By Angjuk Lama, Nepal Programme Manager
I know firsthand, that growing up in Humla can be tough. With little cash economy, the community works extremely hard on subsistence farming just to survive. Historically, the Humli people did not place a great value on education. Who had time for school when there were fields to be ploughed or yaks to be herded? Also, there were few schools offering quality education for children to attend, even if a child had the passion or interest. As a result, Humla district has some of Nepal’s lowest literacy rates.
However, over the past few years we have seen a huge shift in community attitudes towards education. More and more Humlis are now sending their children to school, recognising the value of education. And many of these children, like Pema, are thriving.
Pema is just fourteen years’ old, and is studying at the Yalbang School in grade seven. She is one of the most hard working, disciplined and brilliant students of the school. Pema and her sister are lucky enough to get support from Adara to go to school, and are the first people in their family to receive an education. They both also stay in the Yalbang hostel, so they don’t have to travel the long distances between school and home every day.
Tragically, Pema’s father passed away when she was only six, leaving her mother a widow, and Pema and her older sister without a father. Pema’s grandparents are still living, but her grandfather is totally blind.
Pema’s mother and her elderly grandmother rely on subsistence farming and livestock to feed their family and survive. But having no men in the family makes their lives much harder. To plough their fields, build their home and travel to Tibet to trade for commodities that they can’t produce at home are all things traditionally done by men. Since there are no men in their family, Pema’s mother is playing the role of both parents for them. Even with all this hard work, the farming only feeds her family for about two months. For rest of the year, she runs tea shop, collect herbs and manage greenhouse to feed the family.
Even though she is very young, Pema helps her mother to work in the field, graze cattle, collect cooking wood and do household chores every time she comes home from school.
“My mother is my role model who works so hard to feed our family and send me and my sister to school so that we do not have to have a hard life like hers. This motivates me to study hard and do something for my family.”
Pema tops her class all the time and has even topped whole school several times! Her teachers are so impressed with her hard work, diligence, confidence and creativity. Pema wants to be a doctor in future and would like to be able to support her family and her community.
Pema’s mother is so proud of her and has high hope that Pema will bring her family out of this hard life.
“Without Adara’s hostel and school support, I wouldn’t be able to send my daughters to school, my daughters would be like me with no education doing tough farming life,” she said.
Even though life is tough, Adara’s holistic community projects have made life a little bit easier for Pema and her mother.
“My daughters are getting a good education, we have good health post and a Tibetan herbal medicine center, we have electricity, water tap, and a greenhouse and toilet next to my house. What else do I expect for? I am very grateful to this organisation.”