Puja Khatri with her three younger siblings at New West Point School in Beni, headquarters of Myagdi district, on Wednesday. Standing next to the children is assistant principal Krishna GC. Photo: Harikrishna Gautam
MYAGDI, March 28: Eight months ago, Puja Khatri of Myagdi district lived a sad life. Faced with grinding poverty and three younger siblings to look after, the 12-year-old thought her very existence was a curse. Her dire circumstances were forcing her to the point of quitting school.
That was when she had the idea of writing a letter to her school headmaster explaining why she might not return to class.
The letter addressed to Somnath Dhungana, headmaster of Jamuna Kharka Secondary School, and the saga of Puja’s struggle to keep her siblings in school were published in Republica and Nagarik dailies. Within a month, the Khatri family received donations from far and wide. These amounted to over Rs 1.4 million.
Under strict media watch the money was deposited in a bank and put to proper use for supporting Puja and her siblings.
Puja is now a cheerful and determined child. She even says she wants to become chief justice some day.
“Puja’s life has greatly changed. She looks very happy and confident,” said her neighbor Mahendra Baruwal of Beni Municipality – 6. “The letter to the headmaster turned out to be a big boon for this family.”
With the financial support that poured in, Puja continued in school herself and her siblings have been sent to local New West Point Boarding School. Puja frequents the school hostel and is happy with the progress they are making in their studies.
“It feels like a dream. In the past we didn’t even have enough to eat. Now we all are getting a good education,” said Puja when she was spotted at Beni Bazar Tuesday while on her way to school. “I want to become chief justice some day.”
Puja lives with her grandfather, who is very old and frail. Taking care of him is also part of her responsibility. However, life is now far easier as there is no lack of resources, she said. Puja’s father comes home once in a blue moon. Her mother lives elsewhere and meets her only at intervals.
“But the children are not living in neglect. They are so sincere and nice,” notes Baruwal, the neighbor. “A huge change has come about in their lives. The support they received has made all the difference,” he added.
Puja’s dilapidated house has been renovated. There are now sufficient stocks of food and clothing. “I still remember going to bed on an empty stomach. Starving is no good,” she recalls.
While the donation amounts have been kept as a fixed deposit in the bank, the family also receives Rs 300,000 annually for the school expenses. Hem Thapa and Maya Thapa, who are based in the USA, send the money directly to the school in Beni.
“The school has also supported us, and the money from the US is enough for the hostel expenses,” Puja said.