“I now know my number.”

Winding roads in a scarcely-populated area of Nepal lead to a literacy class that is bringing about immense hope and change.

When staff from India and the U.S visited to encourage the teacher and her class, the learners were excited to share what they had learned so far. There were a few very outspoken women who could not hold themselves back from sharing about the plants they had learned about and how learning to read and write had opened the doors for them—even in a small village in the hills of Nepal.

But then, one shy women slowly raised her hand in response to my question, “In what ways has learning how to read and write opened doors for you?”

Through a translator, this shy woman shared her story.

“Years back, I had visited the hospital due to feeling extremely sick. I made the journey and when I arrived, they provided me with a slip of paper that had a number written on it. They then told me to sit down until I heard my number called off. That is when I would know I could be seen.”

“I was too embarrassed to tell them I could not read or count, so I took the slip and sat down with the others who were waiting with their slips. I sat all day, until it was closing time. Then I walked home.”

I grieved for this woman as she spoke. Her embarrassment had caused her to sit and wait, hoping she’d somehow pick up clues as to when it was her turn to be seen, but she never could figure it out—simply because she didn’t know numbers.

But then with excitement, this little woman showed us a big smile. She had learned how to read and write in her literacy class, and she told us joyfully, “I now know my number.”