Manu, with daughters Dikshya and Ikshya, joined HIO’s sponsorship program in 2010. With a firm commitment to her education, Iksyha is now on her way to becoming a doctor!
Sometimes the stars align and the outcome for one of our HIO young women is a burst of bright light. Not as often as we’d hope, but, sometimes. Ikshya, who graduated from 12th grade a year ago, shared some wonderful news today. Her name appeared on the list for a spot in an excellent medical school about fifty miles south of her home in Kathmandu. What an accomplishment!
For weeks we’d been waiting to hear which of our girls might be offered a coveted place in one of Nepal’s few medical colleges. With nearly twenty thousand students taking the difficult and competitive medical exams, it’s a bit like waiting for your lottery ticket to be called. Fewer than three thousand spots were offered. Ikshya’s news is a celebration not only for her and her family, but also for the entire HIO Nepali team and her devoted sponsor, Ellen Weihenmayer.
The five and a half year program’s expense at around $50,000 is prohibitive by Nepali standards. Fortunately for girls like Ikshya who are entering programs in healthcare, the fees are covered by HIO’s Bob and Nettie Isler Fund. This fund was established by former HIO board member, Jack Isler, in honor of his parents, both doctors. Nettie, a Phd psychologist who just turned 98, is so pleased. Jack and his wife, Beth, also sponsor Pooja Lamsal, now in her third year of medical school in Eastern Nepal.
Ikshya (in the blue jacket) lives with her mother and father, Manu and Durga, and her younger sister, Dikshya, who is now completing 12th grade. Her family is one of only a handful of intact HIO families with both a mother and father. The family’s home is a small, 10’ x 12’ brick structure with scant furniture and no plumbing. Typical of the way most of our sponsored families live.
In traditional Nepali culture, sons are preferred and the birth of a daughter is seen as a burden. Parents think, Who will take care of us when we’re old if there's no son? Without a doubt, Ikshya and Dikshya will have the means and compassion to care for their parents as they age.
Manu and Durga are caretakers for a wealthy landowner. They own little and work long days of physical labor. In exchange for their work, the family lives at the back of the landlord’s large inner-city compound, tending his home and gardens and allowed to grow some crops for their own use while embracing their connection to nature. The property is full of exotic trees and plants, a total escape from the constant din of city noises, dust and traffic on the streets nearby. An oasis of sorts. The feeling of peace and tranquility belies the family’s profound poverty.
Manu is supportive and gracious. Durga is kind and gentle. It’s plain to see the love and admiration they have for both of their hardworking girls. Like her parents, Ikshya is calm and soft spoken. She embodies a lovely combination of her parents’ warmth and sincerity with a quiet confidence and a keen sense of purpose inspired by the education she so treasures.
Ikshya will join ranks with her HIO sister, Sashmita, now in her second year of dental school. These two bright, shining stars enjoyed working together during a Reach for the Stars photography workshop facilitated by DeeDee Morriswww.deedeemorris.com/ last fall.
We can never fully foresee the future, but for Ikshya, it certainly appears bright. She readily agrees to one day sponsor another young Nepali girl when she finishes her education and settles into a job. An aspect of HIO’s sustainability that allows those gifted with an education to honor themselves and others with a similar gift.
Ikshya says, I can't explain how happy I am to get the spot (in medical school), and in addition, seeing my parents and your congratulations and love made me even more happy.
Happy indeed we all are, dear Ikshya, as you prove to the world what it means to dream big and work hard to truly discover the stars. You’re an inspiration for us all.
Lovingly - Ricky and Laura
Tara Darji is the head of her household, working long days as a domestic and caring for her three young daughters. Denied access to education as a girl, Tara is helping disrupt a cycle of poverty for her family by attending Be Part of Her Dream classes.
As you celebrate strong women this weekend, please join us in honoring seventy-five HIO mothers studying in our Be Part of Her Dream (BPOHD) women’s empowerment program. Twenty-five women like Tara have participated in BPOHD since 2016. Fifty will begin classes next month. All show remarkable courage, vision and strength. These women are poor not because they lack initiative, but because they lack resources, opportunity and education. They're unseen and unheard. When HIO gives them a second chance to learn as adults, they're shocked. What a smart choice to say yes!
This year, ten women who’ve learned to read and write through previous BPOHD classes will pilot a one-year, innovative curriculum called On Her Way. It's being brilliantly designed by our HIO intern, Sofia Riva. This group will continue their journey toward financial independence through monthly personal budgeting and savings plan exercises. Hands-on vocational training will give them opportunities to hone practical and marketable skills. A core aspect of the program will use carefully guided critical thinking activities to deepen women’s awareness of human rights.
On Her Way human rights lessons build sequentially, presenting a global perspective while reaching a more personal level. From access to clean water to citizenship and civic participation, from labor and disability rights to violence against women, the curriculum holistically addresses all aspects of life. We’ll introduce stories of women from around the world with similar experiences that our girls’ mothers can relate to. Through discussion and journal writing, they’ll reflect on human rights issues and injustices that affect their own lives. Most importantly, the curriculum aims to foster a sense of solidarity and advocacy, inspiring BPOHD mothers' voices to be heard on issues that are important to them and to their communities.
A key component of the BPOHD program’s success is an incentive stipend each woman receives in exchange for participation. In 2023, sixty-five women will attend classes for two hours, five days a week and will receive $30 per month. Ten On Her Way students will receive $100 per month for their extra commitment to a five-hour school day. This amount is nearly equivalent to a living wage, what’s needed to truly make lasting change. Receiving a stipend eases the women’s worries about losing wages they would earn if they weren’t in school. It adds extra encouragement for them to stay focused and committed to learning.
We’re humbled by the steadfast care and support that inspires our HIO girls and their mothers in Nepal to shine. Your kindness helps them chart paths toward more empowered, fulfilling and dignified lives. Our deepest gratitude for all you do and very warm wishes for a happy Mother’s Day.
Lovingly - Laura and Ricky
Sofia Riva spent the summer of 2018 in Kathmandu as a Columbia University undergraduate working with our Be Part of Her Dream mothers and teachers. Sofia's inclusive nature, sharp mind and big heart quickly endeared her to our HIO community. She was instrumental in creating systems that continue to guide program monitoring and evaluation today. Now a Human Rights Master's Degree candidate at the University of Padova, Italy, Sofia has fully immersed herself in HIO’s work again. Designing the On Her Way curriculum as a catalyst for sustainable change means so much more to Sofia than a final internship project. What a blessing for HIO that Sofia is carrying our important work forward. And what a delightful reunion it will be when Sofia returns to Kathmandu to work in person with our HIO community again soon.