2Rohit and my daughter, Rosemarie, terrified and thrilled themselves. We compared notes on what was most frightening. Rohit insisted Rosemarie had the advantage because she had experience with death defying rides! Of course, the evening was polished off with cotton candy. As Rosemarie said, “I still can’t resist that fluffy, pink stuff.”
To look at us we were a group of friends having a blast, and we were. There were no indications of the difficulties Rohit had come from or of the astounding and inspiring aspirations this dalit (lowest caste) orphan had.
According to Global Giving, there are about 974,000 orphans and abandoned children in Nepal. In Kathmandu many children beg, sniff glue and get snarled in crime. Some get slave wages as child labourers. The future is often too bleak, it’s best not to imagine.
With its deep valleys and snowy peaks, Nepal does have a story-book beauty. Presently Nepal is recovering from more than 10 years of civil war. It left an estimated 15,000 people, mostly civilians, dead, and up to 150,000 internally displaced.
Rohit stared blankly as he recalled his childhood and the “dead bodies scattered in the road.” He explained that the Maoists would slit people’s throats and then throw the bodies into the street.
Rohit was seven or eight when his father unexpectedly died one night. This threw the family into turmoil. His mother, from grief or terror, ran away. Three more young boys were orphaned. Amid the violence and danger the eldest son, still a child himself, went to Butwal, the closest town. His hotel job earned meagre wages. Meanwhile, Rohit and his younger brother went to their old grandmother. She couldn’t adequately feed or care for her grandsons. This is not shocking. Feed the Future estimates two out of three Nepalis suffer from “food insecurity” and almost half of children five and under suffer from “food shortage stunting.” However, Rohit’s older brother was resourceful. In Butwal, he posted an ad on a piece of paper imploring help and education for his brothers. A local philanthropist read the cry for help and took the boys to an orphanage.
Later, Rosemarie and I went to that orphanage and met the many kids, played, read and helped out through our charity, Hands of Hope.
The orphanage supported children until the end of high school at Grade 10, then the abyss of poverty and menial labour awaited. There was no college fund. When we asked them what they wanted to be, all children were silent. We understood. It is best not to dream or hope when there is no future. What is the point? But we asked the kids to begin dreaming, hoping and imagining what they would like to do.
As each child neared the end of high school, we again asked what their dreams were. Now, they had answers. Since then, nine kids have dared to dream about being a nurse, teacher, engineer… and they have begun college educations. We scramble to gather funds. Because of true Yukon generosity, we’ve managed so far.
Sister, Grandmother, “I want to be a doctor,” Rohit told us. Of course he did. This brilliant boy, who was now a young man, continued to astound us. As a child he amazed everyone with life - like sketches of movie stars. Initially we couldn’t believe he had done them. Later, we smiled when he explained that he tutored his peers in math and sold recyclables for pocket cash. This boy was resourceful and an artistic dreamer with a piercing mathematical mind.
A “poor boy like me dies of sickness,” Rohit explained. He then expounded upon the injustice of poverty: of how small sicknesses, even the common cold, could result in death because seeing a doctor is simply too expensive. “I love medicine so I want to be a doctor,” Rohit summarized. Recently he received encouragment from a Nepali medical doctor, friend and colleague of Drs. Robert Zimmerman and Sally Macdonald. This encouraged him to continue on to study for the next medical scholarship exam.
Attending medical school anywhere is expensive, and in Nepal, with living expenses, the bill will be about $10,000 a year for five years or a total of $50,000.
Hands of Hope is a small organization. We don’t want his dream to die. For two years we have supported Rohit to attend “Vibrant,” a medical entrance and scholarship preparation institute in Kathmandu. Each year 43 medical scholarships are awarded. Knowing how brilliant he is, we thought perhaps he would be awarded one of these precious scholarships. The odds: almost impossible, even for someone like Rohit. About 12,000 students compete for 43 scholarships. Reliable sources explain that of these 43 scholarships, most are given out corruptly. About 10 or 12 are awarded honestly, on the basis of scholarship exam marks. We can’t tell Rohit to stop dreaming! A boy with such talent and drive should not be stopped by poverty and the coincidence of birth. His goal: medical school in 2015.
On his wall a handwritten reminder: “NO Paint NO Speech NO Singing Until U be a Doctor.” It’s not a question of whether or not but only of when. You can help Rohit attain his goal. Go to gofundme.com/rohit.
For the more complete story of the work of Rosemarie and Liesel Briggs of Hands of Hope please go to: http://www.hands-of-hope.ca