It was a year ago now that the bottom of 11-year-old Soni’s world fell away, but she only has to close her eyes to feel all over again the moment that she was told her father had died.
It was a morning like every other at their home in Kathmandu, Nepal. Soni’s mother, Thuli, was busy doing chores, her three sisters and her brother were doing the things they usually did, and her father Mlangdung had gone to meet friends at a local tea shop. And then a neighbour ran through the door, and everything changed.
Just 49-years-old, Mlangdung had had a heart attack. They had taken him to a heart hospital in the city, but he couldn’t be saved. Thuli and her children were on their own.
“I felt like I lost everything. I had five children and no job; I did not know how I was going to look after them,” Thuli remembers.
Soni’s two oldest sisters, Sangita, 23, and Sumita, 20, became the family’s breadwinners. Sangita is a teacher at a local school and Sumita takes work as a housemaid whenever she can get it. Together, they earn about $85 a month.
“After my husband passed away, we have been managing somehow,” Thuli says. She stretches the money as best as she can, but it’s barely enough to cover rent and food for the family.
Soni’s other sister Somiya is 18 and already has a husband and two children of her own to feed.
“She was just 15 years old when she married – we told her it was wrong, but she didn’t listen,” says Thuli. Somiya lives with her husband’s family. Soni’s 13-year-old brother, Sanjay, has a scholarship at a boarding school, where he lives during the school term. But Thuli worries constantly about Soni.
“I am weak and old, and we do not have any money to continue her education,” Thuli says. “Buying school supplies, uniforms and paying school fees cost a lot.”
That’s why Soni decided to quit school in March this year, at the end of grade five. After a year of COVID-19 lockdowns that have kept her out of the classroom while her family fought a daily battle with grief and poverty, Soni just couldn’t keep going.
“Since my father passed away, my mother has been struggling a lot,” Soni explains. “We do not have enough money to even feed ourselves let alone continue my education. I just want to grow up so I can help my mother and family.”
But that is not the end of Soni’s story. A neighbor told Thuli about World Vision's child sponsorship programme, and how it could help their family to get back on their feet. Thuli decided to register Soni – and she says child sponsors have been a godsend for their family.
“Since then, we have received school supplies for Soni and hygiene kits so we can stay healthy. We have even received food – rice, lentils, cooking oil and more. This support has been really helpful for us during these trying times,” Thuli says.
Even better, Soni went back to school in July. World Vision staff and partners at a local organisation in Soni’s community advocated for her at a local school, and she was offered her a place in Grade Six, free of cost.
For the first time in a long time, there is hope on the horizon for Soni and her family.
“Soni is a bright child, and she wants to study,” says Thuli. “I’m so relieved she can finish her education.”
Soni is now studying hard and has a new dream, inspired by the memory of her dad.
“I know how important it is to save people’s lives. I want to become a doctor and serve the needy people for free when I grow up!” she says.