Shine’s Dir. of Marketing and Production Alexandra Blaney with CNN Hero Pushpha Basnet at a New York City event honoring her work for children in Nepal. (Photo credit Clark Morgan)

Shine Global was proud to be part of an event hosted by Susan Sarandon honoring Pushpa Basnet, the founder and executive director of the Early Childhood Develepoment Center in Nepal, for being named CNN Hero of the year.

28-year-old Pushpa currently takes care of 40 children. Every one of them once lived in Nepal’s prisons. As one of the poorest countries in the world (according to UNICEF, 55% of the population lives below the international poverty line), there are none of the social safety nets that exist in most western countries. So when a parent is arrested and there is no one to look after their child, the child is imprisoned with the parent. Many of these children go to prison at a young age and are released to the world at age 18, with no life skills or support system, knowing nothing of the world but what they experienced in a jail cell.

“It’s not fair for (these) children to live in the prison because they haven’t done anything wrong,” said Basnet, who started a nongovernmental organization to help. “My mission is to make sure no child grows up behind prison walls.”

Pushpa grew up in more fortunate circumstances. Her family had a successful business and she was able to attend college. While traveling the country when she was 21, she was shocked to discover children behind bars. Despite objection to her age and the difficulty of the project, Pushpa started adopting children and taking them out of prison. “When I started, nobody believed in me,” Basnet said. “People thought I was crazy. They laughed at me.”

Since 2005, she has assisted more than 100 children of incarcerated parents. She runs a day care program for children under 6 and a residential home where mostly older children receive education, food, medical care and a chance to live a more normal life. While she now has a few staff members who help her, Basnet is still very hands on.

“We do cooking, washing, shopping,” she said. “It’s amazing, I never get tired. (The children) give me the energy. … The smiles of my children keep me motivated.” She struggles however to find the money to pay rent and to overcome the objections and discrimination of landlords. She also worries about the future of her children and recently set up a bank account to save for their higher education.

“This is what I want to do with my life,” she said. “It makes me feel (good) when I see that they are happy, but it makes me want to work harder. … I want to fulfill all their dreams.”

A documentary short film, Waiting for Mamu, will share Pushpa’s passion and the story of what it means for a child to grow up in prison and yet find hope in unlikely places.

For more info on Pushpa and the CNN Hero award visit:

UPDATE 5/14/13: Shine Global is pleased to be be acting as fiscal sponsor and production partner for the short documentary Waiting for Mamu. We are currently raising finishing funds for final editing and post production for a release this coming fall. If you are interested in donating to this project, please click here and enter your tax-deductible donation in the “Waiting for Mamu” section.