Working for the Santi School Project is tough in so many ways. Making the educational system in a developing country work better on a shoestring budget takes a talented team of extraordinary people. But there’s one person whose job stands out as the toughest amongst the tough.
I met Sita the first time I visited the Santi School Project office in Kathmandu. She smiled warmly and brought me a perfect cup of tea, but didn’t say much. I had heard stories about Sita. The one where she rode all day on the back of a milk truck over bumpy dirt roads because it was the only way she could get within walking distance of a remote school. Or the time that she was racing the sunset to make it back to a main road and her “shortcut” through the forest left her missing her shoes and covered in leeches. Could this sweet, quiet woman really be the same person who battles the jungles and mountains of Nepal to make sure she reaches the communities that need help the most?
Sita is sort of a one-woman advance team, who ventures out into the rural communities the Santi School Project serves. She makes connections and serves as the eyes and ears for the organization. She meets with principals and teachers and helps bring Santi School’s much needed support back to the villages.
Her background in community development, her master’s degree in education and her fierce dedication (especially when it comes to educating the next generation of girls) makes her perfectly suited for this tough line of work.
But the fact that she’s also a wife and a mother in a culture where woman very rarely have jobs that require overnight travel makes it that much more impressive.
It’s not easy to choose a career like this. Sita’s husband is a principal at a school a day’s drive away from Kathmandu. So in order for Sita to do the job she loves, she and her son must live closer to the city and away from the traditional Nepali family support system. With the help of her niece, who attends university full-time in the city, these two determined ladies are also the main housekeepers, gardeners, chefs, homework police, and all of the other things it takes to keep a happy and healthy household running smoothly.
Sita might not say much, but her actions are a perfect example of how a new brand of educated women in Nepal is creatively balancing family life and a career.