As a young girl growing up in Nepal, Rita Kumari Bhujel aspired to be an athlete. She played volleyball in school and worked her way to the district team. Eventually, she got her chance to try out for the national team. But after Bhujel traveled to Kathmandu for tryouts, her family suddenly summoned her back to her village.
“Later I found out that they had fixed my marriage,” she said. “I felt bitter and betrayed. My dreams were left incomplete.”
Bhujel’s husband was a member of India’s army, so the couple started a life together there, but they eventually moved back to Nepal. They raised a daughter and two sons and sent all three to college.
Now 46 years old, Bhujel is tackling her next phase. She lives in the village of Raiyapur, where raising livestock is ingrained in the way of life. But the remoteness of the village makes it difficult to get veterinary assistance when animals are sick or injured.
“The closest veterinarian is 22 kilometers [about 14 miles] away from this village,” Bhujel said. “It is a long journey in this treacherous terrain. By the time a vet reaches our village, it is already too late.”
To help farmers who are far away from veterinarians, Heifer Nepal trains people to serve as community animal health workers. These community members provide basic veterinary services like vaccinations, examinations and medicine.
In 2015, less than a year after joining a Heifer International Nepal project, Bhujel trained to become a community animal health worker. She got 35 days training, medical tools and a small startup fund to establish her vet shop. Now farmers in Raiyapur can get veterinary care fast.
Bhujel recently helped a water buffalo through a dangerous, difficult labor. “The buffalo was in a lot of stress, and so was the family,” Bhujel said. “The mother of the family had been crying all night as her husband had bought the buffalo before recently passing away. For her it was his last keepsake. Her daughter-in-law was also crying, as losing the buffalo would mean no milk for her toddler.”
Bhujel’s service helps farmers, and it also allows her to make a living by charging fees for her work. “My children are grown up now,” she said. “My husband is at home and helps me in household chores. Now I am free to pursue my dreams. “I am determined to continue with this work as long as I can provide the service. Heifer has invested so much in me. Now it is time to pay back.”
Bhujel is one of 308 community animal health workers trained by Heifer Nepal to support the success of small-scale farmers.