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Faces of Freedom

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I recently traveled to India and Nepal on a gap year before starting my undergraduate education at The George Washington University in Washington, DC. While I was in Nepal, I volunteered with The Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC), a Nepali NGO that works to rescue children from prisons in Nepal where they live with their incarcerated mothers. The children aren’t allowed to attend school, and they aren’t provided adequate health care, blankets, or their own food ration.

ECDC has rescued over 50 children to date. Children under five years old attend kindergarten at The Butterfly Home but are still too young to sleep away from their mothers. Older children between the ages of 5 and 16 live at the residential home full time and visit their mothers once a month.

There are fewer than 100 children still imprisoned in Nepal.

I am starting “Babies Behind Bars,” a student-led movement in support of The Early Childhood Development Center, to raise money and awareness about the issue of prison children in Nepal, to garner support from established NGOs in combating this human rights violation, and eventually to take on the system from the source: to institute a prison reform system that will provide residential homes for children to enter when their mother is incarcerated instead of going to jail.

I realize this sounds lofty and overly ambitious. But I have been interning with Tostan Community-Led Development in Washington DC since January, and I have seen the power that people possess when something stirs their heart to action. I have been networking as much as I possibly can while working full-time, and have developed many strong connections in the NGO world. BBB will be founded as a student organization at The George Washington University next fall, expanding chapters to Elon, Roger Williams, Notre Dame, and Boston College next year. To learn more about this student organization, visit our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Support-for-Babies-Behind-Bars/2123011121...

After months of inaction and confusion leftover from seeing and feeling so much I wasn't prepared to deal with, life is moving forward. I feel powerful, not because of outside sources telling me what or who I am, but because of the strength I feel in my own actions, choices, and the path I’m taking to carry my travel experiences further than the arrivals gate at Manchester Airport, translating all that I took from that time in Nepal into action at home.

When I feel overwhelmed by all of this, I think about the faces of the children I fell in love with in Kathmandu. They are the faces of freedom, the joyful, carefree, creative and innocent human beings who give me strength when I question my own ability to change the course society has laid before them. They have overcome all of the odds, broken free from the cycle of poverty and crime they were born into, and are on the process of healing, learning, and becoming active members of society, instead of growing up behind bars, steered into their own life of criminal activity by the sparse opportunities available to children whose education background is non-existent and whose life lessons were learned from prisoners and law enforcement officials. There is hope to be drawn from this seemingly hopeless situation, and that hope resides in the potential for children to gain access to education, a safe and nurturing environment to grow up, adequate nutrition and health care, and guidance through their confusion after so little consistency in their lives.

Please send me a message if you are interested in being part of this movement.

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Comments

Stormy's picture

Inspiring

Sarah,

I want to commend you for your courage, and your heart. You describe your project as "lofty and overly ambitious," but how can changing these children's lives for the better be overly ambitious? How fortunate they are that you are touching their world. I work daily with youths who are impaired usually from neglect and abuse, and as we work to put bandaids on wounds that sometimes will never fully heal, I can't help but continue pumping energy into my dream of eliminating these problems at the source - breaking the cycles of poverty, abuse, substance abuse, neglect. It is my dream to truly help others break these cycles - and it's hard work. I find your vision and passion inspiring, and you have provided just a little more inspiration for me to keep on working.

Best,
Stormy

nilima's picture

Hi sarah,

WOW i am so happy to hear that you are starting your own project 'babies behind the bars'

And feel proud of you that you started working on ur dream and i am sure it will be fulfilled and one day it will take a shape of great success:):):)

WISH YOU ALL THE BEST SARAH:):):)

so many wishes from my side:):):):)

Tripti's picture

You are an inspiration

Hello Sarah, im sure with all of this in your pocket, you are going to be a huge inspiration to all of us esp people in Nepal. I am so happy to hear and feel deeply thankful for your work here. As a nepali, i am eternally grateful that you chose this road in Nepal. With your dedication and help, i know that those children will not be the same as they were before. Even though i have little information about children in jail, i am not oblivious of the harshness that the poor children go through, not only in jail, but in every other unfortunate families. This is a very big step and i wish you a enormous amount of luck and pray that you will succeed in what you are starting..
With praise
Tripti

Carrie Lee's picture

Commending your courage

Sarah,
You inspire me! You are an example of courage to live with heart, without letting anything stop you!
Here is a quote I've been working with, that may keep your inspiration flowing, as I too, am feeling at my edge, working toward my own creative solutions and toward my vocation of destiny:
I stand poised at the edge of a new birth ready to make a difference, blast open the gates of possibilities and live my highest destiny.
I wish you all the best, and look forward to hearing the stories of all the childrens lives you touch.
With admiration and toward our highest visions,
Carrie

SarahFW's picture

Responses to your kind words

Hi all,
Thank you so much for all of your kindness and your support. It's words like yours that really keep me going when I feel like this is all a one-woman show that seems to not catch much attention among my own circles.

Please, please, please: if you are interested in learning more about this and the work I'm doing on my own time, visit

our Facebook page- https://www.facebook.com/pages/Support-for-Babies-Behind-Bars/2123011121...,

our Twitter page-- https://twitter.com/#!/ECDCandBBB,

or the new blog I started about the work I'm doing for ECDC and Babies Behind Bars-- ecdctalisman.blogspot.com

Stormy, I would love to hear more about the work you do and learn from your experiences, which I'm sure far surpass my own.

Nilima, I look forward to hopefully seeing you in Nepal next summer and working to help you on your own projects!

Tripti, You know so much more about Nepal than I ever will, and I would love to hear your insights as a Nepali woman speaking from personal experience about your own country. I hope to gather as many firsthand perspectives as possible to bridge the gap between my limited western understanding and my deep desire to help these children.

And Carrie, what inspiring words from you. An amazing quote, and I look forward to hearing and reading more about the work you are doing so we can put our heads together to further our efforts.

Sarah Freeman-Woolpert
The George Washington University
U.S. Ambassador, The Early Childhood Development Center
Kathmandu, Nepal

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