When one enters the house in the quiet Kathmandu neighborhood where Helen Keller International-Nepal is located, the buzz and activity of the busy office is suddenly countered by the reassuring calm of Sharada Adhikari, who sits at the front desk. Her soft voice and smile make even the most harried or jet lagged traveler feel welcome.
Sharada has worked for Helen Keller Intl in Nepal as its receptionist since 1999, and continues to grow as a valued asset to the team there.
Blind since birth, Sharada found the position by chance in the local help wanted ads. At the time, she was a college student and had read the story of Helen Keller’s life as part of her coursework. That story and being part of the Helen Keller team have served as continued sources of encouragement and inspiration for her.
“I am happy because I can do anything,” she says confidently. “My blindness has not held me back because I was able to get a good education so I can work. Education is the most important thing, just as it was for Helen Keller.”
As one of the veteran staffers of the office, she has been part of the incredible expansion of Helen Keller in Nepal, which has grown from a lean team of just three to more than 100 staff spread across the country. Her greatest memory with Helen Keller is her very first day at work, which she fondly recalls her excitement about being given the opportunity to join the team. She says that, despite the growth and changes that have occured since then, Helen Keller Intl remains a great place to work with terrific people.
As Helen Keller continues to expand its presence in Nepal, Sharada is excited about the prospect of the organization providing more vision health services there in the future. “If they are able to bring a ChildSight® program or other services for the visually impaired here, I would definitely want to be involved.”
These days, having just completed her Masters Degree, Sharada is writing a paper on Nepali Grammar. She commutes to work each day from Kirtipur, a college town just south of Kathmandu, where she volunteers to help teach blind students cooking and other daily life skills.
Sharada is also active with the Disability Working Group for the Association of International NGOs in Nepal. She recently appeared in an informational video promoting inclusive development in Nepal. In response, Helen Keller invested in wheelchair ramps and other accessibility modifications to its office.
“Its simple things that can make a difference,” Sharada explains. “Like having Braille aids for laptops. Having that helps me do more at a job that I love.”