For this week’s blog from Nepal, I have a story to tell. The story begins with a broken sandal and ends with a shoe tool box that changed a family’s life and changed my perspective on life.
Recently, my group and I went on a mini vacation to a city called Pokhara. Emma, Loes, and I were walking down a main street when a young boy pointed to the broken sandal Emma was wearing and said he could fix it. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Okay, why not?”- since a fixed sandal is much better than a broken one. We sat down and he pulled some tools out of his backpack and silently began to work. We watched as he smoothly and quickly sewed back together the broken pieces of the shoe, it was very impressive how easy he made it look.
We started talking to him and learned that his name is Pawan and he is 14 years old. He came here from India with his family about 6 months ago to find better work and a better life. His father and brother also fix shoes for a living. However, about 4 months ago their shoe tool box that provides them with their main income was stolen. He said his family has been struggling greatly because of this, struggling to the point that his mother and sister (who is 10 years old) had to resort to begging on the street. It was kind of a lot of information to process, but Pawan was very kind and only talked when we asked him questions.
Loes also had a broken sandal to be fixed and Pawan quickly worked to fix that one as well. His brother was walking down the street at this time and joined us, his name was Sagar and he was 18. Loes and Emma paid Pawan for fixing the sandals and gave him extra money to buy a new tool box. I tried to give them some extra money as well for the tool box but they wouldn’t take it. They said they would rather us go with them to buy an actual tool box instead of just taking money. They didn’t know the price of the tool box though and they said we had to take a bus to get there. We already had plans for the day so we told them to find out the price for the tool box and if it isn’t too expensive and we run into them tomorrow, then perhaps we could help them.
The next day we ran into them in the same spot. The shoe tool box seller was conveniently across the street so we walked with them to find out the price. The tool box was large and came with all the tools they could possibly need to fix shoes. We found out it was 15,000 rupees which is about 130 US dollars! This was way too much for us to pay on our own. I told the boys this and as their faces sank I could tell their hearts sank as well. They said, “Please ma’am, this tool box will bring life to my family.” I didn’t know what to say, even if we split the price, it would still be too much for us. It was so difficult to have to say no to them. They were trying to bargain with the salesman to lower the price, but it was still just too much.
The boys said they got the price lowered to 10,000 rupees (about 90 US dollars) and I turned to talk with Loes and the rest of the group that was with us. Many of them had already heard of our encounter with them from the day before and were more than willing to pitch in. There were more than enough us so we decided to each pay 1,000 rupees (less than 10 dollars), and get the shoe box for them! When we told the boys this they both literally jumped up and down with the biggest smiles on their faces, with their hands on their hearts, and said “Thank you! Thank you so much! You have no idea how much this will do for our family! This changes everything.”
To go get the shoe box we had to take a bus to the salesman’s house. After a short bus ride and a little walk, half of our group, the two boys, and the salesman ended up in a neighborhood that we were told was the poor part of town. We were told that they have never seen foreigners in this neighborhood, and this was definitely proved true based on all the extra stares that we were receiving from people. After a little more walking we ended up in this housing area where the salesman could get the tool box from his room. Conveniently, the boys lived in the same area.
Their mother came out and invited us into their home. Their home was a single, small square room. A single, small square room that was home to the two boys, their sister, and their parents. There was a little stove on the floor, a few shelves for food, and an open area where they laid out blankets to sleep at night. They laid out blankets for us to sit and the mother made each of us a half cup of tea. Even though they didn’t have much, they still wanted to be good hosts and provide us with tea, which I think says a lot.
The salesman brought in the tool box and we paid for it. As soon as it was official, the boys hugged each other tightly and shook each other with the purest joy I have ever seen. The mother started to cry, which triggered me to cry, then the boys were crying, and then others in my group were crying as well. It was such an emotional moment filled with the happiest of tears. They just kept saying how unbelievable it was that this was happening, how grateful they were, how this will bring them life, and how this will change everything.
The family (minus the father)
It just blows my mind that all it took was something as simple as a shoe tool box to cause such an immense transformation in their lives. I have never seen a family so incredibly grateful and so genuinely overjoyed. Sagar, the eldest son, said that this means he can make enough money so that his brother and sister can go to school, that this is all he wants- for his siblings to get an education.
Some of my group with the family outside of their home.
We saw the boys on the street a few times after this, with their new shoe box, fixing shoes, with smiles on their faces. Even after one day, they said they already made much more money with the tool box than they did without.
Sagar using the new tool box to fix a shoe!
It was agreed upon that none of us will ever forget this powerful experience. We will never forget Sagar, Pawan, and the rest of their family. This family didn’t have much, they’ve definitely struggled in life, and they were some of the kindest, most genuine, and most grateful people I have ever met. This experience taught me to never forget to be grateful for what I have, to never take my life for granted, and to always help people whenever I can - even when our team is on vacation! It also taught me that it can definitely be a little easier to help people when you’re part of a team.
Sagar and Pawan with their new tool box.