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A lifeline for kids growing up behind bars

November 19, 2012 -- Updated 2144 GMT (0544 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS

(CNN) -- Because Nepal lacks the social safety net that exists in most Western nations, many children there have little choice but to live in prison when their parents are incarcerated.

Since 2005, however, Pushpa Basnet has been working to get some of these kids out from behind prison walls.

Basnet provides a day care program for children under 6, and she runs a home where dozens of kids have a chance to live a more normal life.

Basnet and her group have helped more than 140 children of incarcerated parents.

CNN asked for her thoughts on being chosen as one of the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2012.

CNN: What do you hope this recognition will mean for the Early Childhood Development Center?

Pushpa Basnet: I think this recognition has given importance to the welfare and upbringing of the children who will become responsible citizens of the country and the leaders of tomorrow.

I hope that ECDC is soon able to expand its services so that it is able to accommodate more children who are still living behind prison walls.

Saved from a life behind bars
Pushpa Basnet was shocked to learn that children in Nepal were living in prisons with their parents. In 2005, she started a children's center that has provided housing, education and medical care to more than 140 children of incarcerated parents. "I always had a dream to build our own home for these children, and I want to rescue more children who are still in prisons," Basnet said. See more photos of Pushpa Basnet, who was voted CNN Hero of the Year for 2012. Pushpa Basnet was shocked to learn that children in Nepal were living in prisons with their parents. In 2005, she started a children's center that has provided housing, education and medical care to more than 140 children of incarcerated parents. "I always had a dream to build our own home for these children, and I want to rescue more children who are still in prisons," Basnet said. See more photos of Pushpa Basnet, who was voted CNN Hero of the Year for 2012.
The top 10 CNN Heroes of 2012
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I also hope that children suffering from parental incarceration get attention globally and that governments are able to prioritize and put in place policies for the protection of the children and effectively implement them.

It has opened doors and put us in the limelight. The recognition has brought in invaluable financial and moral support for ECDC to keep continuing its work to ensure that no child grows up in prison as a result of parental incarceration.

CNN: What was the reaction when you found out you were a top 10 CNN Hero?

Basnet: Being selected as one of the top 10 CNN Heroes was beyond my wildest imagination. I was numb to begin with and since then have been somewhat anxious, extremely ecstatic, deeply touched, tremendously grateful and filled with a renewed hope for the future.

To be in the same platform as that of some of the world's most compassionate and driven people is an incredible honor, and I have to pinch myself every day to make sure I am not dreaming. CNN's acknowledgment means the world to me and to the ECDC family and reminds me that I am not alone in this fight.

Who should be the CNN Hero of the Year? Cast your vote now!

If it wasn't for the 8-month-old who had tugged my shawl and looked at me with such sadness and innocence during my field visit to a women's prison in Kathmandu, I might never have understood the horrifying reality of children growing up in prison nor done anything about it. Seven years later, SanuKanchi is a bright, loving 8-year-old living with her mother in Kathmandu, and I have a big family of 50 kids and a team of hard-working, compassionate staff helping me take care of them.

CNN: How will you use the $50,000 award you receive for being selected as a top 10 CNN Hero?

Basnet: The award money will go towards the construction of a new home known as the Butterfly Home. We have been solely depending on renting available buildings as shelter.

The Butterfly Home has been a dream project meant to build a stable home for the kids that will eliminate the ongoing risks of eviction, fear of insane rent hikes, and ensure long-term security. My dream project is still in the planning stage, and I am determined to make it a reality.

CNN: What do you want people to know most about your work?

Basnet: In Nepal, still inside prisons, children are living with their parents with no basic facilities. But we at ECDC are working to rescue them and give them a better life and help to reintegrate and rehabilitate with their parents after release from prison.

We also further financially help the rehabilitated children's academic education and help them to pursue their further studies as they want.

Read the full story on CNN Hero Pushpa Basnet:
Pulling children out of Nepal's prisons

More Q&As from top 10 Heroes:
'A ray of hope' where girls didn't count
A voice for America's caregiving kids
After losing daughter, dad vows to change culture
Seeking justice for Haiti's rape victims
$50K to help 'Kliptown kids' rise up
Changing reality for impoverished teen moms
Dogs help war vets find 'new normal'
Son's drowning spurs mom to action

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