February 10th, 2017
Imagine being a 6-year old girl working as a bonded labourer with no hope of ever returning home. Imagine being taken away from your parents at the tender age of 10 and being sold as a sex slave. Imagine living on a roadside with nothing to eat, but scrapes.
We can only sympathise at the condition of the children who are born into this reality which is too difficult to even comprehend.
But in a world where dreams end, 91-year Ogla Murray gives these children hope and a chance at a life worth living.
Her journey began as a staff attorney to the Chief Justice of California during a time when women were only hired as secretaries
Ogla Murray was born in Transylvania in 1925 and came to the U.S. with her family when she was 6-years old. After graduating from Columbia University, she pursed her degree in law from George Washington University, where she was one of the handful female students.
She worked at the California Supreme Court for 37-years and helped frame important issues pertaining to women rights, civil rights and environmental policy.
Now a retired lawyer since 1992, Ogla Murray founded the Nepalese Youth Foundation (NYF) in 1990. NYF is a non-profit organisation registered in the U.S. to work for human rights, education, housing and medical care of children in Nepal.
Murray visited Nepal in 1984 when she witnessed the appalling condition of children in its villages. Most of them lived in impoverishment, received no education, basic shelter and healthcare.
On her second trip to Nepal in 1987, she met a young doctor who managed a small hospital for poor and disabled children. This was Murray’s first breakthrough which later led her to dedicate her life toward the well-being of children in Nepal. She began providing scholarships to disabled children to help them receive good education in Kathmandu. Since then, Ogla Murray has rescued 12,000 girls from contracted slavery and offered rehabilitation homes, financial assistance and relief to children and their families in the land-locked nation.
She is ‘Ogla Mom’ to thousands of Nepalese kids
Since generations, girls from poor families in the villages of Nepal are sold to wealthy families and forced to do household work. They are known as ‘kalamaris’ and sold by their poor parents who receive not more than $50 a year for the services of their daughters. The kalamari system is a widespread socially accepted practice in Nepal. However, Murray’s NYF found a way to prevent parents from selling their daughters into a life of servitude.
NYF gives such families either a piglet or a baby goat which they can raise and later sell. Their daughters are enrolled in schools with all her expenses taken care of. Financial support and incentive helps remove the economic burden on parents, hence they refrain from selling their daughters.
The girls who are rescued from servitude receive counselling to help overcome the traumatic experience. Professionals in training centres conduct workshops in sexuality, self-esteem, drug abuse, and stress management. Many children sometimes fall prey to HIV/AIDS. The MNSP – New Life Centre of NYF treats and restores them to lead a normal healthy life.
In many areas in Nepal, Murray has successfully eradicated the Kalamri system.
Rescued ‘Kalamari’ girls
Not only this, Murray has also set up nutritional rehabilitation homes which restore extremely malnourished children to health. NYF funds 12 such rehabilitation homes in Kathmandu and rural areas in Nepal. The children live in these centres with their mothers for about 5 weeks. During her stay, the mother receives education in child nutrition, including ways to prepare healthy meals using the food available in rural areas.
At a cost of $100 per child, NYF also helps children receive education in Nepal. As most schools are a day’s walk from the countryside in Nepal, NFW organises support for thousands of children to receive both primary education and higher studies with the aid of scholarships.
NYF also offers scholarships to disabled children at a cost of $300 per child. Hundreds of blind, deaf and disabled children in Nepal attend boarding schools because of Ogla Murray.
Since October 2015, NYF has also built children’s homes in Nepalese villages. Abandoned, orphaned and displaced children are provided a nurturing stable environment at these shelters. With the help of counsellors and loving caretakers, the emotional, mental and psychological spirits of the children are uplifted. More than 200 children have been raised in these homes till date.
The work that Ogla Murray has done will be remembered in Nepal till eternity.
Nepal is a country with limited medical care. A vast majority of its 26 million population live in rural areas where the women and children are grossly disadvantaged. Prejudiced legal system against women and lack of education among girls also add to their hardship. Infant mortality rate is one of the highest in Nepal. Due to continued civil unrest in the country, thousands of children have been left displaced. Ogla Murray is a silver lining for these children who are hardly prepared for the challenges that lie ahead of them. She has created her legacy in Nepal by offering help and dedicating her life to this cause. She is loved by the children of Nepal and her work will continue to uplift their condition for decades to come.
With basic regard of human rights, Ogla Murray has succeeded to shape Nepal to a great extent and we know for a fact that the world needs more people like her.