“Her secret of success is that she did it all with passion.”
She asks for extra math problems, she sings and dances as she cleans, and she is always first in her class. Riya, a very small nine year old girl living at Hopeful Home is nothing short of amazing. She was the first one to approach me when I arrived, and I quickly realized that she has the best English of anyone around, even better than her teachers. She is mature and confident, words rarely associated with someone so young, and she is the perfect example of how an organization such as this can give children the opportunity to thrive.
Riya lives here at Hopeful Home with her biological sister who is a few years older than her. She also has a younger brother who still lives at home with their mother, though she only sees them once or twice a year during holidays. She comes from a small village in the East, though she told me that now her mother and brother live in someone’s house here in Kathmandu. After her father committed suicide when she was young, her mother sent the two girls here in order to give them a chance at a better future, notably because here they are able to receive an education.
And she certainly had taken advantage of this opportunity. When I visited her class at school, all of the other students, as well as the teacher, were quick to point out that she is always first in the class. After helping her with homework these last few weeks I can report back that she is indeed far ahead of most students in her grade, not just because she is naturally intelligent (which she is) but also because she puts in an extra effort. She studies harder, asks me for extra practice problems, and uses her time wisely at school and at home in order to learn everything that is put in front of her.
One of my favorite Riya moments, which truly embodies her personality, took place the other day as I was washing my clothes. She asked me straight away as she saw me walk upstairs with my laundry if she could help, and I told her thank you, but I didn’t have much and I could do it. She sat quietly watching me wash my first shirt, then, as I grabbed my second, told me, “Ma’am, let me do it, I think I know how to wash clothes Nepali style better than you.” So that’s how I found myself slightly embarrassed and bemused watching a very small nine-year old wash my clothes.
Most of what I know about Riya is from living with her these past three weeks. I also decided to do a small interview with her though, so we cuddled on her bed as I asked her a few questions:
Do you like living here?
Yes! At home there was no money for education, but here I can read, write, and go to school. I also like living with so many brothers and sisters, it is more fun.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
An accountant. I like math and numbers.
What do you like to do?
I like drawing, coloring, dancing, singing, and playing in the field.
What are you proudest of?
That I am good at reading. And that I am first in my class.
Here is a nine year old who values education in a way many of us in the west don’t appreciate until our twenties, thirties, or sometimes never. She is a fighter. She is the smallest child by far (something she actually enjoys immensely as she receives all of the girls hand-me-downs resulting in a very full closet), and the youngest girl, yet her presence here is larger than life. She has no trouble standing up for herself, doing her own laundry and dishes, and making sure her assignments are complete on time. She knows what she wants, and puts in the hard work to get it. That’s Riya for you, the nine-year old powerhouse.
She told me when she was young (in her village) she had a very small basket and loved cutting grass with her mother and carrying it back to the house.
Here she is in her favorite outfits.
She is a wonderful artists. Here are two drawings she did this week.