I first met Julmiya when I was walking around the Brick Fields on the outskirts of Kathmandu. She was then nine years old and, as you can see, not too pleased to be photographed doing the household chores in the dust of her temporary home. Especially as, close by, the boys were playing football. Julmiya, though, had just been enrolled in the wonderful Kopila Nepa school, founded by Dave Phoenix from Wrexham with the help of Bimal lal Shresthra. Julmiya hails from the the south of Nepal village, from the recently flooded village of of Rautat Chapur.
When I re-visited the school at Kopila a year later, a smart young lady was pointed out to me and I was asked if I remembered her. I could not. Sanita, the teacher told me that it was Julmiya, now ten and in her second year at school. She was, as you can see from the last photograph, a transformed child. Her parents had returned for the seasonal work in the brickfields and had re-enrolled Julmiya at the school.
Earlier this year I asked Bimal, who oversees this and several othe rsimilar schools, to chat to Julmiya so as she could tell us a little more about herself. Her full name is Julmiya Pakhrinand she is eleven years old. She has a younger sister, Salina, who is also at the school.
The school has opened up a new world for Julmiya and children like her. At the most basic level she is fed and clothed there and has time out from the exhausting work of making bricks in the heat and dust. She has the opportunity to be a child. It has also made her realise there are opportunities out there, other than being part of the constant cycle of poverty which is endemic to rural Nepal.
She says she enjoys school, especially the games, the food and the uniform. Diplomatically, but I am sure honestly, she says she likes her teachers and cannot think of anything she dislikes about being at Kopila Nepa.
Now in her third year, Jumiya will, as I write, be returning to her home district. I just hope that she will keep returning to school and maybe go on to be the doctor she says she would like to be.