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Pushpa and son sitting on couch smile for the camera

Thriving in a New Home

When Pushpa Gurung arrived in Harrisburg, PA, she said she felt lost. She and her family had moved from Nepal to New York in August 2010 and later moved to Harrisburg in 2013. They were living with her husband’s brother and neither she nor her husband had a job and were unable to drive. They didn’t know many people and were unfamiliar with the area.

“My children are my first priority,” said Pushpa, looking back, “and when my daughter was younger, I wasn’t willing to leave her.

Sixteen days after moving to Harrisburg, the Gurungs enrolled their infant daughter in Early Head Start through Capital Area Head Start (CAHS). Soon after, Pushpa was elected to serve as the Policy Council Representative for her Early Head Start center. Through these meetings, Pushpa connected with other parents who were in similar situations, and she began to feel as if she weren’t lost anymore.

However, she was very worried about her preschool-age son, Prithivi. He wasn’t speaking much English and didn’t get to socialize with children other than his infant sister. Jo Pepper, director of CAHS, was helping with child care during the Early Head Start Orientation, and she remembers playing with Prithivi.

“He was shy and just wandered around the room looking at the toys but not playing with them. I told him he could play with anything he wanted, so he finally started pulling some toys off the shelves. But he didn’t seem very interested in anything until I asked if he wanted to go to the art area. I sat with him for quite some time and was absolutely amazed as the detailed pictures he was drawing.”

The family’s Early Head Start home visitor assisted them to get medical insurance and food stamps and to enroll Prithivi in Head Start. In addition to working with the baby, the home visitor worked with Prithivi to help him learn English and prepare for preschool. He now reads books to his little sister and knows much more English.

At first, Pushpa was worried that Prithivi wouldn’t do well in Capital Area Head Start or that he wouldn’t like it. It turns out that he loves school! He even asks on weekends if he can go to school!

Today, the family is thriving. Pushpa was recently reelected to the Policy Council, and she’s attending the Community Health Worker Training Program at Temple University. “I’m learning a lot about communities and cultures,” she said. “There is still so much for me to learn and adjust to here, and these classes are helping me to cope with that.”

Her daughter is doing well in Early Head Start and loves learning and playing with her home visitor.

Prithivi graduated from Head Start and moved on to elementary school. His kindergarten teacher was thrilled with how bright he was, and during the first open house, talked with Pushpa about putting him on the list for gifted children. By the end of kindergarten, he had earned the “Reading Machine” Award for fast reading skills and the “Ready, Respectful, and Responsible” Award. He’s in first grade now, and his teacher loves challenging him. He comes home with many stories about school and his friends.

“I’m very proud of my son,” said Pushpa. “And I’m so grateful to Capital Area Head Start.”

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