WOW | Coverstory
Khusbu oli takes Nepal to the street child World Cup 2018
Khusbu Oli proves that charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. A graduate of Oxford University, Khusbu is a great definition of the modern day woman: she is a beauty queen known more for her social work than a glamorous lifestyle. She handles both aspects of her life with equal panache. In an interview, Khusbu talks to Kabita Mandal of WOW, expressing her passion for working with street children and more.
Khusbu was born in 1990 in Kathmandu and introduced to the world of beauty pageants at a very young age. She was winner of Little Lady in 2000. “I was 10 years old then. Even though I was just a child, I always felt that I had work for a cause,” she said. She came into the limelight as Miss Teen Nepal six years later. Although she was instantly popular, she was very selective with her projects and appeared only in few music videos and commercials, always choosing to focus more on social action projects. “When I became Miss Teen Nepal 2006, I felt I had achieved a platform to speak about the social issues. I wanted to make full use of my title and help as many people as I could,” she reminisces.
She shares an incident that triggered her interest in social work, “On a cold winter evening, I was in Durbar Marg and came across 12 children sitting around a small fire. They were shabbily dressed and cold, sniffing glue which is considered a bigger killer of teenagers than hard drugs. I was both alarmed and concerned and felt that I must do something.” However, Khusbu did not just dive into the issue, she knew that to make a lasting difference, she first needed to earn their trust. She started meeting them on a regular basis and took them out for lunch once in a while. After continually meeting the children for a few months, in 2013, she decided to establish a children’s shelter by the name of Shelter Ashraya Nepal. These 12 children were the first batch to call Shelter Ashraya their home. “When I completed my first three months with them, I asked them what they wanted as a treat. They shared that they wanted to visit KFC and wished to be respected like every other customer. My heart just swelled with pride. I knew that they were mistreated by the guards and customers. I took them and it was just wonderful to see them smile,” shares Khusbu.
“My NGO’s main goal is to work for children’s betterment. We have been actively working to provide education, rehabilitation and legal identity to street children. When children come into our organisation, they are well looked after until they are capable and financially independent. Once they decide to move out, we make sure they have a job, a proper residence so that they can take care of themselves,” she shares.
In 2017, Shelter Ashraya Nepal initiated plans to put Nepal on the map. It is participation at the Street Child World Cup 2018 which is scheduled to take place a month before the 2018 World Cup in Russia. “I always wanted to give them international exposure. I applied for the World Cup in 2013, but we didn’t qualify. Fortunately, after a rigorous process, we are now able to make it in 2018,” Khusbu reveals. The shelter organised a football league to pick the players for the World Cup. “We invited different teams for the league as there are more than 200 organisations working in the field of street children. We invited other organisations to take part in the selection as we did not want to take only our children to the World Cup, we wanted the best to represent the country. We selected 22 children in the first phase and kept them in closed camp training before picking the nine-member squad. The team was selected based on overall talent rather than just football skills,” she elaborates.
The team has already been presented to the public at a press meet in November 2017. Three goalkeepers, four mid fielders and two strikers were selected for the seven-a-side tournament. Aron Karki, Manbir Lama and Bikash Timalsina are the custodians, while Roshan Bhushal, Ramesh Shah, Sachin BK and Santosh Khatri are midfielders. Harsha Thakuri and Pawan Shahi are strikers. Bishal Badi, Raju, Roshan Karki, Raju Badi, and Jibit Kumar Tharu have been listed as reserve players.
“None of the children from my organisation have been selected for this game. People may have thought that I would be partial because I had sole authority. But this is no place for compromises or self interest. Every street child needed to have that opportunity based on merit,” says Khusbu emphatically
She expresses that the future will find her doing what she loves best: working for the rights of the under privileged. Meanwhile, excited about the Street Child World Cup 2018, she says that the children have come a really long way and she is hopeful that they will do great.