Known throughout all of Surkhet, Mimkosa Shai and Kalpana Karki are two truly amazing women. They offer me constant support and have basically been my spine and family in Nepal. You can never walk through either of their doors without expecting a hot heaping pile of food placed in front of you. And you better be hungry because you have no choice but to eat it... ALL of it! Kalpana (on the left) is like my mother over there. She has 3 wonderful sons of her own, all in their 20’s, who are all amazingly fluent English. Ajay, 22, is on my board as well. Widowed some years ago with three young children, Karki single-handedly put all three of her sons through university by opening up a shop in the market that sells modern sneakers from Katmandu. This is quite the “feet” (ha-ha) for a woman living in a society that often times rejects widowed women. Kalpana expresses a desire to improve and inspire other women in the area without husbands to raise themselves and their families out of poverty.
I call Mimkosa, (right) “Didi” which means big sister. When we’re together we’re always always laughing. Although Mimkosa never went to school, she’s managed to create a comfortable life for she and her three children. Mimkosa comes from the village Dilikot, 2-3 walking days away. Mimkosa, the oldest of 5 children was left to fend for she and her younger siblings when her mother died when Mimkosa was just 14. Mimkosa realized that the only chance she had for giving her younger siblings an education and putting food on the table was if she moved down to Surkhet. Mimkosa sold her family’s goats. She took the money, (about 40 U.S. dollars) and moved down to the small city. With just a piece of plastic over her head, Mimkosa settled right at the bus station and started cooking food over a fire for hungry passers by. Mimkosa soon gained a reputation for having the best food at a good price at the bus station. She saved all of her money and after just a few short years bought a small shop and some cloth material. Now just 6 year’s later she’s built a successful business for herself. Nowadays, Mimkosa is known throughout the city as being the “it” go to girl. She runs a shop with all different fabrics. Villagers come to Mimkosa’s shop from miles away to purchase material and tailor it into clothing to carry back to their villages. Mimkosa wants to give others the same chance to get a head start and create their own businesses. She has created a system whereby villagers can borrow a small amount of money to get to and from their villages and to the Indian border to work or sell their crops or handmade crafts. Once the villagers have made the money they need, they buy the fabric to bring back to their villages from her shop. Mimkosa is an exuberant outgoing business oriented woman and everyone in town knows that nothing stands in her way. She is also one of the most loving and generous women I know on this earth.
So there’s an introduction. I’ll introduce my other board members in a future post!