By Suresh Chhetry, Healing Together Nepal Country Director
In my lifetime, I have experienced extreme poverty, sexual abuse, torture, and at times, even failure. Yet I strive to live each day by the values of hard work, positivity, and compassion for myself and for others.
I was four years old when my father disappeared, leaving behind a huge debt for our family to bear. While my mother and grandmother worked tirelessly in the fields to pay off the debt and feed me and my sister, I lashed out and became a trouble-maker. Despite my grandmother’s efforts to protect me, my mother disciplined me with regular beatings.
When I was eight, my father returned, taking me with him, as he escaped to India. It was there where I was first sexually abused by a stranger. Years later, when I was back in Nepal, it happened again and again. This time by my school teacher.
I didn’t know what to do. Or how to even react. I couldn’t tell anyone. I felt so much fear, shame, and sadness. My performance in school dropped, and I became one of the worst students in my class. I finally got the courage to tell my mother. At first, she didn’t believe me. I had to make up stories so I could avoid my abuser.
Thanks to the love and generosity of my grandmother, and the inner strength that I didn’t recognize as my own, I survived. I finished school and worked as a teacher, a social worker, NGO worker, and even the founder of a project to support women and children living in some of the poorest and most remote areas of Nepal.
In 2015, I attended a week-long trauma healing workshop at BHCHS - facilitated by Healing Together (formerly, Gratitude Alliance). It was a life changing experience. I realized that I had been hiding my emotions. Suddenly, everything opened up inside me - all the emotion I’d been suppressing for years. And, I realized that I was strong and resilient because of everything I experienced in my life.
After the training, I was selected to be a mentor, facilitator, and coordinator of the new Life Skills and Leadership Development Program - a healing circle for youth affected by trauma. My life’s journey had led me here. I could now help other youth who experienced poverty, the loss of their parents, and even abuse, like me.
One day, after asking the youth to track how they felt in their hearts, their minds, and their bodies, I had a moment. I caught my breath and thought, Wow. I was so proud. Hearing the youth and their transformation stories moved me so much. When we finished our last circle together, I had tears in my eyes. I saw how much this program changed the lives of the students. And my own life as well.
My journey does not stop here. I am passionate about helping others turn their trauma into strengths, so they can help others, too. This is just the beginning...