Leading the way against COVID-19 in her community.
Saraswoti Nagarkoti, 18 from the Nepalese city of Lalitpur, lost her mother to cancer when she was just six months old.
After finding out that her mother passed away because she lacked access to healthcare, she decided to become a doctor and improve medical facilities in her community.
Saraswoti made it her mission to make sure people in Nepal have equal access to basic health services.
Equal access in lockdown.
In 2020, a country-wide COVID-19 lockdown led to reduction in incomes and constraints on travel, putting Saraswoti’s community under immense pressure. People were struggling to get by.
In my community most of the people were labourers, wage workers of the nearby cement factory who had little or no knowledge on this virus and all they were worried about was their income source, which was cut off due to lockdown.Saraswoti
Information about the transmission of COVID-19 and the precautionary measures to be taken was limited. Drinking water and sanitation facilities were poor too.
In the midst of these concerns, Saraswoti decided to take charge and support her community during these difficult times.
Making the first move.
In September 2020, Saraswoti successfully applied to be a volunteer on Restless Development’s International Citizenship Programme (ICS), working with a partner organisation called Urjaa.
Through coachings and one-on-one sessions, Saraswoti created strategies to engage other young people and mobilise her community, creating awareness about COVID-19 and how to stay safe.
Saraswoti led door-to-door awareness campaigns on hand washing, social distancing and correct mask wearing and distributed protective equipment.
To combat the rising stigma against frontline healthcare workers, she made posters praising their efforts and pasted them in her area.
From ICS volunteer to founder of Shikarpa Community Youth Club.
“Volunteering has taught me how to be patient, respect different thoughts and different people. Many things which I could not learn in my school and college life of 12 years, I have learned in my 150 days of working with Urjaa. Volunteering has been a turning point in my life.”
On witnessing the change she could make to individual lives, Saraswoti was motivated to do more.
Being an ICS volunteer provided me with the pathway, fueled my energy and boosted my knowledge which made me more confident to reach people. Now, I have enough resource and support from the organisation which makes me unstoppable in helping to prevent the virus in my community and being part of building resilience.Saraswoti
Within a few months of her journey volunteering with Restless, Saraswoti used the skills learned to form the Shikarpa Community Youth Club with 11 other young people in her community.
Shikarpa Community Youth Club’s vision is to support young people to secure opportunities in local governance.
Strengthening young people’s voice.
Her initiatives were positively received by the ward president Bishnu Man Maharjan (Tikavairab). He praised Saraswoti and the efforts of the Youth Club.
“This local community youth mobilisation programme from Urjaa made me realise the importance of providing space to local youth by enhancing their skills to take action in their community in response to any disaster. I am going to advocate for this local youth mobilisation concept in our municipality level in order to promote youth opportunities and services in all wards.”