"There is in EVERY CHILD at every stage A NEW MIRACLE of VIGOROUS UNFOLDING, which constitutes A NEW HOPE and A NEW RESPONSIBILITY for all!" - Erik Erikson
In Nepal , if a parent is sentenced to prison and their child has no guardian, the child is imprisoned with the parent. Released at age 18, they are left with no life skills or support system. Pushpa Basnet encountered a young girl who tugged at her shawl and looked up at her and smiled. Pushpa promised the young girl’s mother she would be back to get her. Pushpa, known as 'Mamu' by the children, set up the Early Childhood Development Centre (ECDC), a charity home, that gives kids the chance to be kids during the day and have an education.
We travelled to Kathmandu, Nepal in search for friendships. From music, dance, sports, the love of food and the need for jokes. We had a lot more in common that one would expect. When it's dancing time, we all dance together. Mid-way through our 3-hour dance extravaganza, we began learning from new perspectives that came from the eyes of a child.
From learning to appreciate that any smooth surface could become our chalkboard to dancing till our legs would feel like jelly. We got our hands wet as the kids tutored us in MOMO (Nepalese Dumpling) making while we taught them how to create video tutorials. 'BIGGER HEARTS' The relationships formed were deep and loving. 'Our hearts expanded as we now carried the many other hearts of our friends in ours' . The foundations of dignity and respect were now set. "In play, you truly learn!"
Moment of Impact. In the midst of the love and laughter, there emerged a sombre desire to create change in the community.
"We are fortunate to be at ECDC but there are so many of our friends still stuck in the prisons, and we want to share our love for learning with them!" - ECDC Youth
"We believe in the power of education and the transformative nature of an opportunity to move from being a beneficiary to becoming a contributor" - Amber Team
Ideation. Together, we envisioned an education pack for children stuck in the prisons. As a team, we set expectations and clarified our roles. Not forgetting the delightful Nepalese Chai we all enjoyed :) ECDC youth had the ability to write. ECDC youth had the ability to illustrate well. ECDC youth had a linked lived experience with kids in the prisons - they brought understanding and perspective on what is truly valued. "Lets create impactful values-based books for all children!" "Why do we have to buy children books when we can create them as a team?" Amber had experience in project management. Amber had expertise in marketing and publishing. Amber had a niche in educational development. This was the start of the journey.
Committed To Creation. The was the first-round of writing and illustration retreats were filled with challenges and tensions. Each author would read their story aloud. The team would then share how they felt, what they liked and what could be improved on. The team went through hours and hours of generating stories embedded with values based on their lives and experiences . Across the year we evolved from linear chronological styled stories to stories with rich imagery and creativity. We kept each other accountable to meet deadlines and to remember our passion. There were days dedicated to illustrations for the stories; each one painstakingly drawn and coloured.
What happens when you think you are done but then you realize you have to start from scratch? The process of producing excellence pushed us all beyond our comfort zones. We had to recreate and try methods never tried before. From creative writing walks to colouring until our fingers would bleed, the journey was tough. With each step we grew closer. Struggles and challenges brought the team together . Respect for each other went deeper . We learned to push and build on strengths while managing weaknesses and unforeseen obstacles.
WHEN THE JOURNEY IS AS IMPORTANT AS THE DESTINATION "I never imagined myself writing a book, let alone in English. None of my friends has had an opportunity like this. It was really difficult but I am glad we stuck together & got through this. I am extremely proud of what we achieved together. And now, we hope to inspire others through our stories! " -The Butterfly Books Authors
There is hope with dignity.