Kathmandu, July 31, 2016: 44-year-old Tilbahadur Karkiâ€™s life sounds like nothing short of a movie script.Â Â Born in Sarlang of Panchthar, without the use of both his feet, Karki was ridiculed by his peers and his mother had to endure insults from their relatives. At the age of nine, unable to bear his motherâ€™s silent cries brought by his disability, he hitched a ride on the roof of a bus and made his way to Kathmandu.
In the capital, he washed dishes at a hotel in Baneswor to eke out a living. One day, a customer suggested that Karki go to a childcare centre, and provided the address of Khagendra Nawajeevan Kendra in Jorpati. There, the gatekeeper refused to let him in, so he went to Boudha and resorted to begging instead. Over time, he moved to Pashupati.
TheÂ patisÂ andÂ sattals gave him a roof over his head but the older boys always stole the money he earned. Tired of being robbed, for the next 25 years he took to wrapping the money in plastic bags and hiding it under a tree in Bankali.
In 2007, with the help of the police he recovered Rs 551,000 from his hiding place. The police helped him to exchange the damaged and damp paper notes for new ones.Â Â Never having imagined that he would have saved such a huge amount of money, Karki fainted when he heard the sum. At the hospital, he remembered everything he had been through, including his failed suicide attempt to break free from the psychological suffering. â€œAt that moment I decided to use the money to help children who, like me, have suffered in life,â€ said Karki.
He then established a centre focusing on helping children in need. Initially, the centre housed three children, all of whom were war victims. Over the years the number grew.Â Â After five years, the initial fund ran out, and Karki had to go from door to door in the alleyways of Kathmandu asking for help.
Today there are forty children living in the centre, many of whose parents are in prison or disabled, while others are victims of war and earthquake, or orphans. The centre takes care of their housing, meals, education, and medical bills.
Funding all the expenses without a steady income and a donor is not easy, admits Karki. â€œThree eighth-graders are still waiting for their mark-sheets because I havenâ€™t been able to pay the tuition fees,â€ he said, â€œBut I havenâ€™t given up.â€
The costs of school uniforms, books and stationery and school bags at the beginning of each academic year alone come up to a total of Rs 200,000 for all the children. Karkiâ€™s struggle is further exacerbated when any of the children falls sick. Karki himself is bedridden for three months during winter due to arthritis.
The centre recently moved to Gokarneswor where a house for the children is being built on a rented plot of land. Karki has employed three staff to look after the kids, at nominal pay. â€œLooking after the children is difficult. But the smiles of the children at the end of the day pushes everyone to work harder,â€ he said.
By Santa Gaha Magar