Faces of Freedom
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.