Sriman Thapa, 9, studies in third grade and enjoys science the most, but says he is rather good at Nepali. His mother is a member of a Heifer self-help group (SHG) and his father is equally enthusiastic about Heifer activities. What sets this curious boy apart is that both of his parents are laata, or mute and deaf.
A few years ago, Sriman was bullied by other village kids because of his parents' disabilities. This had such an impact on him that when asked whose son he was, the heartbreaking answer was, "I am laata's son."
After receiving two goats from Heifer International, Sriman's mother, Bimala Thapa, was able to contribute to another family in a Passing on the Gift® (POG) ceremony. Her gift uplifted another family's life and the bullying has since stopped. When I asked whose son he was, I was relieved to hear Sriman answer, "I am Keshav Thapa and Bimala Thapa's son."
So I asked him another big question: "Why do you think they do not bully you as laata's son anymore?" Sriman's answer was strikingly simple: "Because now they know my parents' names." His parents are now addressed by their names, as people, and not as their disability.
I met 17-year-old Sunil Pariyar during a visit to Bardiya. Talking with this young man was overwhelming. He had so much to say, and his immense respect and pride for his mother was clearly visible. Sunil's mother had truly changed the fate of their family.
His mother never received a formal education, and her only source of income was a tailoring business she ran from her neighbor's porch. Since receiving training from Heifer, she can read and count. She has opened a tailor shop and gives sewing lessons to other women. The family was able to move from the shed where they lived and shared a single room with four other family members to a new house where everyone has their own bed.
Before his family became Heifer participants, Sunil faced harsh discrimination based on the caste system because his ethnic background was considered "untouchable." But now his only worries are about his higher education. He says he wants to go to college and study business administration.
I see children everywhere at POG events, door-to-door visits, hanging around their mothers and marching in rallies alongside women. These children are growing up around strong, independent women who have a voice and opinions to bring change in their community. Most of these women have never received any formal education, yet they are entrepreneurs, earning income, supporting their children's education, running cooperatives and working toward the development of their community.
Nepali children have strong role models in these women. Heifer plays an important role in their lives, and they play an even more important role in the lives of the children of Heifer.
Editor's note: Alina Karki, Planning Monitoring and Evaluation Temp for Heifer Nepal, submitted this story and photos.