Bonnie Ellison, Country Director of Ama Ghar, remembers the day the children arrived in Godavari after a long bus ride from Pyuthan. "They were scared and didn't know what to do. But three of the older girls, Rupmala, Bindu and Sharada, quickly took charge. Without them, this place wouldn't be what it is today," she says.
Such a family-oriented atmosphere, reminiscent of home, was always the intent of co-founder Shrawan Nepali. During his adolescence, Nepali stayed at the all-boys Paropakar orphanage, one of the oldest in Nepal. His bond with Ama Tika Basnet there inspired him to set up the orphanage with her and Shekhar Silwal. "She was the closest person I had to a mother figure growing up. She changed my life, and helped me become the No.1 student in class, from being the worst," he recalls.
"We're trying to find ways to become more self-sufficient," explains Ellison. Indeed, Ama Ghar is looking for ways to generate income through the children's talents. "They're all good artists! So why can't they sell art?" Why not indeed. The spirit of the inhabitants of Ama Ghar is such that you can simply sense that their prospects are bright, if only because the children are ready to take their future into their own hands.
"I want to be a surgeon," she says shyly, yet with undeniable determination. Sharada has spent 8 years at Ama Ghar, and is unequivocal about her experience. "Ama Ghar changed my life; it made me more responsible. I want to set a good example for everyone else," she says.
Currently in the third year of her MBBS degree and at the top of her class, Sharada has definitely set the bar high. Getting to the top has not been easy, however. "Class 11 was challenging, as I had to switch from Nepali to English medium; I even failed physics but that didn't discourage me, and Bonnie stood by me," she says. "She's been an inspiration for me and for everyone else." Sharada would do well to remember what an inspiration she is proving to be for the rest of her family at Ama Ghar.