I have a bright pink poster hanging in my Notre Dame dorm room that reads “She’s the First: Tie-Dye Cupcake Sale September 15, 2010 Help us send a girl to school in the developing world!” At the time, little did I know, this “girl” would quickly turn into three, and before I knew it, I’d be on a plane to spend my summer in Nepal.
A few days before I left for my trip to Kopila Valley School, I received a little envelope in the mail. Inside was a crumpled note from one of the girls my Notre Dame soccer team and I sponsor, Hima Tamata.
The note read, “Dear Lindsay, you are so nice. I love you. Lindsay and Hima are best friends.” To say it made my day would be an understatement. When I made it to Kopila Valley I couldn’t wait to finally meet Hima, the girl I had been following on Maggie Doyne’s blog for months, and tell her how thankful I was for that note. But before I could get a word out, Hima walked up to me and starting singing, “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” At first I had no idea what she was referring to considering it was around 90 degrees in Surkhet everyday. Then Hima pulled out the Christmas card that my Notre Dame friends and I sent her back in December. She had saved it in a plastic bag in the front pocket of her backpack. When you open the card it plays a Christmas carol. Hima had memorized the song and had even memorized the note I had written inside. She named each of the girls that had signed the card and asked, “Are these all my friends in America?” Hima’s eyes got so big when I replied yes. All she could say back was “oh ma gawd.”
As I spent more and more time with Hima I began to understand how one little girl could inspire a person like Maggie to build an entire children’s home and school. When I was with Hima I would forget how much she’s been through. She’s such a happy, energetic, carefree young girl. I really don’t think there’s a word to perfectly describe her.
She still has a long way to go — she’s 12 years old and in the second grade but that doesn’t seem to defeat her in any way. She has this “silent self-confidence” about her that I believe will get her to the places she wants to go in life.
Above all, Hima has the biggest heart of anyone I know. I gave her a journal the first day we met so we could continue to write notes to each other once I went home. A few days before I left Hima pulled out the journal and gave me 8 notes, one for each of the girls that signed the Christmas card. Each said something like “Dear Maddie, I love you. My name is Hima. I read in 2 class. My mom breaks rock. You are my best friend. Hima loves Maddie.” I read through each of the following notes addressed to Courtney, Melissa, Jordan, and a couple other girls but I stopped when I got to the last one, it read, “Dear Dreams.” I couldn’t figure it out at first but then I realized the last sentence I had written in the card was “Follow your dreams!”
Hima was confused and thought that “Dreams” was one of her friends in America. I was about to break it to her that “Dreams” really isn’t a person, but then she turned to me and said, “I am so lucky to have 9 friends in America. I work hard in school so one day I come visit and I see Dreams.” After taking a second to think about it, I decided maybe Hima is on to something after all. Right now her friend “Dreams” might not exist, but Hima’s right: If she continues to work hard in school, one day “Dreams” will be true.
Now when I look at that bright pink poster in my dorm I can’t help but smile. I’ve surrounded it with several pictures of happy Kopila girls. I always think about how crazy it is that something as simple as cupcake can make such a profound change in a girl’s life half way around the world. But what I’m starting to realize is that the same cupcake has made such a profound change in my own life. Getting to know Maggie, Hima, and all the other Kopila girls over the past year has shown me that we may be young, but together we really do have the power to make a difference in this big world. That’s what I love about She’s the First — we set out to empower girls around the world without realizing we are empowering ourselves.