Sajana walks to school every day. While this is nothing extraordinary for many children in Nepal it means a dream came true for Sajana, the girl who was shuffling on her knees for over six years.
Perhaps, one of the best things about being a ‘field coordinator’ is that I get to see and live the most remarkable moments in the lives of children with disabilities. Last month, during a home visit to see Sajana's progress, I was overwhelmed with joy to see the young girl walk to school on her own feet – without using crutches. As I watched Sajana walk steadily along with her friends, upright and independent, my thoughts went back to the journey and challenges she trailed to finally achieve this marvellous feat.
It was over a year ago, we met Sajana for the first time. Then, the 14-year-old girl used to shuffle on her knees to move around her house – as her feet were bent inward. The deformity in her legs was so severe that she could neither stand, nor walk upright. While her two younger brothers went to school, Sajana’s life was very much confined to the hut. She was dependent on her parents for most activities of daily living. Yet, despite her challenge she was obliged by her societal customs to do a few household work everyday.
But Sajana was not born with a disability… the hut and the daily chores became Sajana’s way of life after her feet slowly started to bend inward seven years ago. Before that she went to school (she studied up to 4th grade), played with children of her age, made new friends everyday. While Sajana’s parents tried a lot in the beginning, over time they gave up hope that their daughter would ever be able to walk upright. If money was what would make Sajana’s feet straight, they didn’t have any. The deformity, in due course, took away Sajana’s childhood…
Thanks to your ongoing support dear donors, Sajana was identified by cbm funded CBR programme in central Nepal. She was soon referred to cbm partner HRDC near Kathmandu where she underwent corrective surgery for her neglected clubfeet condition. After surgery, she received a pair of special, orthotic shoes to keep her feet in shape and restrict undue movement. Gradually, Sajana’s life was turning over a new leaf: less than a year after her intervention began, her feet were ‘corrected’ and she could walk upright using a pair of crutches.
But this was not enough for the young girl full of dreams. Her indomitable spirit saw her break free the confinement of her hut and rejoin school. Sajana thus realized her biggest dream – of walking to school, even if it meant scaling a 300-metre upward slope on her crutches. Eight years after Sajana had to dropout due to her disability, she was admitted one again in grade 4 in the same school.
However, six months after she started going to school, Sajana showed yet another sign of strength and courage – she dropped the crutches to walk upright and independent on her own feet. Finally, Sajana had outshined her disability – she could now stand and walk upright, just like the other children. Of all, she could once again live the joys of her childhood...
Now as Sajana leaves for school every morning along with her brothers, father Padam waits to wave at his daughter. “It’s a sight I have yearned to see for so many years… to see all three of them walk together to school. It’s a dream come true,” he reflects as he gazes at his daughter until she is out of sight. Mother Nirmala too is all praise for her daughter. “Better late… Sajana could finally achieve all her dreams. She is no longer confined to the hut. She can do everything on her own, just like the other children,” says the mother. “Her smile lights up our lives,” she beams.
Thank you donors, for gifting Sajana her childhood. Hope her smile lights up your lives, too.
Warm regards from Kathmandu,
Written by Ashok, our field co-ordinator in Nepal.