by Marilyn Peh on

In Nepal’s prisons, the patter of children’s footsteps is not uncommon to hear.

Convicts who face a lengthy spell behind bars make the tough choice of either leaving their children to fend for themselves on the streets, or bringing them into prison to see out the sentence together.

“When I got a chance to visit the jail as a university student, I saw a 9-month-old girl there and that made me feel privileged for being able to go to school and grow up in a good, safe home. These are kids who, because their parents have done a crime, are confined behind four walls during a time of their childhood when they should be free,” said Nepali social worker, Pushpa Basnet to The Pride.

It was a memory that proved hard to shake off and Basnet soon found herself diving into a journey of social advocacy, hoping to drive change for these children.

In 2005, Basnet founded the Early Childhood Development Centre (ECDC) in Kathmandu, a day care centre for children who live in prisons. Renamed and relaunched as The Butterfly Home in 2016, the home now has some 40 young residents aged between 14 months and 21 years old under its care.

“The most important thing that we give them is the freedom of being a normal kid, and making them feel that they are special kids. It doesn’t matter what story they have within the (prison), but at The Butterfly Home, they have a family.”

The children who come through The Butterfly Home’s doors are clothed, fed, educated and empowered to chase their dreams. Among those in the Home are children who are talented artists and writers who have put their heads together to create The Butterfly Books – a series of six books about values like courage, compassion and hope, each inspired by their own life’s experiences.

One of the authors is Laxmi Tamang, a 19-year-old resident who is also a first-year student at Kathmandu University, now pursuing a degree in fine arts. Her book, Little Mi Mi’s Magic Eyes, is inspired by her experience of her travels back to her village, which is an arduous journey that takes three days of walking and one day’s commute.

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Laxmi Tamang (second from right) posing with her fellow Butterfly Books authors and Air Amber’s Shahril Hassan (second from left). Image Source: Facebook / Air Amber

Laxmi wanted to convey the idea of not forgetting one’s roots and having the courage to confront life’s difficulties.

Having seen how her own mother struggled to adjust to life after a 14-year stint in prison, she hopes to further her studies in the US and return to make a difference for women and children in Nepal’s prisons.

“Art will really help them so I want to start art therapy sessions in the prison.”

The Butterfly Books in Singapore

Pushpa Basnet, founder of The Butterfly Home, and four young writers and artists are in Singapore to launch The Butterfly Books.

The book series are focused on values and produced in collaboration between Singaporean social enterprise Air Amber and The Butterfly Home.

On how the young authors’ stories encompass universal values, Basnet said: “The book is suitable for anyone, whether you’re younger or older. Nowadays, with technology, everything is so fast. Values like teamwork, patience (which are dealt with in the books) are a good reminder for everyone, whether you’re from Singapore, Nepal or the US.”

The book launch and documentary screening of Waiting for Mamu, which tells the story of The Butterfly Home’s journey, will be held on Saturday, April 15 at the Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium at the National Gallery.

Tickets are available at S$30 each, and readers of The Pride can enjoy a $5 discount with the promotion code, SKM5.

For more details, please visit the event page.