KATHMANDU, Dec4: They thought the announcement of CNN Hero would come at 3 a.m. -- reason enough to keep their fingers crossed and not blink as they kept their eyes glued to the TV set, watching CNN live. The whole night passed but no name was announced.
The children at Doll´s House at Budanilkantha kept praying and praying for the victory of their dearest ´mamu´ Puspa Basnet, until the announcement finally came at 8.45 a.m. Nepali time.
Accepting the award from actress Susan Sarandan, an overwhelmed Pushpa thanked her voters and all those who had believed in her dream. “Mamu´s going to take you out from prison, and you´re coming to my place. This is for my children, and this is for my country Nepal. Thank you so much everybody who voted for me and who believed in my dreams,” she said.
Children at Buddhanilkantha celebrate after Basnet was declared CNN Hero. (Photo: Bijay Rai)
Back home, her compatriots and, most importantly, her children were watching her while their eyes filled with tears of joy.
“We were hopeful and were praying constantly but were not so sure that mamu would really win,” said 13-year-old Sarita Lama, one of the many children pulled by Puspa out of the dark life of a women´s cell at Bhotebahal jail. “After the name was announced we all cheered for hours while the younger ones remained puzzled.”
According to Jalmaya Rai, a 4-year-old, she has been missing mamu desperately and hopes she will come back soon to hug her as she always did. “Mamu has won so we are not going to school. I wish she comes home soon,” Jalmaya said. Before coming to the children´s home run by mamu, the little girl used to stay with her mother in Nuwakot District Jail.
Uma Thapa, a staffer at the children´s home, told Republica that none of the 46 children there attended school Monday as there was only celebration there. She added that it would be hard to return to normal until they met their mamu again. She is expected back next week.
“The children are so attached to Puspa didi that they did not sleep all night just to see her win the award. And yet they are not feeling tired in the least but keep shouting her name and are celebrating like anything. They´re waiting to see her at the earliest,” Thapa said.
While the atmosphere at the children´s home is very special, congratulations are pouring in over the social network.
Pushpa begun her humanitarian journey when she was a 21-year-old student of St Xavier´s College in Kathmandu. She founded an early childhood development center in 2005 and Buttterfly Home, a residential center for older children two years later, to give a better life to children who would otherwise languish in jail with their convicted mothers. At present, Basnet is looking after 55 children ranging in age from infants to 17-year-olds.
According to CNN, Basnet, 29, was chosen for the title through a nine-week public vote held on CNN.com. She was selected from over 10,000 social workers participating in the competition from around the globe. Along with the honor she will be receiving $ 250,000.
In becoming CNN Hero, Basnet left behind nine other heroes from various countries: Wanda Butts, Mary Cortani, Catalina Escobar, Thulani Madondo, Leo McCarthy, Connie Siskowski, Scoot Strode and Malya Villard-Appolon.
Pushpa has become the second Nepali to get the honor. Anuradha Koirala of Maiti Nepal was awarded the title in 2010.