In Nepal, Kimsara Khadka waits for the young girls from her neighboring village to return from their daily trip to the forest to collect fodders for their livestock. She prepared boiled pumpkins and milk for them.
“It is a hard life,” Kimsara said. “They spend hours in the woods collecting fodders and will have to make a long journey back home. I know they will be hungry, so I prepare lunch for them every day.”
Kimsara, who is now 56 years old, grew up an orphan. She married her husband at the age of 17, but even then, she never knew what a mother’s love and care felt like. Her mother-in-law treated her poorly because she couldn’t bear children for the first several years of her marriage. After she gave birth to two children, the relation was still sour.
Today, Kimsara is referred as Aama, or “mother,” by everyone in her village. To them, she has become the person she never had in her own life.
Kimsara is a role model to everyone in her community. She is the president of of Jeewan Jyoti Namuna Women’s Group and, with Heifer, helps other women form their own self-help groups (SHG), training them on SHG management, Heifer’s 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development, gender justice and nutrition.
She shares the knowledge she has gained from working with her own SHG and stops in at their group meetings once a month to make sure they are functioning well and are motivated to continue with the group work.
“The women are from very poor families where saving the smallest amount each month is very challenging,” Kimsara said.
For the first two months, Kimsara funded the monthly savings (10 Nepalese rupees, or about 10 cents) for each of the 24 women in the group with her own money, totaling about $2.50 each month.
“I told them that if I had had such a group when I was going through the tough times like they were experiencing, I would have been very grateful. It has been over a year now, and they are doing very well.”
Kimsara plans to build a chautari, a place where people can gather together under the shade of a tree, for the six pass-on groups that she and her group helped organize. The chautari will give the groups a proper place to meet and protect them from the harsh summer sun. Furthermore, she provides continuous encouragement to the SHGs to improve their lives with gifts of fodder/forage, vegetables, seeds and saplings.
With a thriving goat farm, plenty of fodder/forage on her farm land and enough vegetables for her family, Kimsara and her husband have built a comfortable life for their family. However, she has no intentions of stopping here.
“I want to help the people from my community until my last breath,” Kimsara said. “I have wasted enough of my time feeling sorry for myself and lamenting on my ill fate. With the knowledge I have received from Heifer’s trainings, I feel strong enough to make a difference in my community, and that is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
Story and photos by Alina Karki, Associate Communication Officer, Heifer Nepal