Prashna asks me again “how did this start?” And she answers, “Oh, yeah, with the eye glasses.”
It is a school where more than 40 countries are represented by the students.
Prashna and her family came to the United States from Nepal in 2010. She lives in a rented home with her 12 year old brother, her 15 year old sister, her mother, her uncle and her maternal grandparents.
The children speak English fluently and are good students. Prashna loves to sing and make youtube videos; Prashik plays soccer and says that he “was instilled with the destiny to play professional soccer”; and Pratima loves to dance in the Nepali tradition, wearing colorful saris.
I met Prashna while she was in the 3rd grade, a bright, gregarious, energetic 10 year old. I noticed that she was holding her eye glasses, rather than wearing them. When I inquired, she told me that they were broken and indeed they were. I asked her if she knew the optical shop where she originally obtained them and she did. I spoke to the classroom reading teacher about getting them replaced and I offered to arrange for it. With the help of the classroom volunteer who speaks Nepali, he asked Prashna’s Mom if I could help in getting the prescription refilled and also let her know that I could help with transportation to the optical shop, if it were needed. She agreed.
As the weeks went by, I became more familiar with Prashna and her daily living experience. I could sense that she had a very tight-knit, loving family who were very steeped in the Nepali culture and within the small Nepali community in town. She is proud to be Nepali and likes to talk about and share her traditions with us. I could also sense that despite living in our town and in the US for seven years, she had little awareness or knowledge of the outer community or country.
I thought that she would be open to some greater exposure to experiences within her reach and hoped that her Mom would be supportive.
When the eye glasses were ready for pick up, I asked the para-professional if he would let Mom know and I also offered transportation. She was all set. I asked him to let her know that I had a special interest in Prashna and wanted to provide access to activities in town that would be a benefit to her. It was a bit awkward speaking through the interpreter, but I got the go-ahead that I needed.
At the same time, I let the school principal know of my insights into Prashna, my intentions to open up the greater world to her, and that I was also interested in making sure she had all the school supplies she needed to be successful at school. A few days passed, and she let me know that Prashna needed a backpack. Great! An opportunity to meet Mom and let her know directly that I wanted to help and be involved in opening some doors to greater opportunities and experiences.
In the meantime, I thought about what would be a good initial experience for Prashna to venture outside of her familiar comfort zone. Another third grade student told me she belonged to Girls Scouts and enjoyed it very much. I did some research and spoke to a local troop leader and learned that they meet weekly at the West Springfield Boys and Girls Club. I explained that I wasn’t sure if Prashna would like it, but wanted her to have the chance to check it out herself and make a decision. She offered to have Prashna come to the remaining few meetings and, if she wanted to, she could officially join in September when the meetings resumed. Great! And the Boys and Girls Club is within walking distance of Prashna’s home.
I spoke to Prashna about the Girl Scouts and explained as best I could what it was about and that I thought she would enjoy making new friends and joining in new activities. She was very interested and excited. I let her know she would need her Mom’s permission. Another reach out to the para-professional who spoke to Mom about the Girl Scouts. She agreed.
I arranged to meet Mom and Prashna a few minutes before the Girl Scout meeting started to make introductions all around. Prashna saw some familiar faces from school and the leader asked one of the girls to make Prashna feel welcome. It was the first time I met Mom. She is the beautiful, warm, caring person I envisioned. I am sure she was relieved to finally lay eyes on me and make an assessment of me. We chatted for a short time and I gave her the new back pact to give to Prashna later at home. She was very appreciative.
Prashna has since attended the meetings and decided to join in September. She asks me when meetings will start. “Soon”, I say, “soon.”
In the meantime, we have sponsored Prashna and Prashik, her 12 year old brother, to one week summer camp, Fun Fitness Week, at the Boys and Girls Club. I asked Prashna what her experience was like during the week. She said, “On a scale of 1 to 10, it was a 100.”
Pratima mentioned to me that she was interested in doing an internship during the summer, before entering the 9th grade at West Springfield High School. I researched some options and she decided to pursue a Junior Leadership Program at the West Springfield Boys and Girls Club. She had a fabulous learning experience and the Club was delighted to have her.
We have taken Prashna, her brother and her older sister to the cinema to see a movie, something they had not done. We spent a sunny afternoon on a riverboat cruise on the Connecticut River. It was delightful and they enjoyed it very much.
They have come to our home for dinner, to play, and to “just hang out”, as they say. At first, they were afraid of our cat and dog and now they feel very comfortable and look forward to playing with Freddy, hearing him bark when they arrive, and petting Nadine. Their friends and cousins have visited at our home, too.
We have shopped at the local mall, which they had never been to before and had ice cream at the local garden stand and shop. And, yes, we have gone to McDonald’s more times than I care to count!
My husband and I have been most welcomed at Prashna’s home. Her Mom serves us tea and fruit when we arrive to pick up the children. We have joined them for dinner, having traditional Nepali food. We have gone to a Nepali wedding which was lovely and fascinating, open and welcoming. We were invited to Prashna’s birthday party, as well as her brother’s party and learned about Nepali traditions and met many of their relatives and friends. We attended a Bhutanese-Nepali cultural festival where Prashna’s older sister danced in the traditional Nepali way. I also went to “a Teej” celebration, an annual Nepali holiday, where all women are honored. Prashna’s older sister, Pratima, danced and her grandmother sang.
It’s autumn now and we have sponsored Prashna and her brother in local soccer leagues. I never would have pictured myself a “Soccer Mom”, yet that is what I have become, bringing them to their practices and matches, and cheering them on. For her brother, it is a dream come true as Prashik dreams of becoming a professional soccer player and we are pleased to be part of his happiness. For Prashna, she wasn’t so excited about the thought of playing soccer. I convinced her that she will make new friends, enjoy the fun of the game, and learn about competition and teamwork. She has taken to it like a fish to water. Prashna has expressed to me that she would like to take voice lessons. I have started to research it.
The children have had greater experiences and enjoyable adventures as new doors have been opened for them. We have been learning about a culture we did not know and sharing our love and attention with a Nepali family. It truly is a wonder-full world.