Dedicated to squatter children’s care: Sanju Dhakal
Twenty years old; the age to enjoy, have fun and hang out. Yet, her temperament is different from her contemporaries. At such a young age, she has taken on a great responsibility. While teenagers laugh, rejoice and are playful, she also offers a helping hand. To shape and brighten the future of 40 children, she steps towards Baneshwor Campus every day.
She is Sanju Dhakal, busy building dreams in children from Baneshwor Campus in Tinkune; teaching, enhance their skills and educating them in various other ways. Even children from the squatter settlement in Sinamangal are happy dancing, playing, reading and learning with Sanju.
The whole country was paralyzed by the lockdown imposed due to COVID-19. Sanju, however, continued to help build a foundation on which these children’s dreams would be fulfilled. These very families were also the ones most affected by the lockdown.
One day, walking down the Sinamangal corridor, Sanju’s eyes fell on squatter children, who were struggling with hunger, at the bank of river Bagmati. “When I saw them, an unpleasant feeling washed over me. In fact, I didn’t even know that this was a squatter’s community and I found out only after some time. Then, I tried to get to know more – how many children live here? What do their parents do? What is their condition? As I understood more, I came to know that the real darkness of Kathmandu lies here! So many children do not even have electricity in their homes. I was shocked,” she said. “Many parents wonder where their children are when they themselves are not home. They do not even know what their children are up to.”
When she saw the squatter children and their parents, she felt that something had to be done. But how? She thought of many ways to do this. She contacted officials of social organizations to help find solutions. However, she did not get the support she had hoped for.
Then, Sanju decided that she would do this herself, no matter the number of obstacles she would have to face. For a 20-year-old, though, this was not an easy task. It would take a lot to be a support system to these children, while also keeping them safe. For that, she contacted various organizations and companies, collecting the materials required including masks, sanitisers and face shields. She also reached out to various trained volunteers for assistance. Some individuals helped with these children’s lunch. Even passersby walking on the streets have started celebrating their relatives’ birthdays there, by helping the children eat lunch.
What can we not do, with courage? She gathered friends to work on the idea and took support from the like-minded. Sanju’s career path of serving the ill by becoming a nurse then took a turn towards social welfare.
Sanju and her team are active in teaching skills and reading to the squatter children who have lost their schooling due to COVID-19. The spirit of helping the poor and needy children was instilled in Sanju from an early age. She says that when she went to school, she would be heartbroken to see other children like her playing in the street.
“Whose children are they? What do their parents do? Why don’t these children go to school?” Such questions would repeatedly come to Sanju’s mind. “When I saw children like me going to school on the street, many things would play in my mind. I always felt that I should do something for these children, and this still continues.”
After graduating from 12th grade from the faculty of Science, she had family pressure to go into the medical field. However, her mind was focused on and invested in social work. Overcoming family pressure, she was admitted to Madan Bhandari College.
‘I worked as a volunteer in some organizations between SLC and +2. At the same time, some teachers advised me to go to college. So, I enrolled in BSW (Bachelor in Social Work). Currently, I am in my second year of B.A.’, says Sanju.
“I was even more surprised when I went to visit the parents of the squatter children. When I said to them, ‘I will teach your children when they are not in school,’ I received the response ‘How much money have you received from the United States?’ Some parents even asked, ‘How much will you pay us to educate our children?’
‘I cannot do much, but I will do something to shape and brighten their future,’ I told them. Finally, they were convinced,” said Sanju.
“Then, my work finally started. However, it is not possible for me to continue this work alone. For this, I look forward to everyone’s support in the upcoming days.