It wasn't easy converting the wasteland that the green belt had become into a park. Shanti had to bury open toilets, clear bushes, plug an open sewer, and remove heaps of construction material along the 156 m stretch. "My first lot of roses worth Rs 3,600 disappeared the very next day. Some people still dump garbage around the area, but locals are beginning to realise its importance," recalls Thapa. She was even manhandled once by a neighbour, although the man later got a talking to from the neighbourhood.
It started with a proposal to the Ministry of Population and Environment to create a park for children. The road department approved the plan and released Rs 400,000 for the construction of the Hausala Bal Udhyan. "There were prolonged delays in the supply of materials. But now I feel happy that at least the area has been developed," says Shanti.
Her reward is the company of neighbourhood kids at play. "I love this space. I am attached to every plant that grows here," says Shanti, who contracted polio when she was three. Shanti has a female gardener who she pays Rs 1500 a month. Recently, the Manakamana Cable Car company helped paint the poles and swings, and they contribute Rs 3000 every month. Some people in the neighbourhood also volunteer time and money for the park. "Friends like Ramkaji Khome, Tshering Lama, Sita Gurung, Lamabhai and the Dabur Nepal office have been contributing Rs 200 a month," she says.
Recently, Shanti added another 50 m stretch of the green belt to the park area, with a budget of Rs 40,000. Half the money came from her own NGO (Hausala), and the rest from the Social Welfare Ministry. "It doesn't need much. If a polio patient like me did it almost single-handedly, can't the young citizens do so. It just needs awareness and an aesthetic will," she says. The residents of Maharajgunj and Dhumbarahi are certainly grateful.