A Letter to Those Who Supported HKC in 2018 from an HKC Director
Dear Friends and Supporters,
As we set off into 2019, I cannot help but reflect on the success of 2018 with pride.
Running Happy Kids Center subjects my team and
This year we developed a child marriage prevention program that we believe can change the lives of girls in our community. For 10 months the program was running smoothly; the girls were empowered, their parents were happy, our hopes were high. Then, at the end of 2018, yet another girl was abruptly sent to India to be married at just 16 years old. We were devastated. It felt like Sisyphus’ boulder had come crashing down once again, and we were destined to spend a lifetime in this cycle. Days like these are spent wondering if we’ll ever even make a dent. I think to myself, “What am I doing here?” “Are we crazy for thinking a team of young women can really make a difference in ending cultural practices dating back generations and generations?”
Well, these questions were answered for me this November, when two former volunteers returned to Bhaktapur to visit HKC after 6 months away. They spent their first day back wandering the city, planning to surprise the children as they worked in the street. They couldn’t find the children in any of their usual spots, digging through trash pits or begging tourists in the popular squares. Confused, they walked down to HKC to speak with me, hoping for guidance on where they might find the children. It turned out to be a quite the surprise to everyone when they heard the Happy Kids shouting with excitement from the windows of the classrooms above. The volunteers could not find the children because they were no longer working on the street; for the first time in their lives, they were in school!
Over the 6 months these volunteers were away, we had quietly managed to get almost every child engaged in child labor off of the street and enrolled in school full time. Just one year prior the school enrollment rate of children supported by HKC was at just 44%; by the end of 2018, we can boast that 89% of our Happy Kids are now enrolled in school. Child labor rates dropped from 56% of our children engaging in child labor to less than 8%, with no new children joining the workforce since 2016. We celebrated our four year anniversary, launched two new programs, and tripled the impact of our education sponsorship program. Two families have promised to delay marrying their daughters until 18 and two girls turned 17 years old this year and remained unmarried, something we have never before witnessed in this community. We hired a new program coordinator and launched a new annual fundraising campaign.
We were able to scale so dramatically this year because of the passionate team of individuals, on the ground and abroad, working tirelessly toward our making our mission reality.
When I look back on 2018 I can only compare it to watching grass grow. From up close, I sometimes struggled to notice any discernible growth or change occurring. Our team on the ground had spent so much time focusing on the meticulous details and exhausting ourselves over small failures, we sometimes forgot to take a step back and recognize the growth. After doing so it has become clear to me, I don’t have to wonder anymore… Happy Kids Center really is working.
We could not possibly have achieved all that we have over the last four years without your tireless support. I am so proud of all of us. Let’s keep working to end the cycle of poverty, child marriage and child labor in our community. We can accomplish this together.