Ritika Gimire’s mother left her four year old visually impaired daughter at the Rehabilitation Centre of B.P. Eye Foundation’s (BPEF) Hospital for Children’s Eye ENT and Rehabilitation Services (CHEERS) Ritika would not stop crying as she missed her mother. Born in February 2013, in Shree Bhanjyang village of Lamjung District in the mid-hills of Nepal to Rajendra Ghimire and Rita Neupane Ghimire, Ritika is the only child of her parents. Rita has a physical disability in one of her legs, while Rajendra is visually impaired (with full blindness). When their daughter to Tilganga Hospital, Kathmandu for an eye examination, at three months, they were told that Ritika’s eye problem was a genetic condition, and was incurable. Very disappointed, they returned to Lamjung. Meanwhile, Ritika’s father came in contact with Lok Bahadur Gurung from CHEERS in 2017, who informed him about the Rehabilitation program at CHEERS. Extremely happy to hear that their daughter and other children like her could receive training and then join mainstream schools, Rita took her daughter to Kathmandu. In July 2017, after a thorough medical examination, Ritika was admitted into the Rehabilitation Centre. Rita spent four days with her as part of training and left. Ritika could hardly speak or move around. In a few days, she started to acknowledge her peers’ presence. She was provided with mobility training along with toileting. Gradually she began to walk. Once she could walk independently, she developed building abilities through building blocks. After that, she learned to differentiate shapes and sizes, and picked up behavioral skills as well. Learning to sing was next on the list. Once she gained enough confidence to sing the songs that she liked. She took initiative and kept asking her teachers and caretakers for information. In about three months Ritika became self -reliant and even began guiding some of her peers to the toilet. After a couple of month, Ritika was taught some fine motor skills, identify and separate small and large beads, and identify food on her plate using the clock concept. She could now eat on her own. She also learned to identify, change and separate her clothes for washing. A marked improvement was seen in her daily living activities. She was taught pre braille, after understanding the concepts of big, small, thin, thick, slippery, rough, hard, soft, same and different. Following this, she also learned to count cells in the braille slate, hold the stylus, put braille paper in the braille plate, and read aloud and write code numbers of the braille dot. After practicing for some time she was able to read and write the Nepali alphabets in braille. Ritika was now ready for school. Finally after an internal and external evaluation, she graduated in January 2018, and sought admission in the Resource Class at Namuna Machhindra Secondary School in Kathmandu with a recommendation from the Ministry of Education, Nepal and BPEF-CHEERS.
Her teachers were all praises for her when BPEF-CHEERS team visited Ritika in school in 2019. “She is disciplined, and doing very well in her studies, although her English is a bit weak. The children who have trained at CHEERS are different from the children that have not been trained and are coming straight from their parents’ homes. They are disciplined, obedient and know how to socialize. Their training has helped them develop some good habits,” said Indira Aryal, Resource Teacher at Namuna School. After spending two years in Namuna, Ritika’s parents got her admitted into Laboratory School in Kathmandu in 2020. “My daughter is as good as any sighted child. I want to give her the best education and opportunities that we did not get when we were growing up. I feel she will do better in a private school. Even if I have to eat one meal less, I want my daughter to go to the best school,” remarked Rita Neupane. On meeting Ritika in 2021, she appeared to be a confident, self-reliant girl, unlike the little girl who had first joined CHEERS. “I stand among the top ten in my class and get A plus grades. I know how to use computers. I learnt it watching my dad and also asked him to teach me during the Lockdown.” remarked Ritika proudly. Now in class IV, she is expressive, speaks fluent English and wants to become a police officer when she grows up. She is one of the 44 female beneficiaries of the USAID(PGRD-14-0002-17) supported project, From Margins to Mainstream :Promoting Disability Inclusive Education, who received training at CHEERS, got enrolled in school and is continuing her education and performing well.