Laxmi had to flee to attend school
The partner organisation of Mission East, HEAD Nepal, locates blind and partially sighted children in remote mountain villages and ensures that they attend school. Laxmi Shahi is one of these children.
By Kim Wiesener, Communications Officer
Laxmi Shahi from Nepal’s remote Humla District is partially sighted, but she is doing very well at school. She is one of the best students in her class and aims to become a teacher for other children with disabilities.
Just a few years ago, there was little prospect that Laxmi’s life would turn out this way. From a very early age, the odds were stacked against her. Not only was she partially sighted, she was also an orphan and lived in one of the country’s poorest and most isolated districts. When she came into contact with a mobile school for the blind as a seven-year old, she had already been through a lot.
Exploited by her family
Laxmi had no regular place to live, but moved around among her relatives. She has two older brothers and a sister, who did not care about her well-being, but exploited her labour even when she was a very little girl.
She lived a few months in each place, and wherever she was, her life was full of domestic chores. She had to cook, do the dishes, clean, herd cows and collect firewood from the forest. This was difficult for a little girl who was visually impaired. She was grossly neglected by her relatives who did not offer her sufficient food, clothing or care.
Laxmi did not go to school, even though she wanted the same opportunities as other children her age. When staff from HEAD Nepal’s mobile school for blind children visited her home village in 2011, they found a motivated, bright girl. Laxmi attended the school a few times, and the teacher recommended her and her brother to contact HEAD Nepal’s office in the district capital, Simikot, so that she could receive schooling on a more regular basis.
Found her own way
Her brother, however, was not interested. Several times, Laxmi pleaded with him to bring her to HEAD Nepal’s office, but he told her that this was not necessary and that she could just continue doing her regular household chores. Laxmi then took matters into her own hand. She ran away from her home village and found her own way to Simikot and the HEAD Nepal office. There she was reunited with the teacher who had been teaching her braille.
From then on, Laxmi’s life changed for the better. She moved into the HEAD Vision Home for blind and partially sighted children where she met people who took her burning desire to go to school seriously. Today, Laxmi not only attends lessons at HEAD – in braille, IT and life skills – she is a star pupil at the local secondary school where she studies with children that have no disabilities.
Eventually, Laxmi risks losing her eyesight completely. However, thanks to HEAD Nepal, there are now people who are taking care of her. And she has proved that you can achieve a lot, even if you cannot see.
A man and his dream
Chhitup Lama has been partially sighted since birth. When he grew up in Nepal’s poor Humla District, attending school was a struggle for him. There was no special needs education, and he had not even heard of braille. But he managed to complete school, and in 2004 Chhitup went to the capital Kathmandu. He not only learnt braille, but ended up working as a braille teacher for other blind and visually impaired people.
In 2011, Chhitup Lama realised his dream of helping people with disabilities in his home district when he founded Himalayan Education and Development (HEAD). He invested his own savings of $500 in the project. The organisation’s first initiative was a mobile school for blind children that reaches the most remote villages in Humla District. Since then, other projects have been launched, such as the HEAD Vision Home for blind and partially sighted children.
As of March this year, HEAD Nepal is working together with Mission East to help children with disabilities in Humla District integrate into society. Chhitup Lama is convinced that such initiatives not only benefit the district itself, but will have a positive effect on the whole country.
Read more about HEAD Nepal at www.headnepal.org