Nepali Times
Our ama, our hero


When Pushpa Basnet visited the women's prison in Sundhara seven years ago as part of a college social service trip, she had no idea that one afternoon would alter her life radically. Seeing the condition of the children trapped behind bars along with their incarcerated mothers moved her so much, she came home and told her parents she wanted take care of the children and give them a better future.

Her family thought she was crazy because Pushpa neither had the experience or the money to start such an ambitious project. Today the 28-year-old is president of the Early Childhood Development Centre (ECDC) in Budhanilkantha and became CNN's Hero of the Year 2012 on 2 December with the highest number of online votes. The ten CNN heroes received a $50,000 grant each and Pushpa was awarded an additional $250,000 for her selfless work and dedication. "This award means a lot to me. Many children are still living in prisons, definitely Mamu is going to take you out from prison and you are coming to my place," she said as she broke down in tears during her acceptance speech.

Started in 2005, ECDC currently houses 40 children whose parents are serving time. Pushpa and her team send the children to school, nurse them back to health, provide psycho-social counseling, and help them rebuild their lives. In the last seven years, ECDC has freed more 100 children from jail. Pushpa travels regularly to prisons all across the country, making agreements with jailers, parents, and ECDC and bringing children to Kathmandu. She also runs a day care centre near Sundhara prison for children under six whose mothers are in jail and has been training the women to make handicrafts for the last few years.

The stories of the children at ECDC are illustrated here through a series of comics by graphic journalist Dan Archer. "Comics are a powerful way of getting readers to experience testimonies from a first person perspective," says Dan, "I wanted to put the children's stories front and centre for the first time." He is currently working on adapting testimonies of trafficking survivors into comics and using the cartoons to engage with a younger, hard to reach audience, and teach them about the dangers of human trafficking.

Dan is fundraising for his project on an online site called kickstarter that has different reward patterns according to the amount pledged.

Watch Pushpa Basnet's CNN hero video

See also:
Growing up behind bars
Pushpa Basnet has devoted her life to helping children who are in prison for their parents' crime

1. Tashi Lama
True heroes and stars are those people who stands with a strong motivation of " OTHERS BEFORE SELF" I salute Pushpa Basnet for devoting herself to serve the needy children of jail inmates in Nepal. I wish her healthy long life to continue with her generous mission to serve others.

2. Renu Shrestha
I was following the news throughout the morning, refreshing every 10 minutes to see whether CNN had announced the hero and the moment I found out Pushpa Basnet had won and especially after I saw her acceptance speech - so humble, so heartfelt, and so touching- i started crying. Our politics is a mess, but its people like Pushpa who keep this country running and give us hope that all is not lost. 

Whether she won the award or not would not take away one bit from her status as a true hero. But she has worked so hard in the past decade that she deserves this international recognition and the funding that comes with it. And she is one person I am certain will use all the money towards her children and nothing else. So proud of you, keep up your excellent work Pushpa. 

3. Pushpa Fan

Pushpa you have shown that humanity and compassion always win, wish you and your children success and satisfaction in life. Your speech touched the hearrts of millions of people around the wold. We are proud that Nepal Ama haas produced a daughter like you so that you can take care of your little brothers and sisters.

4. Nepali Times Reader
There are people (highly educated people) who works for International Organizations who drives around in big expensive cars and jeeps and eats at 5 star hotels and holds conferences and meetings in resorts and eat meats and drink foreign whiskies in the name of the poor people or in the name of wild animals of Nepal.

Meanwhile there are people like Pushpa Basnet who spends every single penny for the benefit of the poor. I salute you Pushpa Basnet! May god send many more Pushpa Basnets and Anuradha Koiralas!

5. San
No words are enough for what you have done for others. Amazing.

6. Admirer

Many have dreams of helping others but few have the courage to live their dream. I salute you Pushpa for your courage.

7. Sunil Sakya
Glad that real values of life ..Compassion, good heart is being recognized than mere intellect and IQ by national and international media.

8. Other Side of the Coin

Well, it's great that Pushpa Basnet won "CNN Hero of 2012" award and I think it was a much deserved recognition; however, if we were to look beyond the obvious, a serious trend would begin to emerge. What is interesting is how come two Nepali women in three years managed to win the award? Here is an obvious answer: Nepal is an epicenter and the breeding ground for all sorts of social problems. Normally, the government should be responsible for the welfare of its citizens but since we don't have a functioning government that is legitimate, responsible and accountable, people like Pushpa has to step in to fill the vaccum. Therefore, friends, don't be surprised if we have more Pushpa's and Anuradha's winning the award in coming years.    

9. khim gharti
Make Presidents or Prime Minister to Pushpa Basnet or the people like her and send to hell current politicians who don't know anything other than corruption and fighting with each other. Thanks from  my heart to Pushpa Basnet and Dan Archer too.

10. Shova Basnet

God Himself backs Pushpa Basnet ! As for the politicians, they are backed by Lucifer, the Devil. So you can see clearly the difference in the result between God and the Devil. 

Nepal is fortunate to have Pushpa and Anuradha !

There are many selfless Nepalis that are working hard each day making big differences in the lives of the needy. The leaders on the other hand know only to lust for power and fortune for personal gain only. Nepal is cursed for producing selfish and criminal minded leaders.

I hope the cycle of this curse will end soon, all Nepalis can live their lives in dignity, prosperity, joy and peace.    


(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)