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Love Triumphs All – Dikchhya Chapagai
Anamika, fondly known as ‘tutu’, was walking behind her, following her every move and calling her mamu. The toddler was so excited to be around her mother that she kept begging for attention. This was just small glimpse of what Dikchhya Chapagai is for the people of Pabitra Samaj Sewa. She is a mother to many, sister and daughter to the rest.
Housed in a government space, Pabitra Samaj Sewa is an organisation run by Chapagai and her well wishers. It is home to 35 individuals who previously called the streets of Kathmandu their home.
Originally from Taplejung, Chapagai came to Nepal to learn computers. However, on her way to the classes, she would see people rummaging in the garbage and always felt a sense of sadness and responsibility for them. Having to struggle in Kathmandu herself 16 years ago, Dikchhya would do what she could and pack her lunch to go feed the helpless. Eventually, she became their friend and would often rush sick homeless people to Bir Hospital for free treatment. Her dedication was so fierce that the hospital would usually agree to treat them. Soon, she felt the need to do more and invited many of the people into her house. Her landlords disapproved and Dikchhya lost her dwellings in the process.
As a young adult, Dikchhya admits that she was never really fond of materialistic things. Her dedication and love was fixated on serving people and she was adamant to reach out to more people who needed her help.
She shares her favourite quotes – “luga haina dil kholnus” and “Do not live with dissatisfaction in a palace when you can live in satisfaction in a jungle”. Dikchhya, a humble girl from Taplejung, made the bold decision to open Pabitra Samaj Sewa in 2002, where many homeless found a home.
Although refusing to call some of the things she does as sacrifice, Chapagai has sold her personal possessions like nose rings and earrings given to her by her mother in order to run Pabitra Samaj Sewa. Additionally, to make sure that her family of 35 get the love and facilities they deserve, Chapagai has even gone hungry to feed them.
Given the struggles, her willingness to help goes undeterred, she says “Once I have called them my family, I take full responsibility and never in my mind think of abandoning them”. Hence, she actively uses social media to contact with donors around the world and if required personally goes around collecting funds. Additionally, an advocate of equality in love, unlike most non-profit organisations, her institution welcomes people of all ages, races and backgrounds. According to her, “When it comes to doing something for humanity, one should never discriminate.”
“My mother jokes that I should get a Guinness World Record for getting most feet washed. The happiness one receives from providing for the hungry is beyond measure.”
To aspiring social workers
Dikchhya urges people to start in the present, she believes that future is highly unpredictable and help is most effective when it is done immediately. She adds, “You can always start small, even the smallest gesture counts. Do not let a situation dictate plans. Try to take charge of what is important.” She acknowledges that our government lacks in providing proper care to the homeless and believes that it is up to us to do what the government does not.
Living in old school classrooms, make shift tents and a small tinned flat, she points out the need for more space to accommodate the growing organisation. Due to lack of space, many of the future endeavours that would enhance the people’s lives, are put on hold such as computers, laboratory and library.
Throughout this journey, the organisation has been self-sufficient with many individual donors contributing. They have however not received help from NGOs or INGOs. Dikchhya is hopeful that the government will provide them with the space in the future. She adds, “ I will serve these people until the day I die.”
Love above all
Lastly, she expresses gratitude for having the opportunity to serve people and mentions the love she gets from her ‘extended family’. Her humility shines through her Facebook posts where she says “Do not remember me when you are happy. Remember me when you are lonely and abandoned and I will give you love more than you need and care for you more than required.”
Chapagai, unlike her siblings, did not get married and believes that love of all kinds should be celebrated. Her yearning to spread this love is clear as she talks about the future of Pabitra Samaj Sewa and her desire to help more people.
If more people carry this zest of serving others, perhaps one day no one will go hungry and homeless.