A husband whose wife died shortly after giving birth at the height of the pandemic has met his newborn daughter for the first time.
Yubraj Bhusal, from Nepal, cuddled little Jaladha for the first time, after his wife Mina died just days after giving birth in their home country in March.
When international borders closed, desperation set in at the thought of what may happen to his newborn, almost 3,000 kilometres away.
Thanks to the support of friends and colleagues at Dubai English Speaking College, where Mr Bhusal works as a lifeguard, he returned home this month to care for her.
“I miss my wife, but I am so happy to now finally be with my daughter,” said Mr Bhusal, 30.
“It feels like I am apart of a big family at DESC and also with the swimming club."
Due to travel restrictions, Mr Bhusal could not go to his home country but said he received a lot of emotional and financial support from his colleagues in Dubai.
“In March, my wife gave birth but she passed away a few days later, leaving me alone with my daughter but they were all there for me,” he said.
His wife suffered a heart attack, believed to be the result of an undiagnosed congenital condition.
Since then, Jaladha has been cared for by her grandparents in a small farm in the mountains near Katmandu.
Mr Bhusal's colleagues found out what happened, they did all they could to fly him home.
Despite raising funds to pay for flights and care for Jaladha, Mr Bhusal was unable to return to Nepal until November.
“Yubraj was bereft as he could not get back to Nepal until two weeks ago,” said Andrew Gibbs, principal at DESC.
“He paid for his own ticket home and asked for no money from us at any stage.
“We tried to get him home earlier via the embassy on compassionate grounds, but there was nothing they could do.
“His parents work full time and have had to take on his daughter.
“This fund will give this child new hope after losing her mother.”
Mr Bhusal is due back in Dubai at the end of the year to resume his position and continue supporting his daughter and parents.
Any money raised by Mr Bhusal's colleagues and friends will contribute to Jaladha’s education to give her hope of a better life.
“She currently lives in a house with a corrugated iron roof so it could be used to build a new home for her,” Mr Gibbs said.
“Yubraj has been getting to know a daughter he had not met until last week.
“He never got to attend his wife’s funeral, and missed the Hindu grieving period.
“He is now focused on planning for Jaladha’s future.”
Feelings of frustration and helplessness almost overwhelmed Mr Bhusal during the months he was unable to leave Dubai.
Friends helped him deal with the emotional stress of losing his wife as the school remained closed due to Covid-19.
Monir Kassem, 38, owner and head coach of the One of a Kind Swimming club, that took Mr Bhusal on as an after-school lifeguard 18 months ago, said daily exercise and running helped to keep him busy.
“When we started back in July he had lost a lot of weight and looked really fit; it was his way of dealing with what happened,” Mr Kassem said.
The next challenge facing Mr Bhusal is how to say goodbye to his new daughter, just a few weeks after meeting her, to return to Dubai. He lives in shared worker accommodation and so cannot care for his daughter full time in the UAE.
“Culturally, he is under pressure to find another wife to look after his daughter while he works in Dubai, so it is an incredibly difficult situation,” Mr Kassem said.
“It is a horrible tragedy, not being there for your daughter’s birth and your wife dying shortly afterwards.
“Yubraj was in love with this girl for a long time, and asked her father three times to marry her.
"It was a real love story.”