In Nepal, the children of incarcerated parents with no other caregivers must live in jail with their mother or father. Confined and with no access to education or any of the opportunities every child deserves, their futures look grim.
Pushpa Basnet has been working tirelessly to give these children a chance they never thought they’d have. The Nepali social worker’s Butterfly Home, where she’s known as “Mamu,” gives prisoners’ children a safe place to live, with access to school, regular meals and the chance to play and grow up alongside peers of all ages. Since 2005, Pushpa’s efforts have saved more than 500 children from living in prison.
She started her career at the age of 21, while she was still an undergraduate studying social work. As part of a school assignment, she visited the women’s prison in Kathmandu and was dismayed to find children living with their parents behind the bars. She raised 70,000 rupees (about $885) from family and friends, and started a non-profit organization, Early Childhood Development Centre (ECDC), to provide a day care program to the children, in 2005.
As The Early Childhood Development Centre grew, in its first 10 years the ECDC had to move between three different buildings, uprooting their lifestyle and the children’s newfound sense of stability each time. As Pushpa puts it, “It’s not fair for (these) children to live in the prison because they haven’t done anything wrong. My mission is to make sure no child grows up behind prison walls.”
Pushpa has inspired countless individuals in Nepal and worldwide, and in 2012 was named a CNN Hero of the Year. She used CNN’s award money to help achieve her dream: building a permanent Butterfly Home for the children in her care to build on her mission.
Her dream of building a permanent home for the children of ECDC finally came true in 2013, when land was purchased near the school the kids attend to build the first Butterfly Home. While under construction, however, the construction project was damaged by the 2015 earthquake that struck Nepal.
Butterfly Home now bears a new logo and brand identity, thanks to Interbrand, along with a just-opened building about six kilometers north of Kathmandu.
The new location consists of separate girls and boys quarters, complete with a medical room and a library. The houses and grounds include play areas, dining facilities, musical instruments and ramps for wheelchairs. Offering nutrition, education, medical care, clothing and a home, it’s a safe place where the children can live, thrive and dream about their futures while still maintaining contact with their parents.
The new chapter for Butterfly Home was celebrated on April 29th in New York, where ONE HUNDRED—a new full-service agency for nonprofits featuring talent from Omnicom’s DAS agencies including Interbrand—hosted a screening of Waiting for Mamu, a documentary of Pushpa’s work by investment banker turned social justice filmmaker Thomas Morgan.
After the screening, ONE HUNDRED hosted a panel with Morgan, actress and activist Susan Sarandon, Interbrand’s Head of Strategy Dominik Prinz (below right, with Sarandon and DAS COO Stacey Hightower) and ONE HUNDRED Partner and Critical Mass CEO Dianne Wilkins. Their lively conversation highlighted the incredible story behind Butterfly Home and ONE HUNDRED’s work to elevate the cause of its very first client.
“I first met Pushpa in Charlotte, North Carolina,” at a fundraising dinner, said Morgan. “She told me this incredible story (and) I just had to tell it. I asked Pushpa if I could come and film in Nepal, and while she was more than happy for me to tell her story, I don’t think she actually expected me to show up.”
Sarandon, whose Reframed Pictures produced the Waiting for Mamu with Morgan, was immediately attracted to the project. “It was so simple, and it was so clear to see the kind of impact our money and efforts would have on Pushpa’s mission. Everything that is donated is used so cleverly and put to real, solid use.”
She also nominated Pushpa for her CNN Heroes Award, and was there when she won. “I was like, ‘I want them all to win’, but when they called Pushpa’s name, I was so happy, I was cheering the loudest.”
Prinz, who has a personal interest in philanthropy (and social justice photography) in addition to his corporate citizenship and strategy work at Interbrand, learned about Butterfly Home from a friend in Nepal after the earthquake in 2015. He learned that the children were living behind the rubble of their old home, and could be sent back to prison any day.
“I knew we had to help them raise funds, and that there was a way I could help professionally. But, I couldn’t do it alone,” said Prinz. “So I started recruiting creatives to help by donating their time, and it became this whole initiative” that led to a new brand for Butterfly Home.
Wilkins, who was introduced to the project by the same mutual friend, started connecting with other Omnicom executives to come up with a solution: “We had a whole chain of text messages going, and we were going to connect at an Omnicom women’s event. We didn’t get a chance during the event, but we all ended up taking the same elevator downstairs, and essentially drew up the plans for ONE HUNDRED there. I called up Dom the very next day. Now we have six different agencies coming together (as ONE HUNDRED) to help nonprofits like Butterfly Home.”
From her experience working with a wide array of nonprofits, Sarandon recognized how valuable an agency like ONE HUNDRED could be. “Every nonprofit needs help creating a website or a logo, but they just don’t have the resources,” she commented at the Butterfly Home event. “Even if someone offers to donate their time, it’s so difficult to get the kind of top-quality work they need.”
With a clear and inspiring new website, brand and PR/marketing strategy, Pushpa can now focus her efforts to better the lives of her kids. The Utopia Foundation has offered its donation collection service free of charge, so 100 percent of the money donated goes directly to Butterfly Home, and they also visit Basnet and her team in Nepal every few months for on-the-ground support. Both Sarandon and Morgan attest to the ingenuity and pluck that goes into Pushpa’s running of Butterfly Home.
“Each kid gets one pencil at the start of the year, and in order to get a new one, they have to return the pencil stub,” describes Morgan, “She even measures it to make sure they’re short enough to exchange. More than saving resources, it teaches her kids responsibility. That kind of cleverness and common sense is emblematic of how Pushpa runs things.”
But most importantly, Pushpa builds a foundation for children without opportunity, where they can grow and achieve incredible things for themselves and their community.
“When you see the family that Pushpa creates for her kids at Butterfly Home, you know it’s where they’re supposed to be,” Morgan observes. “The future she provides them gives them hope.”
Several of her kids have already gone to college, and many of her older children and “graduates” want to come back and work with Pushpa after they’ve gotten an education, and to open more Butterfly Homes across Nepal. Now, the government comes directly to Pushpa, not just to ask her to take care of children, but for advice on how to manage humanitarian need.
With the help of the new Butterfly Home branding and fundraising campaign, Pushpa was able to raise global awareness and the $400,000 needed to rebuild in just a few weeks. It’s exciting that the combined efforts of multiple agencies to build and share a powerful new brand can make real change in the world. With continued support, Pushpa’s Butterfly Home can continue to thrive, and she may one day truly be “Mamu to all.”
— Dominik Prinz (@DomPrinz) May 4, 2016