The Kopila Valley Girls’ Club and Some Panicking
Thursday, August 20, 2015
By Thea Dekker
I was told to write a blog. And I panicked. This comes from the ages-long tradition of me panicking when Maggie asks me to do things. I'll back up to the first time Maggie asked me to do something and I panicked.
The month was December. Baby Ravi travelled to the United States for the first time. I met him and I agreed with the consensus that he was, in fact... cute. So cute that I agreed to babysit him (this was my first mistake – that baby is addicting. Once you say yes, you can't stop saying yes. I'm a Raviholic, what can I say?). Anyway, I agreed to babysit him. And everything was going okay. He was being cute and I was being, you know, me. But then disaster struck. He pooped and... (wait for it)… I was expected to change it. This was the first time I panicked. Needless to say, changing the diaper didn’t go great and the diaper ended up going on backwards. I can now say that I have mastered changing Ravi's diaper (kind of).
The second time I panicked was a few weeks later. I asked Maggie if there was something I could do to help BlinkNow. She came up with something instantly. She told me about a group of girls who really needed some help (some help from me?!). She suggested that I start a club that would raise the girls' self-esteem.
I knew about the problems facing women in Nepal. I knew about the lack of opportunity they faced. I comprehended the fact that they were oppressed, living in a patriarchal society. I knew about how rape often goes unreported and unpunished, I understood how at-risk they were for trafficking and child marriage. I knew that the girls I would be working with would have known poverty I couldn’t even imagine. So naturally I had to say "of course" – not. I mean was she kidding? How was I supposed to raise the self-esteem of eight girls when... no I wasn’t going to... I mean... I couldn’t...right? Needless to say, this was me panicking. "No, I'm sorry Maggie, I don’t think I'm up for this challenge," I said.
I went home and I thought and I thought... have I made the wrong decision? Had I said "no" too soon? No, of course not! I don’t have a degree in anything and I haven't even graduated high school. I couldn’t. And then I thought about Maggie and all the times that I have seen her speak. And how she always said that we have the power to create the world we want to see every day. So I said, "Okay, I'll do it". So began my journey. I researched activities, babysat to earn money and bought journals, books and bras as supplies.
Flash forward six months and I'm off to Nepal for the first time. The first meeting was held in the counseling center. I remember being scared and then saying, "Okay Thea, let’s do this." We started with a name. The girls decided to call the club the “Kopila Valley Girls' Club.” I shared with them a motto by Rita Pearson that I like that went like this:
"I am somebody.
I was somebody when I came.
I will be a better somebody when I leave.
I am powerful."
We said this motto at the beginning and ending of every meeting. I gave the girls journals so that they could write down their thoughts and feelings. Feelings that they felt like they couldn’t share. I can't say what exactly happened in those meetings. I hope you don’t mind. I want our conversations to stay between the girls and me. Talking to the girls, I realized how lucky I was to have met each and every one of them. They are some of the strongest girls I have ever met. They have endured so much and the fact that they get up every day and go to school is more inspiring than anything I said to them. I hope that if they learned anything, they learned how amazing they are.
I learned that many of the girls at Kopila didn’t have a place to shower. They were forced to bathe in a river using buckets. I also learned that there was a shower at the school that wasn’t being used. I bought shampoo, soap, and deodorant. Privacy was an issue so the school would have to open early to accommodate the girls. I'm proud to say that the school now opens early two days a week so that the girls can shower and the Girl's Club meets on Friday afternoons.
Sadly, after only two weeks of being with the girls, I had to leave. I think that I left a little part of my heart at Kopila. Every time I have a spare moment, I find that my mind wanders to Nepal and the Kopila Valley Girls' Club. I think that if I returned half of the impact to the girls that they made on me, then I will have accomplished my goal. I know I am supposed to be writing about how I changed their lives and maybe I did – just a little bit. But really, the girls changed me. I don’t know if what I'm saying conveys the impact that the girls' group had on me. But I know one thing for sure: I will never be the same person that I was before I met my sweet, brave, powerful friends.