Nearly 35 students come every day after school to this child friendly space created for them at the Kapan Bal Uddar public school in Budhanikhanta. They do their homework there, helped by teachers. Then, they draw, play, paint, read, discuss… ” They dance too. It’s their favorite activity. “Several times a week, Sunita, financial offer and educator in the AAWAAJ association, spends time with these children between the ages of 8 and 15. “They are all very vulnerable. They live in poor areas of Kathmandu, often with the whole family in one room. For those children whose parents are still alive, said parents may not be present,” Sunita explains.
Coming to Kathmandu, parents have to “get through“, often combining odd jobs and working hours. Some even migrate to the Gulf countries with the hope to improve their conditions, to earn more money, leaving their children with close and distant relatives, who usually are less involved. “Left to themselves most of the time, they have to take care of their little brothers and sisters and do household chores. They have to cook. Some of them are victims of work exploitation, of child maltreatment. In this difficult daily life, the child friendly space that the association has created offers a moment for themselves. Two hours a day.” To take a breath.
“Outdoor games… and the school played an essential role”
Sunita, who is very present for these children, knows their situation very well. She grew up during the time of civil war in Nepal. National insecurity along with its impact on every children, busy parents due to work, impoverished neighborhood. “Fortunately my two older brothers were there to encourage me. I was very introverted as a child; I didn’t want to go out. They pushed me to come with them to play games like football, cricket and badminton outside, to be open to other people. They helped me a lot.” And then there was school, “which helped myself getting through.” After graduating from high school, Sunita got a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. She then worked for a while in a drama theatre before joining the AAWAAJ association.
“I love this job. I’m fortunate to be able to take care of both the financial part of this structure and the children it helps.” Sunita was able to see the positive effects on the children’s school results. A source of hope. Psychologically, however, the children are still very affected. “They suffered a lot in the 2015 earthquake. This trauma is added to all the other traumas related to their living conditions. It is difficult.”
Fostering resilience in these children
To respond to this need, BICE and the Catholic University of Milan proposed in 2016 and 2019 a Tutors of resilience training to around thirty professionals working with children (educators, teachers, etc.), most of whom work in the Kathmandu region. “In this way, we provide participants with key elements to help them foster resilience in children. Our wish is that these children find around them and within themselves the means to overcome their difficulties, their worries and their traumas“, explains Maria Camila Caicedo, in charge of this project at BICE.
For the children accompanied by AAWAAJ, this leads into monthly resilience workshops facilitated by Sunita and others. “These workshops are based on the themes we learned during the trainings and we work on children self – confidence. They are positive even though we know it will be a long-term process.” Sunita concludes: “I remain confident for the future of these children for whom education is essential. We are moving forward together.”