Pushpa Basnet of Nepal was named 2012 CNN Hero of the Year. Basnet supports children who otherwise would be incarcerated with their parents in Nepal.
She started a home in Kathmandu where children can receive education, food, medical care, and a chance to live a more normal life. She also runs a daycare program for children who are too young to be separated from their parents.
For being named CNN Hero of the Year, Basnet receives US$250,000 to continue her work. That is in addition to the US$50,000 that each of the top 10 heroes are receiving.
This is the second time that a Nepali woman has bagged the prestigious international CNN Hero Award.
Anuradha Koirala – another Nepali social worker and a campaigner known for her anti-human trafficking drive through her non-profit organization Maiti Nepal – was honored with the same award in the year 2010.
CNN announced the result from the Shrine Auditorium amid a gala event in Los Angeles, California.
“This is the victory of every Nepali,” said Basnet to a gathering of spectators after she was named the 2012 CNN Hero of the Year.
The 28-year-old Basnet was nominated for providing a refuge to children who were languishing inside the Nepali prisons along with their parents.
Pushpa Basnet has founded the Butterfly Home, and the Early Childhood Development Center – a daycare program for children under six and a residential home for mostly older children.
“It’s not fair for (these) children to live in the prison, because they haven’t done anything wrong,” CNN earlier had quoted Basnet as saying, “My mission is to make sure no child grows up behind prison walls.”
“The children must not be forced to live behind bars with their parents,” said Basnet, who started her non-profit organization, Early Childhood Development Centre, in 2005.
Currently, over 40 such children are living in her shelter where she provides them with food, clothing, education, medicines, and all other basic things.
Pushpa is giving shelter to children from prisons in Dhading, Pokhara, Jajarkot, Phidim, Birgunj, and Nepalgunj.
Basnet started her career at the age of 21, while she was still an undergraduate in social work. As part of her college assignment, she visited the women’s prison in Kathmandu. She was dismayed at seeing the conditions of children living with their parents behind bars. She raised 70,000 rupees (roughly US$885) from her close friends and sister, and started a non-profit organization – The Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) – to provide a daycare program for the children, in 2005.
In 2007, she opened a residential home for kids to live outside of prison year round while still visiting their mothers on holidays. Today, she has assisted more than 100 children of incarcerated parents. She has also helped to provide alternative residences, school enrollment, free meals, and medical care for them.
In 2009, sponsored by Change Fusion Nepal, she started a program to coach parents to make handicrafts inside their cells. The main objective of the program is to make the female prisoners as well as former prisoners to involve themselves in income-generating activities through which they can sustain their livelihood and contribute towards raising their children.
She, along with her organization, coordinates with prison administrators to rescue children behind bars throughout urban and rural areas of Nepal and help them break the cycle of crime and poverty.
Recognizing her effort as the first of a kind in Nepal, many local organizations have pledged their help to raise funds for Basnet.
Major donations for Basnet’s organization has come from The Glasswaters Foundation, Shikshya Foundation Nepal, and Sundar Sansar. The center collects donations through various fundraising programs and individual donations.
Recently, a local organization helped raise 3.7 lakh rupees (roughly US$4,600) for her organization through various national and international donation programs.
ELGA Foundation of South Korea awarded the ELGA Youth Award to Basnet on September 1, 2012, at Soul’s Chung Conference Hall for her contribution in human services. Basnet is the only foreigner to receive the award which was established in the memory of social worker, Kim Yongi, in 1989.