Anjali Karki is a twelve-year-old student from the Kopila Valley Children’s Home and School in Nepal. She is bright and genuine, loves soccer, and, not unlike many other preteens of the world, will charmingly giggle when answering questions. She speaks gently and articulately, in English (having learned the language just three years prior), and without knowing it, quietly commands kindness and respect from those around her. Anjali is one of those rare individuals that radiate joy.
She is spending a few days at The Peck School shadowing sixth grade student Kendall Hanlon for a firsthand experience with a Peck education.
A few weeks ago, Anjali travelled to the United States to speak at the annual “Do Lectures” in California, which presents inspiring talks from people who are changing the world. She went accompanied by her ‘mother’ Maggie Doyne—a New Jersey woman who, fresh out of high school, gambled everything to start an orphanage and school for children in war-torn Nepal. (All of Maggie’s children at the Kopila Valley Home call her ‘mother.’) Maggie had initially spoken at “Do Lectures” in 2010, and the organizers were so moved by her story that they invited one of her students to return.
Peck’s own relationship with Maggie Doyne and her Kopila Valley children began in 2008, when the School presented to her its community service award in recognition of ‘consideration of others.’ The Peck community has made a point to continue and strengthen its “Kopila Valley Connection” in as many ways as possible.
Anjali arrived on Monday, October 7, a little overwhelmed and nervous for her first day at Peck. By the end of the day, though, she had quickly made friends and felt comfortable enough to share herself with our community. On Tuesday, she hosted a question-and-answer session with third and fourth grade students, who wanted to know everything from “what is your favorite game?,” to “what is life like at Kopila Valley School?”
On Wednesday, this twelve-year-old girl stepped up to the podium at an all-school assembly and, facing a sea of children and adults, told us the story of her journey. She spoke simply, directly, and without reservation; her words transforming into an unexpectedly powerful message for all listening.
Anjali was born in a remote, mountainous region of Nepal in a small village without electricty, and without roads. She doesn't remember much from the early days of her childhood, but she does remember the beauty of the mountains, a big, blue river, and a house made of mud and stone.
She was very young when her mother died, and her father followed soon after. She had two brothers, one also passed away, and the other worked wherever he could for food and shelter. That left Anjali, at five years old, with a decision no five-year-old should have to make.
“When you are a child who has lost both parents, you usually go to work,” Anjali said to the audience. And so she did.
She worked to survive, doing odd jobs at first and then working as household labor. She had little to eat, and many chores to do. Sometimes, she wouldn’t be allowed a meal. Sometimes, she would be beaten. Sometimes, she’d see her friends go to school in their blue uniforms, and felt acutely that she was denied the one thing she longed for—an education.
“I wanted to go to school,” she said, raising her eyes to the audience. “So. Badly.”
By the age of seven, she knew how to cook and clean, and she began taking care of younger children. When war came to her village, she saw soldiers with guns and knew people had died. She was afraid.
In 2009, Maggie Doyne was travelling through Nepal on her journey to do whatever she could to help in Nepali schools. One day, she stopped at a hut in a small village for a drink of water, and asked if the village leaders knew of any girls who might need help. The village leader said Anjali’s name.
And thus began an entirely different journey for this young girl.
“All I’ve ever wanted was to go to school,” Anjali told her Peck audience. “She [Maggie] said this was my choice and my decision…I didn’t have to think at all though, because I knew I wanted to go. Yes, I nodded. Yes, I want to go. Yes, Yes. Take me.”
Anjali had never before seen a bus, yet she boarded one to travel to the Kopila Valley Orphanage. She was nervous, but soon found that the orphanage held other children, caring adults, a bounty of food, and best of all, an education.
In the three years since her arrival at Kopila Valley, she has leapt headfirst into her education, made friends, found a family, read many books, and acted as “Lily” in KVS’ production of “Annie.” (An accomplishment that Anjali, who wants to be an author, or an actress, or “like Maggie” someday, proudly spoke of to the assembly.)
Her story isn’t one of sadness, pain, or neglect, nor is it one of triumph, fortune, or closure—although those elements have been present in her life. Anjali is simply a young girl who has the perseverance to make the best of her life now, who plays games, who reads and learns, who dreams of the future and honors the present, and lives her life with courage, appreciation, and joy.
And in that, she is the message we should all be so lucky to hear.
Read more about the Kopila Valley Children's Home and School in Nepal.
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