[see the difference a little change can make]
from a small seed, the CUP story sprouted. read how we took root and where we are growing. we may not be big, but we have big ideas and we're not afraid to get our hands dirty.
[come be part of our story.]
December 24, 2008.
This is when the story begins with an unknown number on my cell phone screen. Curiosity won the battle and I answered. The call was from a private foundation with which I submitted a grant application only months prior, proposing to study women’s and children’s rights in Southeast Asia. An early Christmas present arrived when the voice on the other end informed me that I was a recipient of the 2009 foundation grant. In that one moment, I knew life would forever be altered…
Though moving is second-nature to me, unlike other cities I loved Nashville, my circle of friends, southern hospitality and even cowboy boots. Even harder to leave behind than sunshine and blue skies was my Refugee Elders Group, which I directed at a local non-profit in East Nashville. Bittersweet was the only word to describe leaving this group I loved. One of my favorite lines of my proposal stated, “Halfway along my path, the world pounded at my door disguised as twenty elder refugees who showed me a sliver of what I had thus failed to see. As I taught verb conjugation, prepositions, citizenship and civics, my students taught me about civil war, genocide, freedom and fear.” Though a difficult decision to leave, I didn't look back.
Once in Chennai, India I began studying a local NGO working with human trafficking, women’s empowerment, HIV/AIDS and other social issues plaguing this bustling city. India is a country with one foot in the future and one foot cemented in the past. In India it was difficult to witness the daily injustice and disregard for womens' and childrens' rights,
characteristic. Through a twist of last minute details, a slight alteration to my proposal allowed me to include Nepal in my journey. This meant I would split my time into thirds - one-third within India and two-thirds in Nepal.
often justified by a repetitive phrase, "...it’s just the culture". Even more difficult was suppressing the feelings of inadequacy by being an observer. I was able to contribute
behind the scenes writing grants, public speaking and developing presentations, however, hands-on activism is my salient
acquainted with Maheela Cooperative and stopped by the shelter where I met the children. These little individuals with the weight of the world stacked against them, grabbed me by the hand and in one afternoon sang and danced their way into my soul. Despite the abundance of love and peace surrounding the shelter, hot dal bhat and a fresh organic vegetable garden, there was one thing missing….a playground. In fact, I hadn’t seen a playground in all of Kathmandu. I asked the Women’s Foundation about funding a playground, however in the 12th poorest country in the world a playground is an unafforded luxury. Food and shelter come first and there never seems to be enough money for much more. A playground had actually remained on the bottom of an exponentially growing to-do list for years. As I stood on the roof looking over the terraced rice paddies overgrawn yard below, I made a decision. If I don’t do something, who will? These kids need a playground.
The Playground Now! Nepal project was born on June 16, 2009. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but listening to the stories of other inspiring non-profits and projects, we all start somewhere. The problem is that most people never leap; we think we can’t possibly make a change in this world. By luck, leaping just happens to be my strength. Perhaps to some, two playgrounds seem an insignificant change. However, I urge those who feel this doesn’t make a difference to watch our documentaries and read our spotlights and look into the eyes of these 160 Nepali children. These playgrounds are their dreams and will make a world of difference. In their eyes, they are more than just playgrounds. It signifies hope and inspiration. These playgrounds throughout their lifetime will affect far more than 160 children. No matter how hard we try, there will always be victims of violence and orphans of war who need a safe shelter. Though our wish is to end violence, the truth is these playgrounds will serve thousands of children throughout their lifetime. There is no joy like watching a child act like a child, jump off a swing, slide down a slide, smile from ear to ear and just be young at heart. Every child deserves the right to play. Help me and 320 little hands build our playground of dreams. Together, we truly can make a difference….
Dissimilar to India, the moment I landed in Kathmandu I felt like a fish in water. Though the differences between my homeland and Nepal are many, nonetheless Kathmandu felt natural. My interest in this country and people only grew stronger when I met the Women’s Foundation. The Women’s Foundation is a local non-profit founded in 1988 and has since served Nepal’s most vulnerable women and children. Their dedication, good hearts and tireless efforts are beyond noteworthy and gave me daily inspiration that one individual truly can make a difference. My first week at the Women’s Foundation, I visited their facilities and programs, became
"when the story of these times gets written, we want it to say that we did all we could, and it was more than anyone could have imagined."