Mental Health Care Success Story, Part IV: Covid-19 Heros
Did you know? Ankur counselors are mental health care workers that serve the NYF children at Olgapuri Children’s Village and the New Life Center, provide life-skills training to students in vocational and career training, helped survivors of the 2015 earthquake, and were instrumental in developing therapeutic interventions for the young girls NYF rescued from kamlari bondage!
Welcome to Part 4 of NYF’s Mental Health Month series, featuring the amazing frontline mental health care workers running Ankur Counseling Center from lockdown. (Click here to read Part 1, featuring Chhori Laxmi Maharjan; Part 2, featuring Sumitra Dhakal; and Part 3, featuring Shristi Shrestha if you missed them!)
For our final installment, meet Shraddha Pradhan, another relative newcomer who learned about Ankur through her university.
It has always made her happy to be around children. She is touched by their innocence and loves the smiles on their faces.
“However,” she says, “there are many children out there who are going through vulnerable situations, and have been victims of violence, losing the smile on their face. They are facing trauma… I want to put my effort and help these children in some ways.”
After receiving trainings at Ankur during school, Shraddha knew this would be the perfect place to “explore and enhance [her] knowledge, learn, and build opportunities in the field of psychology.” Ankur would help her learn to be an excellent counselor for children “with the help of experienced professionals who mentor and guide me to enhance my knowledge.” Chhori and Sumitra have created a family environment at Ankur, and they encourage Shraddha to do better every time with gentle, personal guidance and supervision.
Lockdown makes keeping that family dynamic a little tricky. “Life in lockdown is not very easy,” Shraddha says. “I do have anxiety sometimes, but I manage to take care of it [with] different activities that I enjoy doing. I’m enjoying working from home and spending quality time with my family.” She’s conducting tele-counseling sessions with the NYF children who are also in lockdown, and she is catching up on administrative tasks like reports and other documentation. “I frequently make check-in calls to house parents at Olgapuri and help them to care for their own self,” she adds.
The promise of a long, fulfilling career helping restore the smiles to children’s faces – that’s what Shraddha loves most. “I get to connect with children and their warm welcome with smile when they come for sessions,” she says. “And after sessions. That’s the best part of my job.”
NYF is so grateful to have devoted mental health care team members like Chhori, Sumitra, Shristi, and Shraddha continuing to work hard from home during Nepal’s countrywide lockdown – and we know their communities are grateful for them, too. These mental health professionals, and others like them across the world, have rolled up their sleeves to do tough work during this pandemic. They may not be directly fighting the virus, but they’re fighting the anxiety, despair, turmoil, and mental anguish that comes hand-in-hand with crisis. Thanks to their hard work, the rest of NYF’s staff members in Nepal are staying strong and keeping our children safe. Dhanyabad, Chhori, Sumitra, Shristi, and Shraddha!
To help Shraddha and the rest of the Ankur team continue this important work through the COVID-19 crisis, NYF needs your help!
If you’d like to support the work of Ankur Counseling Center, please click here to donate.
Mental Health Care Providers, Ankur Counselors Stories of Sucess
Part III: Ankur Counselors, Covid-19 Heros
Did you know? Ankur Counseling Center was the first mental health center for children in Nepal! Many of the nation’s earliest child-focused counselors and therapists received at least some training here.
Welcome to Part 3 of NYF’s Mental Health Month series, featuring the amazing frontline mental health care providers running Ankur Counseling Center from lockdown. (Click here to read Part 1, featuring Chhori Laxmi Maharjan, and Part 2, featuring Sumitra Dhakal, if you missed them!)
Next up: Mental Health Care Provider, Shristi Shrestha! Shristi first learned about Ankur Counseling Center while she was still a student of psychology. “I frequently visited NYF/Ankur… to take part in various trainings it offered and got a glimpse of how this organization worked. I was impressed by the quality of the training, the setting, the friendly staffs and used to wonder, What will it take to be a part of this place? When I was offered to join, it was like a dream come true.”
Like everyone else, Shristi is muddling through the lockdown. “I never thought that being homebound would be so difficult, as I used to miss being able to stay home previously! First couple of weeks were fine, but now I’m beginning to feel upset. Having to hear the rising number of positive cases and unfortunate deaths from around the world doesn’t help.”
But she’s making the most of it. Shristi feels better when meeting with team members to plan Ankur’s responses to the crisis, and she’s been posting psychological tips and messages on Ankur’s social media page. She’s very grateful for the internet. “When I’m not working, I like to watch movies and do other things to keep me interested, follow fitness exercises available on the internet and stay in touch with people who matter to me online.”
Through it all, she’s proud of the work she’s doing. “I have always wanted to be around children and do something to help them. The notion that I would be helping out those children who had to live through unimaginable hardships sounded rewarding in itself,” she says of her career goals. Now that she’s at Ankur, she’s loving the work just like she thought she would. “The pride in knowing that I’m making a difference in the world, not just for children but for so many families as well; getting the opportunity to grow every day – there’s always something new to learn on my job; not to mention the support and encouragement I get from my team.”
To help Shristi keep this important work going through the COVID-19 crisis, NYF needs your help! If you’d like to support the work of Mental Health Care Providers at the Ankur Counseling Center, please click here to donate.
New Life Center Nurses in Nepal, NYF’s Covid-19 Heroes
New Life Center nurses in Nepal are true Covid-19 heroes. Today, we at NYF honor the nurses pushing this work forward at our New Life Center outside Kathmandu, Nepal – and doing so in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the United States, May 19th is Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day – a day to encourage HIV testing, raise community awareness, combat stigma, and advocate for populations living with HIV/AIDS.
HIV is one of the most stigmatized illnesses in Nepal. People living with HIV/AIDS often face social isolation, medical neglect, and physical and emotional abandonment. Often entire families face social rejection if a single member’s diagnosis is known.
NYF established the New Life Center to provide specialized, supportive care to children living with HIV/AIDS, making their lives not just longer, but more joyful. The NLC also benefits the caregivers of these children, educating them on hygienic practices, nutrition, and the effective management of HIV/AIDS, and providing group and individual therapy in partnership with Ankur Counseling Center.
Radhika Sapkota has been a driving force behind this mission since 2006. Radhika began her career working with injecting drug users and others living with HIV/AIDS in central Nepal – but she felt called to work with children. She had seen so many of them deprived of basic rights, ignored by health professionals, and neglected by their communities. She knew these children deserved far better.
When she learned about the NLC, she eagerly joined the NYF team. Her passion for the work and her love for the children she serves have helped develop the NLC into the incredible resource it is today.
Now that Nepal is in lockdown, Radhika is one of a team of eight nurses keeping the NLC running. Most of the patients and their families had to be sent home when the lockdown began, but a handful of children living with HIV/AIDS remain in NYF’s care. These kids – either orphaned or abandoned by their families – have no other home but the New Life Center.
On her off days, Radhika keeps a positive mindset by listening to soothing spiritual programs and keeping up with her yoga practice.
But work is a different story. The NLC is a 24-hour job for the eight nurses on staff, with plenty to do. During a regular shift, Radhika administers medication, monitors health and nutrition, consults with the NYF dietician, creates and conducts educational classes, teaches yoga, and makes sure the kids are entertained, well-fed, and happy – all while taking special care to ensure the kids’ vulnerable immune systems aren’t exposed to COVID-19.
One of the nurses working alongside Radhika is Yamuna Shrestha, an Auxiliary Nurse Midwife who had wished to help kids living with HIV/AIDS since she learned about them in school. Research shows that affected children lived longer when provided with adequate nutrition, love, and care – in short, when they were treated like children rather than patients. Yamuna liked the idea of offering this kind of medicine.
She’s been with the New Life Center since 2013, and she’s learned up close how devastating the stigma against HIV/AIDS can be to growing young minds. She’s also seen the incredible difference personal, loving, holistic care can make when combined with traditional medical responses to the virus. Now, Yamuna wants more than ever to bring smiles to the faces of every child who comes to the NLC.
When the lockdown began, Yamuna struggled to spend time at home alone, but she is embracing the new normal. After all, she has important work to do. She enjoys thinking of new creative tasks to do with the kids in between meals, medicine, and virtual meetings with experts.
Both Radhika and Yamuna talked about hope and happiness when asked about their favorite part of the job.
When most kids arrive at the NLC, they’re in extremely critical condition, and their mothers have lost hope for their children’s survival, Yamuna says. By the time the children recover – after months of nutritious food, play, therapy, medicine, and loving care – Yamuna can barely recognize them. The incredible happiness of the mothers is the best thing she’s experienced at the NLC.
Some of that happiness, Radhika says, comes from having their own experiences heard, respected, and honored. For many of these women, the journey with HIV began with a husband’s visit to a brothel. The diagnosis is devastating because it comes hand-in-hand with betrayal, and involves not only their own health, but the health of their children.
While caring for their children, Radhika sits with these women, allowing them to express their anger, fear, sadness, hopelessness, and uncertainty about the future. Gradually, these brave mothers can share their stories with each other, allowing healing on an emotional level to complement the physical work the medicine has done. When mothers feel empowered to care for their children again – that’s when Radhika feels the most fulfilled.
This is intensive, focused work, and like the rest of our programming, NYF relies on generous donations to keep it going. To help Radhika and Yamuna continue their important mission supporting children with HIV/AIDS – especially during the COVID-19 crisis! – please donate to NYF today!
Psychological Counselling in Nepal, Ankur Covid-19 Heroes
Psychological Counselling in Nepal is in high demand. Did you know? Ankur is the Sanskrit word for flower bud, sapling, or sprout.
Welcome to Part 2 of NYF’s Mental Health Month series, featuring the amazing frontline mental health care workers running Ankur Counseling Center, a center offering psychological counselling in Nepal during lockdowns. (Click here to read Part 1, featuring Chhori Laxmi Maharjan, if you missed it!)
This is Sumitra Dhakal. Once she’d earned her Master’s in Clinical Psychology, she joined the Ankur Counseling Center team in 2010 after hearing from a friend about the rewarding opportunities at NYF – particularly the blend of fulfilling work with children and the focus on Psychologial counselling in Nepal fostering quality education for staff members. “I felt like it could be a good platform to develop my technical skills,” Sumitra says. “Additionally, I have always enjoyed working with children. So it seemed like working with these children and being a part of their healing process would bring me a sense of satisfaction.”
A thoughtful career move became a mission, and 10 years later, Sumitra is still with NYF. While Chhori was studying in the United States, Sumitra managed operations at Ankur. Her favorite part of the job is the working environment: “Teamwork, supportive environment, satisfaction in knowing that I am able to help distraught children and adolescents through the counseling. Being able to actively work towards the quality enhancement of Ankur’s services – this is what motivates me and makes me happy,” she says.
Like many people throughout the world, Sumitra isn’t thrilled to be cooped up at home. “I am grateful that I am living safely in my home but sometimes I am irritated and frustrated due to the various difficulties I come across during this situation,” she admits. “So I’ve been trying to cope by doing self-care exercises.” The Ankur team has been sharing those self-care exercises online in easy-to-forward Nepali-language handouts.
On a more upbeat note, Sumitra says, “I have been providing tele-counseling to the children at Olgapuri and other few clients as well as tele-psychosocial support to members of the community. I feel it is good for myself to be helpful to others through my work at this time of crisis as I get to support them by listening to them and helping them to cope with the current situation.”
To help Sumitra keep this important work going through the COVID-19 crisis, NYF needs your help! If you’d like to support the work of Ankur Counseling Center, please click here to donate.
Center for Mental Health Counseling Nepal, Covid Heroes
NYF’s COVID-19 Heroes, Ankur Counselors
Part 1 of a four-part blog post series in honor of Mental Health Month
Center for Mental Health Counseling Nepal – NYF is Proud of our Covid Heroes
In the United States, Mental Health Month has been observed in May since 1949. Each year, Mental Health America launches a new campaign aimed at spreading awareness, breaking stigmas, and encouraging screenings and other practical ways to improve lives across the country – and beyond.
Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting lives across the globe, many of us need more mental health help than usual! Anxiety, depression, isolation, and trauma are only some of the very real mental and emotional effects of this ongoing international disaster. Here at Nepal Youth Foundation, we’re so grateful for the hard work of the mental health professionals serving communities all over the world during this incredibly tough time.
If you’ve been following our updates, you know that Nepal has been under a strict lockdown since mid-March. The offices at our Ankur Counseling Center, a Center for Mental Health Counseling Nepal are closed. But NYF’s counseling team is working harder than ever!
We’ve prepared a four-part blog series in honor of Mental Health Month. Let us introduce you the amazing women running Ankur Counseling Center from lockdown. Please join us in celebrating the spectacular work they do every day in Nepal!
Meet Chhori Laxmi Maharjan, the head of Ankur Counseling Center. She began her counseling career serving adults and children living with HIV/AIDS, but she felt a special connection with the children most of all. “I believe all children deserve to get education, basic needs, love and respect,” she says.
When an opportunity arose in 2006 for Chhori to join NYF, she felt she’d found the perfect match for her own life goals and personal values. She’s been a valuable member of the team ever since.
She’s also among the first Doctors of Psychology in Nepal, having only recently returned home from her PhD program here in the United States (she specialized in sand play therapy for children with trauma). “Lockdown brought me an opportunity to spend quality time with my family,” she says, optimistically focusing on the bright side. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to be home and reunite with my parents and extended family. I had missed so much of our everyday lifestyle. … I had been away from them for five years for my doctorate degree.”
Chhori is putting her years of hard work, education, and practical experience to good use during the pandemic. Working from home in lockdown conditions much stricter than those in the States, Chhori says, “I’ve been providing tele-counseling services for children and families to minimize distress amid COVID-19. In addition, I have been providing training and supervision for peer counselors and mental health professionals working for violence against children and women. These peer counselors and mental health professionals are actively providing counseling services in the community.” She’s also offering counseling services over the telephone to front line health care workers, the children in NYF’s care, and NYF staff members.
“The negative impact [of lockdown] is not seeing my clients and colleagues face-to-face,” Chhori admits, “although tele-counseling is somewhat helpful.”
The best part of working at Ankur? For Chhori, it’s always the children. “I see them grow and thrive into the persons they were meant to be. This is the best part of my job and it always brings me joy and inspires me to work harder, stay connected and strengthens my intentions to serve Nepalese children.”
To help Chhori and her team keep this important work going through the COVID-19 crisis, NYF needs your help! If you’d like to support the work of Ankur Counseling Center. Please click here to donate.