The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: Portrait of Pushpa Basnet

Monday, December 3, 2012

Portrait of Pushpa Basnet


Pushpa Basnet of Nepal has been named the 2012 Hero of the Year.  Why?  Because she recognized a need in Nepal and strives to right the wrong against children.  When adults are incarcerated in Nepal, their children are also incarcerated with them if they have no other family member available for the care of the irchildren.  Say what?  I’ll be the first person to say that children need to be with their parents, but not in a prison!  Basnet started a home in Kathmandu where those children can receive food, education, medical care, and a caring environment while their parents serve their sentences.  Sometimes those parents will be there well into their children’s adulthood. 
"It's not fair for (these) children to live in the prison because they haven't done anything wrong," said Basnet in a CNN interview with Kathleen Toner. "My mission is to make sure no child grows up behind prison walls. I had a very fortunate life, with a good education. I should give it to somebody else."
Basnet’s journey to this endeavor began when she was 21 as an undergraduate majoring in social work.  For one of her assignments, she had to visit the women imprisoned in Kathmandu.  The living conditions of the children there appalled her.  They were dirty, hungry, and uneducated.  So, with the help of friends and family, she raised 70,000 rupees (about $885).  In a poor, underdeveloped country, that was quite an accomplishment. (According to UNICEF, 55% of the population lives below the international poverty line.)  In 2005, she used that money to start her nonprofit organization – The Early Childhood Development Center.  This center provided day care to preschool children.  The children returned to their mothers at night.
Two years later, she realized the need for a residential home.  There, the children live in a house without bars called Butterfly Home. All the children are there with their parents’ consent.  They are allowed to grow, mature, and learn in a more natural environment.  The children visit their mothers on school holidays.  Basnet has helped more than 100 children of incarcerated parents. She has expanded her efforts to find alternative residences for some children while helping with school enrollment, free meals, and medical care for others. 
Seeing the need to rehabilitate the parents of these children, she began Change Fusion Nepal.  This organization teaches the inmates to make handicrafts inside their cells.  Basnet sells these handicrafts so when the women are released, they will have a sustainable livelihood for themselves and their children.  Sixty of the children she has helped have been successfully reunited with their parents after they were released from prison.
Pushpa Basnet is only twenty-eight-years old, but she is making a huge difference in the lives of Nepali women and children. Without Basnet, the children of incarcerated parents would have been destined for a life similar to their parents – theft, drugs, and prostitution. Now the children are receiving an education and the parents have legally marketable skills. Because Basnet has been honored as the 2012 CNN Hero of the Year, she has received $250,000 to continue her work. That is in addition to the $50,000 that each of the top 10 Heroes are receiving.
Want to get involved with Basnet’s work? Check out the Early Childhood Development Center website at www.ecdcnepal.org and see how to help.

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