HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: Twenty-eight-year-old Nepali social worker Pushpa Basnet was named the 2012 CNN ‘Hero of the Year’ amid a ceremony in Los Angeles yesterday night.
Basnet, the founder of Early Childhood Development Centre, was honoured for her tireless effort to provide home, education and medical care for children of parents doing time in jails.
Earlier, Academy Award winning actress Susan Sarandon presented Basnet with an award as one of the Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2012. Each of the Top 10 CNN Heroes received $50,000 in recognition of their work and with Basnet emerging as the ‘Hero of the Year’, her orgnaisation will receive an additional $250,000 grant.
“These children have done nothing wrong. They are simply caught in something they do not understand,” said Basnet after CNN’s Anderson Cooper revealed Basnet as the Hero of the Year during the Sixth Annual CNN Heroes: An All Star Tribute at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. “We want to work with the government to bring them all out of prison. And they deserve a better future,” added Basnet who is called Mamu by her children. “Mamu’s going to take you out from the prison, and you’re coming to my place,” she said. “This (award) is for my children, and this is for my country Nepal. Thank you so much everybody who voted for me and who believed in my dream,” she added.
Basnet was chosen as Hero of the Year through a nine-week public vote held on CNN.com.
Currently, 44 children are living in a residential home and 12 children in a daycare centre established by Basnet. The children have been brought from prisons in Phidim, Jajarkot, Rukum, Bhojpur, Pokhara, Birgunj, Kathmandu, Trishuli and Kavre.
She was a student of social work at St Xavier’s College when she first visited a women’s prison as part of her curriculum. Learning that innocent children had to face difficulties because their parents were incarcerated, Basnet thought of doing her bit to rescue them and thus she established ECDC at the age of 21 by collected funds from her friends and relatives. The children rescued by Basnet are studying in Budhanilkantha Model Community Academy. The oldest child is Manju Balkoti, 17, a Sixth Grader, from Jhapa. “We were sure that Mamu would win. We love her so much,” said Balkoti.