Pay it forward: Ensuring Education and Opportunity for Children in Nepal
When she was thirteen, Tara developed a debilitating condition that caused extreme pain in her legs, eventually rendering her unable to walk independently. When she finally set foot in the Hospital for Rehabilitation and Disabled Children (HRDC), MiracleFeet’s partner in Nepal, she was a patient desperate for answers—and care.
Previously, she had visited countless doctors and traveled to several hospitals in surrounding districts but received no diagnosis, and no treatment.
Her despair was exacerbated by the nasty comments villagers made to her mother saying that there was no use sending Tara to school, that she would never amount to anything, no one would marry her, and that she would remain house-bound forever.
Searching for a cure, Tara traveled with her father to a hospital in India where she stayed for three months undergoing different therapies, but in the end, she left with the same pain in her legs and an even stronger longing for something to change. After so many failed attempts to diagnose or treat her condition, a deep sadness gripped Tara. She felt hopeless and like life was passing her by. “As we crossed the Marshyangdi river I made up my mind to jump,’” Tara shares, recalling what she felt returning home from India. “I really did not want to go back home with the same legs.”
There was more to Tara’s story yet to be written, however.
She didn’t jump that day but continued her fervorous search for answers.
It was a chance encounter at a community event that ultimately changed the course of Tara’s life. At the event, Tara met a woman who knew Dr. Ashok Banskota, the orthopedic surgeon who founded HRDC. This meeting set into motion a chain of events that, after many years, finally resulted in answers and proper care.
“I met Dr. Banskota on a Friday, and he operated on me the following Sunday.”
Although Tara wasn’t diagnosed with clubfoot, the symptoms of her condition were similar and, ultimately, just as treatable. Tara began working at HRDC not long after she was treated, caring for the young children, eventually accepting a formal position as a teacher. HRDC’s wholistic care model includes classes to ensure the young patients staying at the center for several months while they complete treatment don’t fall behind in their studies. Now, more than 30 years later, Tara says: “I felt it was for the greater good that my legs suffered because I could share my experiences, educate, and serve the children.”
Tara has devoted her life to working with disabled children. She is a huge contributor to the supportive and caring environment of HRDC, and her commitment to children is clear. Her role as an educator extends beyond teaching the children. She’s also working to fight the perception that disabled children don’t deserve education or investment.
“The way I was treated by my cousins, my neighbor and relatives who used to say I could not do anything in my life, I took that in, and I teach these children about their rights—to an education and to a better path in life.”
Tara has many tales of children she’s taught over the years who, before coming to HRDC, lived in tragic circumstances – isolated, undernourished, or worse. But, thanks to the treatment and care they received at HRDC, they have gone on to live dynamic lives with families and careers of their own.
“This society needs to learn that disability is only in a certain part of the body,” says Tara. “The aspect that makes children disabled is the society itself.”
In addition to finding care that transformed her life, Tara also found a community and a home at HRDC. More than 30 years later she still tears up talking about how fortunate she feels to have received care and how grateful she is to Dr. Banskota.
“If I had not met Dr. Banskota then I would have to wait, still, peeping through the window of my room waiting for someone to come and feed me.” It’s a heart wrenching thought, and a reality she’s working hard to prevent other children from experiencing.
Tara is adamant that, “being disabled is not an individual’s fault. All children have a right to an education, to walk, to play, to live with respect and honor in their own homes.”
Defending the basic rights of children with disabilities is at the very heart of MiracleFeet’s mission.
World Children’s Day is an opportunity for everyone – teachers, nurses, doctors, mothers, fathers, government leaders, civil society activists, community advisors, as well as children themselves – to join in and celebrate children’s rights.
This year, we celebrate advocates like Tara, who have overcome immense stigma, pain, and despair to ensure all children know they deserve respect, understanding, and freedom to dream.