Staff Spotlight: Olgapuri House Parents Bishnu Rana and Pushpa Thapa
Days start slowly in the junior girls’ house at Olgapuri Children’s Village. The sun rises over Kathmandu Valley, and Bishnu-Uncle and Pushpa-Aunty sit down together for meditation and a cup of tea as their 20 young girls start waking up.
Some of the smaller girls ask the older ones to braid their hair—French braids, tiny accent braids, lace braids—the more creative the better. The girls range from age 2 to 13, and the youngest ones have loved the extra sister-time during Nepal’s months-long lockdown. The older girls enjoy the practice. They loved this nurturing attention when they were little, too.
For Bishnu and Pushpa, the husband-and-wife team responsible for parenting in the junior girls’ house, the lockdown has been hectic, with added responsibilities and no time off. But they love the children as they love their own daughter and son, who live with them in the junior girls’ house, and these early moments of quiet meditation help ground them in the incredible importance of the work they’re doing.
Pushpa started her journey with NYF in 2004, when she was a social worker. She knows almost all the NYF children and has remained in close touch with them. Many of them see her as their own guardian.
Meanwhile, Bishnu enjoyed a successful career in banking. But when he retired, he felt called to join his wife helping the children at NYF. The pair became the junior girls’ Olgapuri house parents in 2018.
Providing parental care to 20 young girls is a challenge in the best of circumstances, but as parents the world over deal with lockdown conditions, Bishnu and Pushpa are pushing their drive and resourcefulness to the limit.
Most of the junior girls are attending online classes over Zoom from 10 to 3 every weekday, with multiple schools, grade levels, and subjects being taught at once—an enormous strain on the slow network. Bishnu and Pushpa spend those hours encouraging the smallest students to pay attention, managing technical problems, and ensuring the available computers, printers, and other equipment are being used fairly. Scheduling has been an absolute necessity, and a few senior house girls have volunteered as mentors.
Some of the girls attend schools that haven’t launched online classes, and Bishnu-Uncle and Pushpa-Aunty help them study at home. When class time is through, the house parents make sure each child has the help needed to complete her homework.
As in any family, every child at Olgapuri has unique academic strengths and struggles. Some find schoolwork easy and rewarding, while others struggle to grasp and apply new principles and material. Some of the children are coping with learning disabilities like ADHD, while other have experienced early traumas that impact their focus in the classroom, their confidence with new subjects, or their tolerance for frustration.
Bishnu-Uncle and Pushpa-Aunty make a point of knowing each child’s academic aptitudes, interests, and stumbling blocks, working with each individual and her teachers to ensure each girl is personally and lovingly supported in achieving her best possible outcomes. This incredible investment of time and effort is well-worth the rewards. Seeing a discouraged child begin to grasp new mathematical principles or successfully complete a handwriting assignment fills our house parents with satisfaction and joy. Each triumph is celebrated.
There are creative projects as well. Pushpa-Aunty has been teaching interested girls how to knit, and some of them have gotten quite good! Other girls love painting, and others enjoy paper crafting and jewelry-making. Some of the girls’ work is pictured below. Artistic projects are an excellent stress-reliever in times like these and working together to develop these skills is a lot of fun. The older girls are planning to sell their creations when they’re able to have carnivals with other children’s homes again—a hands-on learning experience that helps kids explore marketing, finances, and business.
Like Bhim and Shreemaya, Bishnu and Pushpa prepare meals and snacks with the girls, using the time to teach age-appropriate cooking and safety skills. The girls are also learning to care for themselves—making their beds, cleaning their rooms, and other chores appropriate for their ages. The littlest among them are beginning by washing their own socks, which helps them feel very grown-up and accomplished, like their older sisters.
Caring for 20 girls under age 13 is an enormous responsibility. That’s why NYF is so grateful for the hard work of loving and dedicated staff members like Bishnu and Pushpa. Being house parents at Olgapuri is more than just a job—it’s love in action. Bishnu-Uncle and Pushpa-Aunty enjoy providing guardianship and care to these children.
Their commitment to the junior girls’ happiness, unity, and success is why #LoveWorks.
All over the world, parents and guardians are working hard to help kids learn, and every story is different! If you believe in the work Bishnu and Pushpa are doing at Olgapuri, please help them by sharing their story on social media with the hashtag #LoveWorks!
Lito for Life: NYF’s 3rd COVID Response Program for Nepal
Lito for Life is the the third Covid response program recently launched by Nepal Youth Foundation. Lito is a nutritious ‘super flour’.
As the COVID-19 crisis progresses in Nepal, the economic impacts on individual families are intensifying. Over half of Nepal’s population relies on wages earned day-to-day or week-to-week for labor done outside of social distanced environments, either in Nepal or abroad. The countrywide lockdown, border closures, global recession, and uncertainty about the future are hitting these workers and their families especially hard.
For the months since the lockdown began, these individuals have not been able to work. Forced into tough decisions between rent and food, many parents are going hungry to feed their children. Applications at local municipal offices for food relief are coming from construction and industry workers, daily laborers, employees and owners of small private businesses, and many more, all of whom have been unable to earn wages since March—and the lists are growing by the week. The longer these families are forced to tighten their belts, the higher their risk of malnutrition.
NYF is proud to be part of the Lito for Life response to this crisis. In addition to our new Community Nutrition Kitchens and Emergency Halfway Home for Women, we have now launched a third COVID Response program: Lito for Life.
Meet Radhika, an NYF staff member who is accustomed to manufacturing Lito (or “super flour”) for our regular nutrition programming. The nutrient-rich staple is a critical menu item at our Nutrition Rehabilitation Homes and is distributed to families with children under age 5 at our remote Nutrition Outreach Camps.
Now, Radhika and her teammates are preparing and packaging Lito for a broader use: keeping urban families nourished through the pandemic’s hunger crisis.
Lito is made of roasted and ground corn, wheat, and soybeans, and contains all the nutrients necessary to sustain good health in adults and children alike. Simple to prepare with hot water (or milk, if available) and tasty enough to be accepted and enjoyed by very young children, each 1-kg packet (2.2 lbs) can provide two days of nutrition to a family of four or five. And, if desired, Lito is easily supplemented with other sparing ingredients a family might have on-hand: oil, onions, or spices.
Each packet costs approximately $2 to prepare, including materials, prep, packaging, staff time, and distribution. That means that a gift of $6 can keep an entire family safe from malnutrition for over one week!
Radhika and her teammates have already prepared over 2,000 kilos (4,409 lbs.) of Lito! NYF is working directly with local municipal offices to identify Kathmandu Valley families reaching out for assistance. Each week, we will provide these families with three packets of Lito, ensuring they can maintain basic levels of nutrition at home throughout the crisis.
I wish I knew when Nepal will be able to reopen safely—but I do know that this intervention will keep families strong and healthy, so when the pandemic is over, they can reenter the recovering economy from a place of strength and resilience. That knowledge is comforting in this time of so much turmoil.
In the meantime, Radhika’s #LoveWorks, one packet of Lito at a time. She and I have seen the incredible difference this mindfully produced “super flour” makes in the lives of parents working towards better health for their children, and we know what each packet can accomplish in each household. Radhika and her team are doing important work with each batch of Lito produced.
But she needs your help to keep the work going. Each thoughtful gift of $6 protects an entire family’s nutritional health for one week; $24 accomplishes the same thing for a month. Imagine how much a healthy community of one hundred families can accomplish together. Please help us put the NYF Family’s tradition of love to work today by making your thoughtful online donation here.
Som Paneru, President
Credit card donations via our website are still being processed without delay, as are direct bank transfers (EFTs). If you mail a check to our office (3030 Bridgeway, #325, Sausalito, CA 94965), please know that we continue to check the mail twice per week, so there will be a delay in our thank you letter being mailed to you.