakalyan Secondary School. When I got to know about the program details and my roles and responsibilities, I felt like this one is for me but somewhere I was stuck in between my own thoughts because I am not the kind of person who easily travels in public transport and that it was about two hours traveling distance from the schools I was assigned in, to my home. However, whatever the circumstances might be, I was ready to embrace my job and it was an obvious decision-the decision to work with and for the scholars.
It was during the orientation programme at Balkumari Basic School when I got to meet the scholars for the first time. What I found during my first encounter was that each one of them is so different, full of life and uniquely creative. That was the day when I felt that working with those young minds would be one of the historic decisions I would ever make in my life.
Honestly, there were days when I couldn’t just wait for my classes to end at 10.15 and rush to the schools where I was always welcomed by those big smiles and bear-hugs by the scholars. After weeks of sharing time together, scholars and I got into a comfortable space. Listening to their life stories broke me into tears. That moment made me realize the privileges that I have been taking for granted all my life. It gave me the strong sense of acknowledging, valuing and using those privileges for better, for them.
I love that no single day at work is the same. Being around them makes me connect to my inner child and channel the childlike and carefree part of myself. There were altogether 10 scholars from primary to high school level with whom I was assigned to work. Even though their socio-economic and family background was alike, the approaches to deal with them weren’t similar. While dealing with them and their issues, I learnt how important it is to focus on their strengths, their interests, needs, personality and many other dimensions. Working with them taught me that many factors should be taken into account and the issues should be diagnosed from multiple dimensions.
The traveling hours which I thought would be a hindrance to my work at the beginning gradually became the favourite part of the day. When I travel back to home from school after a long day at work with them, I loved to think of the scholars and the interaction with them, the issues they had, the progress they have made academically and non-academically and how I can help them further to be a better version of themselves. My everyday work goal was to make them feel happier about themselves, make them realize that each one of them is special on their own and that they are capable of achieving greater things in life.
Time flies by real quick, it feels like it was just yesterday that I started working with the kids. But it’s already 9 months of working with Canopy Nepal. In between COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, it was a challenge for me as I had to completely stop going to schools, meet them and interact with them. I missed going to schools and talking to them but all I could do was wish for their safety during these turbulent times in a phone call. Whereas, working from home turned out to be an opportunity for me to build strong connections with the team. I am forever indebted to the incredible team who helped me in the process of learning, unlearning and reflecting on so many things throughout my journey. The team’s inspiration, positive energy has shone on me which helped me believe in my potential and pushed me to achieve my limits when I was in self-doubt.
Now, when I look back, I feel honored and extremely overwhelmed to be able to positively impact change in the scholars’ lives in different ways be it by organizing workshops, interactive sessions or virtual discussions with them. Workshops like ‘Let’s talk about consent’, ‘Menstrual Campaign’, ‘Goal Setting’, ‘Discovering your future’ conducted for those enthusiastic scholars helped me explore myself and learn new experiences and insights from them too. Not even for a single moment, I felt that I was working with younger ones. They are emotionally and intellectually mature than someone of their age. When I see them and their determination to pursue their dreams, I see a better community, a better world.
Author: Isha Shrestha (Canopy Nepal)
Isha is the School Liaison Officer for Canopy Nepal Scholarship Project.