Papa’s House News and Updates

July 2015

APRIL 11TH
The Final Term of the 2014-2015 year at Skylark School saw us take the first position in 4 classes out of 10; 2nd position in 7 classes out of 10 and 3rd position in 3 classes out of 10. We believe that the children’s hard work, love of learning, and the existence of the Chelsea Education Center have all contributed to these excellent results.

CLASS 1:        
ASHMITA KUMAL 97.88% RANKED  1ST MATH 96%
TINA MAGAR 97.84% RANKED 2ND MATH 98.5%
CLASS 2:        
PINKEY CHAUDHARY 98.44% RANKED 1ST  MATH 98.77%
SALINA TAMANG 97.61% RANKED  2ND MATH 99.72%
CLASS 3:        
SARASWATI THAPA 97.37% RANKED 1ST MATH 87.35%
GOMARTI MAGAR 97.3% RANKED 2ND MATH 91.25%
BHUMIKA RANA  97.01% RANKED 3RD MATH 95.7%
CLASS 5:        
SANDHYA CHAND 96.33% RANKED 2ND MATH 91.45%
JUNA PARIYAR 94.81% RANKED 3RD MATH 92.15%
CLASS 6:        
SRIJANA KC 96.32% RANKED 1ST MATH 93.75%
KHUSBOO KADAYAT 95.69% RANKED 2ND MATH 95.25%
ANUPA GURUNG 92.58% RANKED 3RD MATH 94.45%
CLASS 7:        
RUPA CHAUDHARY 87.67% RANKED  2ND MATH 71.3%
CLASS 9:        
ISHWOR SHRESTHA 81.25% RANKED  2ND MATH 88.5%
Ranked second in their respective classes Ranked third


Ranked first in their classes

APRIL 3RD
Laurie Levine of the NOH Board arrived from Sydney, bringing her abundant love for the children. Laurie manages at least one trip each year. Laurie is a teacher, speaker and author of books meant to help us to live a better and more purposeful life through spiritual affirmation. She has delighted in watching the children grow into such radiant and accomplished young people.

Samjhana, Laurie and Junu Laurie with Priya after Yoga and Meditation
Laurie with a few Harmony House girls Laurie brought 10 reconditioned laptops with her

APRIL 8TH

Returning volunteers, accompanied by their children this time, were inspired originally by Laurie. Our friends, Fuchsia and her very special sons Noah left and Ridley, and Misty and her precious daughter Charli brought a lot of insight, love and joy to our children.

And Hope found a big friend in Misty’s partner Clint who offered her endless entertainment.

Three wonderful young women (Linn on left from Sweden, Mariana from Brazil and Erika also from Sweden, but only here meeting Linn) who met as volunteers two years before and stayed in touch, reunited again at Volunteer Nepal and among many projects for the kids found time to decorate the café. 

APRIL 13TH
Also returning for their third or fourth time my beautiful cousins Anne and Liz, their close friend Cici and bringing with them for the first time my Aunt Judy, her niece Meghan and friend Kelly. This group had been planning their trip for quite a while and wasted no time in bringing books, art and dance to the children’s days.

Anne and her two daughters had been a part of the Billion Rising Dance phenomenon and decided that we should hold one in Dhapasi, so they managed to get the others trained in the dance and upon arrival began preparations for it.


My Aunt Judy (left), cousin Liz and friend Meghan

APRIL 16TH



They made posters expressing their personal reasons for why they wished to be heard


And walked the streets of Dhapasi posting flyers for the Billion Rising Flash Dance


And taught a select group of Captains how to do the “Break the Chain” dance

APRIL 18TH


The morning came in brilliantly clear blue skies


Guest speakers included the Skylark Principal Sangita Rai and Cici


The (not lame) balloon man came to inflate hundreds


Children danced


The air was charged with a collective passion for doing something so right together

And finally a radar filling release of balloons rising along with the consciousness of each attendee watching with eyes shielded against the sun until the balloons left our sight. We then turned our attention to bonding over more grounded joys: strawberry, pistachio, chocolate and vanilla ice cream.

APRIL 25TH



The boys' house interior and our Dhapasi neighborhood

Moments after the first quake, after being sure that the children and staff at the house where I was were safely together in our open ground, I raced on the scooter for Hope. The road was littered with debris, people dazed and bewildered, wide eyed and incredulous; dust filled the air where buildings moments before sat purposefully, it seemed so random. In those moments, not knowing what I would find reduced my life to one simple knowledge: love is all there is. I prayed so hard to a God I hardly know, “Let them be okay.” When I found the house still standing I came through the gate and in a distant corner of the yard Anita was holding Hope who was crying, surrounded by the children who were all terrified. I ran to Hope and when I took her into my arms she hugged me so hard and stopped crying and just held on. Then she wanted to tell me what happened and did so by holding her fist in the air and shaking her body as if suddenly possessed by St. Vita’s Dance. I had to laugh and then she did also, and I knew we were going to be okay.

Thirty minutes later I had been able to go to each of our houses and make sure everyone was okay and then guide them back through streets filled with broken glass and rubble to be together on our main ground. All the security walls that surround every house were gone and our main ground, large as it is, was filled with people huddled together. When all the children and staff were together we were okay. We sat in a tight circle and ate the lunch I had earlier prepared with 2/3rds of it surviving and rode out several very powerful aftershocks; there was strength and comfort and even some private humor among the children and staff that helped them get to a point where, with gratitude for our good fortune, we were ready to move on.


An hour after the earthquake I asked the children to circle around and as they did I took some photos. Each of these children felt attacked by the earth; the floors they were on buckled and rolled, leaped and lurched sideways, violently throwing them to the ground. These small people felt they were going to die.

APRIL 26TH
The night of April 25 was perhaps the longest night any of us had ever experienced. I had convinced all the children that they were safe and that nothing so strong was to come again, there would be aftershocks but not enough to do further damage. There wasn’t a soul in all of Nepal I think sleeping indoors that night and as we saw, it took 6 weeks to get people who had homes back inside.

Sleeping outside was not safe for all our children and the children trusted me when I said we would be fine. In each house the children slept in a single room together near the front door.

Several times in the night a sound like a barrel of rocks rolling out of control down a metal gangplank would pierce the night, the floor would shake us like a pebble in a miner’s sifter. Outside the community would wail as if the end had come.


There wasn’t any electricity,  so water which comes from a well by pump was nonexistent. But the underground tank in my house is kept full, so we spent a couple of hours in a bucket brigade bringing water to the main house. Midafternoon on the 25th, Sam, Anita and I bought as much gas, dhal, rice, and biscuits as we could and got those distributed among the homes. We bought lots of medicines in anticipation of the suggestion that Kathmandu might become a breeding ground for disease, and we had earlier purchased masks. Then the shops closed their shutters and remained closed for some time.

We divided the girls of our Sanctuary house into two groups and had them sleep at the other two girls' houses. The boys split their time between the ground floor kitchen and outside under a tarp they had set up.

We began clean up on the second day. Neighbors under their tarps watched listlessly, their faces drained. The confusion of the neighborhood was keen, everyone grim. The rain would come and go and the certainty that another massive quake was soon upon us was all they spoke of. When an aftershock would come you could hear voices rising together in panic, moaning until it subsided.

But with each passing day we grew stronger and accepting that whatever will be we are together and will not dwell on it. We stayed busy. Nights were long; all the children huddled together in a communal area near the door, but gallows humor prevailed. Loud aftershocks in the night were the worst and we welcomed early morning. Each day at five am, like before, we would go for a walk together, visiting the other houses and greeting neighbors in passing, spreading as best we could a sense of good cheer and lack of worry.

APRIL 30TH

Hope’s Birthday! We decided to celebrate it well.




For a few hours all was forgotten, the kids talked, danced, had ice cream and cake, took lots of photos and laughed. During these times when we all get together we find parting at the end difficult. With the frequency and strength of aftershocks and continued talk of odds favoring a massive earthquake coming at any time, things grow quiet as we part company.  Many of us try to keep the atmosphere easy, but I see the children searching the eyes of their brothers and sisters as they shake hands and say something light that betrays their concern. 

MAY 2ND

Today we welcomed into our family a brother and sister who had been orphaned a few months previous. They had been taken in by a woman and her two sons temporarily while searching for a home that would accept them. None would. They were at our gate last Saturday at exactly the moment the earth started punching and kicking up through the surface, and sat with us for a few hours before walking back to their own home which was now a pile of debris. Today, at the same hour as a week before they again were at the place where our gate once hung and walked in to see the ground filled with happy children.


Samita, 8 and Sanjiv, 6

Sandip and Sanjiv Samita in our fashion show

MAY 9TH

Nepal Orphans Home May Flowers Fashion Show

On the previous Sunday as we sat around talking after our early morning walk, we decided to have a fashion show to be held on the following Saturday. All were invited to participate in an age-divided event that included Best Dress, Best Hair, Best Make-Up, Best Catwalk, Most Original and Most Transformed.


Dhiraj, our resident tech wiz, handled the music while Kausila and Bumikha were our MC’s.




The skies were clear, the children in the audience very supportive and fun, the participants showing off some truly unique ideas were gorgeous; 21 children were awarded prizes, and we had another opportunity to forget what lived underneath us.

MAY 12TH
A second earthquake came and finished off buildings previously damaged. These pictures were taken from the yard of Papa’s House. Everywhere one looks this is what they see, reminders of the moment are the children’s new landscape. It had been over two weeks, aftershocks come loud and quick so many times in the day and night and everyone, including scientists, maintain that they would not be surprised to see a magnitude 9 anytime. It is a huge setback emotionally that after a couple of weeks when you have accepted aftershocks as something to live with, another earthquake hits. This one made buildings sway to a point you feel you must be imagining it, and then again aftershocks which make you wonder how much more our houses can stand.


Despite the new earthquake we forge ahead with plans. We are together and after lunch we gather the children around to award the prizes for our latest writing contest “My life in Five Years” We enjoy having writing contests; all the children enter them and we save their entry and put them into their permanent file to read over and share with their own children one day.


First Place in Imagine House went to Gita, Sapana and Srijana


Possibilities House Tilak, Sujan, Himal, Nargese, and Sanctuary House Asha, Elena and Mary

I will share excerpts of the top three:

“I have become manager of Heaven House, our home for babies. I give them all my love and I will help with their education. I am sitting with Papa and helping him with his work. I am happy because my dream has been fulfilled.” – Gita

“Today is the happiest day of my life; I have become the youngest professor in the history of Tribhuvan University. I have published a book about Papa’s House that is widely acclaimed. Papa is the one who gave light to my life.” – Srijana

“I am peeking out my kitchen window, I am watching my husband work in the garden, he sees me and says let’s go shopping. On the way we meet Anita Mahato who is with her husband and own children, we talk and then we walk on and find Papa who has a stick in one hand and Hope Angel holding his other hand. One day I will be an old woman eating ice cream with my children, wearing glasses and sharing with them my life at Papa’s House.” – Sapana

MAY 13TH
We rented buses to take us to The National Botanical Gardens. The ride there pierced through the widespread destruction of the quakes, but the last 5km was on a narrow road under a canopy of trees where the sun comes in sprinkles through the bus windows and everyone feels as if they are entering an enchanted forest.

We found the parking lot empty and the small staff of the gardens surprised by our presence. We had the place to ourselves and took full advantage of it.




It is my dream to be playing in a tidal pool in Maine with Hope. It will be early fall and bursting with color; sea smells and a warm sun like a loved one’s hand on our back.

The Gardens is a beautifully manicured and thoughtfully designed 100 acres or more with a stream meandering through it. The water runs cold and shallow over small rocks and in some places collects in quiet swirling pools. Hope and I stopped by one and there we felt stones and watched our hands glide along the rocky bottom.  A pleasant prelude to my dream.

We walked the length and breadth of the gardens and strolled through the greenhouses; we placed no demands on the children, but they all stayed close, perfectly happy to follow along and be together. We found a good spot for our picnic and everyone pitched in to make a light task of it. After eating we lingered, quietly soaking in the warmth and sounds of nature. After some time we fought our inclination to sit forever and rose to the uninspired business of heading back to the buses. We arrived at the gates to some panicked employees asking us to go and sit a spell longer because an earthquake would be here soon. This is the world we live in; people exercise such a willing departure from reasonable thinking. We convinced the jittery staff that we would take our chances and asked them to open the gates. We boarded the busses and drove silently back home, everyone deep in their own thoughts.

MAY 15TH
I decided to try and find a safer place for as many children as possible. Yesterday was spent calling relatives of our children who live in areas that have not been affected by the earthquakes. This constituted about 80 children. We hired the same bus which took us to the gardens and had it come this morning. We loaded up 50 of our girls whose villages are in Dang where not a hint of trouble has come and, with Papa’s House manager Anita Chaudhary, sent them back until things settle down. By nightfall we had said goodbye to another 30 children.

After the second earthquake, the little bit of ease that had crept back into people’s feeling of security was replaced with a fresh new wound. Plans to reopen school were scuttled across Nepal’s affected districts. We had a paint crew inside the Sanctuary girls' old house and they quit work saying they did not want to be inside the house at this time. It took three weeks to get them back to work.

Our remaining 55 or so children combined into two homes and we had fun.  Our days were busy with work on the new Sanctuary House, or in the gardens, or in removing our old wooden beds and carrying them to the carpenter who had bought them and then carrying the new metal beds to each house and getting them set up with the new mattresses. We cleaned every room thoroughly when replacing the beds, played games, took long walks at sunrise and ate well.

Kathmandu is growing deserted and, with few willing to work, supplies are getting short.

MAY 22ND
We arranged for a bus to drop us off at a place in Thamel called “The Garden of Dreams,” two acres of high-walled compound filled with coy ponds and Roman-influenced gazebos, meditation areas and places that invite one to lie down and sleep. Sadly we found all the architecture roped off due to severe damage, but the grassy areas were green, the fish swimming happily and the sleeping areas welcoming. These are gardens designed to induce quieting the soul, to speak softly and to generate smiles from the heart. We brought along all the day staff and their children as well.




After our spirits were refreshed, we walked across the street to “Fire and Ice,” a legendary tourist pizza palace.  We had earlier made arrangements and gave a preorder of 61 pizzas; we were treating ourselves to an extravagance that was to please all our senses.

One thing about an environment of pervasive concern: it helps you to let go just a little and enjoy some simple pleasures today, not tomorrow. Once we are comfortable with the knowledge that there are many tomorrows yet to come, we can make up for these unordinary indulgences. 




MAY 30TH
All of our children are back and we have enjoyed our Saturday tiffin together. The returning children had to get reacquainted with the daily aftershocks while those who had remained felt like old veterans who could offer a sense of calm and sage advice.

School began again on Sunday the 31st, the largest classroom building at Skylark which has three floors was deemed unsafe and so temporary classrooms were cobbled together. Teachers drifted back in from their villages and bit by bit we are getting to where a full complement of them are where they should be most of the time.


JUNE



Winners of the writing contest “Me and My Earthquake”

June seemed to have swept through as uninterrupted as tumbleweed across the desert. We had the winners of the “Me and My Earthquake” writing contest receive the admiration of their peers and their prizes one Saturday, another Saturday we had a celebration of June Birthdays. Saturday lunches were different and fun, mostly tasty ones of assorted color, my trademark.

We welcomed back many far cast members of the family.  Our former Volunteer Nepal Director Michael Triozzi came from a break in his graduate studies in Italy to manage the boys' house while Sam was in America; he also stepped in to manage the Volunteer department while Eileen is back in New Zealand for a spell. Michael is still here and more narrowly focused on Smiley the dog and the Volunteer department followng Sam’s return.

Vinod and Alecia have returned after three years spent in college in North Carolina. They will be here for six weeks and both are working hard to help with the children.

Emma McDonald is an editor and writer from Australia who was here last year and worked with the children’s reading program. She sought and received some time off recently to return and be with her NOH family during this time. The most common comment about her from the kids is “Emma is always so funny.” 


Emma and friends


Sam generously offered to be our host for some of our Saturday visitors


Michael Triozzi guarding his biscuits from Marian, Eileen's twin

Alecia and her sister Abbie Vinod and his adoring Mom
Girls learning about Islam Sujan looking cool

MISCELLANEOUS

Chham was invited to accompany the internationally recognized photo journalist Rui Pires and learn how to be an assistant during a three-week trip by train to a few cities across India. Rui is a good friend to NOH and in a previous trip got to know Chham well. This was a wonderful opportunity for Chham to travel and learn about the different cultures of India as well as developing a keen eye and passion for beauty and how to capture it on film.

The following photos are all taken by Rui and kindly shared by him with us here.




Rui Pires has for two years in a row won the International Humanitarian Photographer of The Year award; we are humbled to call him our friend.

One of our newest sons Bimal is not only exceedingly kind and polite but he possesses an array of creative talents. After the earthquake I encouraged the kids to express their feelings and Bimal did so both in writing and in a painting shown here. I was so impressed by it that I shared it with friends online. One thing led to another culminating in someone wishing to purchase the painting for $500 and wanting to see more of his work. They had a friend traveling in Nepal at the time and he was supposed to come by to pick up the painting, but never did. Bimal was not the least bothered by that, he paints he says because he likes to.

The painting The artist, who is a young man (at the fashion show)

JULY 7TH

This has been a long update, the last 10 weeks running between uncommon and surreal. To live on top of a rumbling earth that pierces up anywhere at any time it pleases has a way of changing one's perspectives on life and maybe that is its silver lining. The aftershocks continue. We partially rate our days by the Richter scale; the children have become adept at accurately sizing up each aftershock and becoming knowledgeable in suggesting our distance from the epicenter and depth of each. Morning greetings usually include “Did you feel last night's?” Many are now sleeping through them.

We have managed to keep to as normal a schedule as possible throughout this time; in reflection it has been good. As soon as the Chelsea Education Center teachers were able to return they did and so we continued with our afternoon classes.

Ted Seymour, who spent about 6 weeks with us from January and who is the person responsible for bringing the Khan Academy online math program to our children, returned in June to further work with our children.

We are at this time developing an adult education program at the Chelsea Center which will teach math and English to local women. The response to our flyer indicates great interest. We hope to have the program commence in the third week of July. Our 2nd year college student son Ashok will be the teacher. His college classes run from 6-10am each day and the Adult Ed classes will go 10:30 to 12:30pm. 


Ted Seymour and Purna

We had seven girls who this year formed a tailoring group. They are doing really well and make all our uniforms and kurta sulwars. Amrita, who had received the most training, was asked by our tailoring teacher to manage her new shop and has thus hired her away. During the day if any of the remaining six girls have a question, they either go to Amrita’s shop or our teacher Goma’s shop for help.


Our daughter Amrita and the tailoring shop she manages near our Chelsea Education Center

Hope has grown a lot; she is getting tall and speaks in semi-complete sentences. She loves everything and everybody. She works hard to make sure all the children are polite; when I go to her house at suppertime she usually greets me outside and when we walk into the dining room if the girls in chorus have not yet said “Hi Papa,” she asks them, “Where is Hi Papa!”

She has wanted to attend nursery school so we take her for 30 minutes when school starts and again at lunch time. She is a quiet observer of the rules and behavior and when some kids get a little rough, she has learned how to find safe territory. When we walk in the door she usually asks me to sit near it while she ventures deep into the classroom. 

Hope at tiffin time in the nursery. The Principal loves Hope, even when she is eating a mango on her lap; here Hope is wearing a dress that Mrs. Rai bought for her.

On the Principal's birthday she was giving a talk up on the stage at the morning assembly. Hope had a gift for her and was patiently waiting for her to finish so that she could give it. The Mam was a little upset over the behavior of some Class 10 students and was sternly reprimanding them. After a few minutes while it appeared the Mam was just finding the groove of her speech, steam building, Hope called out really loud, “Mam!” The principal stopped and looked at Hope, and Hope said, “Happy Birthday, Mam” and waved the gift at her. The Mam noticeably deflated a bit and came over to Hope while remarking, “You all should be very thankful to Hope for bringing my talk to an end. I can’t stay angry when Hope is around,” and received the gift while the 600 student body clapped and called out “Happy Birthday, Mam.”

And with that I wish you all the best.

Papa

Anita and Hope Hope and her Papa

 

April 2015

I have not yet adjusted to saying 2015, seems like a pretty big number when I reflect back over my life as a teenager growing up in Maine in the 60’s, which doesn't seem so long ago. As youth we look to the future, as we age we remember the past and in our middle years we become a bit wall-eyed. Memories to the mind are like distances to the crow; they are short flights.

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In the last update I wrote about Gita and our finding that she indeed had a deficiency in her growth hormone that could be remedied with daily injections long into the foreseeable future. Within days of the update being posted on the website we had a few people write and ask how they could help.  This included a couple of doctors in Germany. One family from British Columbia however immediately wired enough money for a year’s worth of treatment, following that with a letter of explanation. Julie and Stacy Owczarek have redefined acts of compassion.

Gita is a real trooper; she is always smiling and indeed maybe more with each nightly injection as she feels it is a magical elixir bringing her closer to renewed growth. I began the injections and then trained her sister Sapana to do them. Gita herself is willing, but her fingers are a bit short for the task.

 
  

Above in the dim light of a solar bulb Sapana prepares to inject her sister. The medicine is on the right. The bottom center shows sisters Sarita on left with Gita and Sapana before school.

In order to achieve the best discount we bought a six month supply which filled the small refrigerator (the first purchased in the history of NOH) with her medicine. With our daily power supply being twelve hours, we only open the door once a day and hope for the best.

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The first three months of the year are packed with Nepali holidays:  January has the Maghi Festival and Saraswati Puja, February Valentine’s Day, March Holi and now in April we celebrate the Nepali New Year, which is the ending and beginning of the new school year.

Maghi is the Tharu New Year; the Tharu ethnic group accounts for over half of our children. The day is celebrated by togetherness, dancing and eating finger-sized sweet potatoes boiled in very large pots. In the children’s life before us, it marked the day that middlemen would come to their villages and make contracts with the guardians on all girls 7 years of age and older if somehow any older girls happened to be there, and then taking them away. Here the children nestle into the certainty of their security and the love of their family.


A few of our over 70 girls who have seen both sides of Maghi

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Saraswati Puja is a celebration in honor of the Goddess of Education Saraswati. The children all take this quite seriously. Anita Mahato and the girls in her home start the day before preparing all the foods associated with the occasion and rise hours before dawn on Saraswati Puja to bathe and finish setting up the shrine and plates of food to be offered on the shrine and eaten by all after they have offered their prayers at the altar.


Anita Mahato

The altar is ready

Kausil

Samjhana

Gita and Saraswati

Hope mimicking what the others have done

Manisha

Apsara
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Valentine’s Day

Possible Worlds (Toronto NGO founded by NOH Board Member and Filmmaker Toni Thomson) sponsored the annual Valentine’s Day celebration that keeps getting bigger and better.

This year we asked Sharmila Rai of Skylark School to handle all the decorations.  She has demonstrated in the past some pretty amazing artistic creations for other school events and has a love for doing it. Our Volunteer Nepal staff headed by Eileen Witham and Sunita Pandey organized all the voting on superlatives, made individual bags for over two hundred children, lined up a guest of honor, bought all the prizes and awards, organized the program start to finish and worked with our café staff to deliver a special lunch.

Sam’s boys showed up early at school to help Sharmila prepare the venue and they stayed after to take it all down again and return equipment to its proper place. These guys never fail to be there when asked and always bring good cheer to the task.

Kabita Basnet and her sister Apsara served as the Masters of Ceremony

Apsara and Kabita as MC’s

Kamal and Apsara voted “Most Likely to Succeed”

Kabita voted Skylark School Princess

Ramesh, Kabita and Chham performing

We were very pleased to have a surprise guest in one of Nepal’s musical legends Mr. Raju Lama who graciously attended and brought the crowd to its feet when he entered and took the stage where he had everyone swaying and singing along to one of his more famous songs.

 

After finishing his song Mr. Lama was introduced and then called to the stage was Mr. Santosh Pant famed Nepali actor and social activist who is also a member of the Nepalese Board of Directors for Nepal Orphans Home. Mr. Lama wasted no time in letting everyone know how humbled he was to be in the presence of “the true legend here.”


Dhiraj voted favorite student by the teachers

CEC Math coach Anita voted best new teacher

Among some of the other winners of the superlative voting were:


Tilak for “Most Handsome”

Purna for “Friendliest Boy”

Ishwor for “Smartest Boy”

Himal and Anu Basnet “Would Face Danger for Another”

Rabindra and Puja for “Funniest”

Ram and Rupa “Most Likely to Be a Star”

There were many musical and dance performances by children of both Skylark and NOH.


Sarita, Chiya and Sushma

Muskan and the girls of Sanctuary House

We are deeply grateful for the many years that Toni Thomson and Possible Worlds has supported the education of our children as well as ensuring a very memorable Valentine’s Day event each year. This is one of the days that captures all the children’s imagination and fills them with the happiest of memories.

 

The day was full of surprises and excitement and one very special and completely unexpected performance by our Hope Angel.

 

Hope and Anita were on one side in front of the stage and I on the other taking pictures. Suddenly Hope left Anita’s arms and started walking towards me, her first solo walk. The distance about 20’, I curbed the impulse to run out to meet her and with her eyes locked into mine willed her to make it all the way. These photos were caught by someone near and given to me the day after. Later we received many more perspectives as we found that a lot of eyes were on Hope and knew what was happening and all recorded it.

Hope had a busy day. Here below she is sitting in the photo booth with the first grandchild of NOH Sujan, who is the adorable son of our daughter Santi who has returned to the fold and become the cook of Sanctuary House.

 
 
 
 

Random shots and some of Anita Mahato’s girls who choreographed their own dance.

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Then Came Holi!

 
 
 

A day of water balloon fights and color which always attracts our more sporting volunteers.

 

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Chham Gurung is my second Nepali son; he was in the first orphanage that we rescued. In 2014 before starting class 12, Chham decided he wanted to get a room on his own so that he would have the freedom to work both before and after school to help his poor aunt and her children. He accepted no money from us other than his college fees. He found a little room nearby and would go to the wholesale vegetable market at 4:00 in the morning to find the freshest vegetables he could buy and deliver to his aunt to sell.  With each day’s profits he was able to buy more and she sell more. She would sell out quickly because Chham picked only the freshest vegetables available. In the evenings, Chham became a door to door salesman for low energy light bulbs. During school vacations he would go back to his village and be a porter for European trekkers. When Portuguese Humanitarian Photographer of the Year winner Rui Pires came to NOH to film the children, he met Chham and saw himself in him and the two became close friends. Rui is taking Chham next month to film at two locations in India for a month’s time. He will be teaching Chham the art of photographer’s assistant. Just recently Chham, who has been doing porter’s work for a couple of years, was selected by the Nepalese government as one of 750 people to be trained as Licensed Trekking and Mountain Guides out of 2500 registered guides who applied. Chham, who is one of the strongest people I know for any size man, passed the two week course with flying colors in time to return to college for his final exams.

Chham has always watched out for little kids or those more vulnerable, or with few friends.

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Kabita Basnet


Kabita in 2007

Kabita February 2015

Kabita and her sister Apsara have from day one been very special to us all. Simply put, they are the best of the best. They are exceptionally close sisters with great admiration for each other’s character and achievements. I have written about Apsara recently, how sick she was when she first came and the week I spent nursing her back to health really bonded us. Kabita, even so young then, was very protective of her sister and had guided her through a very difficult time when they were removed from their home and brought to us. At her age and in her role believing that she was the only one to really care about Apsara, she watched me nurturing her back to health and she felt trust.  In her innocence, she saw a guardian angel had come to insulate them from further harm. We have always been very close and it would be Kabita that I could turn to for the truth if ever there was a dispute.

Kabita has worked very hard at school, putting in longer hours than anyone else and managing a respectable grade from it. She has repeatedly been honored at school and at home for her character, and her house mates voted her to be their House Captain.

Kabita recently sat for her School Leaving Exam and now has three months of holiday. She and two other college-bound girls moved into the girls’ college house to begin their transition to independence. Last week Kabita came to see me and announced that she felt that she should go and help her mother. Despite events of the past, she has always loved her and felt sorry for her. Her mother lives in a small room without plumbing; she sells items on the sidewalk to get by. Kabita told me that she would get a job and take care of her mother and then when school starts she would work and attend a college near her if we could help with the fees. Kabita is leaving behind a comfortable flat with some of her best friends, all expenses paid and opportunities to simply study or work with us in some capacity part time.  She is leaving what she has said has been a dream of a family and her sister whom she is so close to, because Kabita is the type who puts others first and feels that the right thing to do is the only thing to do.

On April 1st, a line about 150 people long queued up to give Kabita a blessing and hug goodbye. She wrote beautiful letters to several of us and handed them over before leaving.

As it is with all of our children we will always be there for her in both good times and bad.

 
 

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Puja Sapkota

Puja has always been a confident and very funny little girl. I believe that a sharp humor illustrates a person’s intelligence and I feel Puja is very intelligent, though she has preferred to hide it from evidence in more traditional ways such as school grades. Pupu, as I have always called her, has been steadfast from day one that her life needs balance and she should not give an inordinate amount of time to study. She has been consistently in the middle of the class almost perfectly so, as if she had her eye on that mark and would tap the brakes a little if she thought she would exceed it. This past year Pupu was in class nine and she began to gain height and recognition from the boys for the striking metamorphosis taking place. And something else started changing in class nine. Her first term results had her leaving the middle pack and start to gain ground, she finished 15th out of over forty.  She claimed it must be some sort of grading anomaly. Her second term she was 9th. “I don’t know what is going on,” she said with a dismissive shake of the head. In the third term she was voted Captain, a high honor by the faculty, for which only a few of our children were selected. I am watching as in a 5000 meter race, Pupu has pulled away from the middle pack with a couple of laps to go and has caught the end of the front pack whose runners turn their heads in disbelief to see her. Pupu smiles affably, but as they turn to resume their demanding pace they hear Pupu’s determined stride letting them know that if they wish to win she will be bringing them through new thresholds. The last lap is already in the books and we will learn this coming Saturday where she finished, but it is clearly no anomaly.

Pupu was roommates with Kabita and Apsara and after Kabita left, the house voted Pupu Captain and representative at the children’s council. And as you have read she was also voted the funniest girl in school; a year of accolades for a girl who has always had a well-rehearsed defense for wanting always to be right in the middle.

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“We have been working hard here on creating programs to continue to challenge our children academically and vocationally and some are falling into place this month, an exciting time for everyone with many exhilarating moments when something works and a few disappointments when they don't. I tend to learn more from my failures and constantly trying things has brought me a lot of education. In the end my children appreciate our attempts that fail just as much as our successes as they are illustrations of our love if not our wisdom.”

I wrote the above in a letter to a friend at some point in January. We had three teaching programs that had been in planning for several months and were looking forward to their commencement in early January. Though I had thought that I had covered all the bases and the programs were sure to be resoundingly successful, I had in my optimism overlooked a potential fly in the ointment, the human element,  and all three programs met with somewhere between never getting off the ground to helpful in a totally different but unsustainable way.

A fourth program has more than made up for the other three and in hindsight I feel that had one or two of the other programs worked it would not have been as positive in its effect upon the children’s learning as the fourth program alone.

Ted Seymour had come for a visit last fall and vowed to return. In late January he did, with the desire to set up the Khan Academy online math program for the children under our Chelsea Education Center. In a little over six weeks’ time, Ted accomplished our setting up five sessions of this individualized program for 55 children. NOH, through grants and donations, bought an additional 22 laptops, battery and inverters for three dedicated Khan Academy rooms, and internet and routers for each. Ted interviewed and hired three young college math professors as coaches for the 11 children in each room.  They assist our own son Dhiraj who is very advanced in his knowledge of computers and math and Anita, our math tutor from Skylark. The Khan program is an amazing tool and the children have eagerly embraced it.

In addition to this, we have considered utilizing the Khan Code Academy in our computer science curriculum where we presently serve 38 children in three different levels of computer science from basic learning of the MS WORD Package to web design and more advanced program writing. We have two extraordinary young teachers for these three classes and our Computer Hardware class is now taught by the trouble shooter for our ISP. All these new folks are dedicated to teaching and have developed great relationships with the children.

Though Ted has gone back to California, he continues to monitor the program and has joined the NOH board of advisors. He is a very smart man who inspired the children with his calm, happy, fun approach to learning and we look forward to his return and advice in between visits.


Ted with his grateful students

 
Dhiraj, Ted, and Emily Gabbard, a mathematics whiz volunteer, who worked with Ted for the success of the program, and on the right one of our new teachers.​


Ted with one of many signs of thanks

Two of our coaches monitoring a class
Dhiraj doing an introduction to potential students and one of the new dedicated Khan rooms.
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Several years ago we had the pleasure of meeting John Lambert who was leading a group of students from a Saudi Arabian private school on a trekking tour of Nepal. This had been arranged by a wonderful 16 year old volunteer with Volunteer Nepal named Sally Cai who was a former student of the school. She contacted John who admired Sally very much and suggested that John’s trekking group spend some time at NOH, and so he arranged to do just that. This year was the third year that the NOH children and ARAMCO children have spent a memorable day together learning about each others’ culture and developing friendships. All the ARAMCO kids are special, but I would like to make mention of a few standouts.


The ARAMCO students in red t-shirts and their NOH partners

Two thirteen-year-old girls named Maya Dalia and Angela Hernandez did fundraisers before coming which netted $2250 USD. I have exchanged e-mails with these bright young girls who have lived in several countries in their young lives, and they reflect a maturity and understanding of the universe that is seldom found in college students. Their efforts were initiated and carried out alone; they illustrated a great understanding of business and marketing.

And a third student named Chiara Fitzgerald at 16 years of age has come twice with the school. On her own Chiara managed to collect clothes, games, school supplies, shoes, dolls, under garments and more, the total weighing over 300 kilos. She paid for the baggage fares herself from her after school and weekend work. The items brought are absolutely beautiful and so useful. But Chiara was not done yet; she also brought a gift for Hope which may have required a separate seat purchase it was so big.

My hat is off to these incredible kids and to their parents for having raised such generous and caring human beings. All three have pretty spectacular futures in store for them.

The relationship with ARAMCO has helped me to gain three very good friends:  Julie Brockish, who with her husband and children have finally returned to the Pacific Northwest where they are in their dream home in a beautiful area; Louis Spencer who retired after almost 30 years with ARAMCO as a teacher and who volunteered with us last October, a man whose company I enjoyed very much; and last John Lambert who like Louis retired the same year.

After the children were returned to Saudi Arabia with their school staff, John remained behind. He has been coming to Nepal for close to thirty years and has many friends here from his early days. One of the best known trekking and mountain guiding companies in Nepal was started by his Nepalese friends. John wanted to take a group of our boys exploring one day with his friend and one of the owners of this trekking company. He wanted to expose them to a potential livelihood and have a fun day of talk and seeing new sites.

They picked up Sam and the boys early in the morning and headed out to Bhaktapur. John shared his life story with the boys and had his friend do the same, 30 years of friendship. John has followed a unique path in his life from dropping out to playing professional basketball to exploring the world and finally settling in as a teacher for 30 years. John has a gift for listening to people and drawing them out. Our boys had a wonderful day and came back full of thought about John, their own futures and the infinite landscape that is their future and how not to be afraid to address it. In a nutshell, they came back eager and inspired.

We really appreciate people like John who go out of their way to bring kindness, wisdom and good times to our children.


Learning about Nepali ancient history with John and his friend in Bhaktapur


John Lambert, center, and one of his lifelong Nepali friends on the right​

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Nepal Orphans Home welcomes its newest son Bimal, who comes from Dolpa, where he has been in the care of a longtime friend of Volunteer Nepal. Bimal is a very bright 13 year old with a confident command of English. He will be starting in class seven when we return to school on the 19th of April. He is very polite and well-mannered with a pretty good sense of humor. Space has been made available for him in the boys’ home, after the opening of our college boys’ flat.


Bimal and Sam in front of the boys’ house

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In closing this update I would like to share my grandchildren with you. In March I returned to Florida to surprise my youngest son Aaron on his 37th birthday and to reunite with my three beautiful grandchildren whom I had not seen in about four years. My son Aaron and his wife Jo are both in the Air Force where Jo is an RN and Aaron a CRNA. They are stationed in Destin on Florida’s west coast. I met many of their colleagues and heard many flattering things about my son and daughter-in-law. I also went with my grandchildren to and from school and met some of their teachers.  I could not be more proud of my son and his family and regretted that my days there were so limited. So, without further ado, my grandchildren:


Ian

Sam

Nora Lynn

Grandpa feeling ever so relaxed
Making names out of dough to place on our Calzone and bake; my daughter in law Jo is an amazing mom and cook.

And my new best canine friend Ava, over 80 pounds of fierce protector of her family wrapped into the sweetest dispositioned dog I have met. I volunteered to babysit for her one day and thoroughly enjoyed a quiet tree-shaded backyard, a good book and Ava at my feet.

And, my beautiful 4th grandchild born a couple of weeks after I left on March 31st. Please meet:

 
​Paxtyn Francesca Hess

Thank you.

All my best,
Papa

January 27, 2015

We left you in our last update with the idea of Thanksgiving being introduced to the children. We did it and the day was a lot of fun. We served a menu unlike anything the children had previously eaten:  a vegetarian selection with garlic mashed potatoes, pearl onions, wok-fried stuffing laced with apple, mushroom gravy, candied sweet potatoes, green bean casserole and a huge array of sweet breads brought by Kathy Procanik and friends. There were several countries represented by many volunteers in the Volunteer House who had returned from placements to join us. In fact the only Americans present were Sam and me. The company was inspiring and left in mid-afternoon with both appetites and spirit sated. Our sweet-bread-bringing guest Kathy is a special friend who was instrumental in bringing us together with our daughter Hope. She had returned to Nepal in her ongoing work for Medical Mercy, the Canadian NGO headed by another great friend Elsie James. Please take a look into the incredible work they're doing at www.medicalmercycanada.org.

We learned a lot while in the kitchen preparing all of this to be simultaneously ready without ovens and using only 3 gas burners. We will build on our knowledge for next year. The kids loved the food and have asked if some of the dishes can be offered occasionally in the evening meals or Saturday tiffins, and we will. 


We served outside and ate picnic style, pods of children dotting the ground.


Sarmila contemplating what this might be on her fork.  Others going back for seconds.


Kathy with Naumaya and friends and with NOH volunteer teacher Maureen.


Dil Kumari and two of her children at Thanksgiving, and on moving day!

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A few days in the life of Priya

In the last update I wrote about Dil Kumari and our search for a new home for her. We resolved this shortly after Thanksgiving.

Dil Kumari and her children share a 2 bedroom flat with a living room, kitchen and a good size bathroom with one of our older daughters Shanti and her 2 year old son.

Shanti returned to us during the October Dashain holiday after a 2 year absence. Shanti walks Dil’s children to school and back again every day and does the cooking for them all; in exchange Dil will watch Shanti’s son in the late afternoon should Shanti wish to join a course at our Chelsea Education Center. We are hoping to find a vocation that Dil would be interested in so that she can learn to live independently sometime in the future.


Together in their new home

Bottom flat is theirs

Dil Kumari’s children

Our boys coming to move the family

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Our son Anil in his 3rd year of 5 at Kathmandu Medical College studying pharmacy

December Birthdays


Puja, 20 (in Tailoring shop)

Deepa, 20 (Asst. Manager)
Lila, 19 (college)

Suman, 11

Kanti, 12

Gita, 20

Bhumika, 13

Jenny Rai, 13

Alija, 17

Kamal, 18

Binita, 20

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Gita Lama has been with me almost from the beginning. She has shown her loyalty to me and the family of NOH during times of countrywide danger and confusion which fortunately have been rare, and during all the good times when opportunities for her have come around she has never flinched. Gita has always made me feel like a father to her, a role I am honored and delighted to feel truly and comfortably fits. Gita and her husband have just become the proud parents of a beautiful little baby boy who as yet, according to tradition, is unnamed.

Gita has taken a 6-month paid leave and with her husband and son will stay on the small rented farm they have where they raise chickens and grow vegetables. Despite everyone’s urging her to go home and prepare, Gita continued to work with us until 1 week before she gave birth.

We had several possible choices for taking over the management of the Sanctuary House, but after only a brief deliberation we asked sisters Deepa and Cila if they would like to do it.

These two girls have shown exceptional maturity and kindness. They are both in college but one has the morning shift and one the afternoon; they are adored by everyone, always willing to do anything that needs to be done without being asked and have a fun sense of humor.

Deepa and Cila have been with us for a long time. Deepa has been the big sister who always does the right thing, urging Cila, a bit more adventurous, along a path as direct as she can to accomplishment. Deepa applies this same loving guidance to their younger brother Roshan. Before the girls were asked to manage, they spent their after or before school time tutoring the girls in Anita’s house and helping out at the café or taking kids to the orthodontist. We are very proud of their accomplishments and see them as perfect role models for the others.


Deepa, center, and Cila on right being honored at a recent Skylark School function.

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Some snapshots of Davit’s world

The last few months of 2014 brought many changes and all of them good. The children are getting older and evolving into their futures with joy, excitement and confidence. One of the most pleasing developments is in the care of our daughter Aakriti. For two years Aakriti has been cared for in one of our homes by a wonderful woman who gave Aakriti a lot of love and special attention. This past fall Jishnu decided that she should return to her husband and children who are quite far away. One of the older girls in our Sanctuary House where Aakriti lived has always given her a lot of attention and shared a warm comfortable relationship with Aakriti. Bipana has also suggested for some time that she wished to drop out of school as she did not see a future for herself that would be smoothed by it. Bipana was in class 9 and had, she felt, enough math to serve her well and saw no sense in the other studies. So when Jishnu announced her intentions, Bipana quickly asked if she might take on that role. She did and things have been great ever since. We enrolled Aakriti into one of three schools for the blind; this one will be for 6 months while she develops a few skills necessary for her to move into another school which is the best and oldest school for the blind in the valley. Bipana takes her every morning and remains at the school helping out until the students are dismissed in the middle of the afternoon. I went to visit one day and left so moved by the work Bipana does at the school. I found that she has become the go-to person for all the parents with questions. The teachers at the school cherish her and how she serves them, the parents and children alike. There comes a moment in every parent’s life when they first see their children in the environment they have created outside the one they share with us, when we see them as others do, as young adults not as the daughter or son of us, but as equals. We watch other adults approach them and hear the respect in their voices when asking them for guidance. These are clarifying and very satisfying moments when we realize our children have grown up and maybe kept this from us by staying in the role of daughter at home when actually they are both daughter and independent young adults. I could not be any prouder of Bipana, she is exceptional by all standards, but also very typical of our children.


Aakriti this past summer

With Bipana at tiffin early this month

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Friendship

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The “Tharu Olympics”

A little more than half of our children are from the Tharu ethnic group which is known to possess uncanny abilities to balance heavy and asymmetrical objects on their heads while performing whatever task is at hand. We discovered that balancing eggs in a spoon or catching them when they drop is not one of their strong suits. But they distinguished themselves on a cold Saturday by balancing various open containers of water on their heads while racing to and fro. 


The “Tharu Olympics Two” will take place in the warmth of spring with hard boiled eggs.

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Here is your sandwich and chips...what else can I do for you? Whew, my turn now.

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Our beloved uncle Jake flew in from Australia on December 15th making Christmas a very fun and heartfelt time. On Christmas Eve we tried to show 10 years of photos of the children on a new projector. The first few photos broadcast on the side of the house brought a wave of cheers and laughter from the assembled, and then the machine turned itself off and refused to yield more than an occasional sputter of a picture.  So we turned to one another instead and by the yellow glow of candles the children mangled the verses to all the Christmas carols we could come up with.  We drank lots of hot chocolate, we basked in the warmth of being a special family together and when the chocolate was finished and the candles burnt low we walked home all together, the most distant house the first to say goodnight at their gate.  Then one by one we watched the other children enter their gates under our affectionate eyes until the last house from where we began turned to say goodnight to me and I walked alone then to sit with Hope while she fell asleep. In the early morning’s light the children would find the crunchy ice brittle ground peppered with bags concealing useful and fun gifts that appeared under cover of darkness with the help of Jake and our volunteer director Eileen and several of her wonderful volunteers. 


Early Christmas morning

Children doing their secret Santa exchange
Children starting to arrive on the grounds

Jake, who towers over us all, helping to serve Christmas dinner and on the right Broadway director Scott Embler sharing his enormous talent with our choral group.  Scott came to NOH as a volunteer as he approaches the end of his around the world trip. It is awe inspiring to see what a professional can do with a group of kids who have been in a singing class for two years. He somehow opened some understanding in them that coaxed out sounds so rich and varied that it had them smiling too hard to keep singing. Scott spent several days over Christmas filming “A Day in the Life” of our kids and will edit this after he reaches home. On his way there he has a stop in Iceland to prepare for his next stop: diving in Antarctica. Scott is an amazingly kind and talented man with a huge appetite for life. 

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To help the children to understand the meaning behind Thanksgiving we held a writing contest in which we asked them what they felt the purpose and meaning of Thanksgiving might be. Our Volunteer Nepal director Eileen and a few volunteers spent a week carefully reading all the essays and chose the best two from each house. As it is with everything the children have written I have saved these thoughtful, touching, humorous essays for the children to have back one day. And the winners are:


Apsara

Bhumika

Sapana

Purnima

Gita

Ajita

Ram Saran

Rabindra


The awarding for best Thanksgiving essays, judges Eileen on left and Laura on right

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Sam recovering from gall bladder surgery with the medicine of love 

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In a year of many firsts we also decided to have the children vote on the one child who they felt had the best year and represented the character of NOH. The voting was impressively spread among many children. All three of these girls have a similar trait and that is their kindness and willingness to help anyone anytime. They are all very hard working and achievement-oriented students who take the time to tutor any of the children without hesitation.


Anisha received the third most votes

Anupa the second most votes

And the clear winner with the most votes: Cila, shown here wearing her award, the Tori Poynton-designed Nepal Orphans Home necklace. Some of Cila’s accomplishments this past year are passing her School Leaving Exam in the first division, winning a full scholarship at Morgan College to play basketball, ending her first term number 2 in her freshman class academically, helping in the Café after school each day, tutoring the girls in Anita’s house every afternoon after school, managing the budget for the college girls’ house and with her equally great older sister Deepa being asked and accepting the job of co-manager of the Sanctuary House. Cila, like all our children, makes us very proud.

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Three countries, three individuals giving of themselves for the children:
Paulo from Portugal, Ted from the US and Hannah from Germany

We have been working hard here on creating programs to continue to challenge our children academically and vocationally and some are falling into place this month, an exciting time for everyone with many exhilarating moments when something works and a few disappointments when they don't; I tend to learn more from my failures and constantly trying things has brought me a lot of education. In the end I find the children appreciate our attempts that fail just as much as our successes as they are illustrations of our love if not our wisdom.

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Gita is now 11 years old, she and her two sisters have been with us for 6 years. I have long suspected that she may have a growth hormone deficiency but I kept waiting to see if she would have a growth spurt in keeping with a couple of other girls that are her same age and original stature. Finally this past fall I found an endocrinologist that had been trained in Massachusetts, a really bright young man, and we started to have Gita tested. Unfortunately he was here only temporarily, and after he returned to Massachusetts, I began another search which ended blissfully with a great doctor who has trained in endocrinology in other countries. He studied her previous test results and ordered what he deemed was the definitive sequential blood test for her and the results came back showing that she was substantially below the established benchmarks for indicating a growth hormone deficiency. He suggested that she should have a good reaction to the treatments and offered growth rate expectancies which were encouraging if not exhilarating. I high fived Gita and told the doctor, let’s get started on what was to be a daily regiment for several years. He then said you should carefully consider this and he wrote the name of a pharmacy rep and told me to call him directly. It turns out that the course of treatments would run us about $22 a day.

Gita is a wonderful girl, always happy and interestingly reads the Bible every night before sleeping. She has not gained much height in the time I have known her. Just now I went to school to have lunch with the children and saw Gita standing next to Juna who was the same height when we brought them both into our homes; Juna is now a foot taller than Gita.

We have always found a way to help not just our children, but other children in the neighborhood, receive what has been on two occasions lifesaving medical treatments. Gita’s life is not in jeopardy, but the issues of quality of life are. The doctor said that she likely would not grow much more than she is now if we do not help her, so is her future to always be the height of a seven year old? If we help her she may attain the height of her shortest sister which is 5”3”, her elder sister is 5’6” and her brother about 5’9”. These are all normal heights in Nepal.

The greatest struggle that I have is that this comes down to a question of money, but I am making it a philosophical one. I have gone over the budget and examined the expenditures we have on behalf of children outside our home. If we stopped sending 20 poor children to school, stopped a five year program of feeding a hot lunch to 100 dalit (untouchables) children every school day, and quit supporting the medical and food cost of 10 blind children we could cover Gita’s growth hormone.

“All for one and one for all” wrote Alexander Dumas, but what does that really mean? It sounds great, but it is best left unexamined. Does it imply that the individual is willing to sacrifice for every individual or for the benefit of all and that the group is also willing to sacrifice for the benefit of one? If so we have a stalemate.

In Nepal there is a tremendous amount of need and we are faced many times a week with decisions like this: Who can you afford to help without placing any burden upon your own children, but now it is one of our children whose help would greatly affect the lives of 130 other children who are unfortunately outside our home.

Is it her destiny to be tiny? Is this a part of a karma she is here to experience? Questions like this I try to ignore, but I have these suggestions brought to my door quite often. Meanwhile Gita waits quietly though I feel in her eyes she is wishing to hear “Tomorrow we will start your treatments;” instead I ask, “How was your day?” and wish her a goodnight’s sleep and remind her of fun events coming up. 

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We live in a world of smiles here

2014 has been a very good year for us at Nepal Orphans Home. Our Volunteer Nepal department has brought some spectacular volunteers to our shore and they have all left their mark in wonderfully contributive ways across Nepal as well as in Dhapasi. They will always be connected by their experience with us and the ongoing help to those who touched them while here. The donors to NOH have also made what we can do for the children and others possible; there isn’t a good enough way to thank them for their trust and belief and care for others.

The children are truly nothing short of amazing and in just a few more years I believe that our older children, armed with higher education and vocational skills, will in their independent lives be reaching back in support of their smaller brothers and sisters still with us.

2015 is firing on all cylinders, the programs that I mentioned above enthusiastically received and I will be reporting on them soon. Comfort should be taken in the fact that the people here to help are truly dedicated and special people whose purpose in life is all about helping others, richly talented folks opting for a year’s emotionally abundant life over another year’s materially abundant one. These are folks who do not mind the problems encountered with building programs as they become more energized by successfully navigating through them.

In closing I want to share a story about 20-month-old Hope that I had shared in a letter with a friend but felt it worthy of repeating.

On Christmas day the children put on a program as they do every year. It is always well rehearsed with each of the four homes providing many sorts of entertainment. We had some wonderful guests with us to celebrate Christmas and I was called away at one point in the program in one of the guest’s behalf. It was at this point that Hope somehow ended up on stage and was given the microphone. Hope is very observant and tends to mimic what she sees to perfection. I have only these two photos and the recollection of a few people about this with which to reconstruct it again now.

Hope took the microphone in hand and paced a little back and forth while coolly scanning the crowd of 150 or so. She did not say a word, but seemed to be in deep thought as to how to begin. People waited, smiling in nervous anticipation, and she looked and they waited some more. Feet began to shuffle and a few called out to encourage her. She paced a bit more like Steven Jobs searching for the right words to announce his latest creation before a crowd with baited breath.  Then she sat down on her mom’s feet, smiling as she slowly scanned the crowd, and then she spoke, one word, like the sermon from the mount, but she had just one thing to tell the assembled before handing the microphone to her mom, one message delivered for them to ponder. Hope simply said, “Papa.”

And that’s my girl and the update for January the 27th, 2015.

Papa



Clockwise from top left: Hope paying respects to Saraswati, the Goddess of education; calling a baby goat; Hope when the goat came to her; Hope and her mom in quiet contemplation.

November 25, 2014

Hope and Anita after a recent morning walk

Fall slipped in as gently as it could — its shorter days edging out the sunlight in late afternoon. Jackets, sweaters and hoods, hot tea, braiding hair as girls shiver in the early morning mist with a faint glow of sun high above the thin grey sky; evening study wearing jackets, stocking caps and shawls, sitting close to one another with pneumatic knees generating a little warmth slightly vibrating the benches, thoughts leaving the page and floating up to their warm, blanket-piled beds, they glance at watches.  Early morning bathing in cold water matching the frigid air brings gallows humor, smiles and laughter from the girls whose long hair lay slowly drying on towels thrown over sweater and shawl-covered shoulders wicking out the water. This is winter in Kathmandu, not for the faint of heart or the humorless, descriptions no one would ever apply to our children. 

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This year Dashain and Tihar consumed all of October. It was longer than usual with our annual bus to the Dang district leaving on the 26th of September and returning on October 26th.

The bus trip over was wonderfully uneventful and we arrived around 8am.  Almost all the guardians were present and within the hour the meeting field was cleared of all but myself and my scooter. I sat with some biscuits and juice and felt the quiet and ghostly energy of our children. The sense of relief at having 67 less loved ones to be responsible for and to have some freedom of movement if but for a few days was generous but in conflict with knowing that I have entrusted others with those same loved ones and they are in the kindest description cavalier in their care of our children. Little did any of us suspect then that a few of us had just said goodbye until I try and find them next year. We learned near the end of our holiday that two girls had gotten married and would not return, marriages made in great haste and without any sense to them, not even the power of love at first sight could help explain this abandonment of all reasonable thought. This is part of the culture and not fair game for western judgment. All we can do we are doing for these children and we have to be satisfied that during their time with us they have learned a great deal, they have had childhoods, they have felt what a loving and happy family feels like, and they have been prepared as much as possible to avoid the snares that lie waiting for the uneducated. Still, traditional thinking is part of their being and the pressure of the village is strong. Those girls returning to Dang are all former Kamlari; they live in villages that are usually quite small and spread out over maybe 40 square miles, and many of them require a long walk from the road to reach. Regrettably, the villagers fail to recognize the value of their returning kin and work quickly to try and assimilate them again into village life. Conditions are difficult, work is long and hard each day and they live hand to mouth. With each passing year I am less confident in my thinking as to why the children return to their village, and so are they. When the holiday is over and I sit waiting to see the children and guardians appear at the fields’ edge, the children are carrying their heavy bags and walking ahead of the uncle or aunt, brother or cousin or sometimes mother; it is a neglectful procession towards the bus as it was away from it a month earlier and my heart goes out to my children. When they get back on the bus they find community in saying never again, they smile and grow excited to be returning to Dhapasi and like so much in their previous lives they dust it off and leave it behind.

We came back to Dhapasi with a few days of holiday remaining to scrub up, wash clothes, regain health, rid hair of lice, decompress and prepare for school. In those days the children smile, laugh, embrace each other and the life they have. They reset and begin again.

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For those of us staying in Dhapasi for the month, we had a relaxed and good time. Each day had the mornings filled with scheduled classes in math, knitting, tailoring, reading and basketball, followed by lunching together before returning to their separate homes for afternoons spent as they desired. 

Most of the staff took the month off while house managers took 2 to 3 weeks. Anita Mahato was called to her village early due to the declining health of her grandfather. He had asked for her and when she arrived he grew stronger basking in her company. When he was again ambulatory and feeling much better Anita returned to Dhapasi. A week later she was called by her father and told that her grandfather did not wake up that morning. Anita left later that day and remained in her village for the following 13-day rites of passage. 

Recent photo of Anita’s Grandfather ​Anita’s family 4 years earlier; Anita in center

During her two trips home I had the pleasure of sitting with her girls and Hope. We had a wonderful time, the girls cooking breakfast and I relishing the dinner duties where I tried to cook a different meal each evening. With each creation I found the girls to be gracious and funny diners. During this time I was treated to 24 hours a day of Hope and we loved it. She has always been such a neat little person developing new capabilities seemingly by the hour.

Of our boys, Sam had only Himal, the boys’ house captain staying behind. We arranged for him to work with Volunteer Nepal for the month. He learned a lot, traveled to some placements and was a great help to the staff and arriving volunteers.

We scheduled 8 field trips during the month with my favorite being a morning at the National Gardens, a sprawling Eden-like landscape surrounded by mountains. The well-manicured grounds and botanical gardens are a paradise away from the dirt and frenzy of Kathmandu. We brought binoculars that had been gifted over the years and went in search of birds under Sam’s guidance. Truly a splendid day, warm and quiet where all the senses were treated well.

We had an NOH board member Carola Drosdeck here for the month with her son Tyler, who spent a couple of weeks as well. Tyler is an artist, musician, mechanic, philosopher and great guy who made quick friends with Himal and provided a lot of maintenance work as well as fun and friendship to the children. 

Carola with some of the boys and Tyler after receiving his Dashain Tika

Carola lives in Cleveland, Ohio, where she has just retired from 30 years of teaching. She has been working with administration and planning for NOH, primarily in our Volunteer Nepal, department for many years. This was her third trip to Dhapasi. This year she reinvigorated our reading program (which had been created by volunteer Chloe Carrucan as part of her master’s program), while helping our class ten children daily in math and science. She conducted health workshops for all the girls (which followed their yearly physical by an extraordinary young Japanese Gynecologist named Erika Takahashi). Carola organized the libraries in each of the children’s homes, worked closely with the Volunteer Department and spent time with all the children individually. Also here during the Dashain period was Yoav Deri, a longtime friend of NOH. Yoav brought his daughter and her boyfriend as well. Friends of the Ambassador to Nepal from Israel, Yoav and his children were called into duty after the tragedy on Annapurna. They spent the better part of the week working phones at the Embassy. 

Himal during Dashain with Santa Yoav Deri at our Dashain Puja

For many years our friend Kathy Kirk from Australia has been holding fundraisers for NOH. Kathy, who is a manager with Oracle, has had some fun ideas getting children in her town involved with NOH and worked hard to ensure their success. She returned after several years to spend the holiday with us and brought her granddaughter Chrissie shown on the left next to our daughter Gita. Chrissie was a pure joy to have around, a really bright and sensitive girl who deeply felt the love and open hearts of our home. Sadly Kathy lost her mother a few weeks before her trip here; her mother’s kindness has warmed every one of our children and staff during our long winters. Her mom was a prodigious knitter who spent her days making blankets, shawls, stocking caps and mittens which Kathy always managed to find another Australian to carry over to us.

Louis Spencer is a new friend to NOH. Louis had recently retired from almost 30 years as a teacher at the ARAMCO School in Saudi Arabia. He learned about us from our close relationship with some of the teaching staff and students who pay us an annual visit. On the right above is my very good friend and pen pal Lou Poynton holding Aakriti. Lou manages the time to come each year which always delights the children. She has a special way with all people and the kids are drawn like magnets to her warmth, humor and understanding of being young at any age. Lou’s two daughters and son have all spent time with us. Lou’s is a wonderful and dynamic family of unique and very caring individuals.

Laurie Levine, author and active NOH Board Member came for a quick visit with her friends Narelle and Maureen. Laurie has developed a very close bond over the years with Samjhana and Apsara, the two girls on either end in this photo.

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Our college kids are doing well. The seven who started this year recently received their first term results.

​Deepa started after the first term,
​her results will come in the New Year
​Ashok was 7th
Sushila was ranked 14th Lila ranked 5th
​Rajina ranked 2nd in her class Cila at her college and on a basketball scholarship came in 2nd in her freshman class. She told me yesterday, with a grin, “Papa, I am going to be awesome,” in reply to my congratulating her on a job well done.
 ​Yeshordha came in 6th  ​Ashok seen here with the middle of three generations of the family-run local grocery store


Yeshordha back row, far left and Ashok back row third from left in black

After school Ashok works for our local grocer while Deepa and Cila help the younger kids with their homework. Yeshordha, Sushila, Rajina and Lila attend vocational classes and help out when their schedule permits, at our café.  We are very proud of them all.

 ​Yeshorda, Rajina, Lila and Sushila upon arrival and Cila and Deepa in their 2nd year with us

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Some of the students in our Chelsea Education Center’s music class went to a recording studio recently to record a song that they had been working on. They had a fun day and learned a lot. Their music teacher is hoping to get them some further exposure on local media.

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“A Profile in Courage”

I have in private letters written about the woman pictured above. These photos were taken the other morning when a few of my girls and I went to visit with her. We brought clothes for her three children and a bed with mattress, pillows and blankets. She had been living with her mother who moved out of the small earthen-floor room taking the bed and cooking gas cylinder with her. Her mother, a petite thin woman gives the appearance of being regal, her few clothes always neat and carefully worn, a pearl-like necklace always in place, her shawl symmetrical; she moves slowly with a practiced composure and listens with hands folded together like a queen, her gaze upon you quietly indifferent. She seems to be living in a gauzy nightmare, royalty trapped inside the existence of a pauper. Her daughter Dil Kumari is crippled. I am not sure if by polio, but her legs are bent in a way that makes her standing posture appear as though she is sitting on an imaginary chair; she walks with knees like angled pistons, chafing past one another, ankles touching the ground, supporting herself with a walking stick, her baby on her back. She has two other children, daughters 4 and 7.

The other evening when I went to the Chelsea Education Center to retrieve the kids from their second class I found Dil Kumari and her three children sitting on the stoop. It was dark and cold, the baby was cradled close to Dil’s chest but with his bare feet dangling. His two sisters sitting next to their mother in button-less rags; the baby was sick and they had come to the pharmacy for medicine and then to the CEC to meet me. Dil’s spirit seemed deflated. Her mom had moved and taken her meager possessions with her. From where she sat with her children staring quietly at me, they had only a short walk down a slippery rock strewn path to reach their 10’ square room, but with nothing other than a straw mat on the floor to greet them, there would be no joy in arriving. It is cold out, the baby is sick, the children’s wide pearl black eyes quietly searching their mom’s face for comfort. No lights, no water, no toilet at home, no cauldron full of hot porridge even to warm their belly; a crippled mother alone with three small children depending upon her to comfort and feed them, but a mother now abandoned by her own.

“Hope’s Fund” has been supporting the family for a long time now. Dil Kumari’s mother, for many months threatening to move out, finally made good on it. We have tried for as many months to find clean rooms with water and a toilet to move Dil and her children into, but the people of Dhapasi seem to have run out of rooms, so we continue our search. We provide school fees and school supplies for the daughters, all the food and cooking gas and two-burner stove as well as medicines for Dil, but it is not enough. One of the striking things about Dil is her disposition, she always smiles and seems cheerful, and she is always kind and thoughtful. Only once before had I seen her break down, the sadness sudden and powerful, trembling her frail body to the ground.

Dil has asked me on a few occasions to please take her children into our home, but each time I have gently refused, instead offering support for them to stay together. I fear that if we were to take the children, Dil would give up. I don’t know if I am making the right decision.

“Hope’s Fund” began when a number of people held fundraisers in her honor. More money came in than what Hope’s immediate needs required and so we have we used it to help others with special needs such as Dil Kumari, Namda a blind orphaned girl attending college, and a small home with 10 blind children living in it. The latter help includes medical treatments and food for the home. In the course of the medical treatments we found one young girl a candidate for a corneal transplant which she successfully had almost a year ago now.

Sustaining these efforts and wishfully expanding upon them will require added fundraising; if anyone is interested in helping to support these causes and others that target help for the disabled please let us know.

Meanwhile for Dil and her children we will try to find a good set of rooms, rooms where the sun is able to enter and warm them, rooms with a real door that locks, clean rooms where the children can feel real shelter and some hope.

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Today is Tuesday the 25th of November. Three weeks ago I had what seemed a good idea that we should celebrate Thanksgiving. After lunch one Saturday we assembled all the children and some of the visitors we had, and in an impromptu talk I told all the children the history of Thanksgiving with little concern for historical accuracy, creativity assisting the point I was trying to make, that this is a day celebrated in America in which all people look inward and reflect upon their lives and what they are thankful for and turning that into expressions of care for others. We had in our midst a family of Bhutanese refugees who had relocated to America where they have made good and become contributing American citizens, and unknown to me as I spoke of the generosity of the Native Americans we had a full-blooded Navaho listening. Only after the meeting broke did she reveal this to me; she is from the Chin Le reservation in Arizona, a place I visited a couple of times in the years that my brother Bob taught there.

Anyway, I added to my narrative some of my favorite Thanksgivings with family and the sprawling feast before us, and how often I draw upon those special memories. I suggested that we would be doing the same. I have to start making things tomorrow; we have, by the way, no ovens and the kitchen in which I will produce this meal (with plenty of conscripted help) has three gas burners, two small and one large upon which food for a potential 180 will somehow come together. A vegetarian feast trying to replicate Thanksgiving, all from scratch, from stuffing to pearled onions, candied yams, green bean casserole, garlic mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, rolls and butter. Chocolate bars and oranges for dessert. What will save this day is what is most notable of our home, the children and staff, the love and care, the good humor and sharing that exist here. What will make this meal special is surely not going to be the lukewarm lumpy food, but the love that produced it and the idea of family and the overture to serve, and the heartfelt thanks that each of our children will give for this day as they do every day. Some pictures recently taken in closing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

Love, Papa

August 11, 2014

Our children are getting older, so many of the boys have these furry little caterpillars on their upper lips appearing. One morning they are looking up to my face in our daily greetings and the next they are looking straight across as they firmly shake my hand. In about three years we will have as many in college as at Skylark. Some of my older kids were overheard a few weeks back talking to a few of their local friends who were teasingly asking them if when they go to college is Papa going to walk you there in line as he does to Skylark? I asked what did they respond and I was told, “We hope so.”

Dhiraj Ram  Ishwor

College is when our children really start to exercise their independence. This year we have six more of the children beginning. As always, we had an early morning “Puja” in a light rain for them. On this day their complete uniforms had yet to arrive but their college sport shirts brightened up the darkness.

Dawn Kumari giving “Tika” to Yeshodha Cila on right in her Morgan College Dress

There are many months between the children sitting for their college entrance exams and results, and then another month before the 1st semester begins. We had seven sit for the exams and 6 pass in the first division; the 7th, Deepa, missed one subject by 4 points and must retake that exam. All seven spent their time productively helping in the homes, our café, taking “bridge” courses, and teaching at a local understaffed school where our volunteers also help out.

This year’s group of seven are great children; I am immensely proud of the way they would continue to rise at 5 a.m. and follow a schedule of their own making that had them walking great distances to meet all their commitments. They were always cheerful and on time and by day’s end exhausted. They have certainly found relief in the opening of college.

Cila was offered a full scholarship at Morgan College to play basketball, a game she loves and excels at. Cila continues to go to Anita’s House after school every day and tutor the younger girls. Deepa has just taken her make up exam and, if passing, she too has been offered to join Morgan.

Cila with MVP and Tournament Champs trophies and Deepa, number 11 in the finals.

The other five children will join their brothers and sisters already attending Herald College.

NOH children began attending Herald School in 2005, even before college level courses were added.

Morgan College Cila on Morgan’s concrete court
Herald International College Saroj, Rojina, Lila, Sushila, Yeshodha, Ashok

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On June 14th we had our first day of grass cutting at Papa’s House grounds. We decided to have a little fun before we began and so we scattered 150 boiled eggs with numbers on them that corresponded to a prize list in waiting. The prizes were all good, mostly edible and some top prizes included a dinner out with their house manager, or shopping trips, just them with their managers.  I was a “prize” (questionable) for two winners; one a pizza in Thamel together and the other had me cooking dinner for the winner and two friends of their choosing.

Nama winning 3 coconuts Eagerly hoping to hear their numbers called
Bipana learning she won the dinner with two friends and our newest daughter Nargise

I had a really pleasant lunch with Himal in Thamel; we had a chance to relax and talk and for him to share his current hopes and dreams. These are all too rare treats when you have so many children and it is my biggest regret, but we are always looking for ways to spend more time alone or with small groups of the kids doing things smaller families do. One recent Friday evening Sam, Saroj and I barbecued chicken at the boys’ house using a southern recipe my father enjoyed. I wish my Dad could have been handling the tongs, and I hope that the boys feel in their lives the love I felt from my father.

Then it was on with the grass cutting. Our playground is roughly 15,000 square feet. The children, some armed with small scythes and others with empty rice sacks for the cut grass, start at one end and, duck-walking while cutting away, they reach the other end of the field in about an hour’s time. We dump all the fresh grass over the wall where goat and cow herders are quick to collect it. Then the children line up to walk back to their homes for tea and a bit later their morning meal.  It is not yet 6:30 with so much accomplished on a Saturday.

Even volunteers rise and meet us at 5 in order to help; that is Sharon in the green shirt.
Hope is game though falling back into sleep, here, in a dream she is a symphony conductor.

This past Saturday, August 2nd we celebrated July birthdays and results from the final term of last year. And the winners are!

First in their class, Saraswati, Apsara, Rupa, Sandiya, Juna and Srijana KC
Second in their class; Pinkey, Bhumika, Yeshorda, Mary and Kusboo
Third in their class: Gomarti, Alisha, Anita and Anupa as the rain begins

Class 8 district exams top finishers in Papa’s House were left to right in order of finish Himal, Roshan, Kamal, Ishwor and Sabita as the rain grows in determination.

After a pause the sun returns while we honor children who maintained over 90%, and they are:

From Gita’s House are Anu, Kanti, Salina and Kailashi
From Anita Mahato’s House those with over 90% are left to right: Pushpa, Mankumari,  Asmita, Kausil, Kamana, Anisha, Prety and Asha
And from Anita Chaudhary’s House those attaining 90% are from left: Asmita, Naumaya, Samira, Samjhana, Manisha, Juno and Priya with Purnima and Kalpana behind them.
From Sam’s Boys’ House and to a thunderous applause led by their big brothers Suman on left and Davit.

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On Saturday last we asked the children in each house to vote on a representative for them in an effort to create a Children’s Council. We explained that the person they choose should be available for any child or group of children in the home to discuss any issue, happiness, need or complaint with them. Then this representative would present all issues in a meeting with the other representatives, managers and me on the last Thursday evening of every month. As a group we will discuss the issues followed by the managers and I voting on request or offering council and resolution where needed. The representatives would be learning management skills. The children will know the result of their representative’s efforts in a written report the following Saturday. They then would have the weekend to consider voting in a new manager or staying the course. We plan to make the Thursday evening meetings end with a bowl of ice cream and casual talk.

Gita is missing here but Bipana on left is her house rep. Sam and Himal; Bimala and Anita,Kabita and Anita C.

We ended our Saturday together with the birthday celebration, 14 of our children had July birthdays. Each house manager is charged with buying the gifts for their children and they do so with joy and excitement.

My favorite photos of those celebrating were of Aakriti who had turned 7; this past year has seen so much progress in her walking, music playing, hearing and speaking. She has had Jishnu to care for her one on one for a long time and she does a remarkable job along with Aakriti’s teacher Shivahari.

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Through the effort and attention of two of our volunteers, I was inspired to visit a small home for physically or mentally disabled children known as Om’s House. Om is disabled, bedridden but with two healthy siblings and loving parents. As is the case with most homes, money is always an issue, but after spending several hours in conversation with Om’s mother while playing with the children I felt that they deserved the support of NOH. One of the volunteers, Tanya Pearson, a Smith College student, went home and started a fundraiser for the home as well. The other volunteer Sharon is at the home daily, scrubbing, bathing, playing, feeding, holding, and giving so much love to these children. These two volunteers really make a difference and are exceptional, not among our volunteers, but among people. Our eldest daughter Sangeeta will start volunteering there on Tuesday August 12th.

Tanya with two highly cognizant and always smiling children​

Om’s Mom Ratna, center can’t afford to pay more than for one part time helper, but the girl under her arm, Srijana, lives there and when not in school is helping around the house; she is a great 17 year old who is both deaf and dumb, but writes well in Nepalese and English. The little boy being held by Tanya gave me a wonderful hour in my arms.  He had suffered from encephalitis and has limited communicative or motor skills, but he snuggled into my arms and grinned at me and brought a wonderful serenity to my day. This little girl on the right is Om’s charming sister.

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Our Café has found its rhythm under the talented and professional skills of Lachi (center on right) and assistants Saraswati on left and our own Rukmani on right. A revised menu has increased the daily volume to average 300 meals served; a few days a week they hit highs of 360 meals served. Lachi has a deft touch that teases the palette and brings smiles to students and teaching staff alike, so they return to class happy and energized. She manages to provide great nutrition at a cost less than 15 cents a day per plate, the fee we charge the staff and village students.

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August 10th was Brothers Day in Nepal; each year the girls spend a month in preparation to celebrate their brothers. They dance, sing and do skits, tie special threaded bracelets on each boy’s wrist and apply tika to their foreheads. Lachi and staff prepare a fun lunch, hundreds of photos are taken and the grounds are busy with play and conversation. We managed to do it all before the rains came in midafternoon. Two banners were made, one exquisitely drawn by the girls in Anita Mahato’s House, a collaboration of many, and the other embroidered by the girls in Anita Chaudhary’s House. The embroidered one involved several girls spending countless hours. They had drawn the design on the back side and began the tedious task of embroidering, apparently mesmerized by the task. When finished, they turned it over to see the beauty of their effort only to discover it read backwards. They were crushed, but laughed it off knowing they created something more memorably fun than perfection would have.

Banners lovingly produced by the homes of the two Anitas
Kabita Basnet, MC for the day​ Boys patiently waiting for their tika
Volunteer and longtime friend Jason Stone and Michael T. receiving their blessing
Kausila on left and Sunita singing Aakriti played the Madal, sang and danced
Our great new Boys’ House didi Namita and daughter Nargisha, and Samira singing
Anisha sporting owl earrings Chham singing
Kamali singing Gita’s House girls dancing

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Dhiraj is an exceptional boy in class 10 this year. He has a natural understanding of anything electronic and knows computers inside and out. He has been taking software classes for a few years and after one full year of computer hardware training, he replaced his teacher, a masters degree holder in computer science who had left for America. 

Dhiraj at Skylark in 2007 Dhiraj at the boys’ home 2006
Hari and Dhiraj spring of 2006 Anita and Dhiraj sharing tiffin and talk 2008

Dhiraj is a very kind and gentle boy, soft-spoken but highly respected in class, teaching children older than himself computer hardware during the week and Photoshop on Saturdays. I interviewed him recently. He introduced himself as follows:

“I am Dhiraj Yadev. I am 16 years old and I study this year in grade 10 at the Skylark English School which is in Dhapasi, Kathmandu. I am from a small village which is in the southern part of the country near the Indian border. I am one of the kids staying at Papa’s House since I was 8 years old. I love staying at Papa’s House and spending my happiest days with Papa, my brothers and sisters and especially with SAM. I have got such a lucky chance to stay and live in Papa’s House and enjoy my life with all the rights and happiness which I think no one could give me. I am a lucky child because more than 70% of the children in Nepal are deprived from their rights, happiness and basic needs.”

Why do you think Dhiraj Yadev exists?
“I think that I exist because I was born with a great destiny. Everyone is born with a talent with which they can do goodwill for the country.”

What makes people behave as they do?
“Everyone is equal according to the great people like Mother Theresa and Mahatma Gandhi. Being rude and unfriendly is part of nature, but it is our enemy. Arrogance and jealousy lead a man towards darkness; we should not be arrogant with our success or envious of others’ prosperity. People leading lives without arrogance and jealousy become great people. I want to live like this and I want for all people to behave without discrimination and behave to all the same way.”

Do you have a code that you live by?
“I live in a code that says DON’T QUIT. My code says that although you get failure in life you should never quit because failure is one key to success.”

Should a person choose a career that makes them happy or rich?
“A person should always choose a career that makes him happy and then he will think of his job as a game and will always want to play. My career is not fixed, but I like computers.”

Which person is better and why, a rich dishonest man who gives half his money to the poor or a poor honest man who helps his neighbor?
“Both. A dishonest man who gives half his money to the poor is honest in he cares for others.”

Would you rather marry a beautiful woman who makes you smile sometimes or an unattractive woman who makes you laugh every day?
“I would much rather marry a woman who makes me laugh everyday.”

Which is more important, Health, Wealth or Wisdom?
​“Health is very important because you can’t enjoy wealth or wisdom without it. With health you can achieve wealth and wisdom.”

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The Chelsea Education Center is firing on all cylinders. One of the classes that I wish to highlight today is our shoe-making class. We lucked out in finding a kind, gentle and gifted cobbler to teach this art to our children. We have two crowded sessions each day.

Some completed shoes Anita with her latest
Tilak Sandesh Hari
Our gifted teacher Arjun Roshan

All of our school shoes are now made by the students. A teacher from Skylark stopped by the other day and was very impressed; he suggested that we make the shoes for all the student body as a business. We may pass on that for now in deference to our neighborhood cobbler, but we are working on marketing a shoe design that may be a money maker for our children while teaching them all about being entrepreneurs.

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Hope’s Progress

About a month ago we were called to bring Hope to try the devices being made to help her walk. These were a work in progress, fittings really. 

The Disabled Center Hope’s first fitting

Then on the 25th of July we were asked back to try the refined edition. We were in a crowded room of people receiving therapy all who were watching Hope out of the corners of their eyes. We slipped the devices on, the shoe part further secured by electrical tape. Hope stood and we steadied her.  Then a large therapeutic ball was brought out and I was instructed to turn Hope and place her hands on it and, after straightening her legs, to release her. The ball rolled a little forward and Hope clung tenaciously to it, stiff as a board in a 12-degree slant. The room was silent; all eyes had focused on her, waiting, waiting when she suddenly stepped forward with her right foot and then her left to standing straight again.  The room exploded in applause and cheers and Hope, blurry in my eyes, knowing I would be there, sort of jumped back into my arms. 

Hope standing at the second fitting learning to get some balance

After her first unassisted steps and a little rest the therapist worked with her some more.

On August 7th, which coincided with the day last year that Hope came home to us from the hospital, we were called to have her try the final devices. Hope is determinedly independent and insisted on trying to fit the devices herself. Once on she stood and looked around for someone to play catch with and in the far left photo she rears back for the throw.

Yesterday, August 10th: Anita taking Hope for a walk

 A few moments in our little girl’s life:

“The first time ever I saw your face” Getting to know the family
First ice cream last October One year old, April 30th
First Christmas Three months and smiling
Computer work last winter With Mom — these two are always laughing

Saturday August 9th, applauding the grass cutting with her best friend Priety, and on the right, thinking about the future of the ant’s journey before her.

From all the children and staff of Nepal Orphans Home,

Thank You.

Papa

May 12, 2014

SOME OF THE FACES OF HOLI

March 16th commemorates the birth of my son Aaron and this year the prevailing of good over evil in Hindu scripture; known as Holi, this is a symphony of color and water. The play is robust and wet, the skin and hair requiring long periods of detailed scrubbing when it is over and the clothes fit thereafter only for another Holi. By lunch time a warm somnolent air has settled over the village, the children have bathed and are ravenous, they are wearing crisp colorful kurta sulwars, their hair fresh and sparkling light in the breeze, they spend the afternoon quietly talking, reading, doing homework and taking thoughts of their morning’s play with them as they drift  into peaceful naps.





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This year we opened a transition house for 6 of our college girls. The house is a small cottage that we originally rented and used for an office, library, art room and guest quarters. The cottage is next to our main house and grounds. Of the six girls, Sushila, Rojina and Lila are sisters, Cila and Deepa are sisters and Yeshordha is everyone’s friend.  They are responsible for taking care of themselves, living on a budget, maintaining good grades and walking to college and back on time. We have imposed no other restrictions. The girls are doing great; they are serious in their studies and tend to gravitate over to see Dawn Kumari at Papa’s House at different times each day to see if they can help her. Dawn Kumari has been the mother figure for 5 of the girls for many years now and she too will pop into the cottage from time to time to visit.


Left to right: Yeshordha, Sushila, Rojina, Cila, Lila and Deepa in their kitchen

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NOH has had a very busy spring with many visitors. For the second year in a row we were blessed to have a visit by the Saudi ARAMCO School. The school sends a large group of children to Nepal each year to trek and experience a different culture.  This year they sent 22 boys and 5 girls between the ages of 13 and 17. Over the last two years I have had the great pleasure to work and become good friends with Julie Brockish and John Lambert who have spearheaded this program. Their dedication to detail in providing 27 young people with an experience of this magnitude in a country where plans and time schedules are a running joke has been extraordinary. This year the group leader (with Julie and John in support) was Catherine McLandress. Each year we try to come up with fresh ideas. Using age as a criterion, many of our girls were matched with boys; they were clearly shy at the calling out of names ceremony, but found their voice soon enough as they led their partners on a tour of Dhapasi, our homes and schools. After lunch we went to the “Monkey Temple” Swayembunath, a very large Buddhist stupa and community covering maybe 20 acres and home to as many monkeys as visitors and residents combined. The children of ARAMCO are very nice, courteous kids who showed careful attention to their partners and quiet respect everywhere they went. The parents of these children also did a small fundraiser in our behalf.  Julie brought with her a large collection of prize winning children’s books and each of the children carried a duffle bag full of supplies for both NOH and the children of villages that their trek would be taking them through. We appreciate the time spent with us and the kindness of all. These are fun and memorable days for our children.


After meeting at Papa’s House

Anita and her match at Swayembunath​

Bumikha and her match

Srijana, Ramesh and their partner
   
ARAMCO boys with our Khusbu and Mary behind

Kamana and her new friend

Sushmita and her young man

Sam and John Lambert
 

Julie Brockish, Tamara Chant, Yoav Deri
and Anita Mahato

Group shot at a small Stupa

Catherine McLandress, Papa and Hope

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Other visitors who have spent time with us this spring include our good friend from Israel. Yoav Deri who served as a volunteer a few years back and has remained a very active advocate for NOH and Volunteer Nepal. Yoav along with our board member Tamara Chant has managed to bring two of the directors of Latet, Israel’s largest volunteer organization, here to see how we might join together in a model project in the village of Dhumrikaka where NOH/VN has been working for the past 5 years. This year he brought Nissim Bar-El for a ten day survey of our work.


Tamara, a Smith grad, with a Smith prodigy

Chham and Nissim Bar-El crooning

Tamara with her friend Shoshana on right 

Yoav with his many admirers 

*******

Six years ago we had a University of Minnesota Professor of Sociology and her assistant live with us for three weeks while studying the dynamics of our home. This spring Jennifer and Priti returned for a very fun reunion. They remembered all the children who were present then and marveled at their growth and mastery of English. Jennifer and her husband years ago started a small home in Nepal and spent much of their time there; they have a great managerial staff and support it from the states. Priti, a Nepalese native has since received her Master’s in social work and has married. We had a delightful day together.


Priti, Jennifer, Kabita and Puja reminiscing 

*******

Glenn Detrick is another of our board members who spent a couple of weeks with us in April. Glenn gave NOH the funds to begin the Chelsea Education Center named after his daughter. During his time with us he taught many classes in life skill training with workshops covering topics such as the essential habits of successful people. He had the children doing research on topics they chose and presented before the others and Glenn led robust class discussions.


​Volunteer Nepal Director Michael T, Glenn, Anita, Hope and CEC supporter, Glenn’s longtime friend and trekking partner Larry McNabb

Glenn had been consulting with Lauren Yanks, another board member who spends about 5 months a year working with a local college. Lauren is an instructor in the New York University system and has been with NOH for the past 4 years. Each Saturday, Lauren has been teaching a great class in public speaking to around 20 of our older children, and she shared her notes and classes with Glenn. NOH is truly blessed to have a board as involved as ours.


Lauren Yanks greeting her class one cold morning


Lauren’s two Saturday morning classes in Public Speaking

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We welcomed a new child recently; his name is Hematha. Hem’s arrival took some interesting turns; Hem’s older brother Tilak was one of 12 children we rescued from a miserable home about 7 years ago. One of the people who provided paperwork for that rescue had since moved on and become elevated in the department of Social Welfare. Hem’s home was closed recently and no one knew quite what to do with him, thus he was brought to the attention of the Social Welfare Council and with further digging by this same gentleman he discovered that Hem was Tilak’s little brother and called us. Tilak and Hem were ecstatic to be reunited.


Kanchi with Hem this past Saturday

Kanchi, Suman, David and Hem

*******

Our little Aakriti has been growing in many ways in the past few months. She has blossomed suddenly in her ability to walk unaided, to talk, to hear, and her music ability on the keyboard is most impressive. Aakriti has been cared for by Jishnu who is one in a million in the dedication and love, the constant encouragement and teaching she gives Aakriti. Together they live in Gita’s house with 34 other children who adore Aakriti and spend countless hours talking to and playing with her. With Jishnu in deserving credit is Shivahari who for the past 12 years has been teaching blind and deaf children. He spends half a day three days a week with Aakriti. His gentleness and fatherly patience and affection are now showing themselves in Aakriti’s development.

Anne Zrenda who volunteered with us many years ago met Aakriti when she was a baby. She was so touched by her that she returned to the States and started Aakriti’s Kids Foundation. Anne is responsible for all the support that has been made available to Aakriti. Anne will be arriving this September and we are all excited to see their reunion. Aakriti has become a beautiful little girl who does not feel limited in her life, all thanks to Anne.


Jishnu and Aakriti, May 2014

Shivahari and Aakriti, April 2013

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Each day here is resplendent. We are a family of 160 or so individuals with our own thoughts, needs, wants, fears, hopes and disappointments inspired by or resultant of the family as a group. We operate each day with a well-defined schedule full of opportunity to expand one’s horizons and prepare for one’s future. School consumes the largest part of the day, vocational school follows and early mornings have basketball, Tai kwon do, running, walking, sipping tea and talking or finishing up homework before breakfast. The routine is good; it’s comfortable and nudges everyone forward a little bit more each day. But once in a while a child feels a need to step off the treadmill and talk. The children have a tacit understanding that we are providing as varied opportunities as possible to them which they should be taking advantage of and preparing for their futures; the older children have a sense that due to starting school so late in life they need to double down and try to catch up.

The other day one of our girls seemed distracted and I asked what was up.  After some hesitation she said that she did not want to go to school anymore. Ruki will be 18 this October and is reading in Class 7. She has always worked hard in her studies and easily passed, but she simply does not see herself having any desire in her adult life that would be related to having finished a certain level of school. She is a happy girl, easygoing and funny, intelligent and sensitive. I asked what she did want to do and she said to focus on vocational training.  She loves her shoe-making class and German, and she said during the day she could help out in the café and learn to be a really good cook. I asked how she saw herself over the next few years, and she said having her own shoe-making shop would be fun, or her own café or being an au pair in Germany for a year or two and see what comes from that would all make her very happy. Our girls are getting older, most of them spent years as slaves before we were able to rescue them. They work hard, but for many of them their push towards academic milestones will in my opinion find only smoke and mirrors in the end. There are few opportunities in Nepal for those graduating college, fewer for those passing their School Leaving Exam which occurs after class 10. This is why the Chelsea Education Center is so important, this is why I honored Ruki’s feelings and by doing so I saw Ruki’s departing spirit climb back in and pump her up. The Chelsea Education Center is currently teaching 12 classes twice a day; my goal for the next academic year which starts in April 2015 is to make the vocational school a daylong event for those children who wish to master a trade and get started in life. I see in a few years the possibility of having Dhapasi filled with shops run by our children and this image is one that truly makes me smile and feel the joy of life. The Joy of Life, something we all need to find today and not later as a result of today and tomorrow’s sacrifice.


This is Ruki in a photo I took a few days before she and I talked
and she shared her feelings about school.

*******

A few months ago we received an e-mail from Rui Pires, a Portuguese filmmaker and photographer of international acclaim. He wrote that he would be in Nepal for five days in May and asked if we would like him to give us two of those days to record a day in the life of NOH. In the ensuing months we exchanged e-mails and found this man to be incredibly humble and generous in his commitment to us. Rui and his assistant Bruno spent Sunday and Monday the 4th and 5th of May taking individual photos of every child and staff member as well as candidly taking photos as we went about our day. They managed to capture three hours on film as well, which included interviews with several of our children about their past.  On Rui’s second day here, he received a text message letting him know that he had won the UNESCO Humanitarian Photographer of the Year award. Rui smiled at the phone screen and went back to interacting with the children. In a few weeks’ time, Rui will be sending the film and photos to us which he will have made into a short film. Please go to http://www.facebook.com/RuiPiresPhotography to learn more about this very kind and talented man.


Rui preparing to photograph Priya

Sam with Rui and Bruno at the Skylark school

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In closing, a few moments that made us proud or brought us all together occurring since the last update:

Vinod Mahato who is living in North Carolina with his wife Alecia recently won a writing contest at his community college; he wrote about his life and in addition to winning the contest in a student body of thousands, he soon after earned a complete scholarship to study there. Vinod and Alicia Skype each day with Anita, Hope and all the girls; he talks about life in America with the self-effacing humor of one making his way in a strange new land. He is a great inspiration to us all.

Sisters Deepa and Cila have won scholarships from a good college to play basketball for them.


Deepa, number 11 in the final game of the tournament, which we won, and Cila as MVP

Anita Mahato and her sister Sunita turned 24.

And Hope turned 1!

And that is that, for the love of one and all,
Papa

February 18, 2014

Sunita Mahato came to NOH with her sister Anita in the spring of 2006. In 2012 we opened the Indreni Home and I asked Sunita to become the manager there. She is very gentle, loving and protective.


Sunita with Salina on Salina’s arrival at NOH.

Sunita had completed high school and decided to forgo college and join the staff.  She is a very hard worker with a smile always and a willingness to see any job to its thorough completion regardless of the elements. She studied at night in order to sit for her High School Certificate and a year later she passed the 8-day exam. She met a young man named Krishna in early 2012 before he left for Malaysia where he worked in landscaping. They communicated by phone for a year before he returned briefly to Nepal deepening their commitment to one another. In the summer of 2013 Sunita shared with me her love for Krishna and their talk of marriage. And so it was on Wednesday December 11th our daughter Sunita took her hand from ours and placed it within the tender grasp of the man with whom she will start her new life. They now live happily in a small city in Western Nepal with the hope of returning together to Malaysia soon, where they both would work in landscaping.


******

Indreni House is the home of Aakriti and 9 other young girls. Last summer we had the good fortune to be introduced to Lachi who at 18 had been unceremoniously dismissed from the house where she had worked as an indentured servant for many years. Lachi, originally from India is an orphan. Lachi was not interested in going to school; she had never been before and felt it was too late to start. She is however a very bright girl and a quick learner. I suggested that she live in Sunita’s house and help Jishnu care for Aakriti while working out a schedule that would allow her to attend our vocational school in the afternoons.

Lachi showed herself to be wonderful with Aakriti and when not caring for her she took on helping with house cleaning, laundry, cooking and caring for the other girls. She is a very shy and observant girl though quick with a smile. Despite our urging she decided not to leave home in the afternoons to learn a trade, feeling as if she was letting down the house by doing so. The children adore her and it was a natural to have her manage Indreni House, and this made the transition for the children upon Sunita’s leaving less painful. Lachi has expressed how amazing it has been to go from being suddenly homeless to having such a wonderful and loving family, a faith-confirming miracle.


Lachi with Salina; Jishnu with Aakriti

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Our Chelsea Education Center (CEC) is nearing the completion of its first full year of formal training. In January of 2013 we had the children choose a couple of different classes for a brief 3-month exposure to see what they would like to learn in a full year’s course. Then seventy children settled into their chosen classes at the beginning of the April New Year. Close to graduating in Tailoring and Cosmetology, some of the girls are presently working as apprentices in their teachers’ shops on holidays and teaching our children as well; soon-to-be graduates in the Motorcycle Repair class have completely dismantled and rebuilt two motorcycles numerous times and have been welcomed to work in their teacher’s shop on Saturdays. April will see the Mobile Phone Repair class achieving the complete knowledge to allow them work in any shop or to open their own. The Computer Software class has elevated the confidence and abilities of its ten children considerably; they now know computer software from the WORD package to other business and accounting applications thoroughly and are ready to start writing software programs. The Computer Hardware class is a multi-year class, but the students in it can build and test computers at this time. Music classes are of course ongoing but in Guitar, Keyboard, Madal and Voice we have very accomplished children.

This year we will have 86 children eligible for vocational training in addition to their academic studies. We are currently vetting a plan to merge the CEC onto the campus of Skylark where we can integrate the training and free the children’s after school time for more sports, tutoring, or to simply relax between school and their evening studies.


One of two bikes stripped down and rebuilt by the boys in our Motorcycle Repair class.


Two tailoring students at work Saturday; Boys carrying a motorcycle to school for repair


Tailoring classes will soon make our uniforms; Computer Software class

Recently we listed the 13 courses currently on the menu for April and asked the Skylark student body what their interest would be in them. Any student class 8 and above with a desire to learn was to select two trades. The response was overwhelming with over 300 children choosing courses. If we follow through with this, Skylark will be the first school in Nepal to offer an integrated vocational/academic platform according to the Principal. What little vocational training that exists in Nepal is available after class 10, a time in which those most in need of the vocational training have dropped out of school. Our approach in combining academic, life skills and vocational training from class 8 and up in an integrated method on one campus is a model that we hope will catch on in other areas. Meanwhile the school’s registration would usher in the CEC to be certified and graduates from it would be well recognized and in demand as both tradesmen and teachers.

******

Ever since the Cookbook Project held its Cooking School here last October and taught us how to serve really nutritious meals while explaining the lack of goodness in the lunch diet we had, I have wanted to do something about it. Pratap, our boy’s house manager, is a great cook. He loves cooking and pleasing people with his cooking; cooking makes him happy and on Friday nights his house is a very happy one where the volunteers are invited to share his enthusiastic menus with the boys. The problem with our lunches was getting it to the children at school. So I asked the Principal if we could build a “Café” on campus to cook fresh and healthy foods and she said yes. I discussed with Pratap about doing this and he was thrilled.  He created a menu of about 10 dishes that he would rotate. The initial investment was going to be a little burdensome, but we determined that if his cooking was good enough to attract other paying students and teachers, we might actually break even after a year and would then reduce our cost of serving excellent lunches to our children. So we wrote a new job description for all the house managers and staff and freed Pratap’s mornings, and had a contractor start to build the Café on the school grounds. The result has been very gratifying; we average about 130 paying diners every day which will generate enough income to cover the cost of construction and equipment in maybe 8 months, while reducing the cost of feeding truly nutritious and tasty meals for less than the cost of the packaged goods they received before. Fresh fruit remains part of the diet.

Another benefit of the Café was the introduction of our cooking school as a seamless part of the curriculum. Over 60 students signed up to take cooking. The cooking school will take place for two periods before lunch with a limited number of students rotating every three months. The students will be preparing the lunch under Pratap’s direction, eliminating the need for our staff to be present in helping him prepare and serve each day’s meal.

Pratap’s cooking has energized the school. Upon arrival in the morning, kids and faculty first go to the Café to buy a lunch ticket; many now buy weekly tickets. When the bell rings for lunch it creates a stampede for the Café window where they receive steaming hot, tasty and healthy servings with real forks on nice large metal plates. You look around at lunch time and see everyone quietly eating with smiling gusto. Volume cooking while delivering high quality food allows many poor children to afford to eat what is most likely their best meal of the day.


Gita and Ashok selling lunch tickets; Students and visitors on opening day


Pratap, the Maestro; Our home staff insures 280 plates of food are served in 5 minutes    

Very generous donations from Laurie Levine, our Australian Board member, and Laura and Justin Nimick’s “Life’s Handy Work” which also supports our children in college, made the opening of our Café possible. Both the Café and the CEC on campus are ways in which NOH is constantly working towards a self-sustaining model.

******

Christmas is always a fun time at NOH. The anticipation begins in the cold 5 a.m. darkness when all the children are up and attending to their walks, runs, Tai Kwon Do lessons or drinking tea on December 1st with the spoken acknowledgment that we are in the month of Christmas.

It is less about the gifts than it is about seeing old friends return for the holiday and getting caught up in the many special moments floating in the air like bubbles. It is about feelings and love, about sharing and magic and candlelight, about the transformation of their environment a little more each day with fresh Christmas artwork on the walls and the tree communally decorated and lit for each evening’s meal. It’s about the passage of time, Saturday gatherings when all the children sit together outside after eating lunch and practice Christmas Carols. Days stack into weeks and suddenly one morning they wake on Christmas Eve and know that after school the spellbinding joy of Christmas will slowly carry them into the evening. The kids this year chose to dedicate Christmas to Hope. Our children have once again given sanctuary, surrounded and healed, given radiant love and laughter to another child in need of a family’s love.


Anu Maya giving thanks to the sky; Salina, Samira and Aakriti


Khem Raj, Rabindra and Ram; David, Juna and Man Kumari


Sandip and Preti; Hope and a Christmas morning yawn

******

Last fall we were informed of a small group home consisting of 10 blind children. The house manager and live-in teacher are also blind. A neighbor comes during the day to help out with laundry, cleaning and cooking. The house is a small concrete 4-room home in the countryside outside of Kathmandu. As is often the case with homes in Nepal they were having a difficult time financially.

One day after getting our kids settled in school, a few of us went out for a visit. We found a very neat and clean little house and welcoming children. The manager and staff shared with Anita Mahato, Hope and me their situation, while the children talked to Pratap and Shivahari who is our own blind child Aakriti’s teacher and others who had come for the visit.

Essentially the home hasn’t a way to generate any income; they rely upon the kindness of neighbors and the village development committee both of which have their own financial struggles. They have leased the home, but had fallen behind in the monthly payments. The children all had some sort of infection that troubled their eyes making them itch. The children attend the village school, but it is not equipped for teaching blind students. They do what they can and have the assistance of their blind live-in Didi who has a college degree in social work and teaches them to the best of her ability.


The tiny woman 3rd from left is the housekeeping neighbor, Shivahari far right with white cap.

We started then to support them. We pay their food, rent, medical bills and a small salary for the staff. Shivahari arranged eye exams for all the children at the Eye Hospital in Kathmandu where their infections were treated. He then arranged for further exams to see if any would be candidates for corneal transplants and we learned that the girl in the blue sweater (Nima) was a candidate. In December we helped her to have her first transplant, with half of the fee provided by the eye hospital and surgeon.


A few of the children in our visit one week after the transplant 

Nima is very pleased to have received the transplant, but seeing has a long and often difficult learning curve. From what I understand though she sees, but she hasn’t yet any depth perception which makes many things difficult to do, since you don’t know how close anything is to you. She often prefers closing her eye when walking. Those blind since birth have formed their own image of life; they are comfortable in their world and to suddenly see is very strange and a little terrifying. Shivahari is working with all the children and maintaining their doctor appointments. As you can see by the photos the children are enjoying life quite a bit more these days. In time we hope to be able to help them with their educational needs so that they too can learn to be productive and independent in life.

******


Sabin, upper left photo 2nd from left, Chham jumping into the pool, Saroj receiving his birthday gift from Lila, and 9 of the children back in 2005.  Presently one is married and living in Germany, one is working in a hospital toward becoming a physical therapist, one is an engineering student in university, one is graduating from a three-year agricultural school, one is a science major in college, one a business major in college, two sisters have reunited with their aunt and mother and one other is in her second year of college in humanities courses.

How quickly time passes. This year we will have 7 more children begin college joining the 7 presently there, next year 5 more, 14 the year after and 21 the next.

I caught Chham, Sabin and Saroj one morning on their way to school and took this photo.

Each of these boys has mastered the art of being human; they are exceptionally kind, polite, happy, hard working and giving to their brothers and sisters and staff alike.

******

Volunteer Nepal brings a lot of truly special and accomplished people to Dhapasi. Recently we had the pleasure of getting to know and learn from Daniel Kilov who is the 2nd place title holder of the Australian Memory Championships. First place went to his coach.

Daniel was kind enough to hold a seminar for some of our children and has offered to help coach them in the future via Skype. The children were able to remember a series of 42 words in order at the end of the session.


Daniel remembering 100 random numbers in order after only a few minutes reading.

******

January was a month in which the Skylark School held a program showcasing the talents of grades 4 and under and later, a day to commemorate the many diverse cultures of Nepal.





And February 14th was Valentine’s Day, which is starting to catch a lot of attention in Kathmandu. Our Toronto board member and founder of “Possible Worlds Foundation” Toni Thomson has for many years contributed to making our Valentine’s Day program the much anticipated hit it is. Each year our volunteer department spends an enormous amount of time doing all the prep work. This year I asked Sam Tamang to be in charge of everything. We had been in a 2 month long uninterrupted cold but sunny day pattern when in the early morning hours of the 14th a front came clamoring in with steady rain. Sam made a decision to change the venue to the Skylark School where some cover would be possible. School closed for the day at noon and our 144 children, 80 from the Skylark Hostel, all the teachers and staff of Skylark and all of our home and volunteer staff sat down to a bounty of Pratap’s “Pulaw Panir” under grey and damp skies. Each of our 5 homes and the Skylark Hostel had worked on programs they developed and the festivities began with Kabita Basnet and Saroj Darji as Masters of the Ceremony.


Volunteer created sign; Saroj and Kabita start things off


Crowd reaction to one of the performances; Anu voted the “female most likely to risk her life for another”


Ishwor voted smartest male; in the 11 student categories we had at least one winner in each. 
The photo on the right shows very popular Nepalese actor Suman Singh, who graciously accepted an offer to spend time with our kids. Hope here is a little hesitant, not getting an eye read first.


Our children enjoying the day; Sam with red cap talking with Kabita


Our School Principal Sangita Rai; A dance by Sanctuary House.

******


​I was there to say good morning when Hope woke on Valentine’s Day; she always wakes with a smile. Isn’t she beautiful!


She loves her gift and touching the pictures. Many of her sisters made cards for her

I spend so much time on the computer that we decided to buy one for Hope so that she could help me. Mel Hoskins beat us to the punch and bought this one in Australia and sent it here with Laurie Levine. Hope is a smart little girl who learns quickly.


“Just a few more lines and this letter is done” “What? Where did the text go, ohh why why!!”


“That shower woke me up, thanks Mom!” “Let me turn down the music. What’s that Mom?”


“I like this mouse; is that coffee there, Mom?”    “I have the ball ready to play; almost done now.”


“No no, I’m good; let me just finish this one report.”            “My brain is cooking!”

I have just returned home from saying goodnight to Hope. I must add here that tonight while we played on the floor together, Hope crawled about 6 feet, stopping only when an immovable object stood in her way. She then sat back and started clapping to mimic her very proud Papa.

And that is a little of life in Dhapasi, where love, laughter and care for oneself and everyone around you trumps all.

Thank you to anyone who may read this for your part in keeping this dream a reality.

All my best,
Papa


November 13, 2013

Though I am only one of many people’s efforts to ensure the success of our vocational school, the Chelsea Education Center, I am the fortunate one who gets to lay witness to its evidence.

Yesterday I was heading out the door of the center and past the motorcycle repair class when I saw three of our students doing a repair to a shiny motorcycle while its owner stood, helmet in hand and chatting with our teacher, both smiling amiably upon the work being done. The man had been driving by and saw the boys working on our bike and asked if this was a repair shop and our teacher said yes and so he stopped. The boys went out and listened to the problem and said they could fix it and did so quickly and professionally. 

These are photos from the beginning, in the past year the students have taken this bike apart several times, every part of it and rebuilt it. The bike has gone in appearance from a mud encrusted, battered and bruised non-running machine that people gave up on to a fine-lined, tightly wound spitfire-clean piece of purring machinery.  As the motorcycle returned to life with robust energy and new muscled confidence, so too can it be considered likewise in the lives of our boys. We are now looking around for a later model motorcycle made in India for the boys to learn both a little universal culture and repair.

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Staying with the CEC for a moment, the children of our Computer Software class returned after their vacation to find a brand new laptop at each of their stations. Laurie Levine, a member of our board of advisors, has focused on the CEC and, by way of fundraisers wonderfully supported by friends in her Australian city, purchased 6 of these computers. Laurie visits once a year and will be returning in January with a small group to work with the children during their winter vacation.

Sigrid Lightfoot has been involved in early childhood development for the past 30 years in Vancouver. She is a great friend to NOH and is here currently for the second year in a row. She kindly shares her experience with me throughout the year, insights that are much appreciated. In addition to other valuable support, she and our mutual friend Manon Pruvost carried four new laptops from Vancouver to ensure every child in the class had a new one to work with.

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Nepal falls under the spell of Dashain and Tihar in October of each year. These are very important Hindu celebrations of life, family and one’s relationship to the many gods they have. A little more than 100 of our children are reunited with family, but those who remain with us are treated to an impressive list of annually returning volunteers who educate and entertain them in creative and fun ways.

I want to thank four friends who have all shared many years of involvement and support of NOH, my cousins Anne McCadden and Liz Early, Jehan Seirafi our former director of Volunteer Nepal and Cici Calliet. They all brought extra luggage filled with medicines, educational toys, underwear, beautiful baby clothes for Hope, jewelry making pieces, art supplies, books and long-missed edible treats. Cici is a teacher and extraordinary baker from France who, like my cousins, has held sold out bake sales over the past couple of years in support of us.

My great friends Lou Poynton and Kylie Tiver came from Australia; Kylie her fourth or fifth year in a row and she will return again at Christmas, and Lou for her third year. Lou had inspired her son Will to jump off the private ship he crews somewhere off the Russian coast,  and fly here to meet her and his sister Tori of Halifax Nova Scotia, last year. Tori, about three years ago designed our beautiful NOH pendants, which she manufactures and sells with all the proceeds supporting the children.  Please see Tori’s site at http://store.torixo.com/ to view her jewelry and the NOH pendant shown here.

Kylie and Lou combined their time with taking the children on field trips and spending quiet hours with them daily, just talking, playing and having fun.

Jody Hall arrived from Canada to teach math and otherwise entertain and mentor the children. Jody volunteered with Volunteer Nepal 5 years earlier in Narti. She is an energetic and intrepid soul who, after her time here, left for an adventure kayaking journey in India.

This year we missed Sirkka Turkki of Finland who has been present each of the last five years. She was hospitalized in October. Her absence was sorely felt and she remains in the hearts and prayers of the children many hours of every day. In letters to the children she has let us know that she is recuperating at home now.

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This year we had two incredible opportunities presented to the children during Dashain.

The first was a two-week photography course taught by professional photographer Sara Khazem who founded “Capturing Neverland” several years ago in order to open the world through the camera lens to young people in developing countries. Sara is Lebanese and currently resides in Dubai. She arrived after lots of preparation with her associates Ribal Nasr and Leia Hasrouty who provided the children with additional fun, friendship and valuable technical guidance. Sara donated very fine high pixilation cameras to each of the 19 children who signed up for the workshop which culminated with a special exhibition at a magnificent hotel in downtown Kathmandu. Many people attended and viewed examples of the kids’ finest works, professionally printed and gallery-style displayed. I was so proud to watch our kids stand by their works and answer questions from an admiring public. 

Sara, Ribal and Leia enabled the kids to see life a little differently and to feel the all-embracing warmth of personal creative expression being admired by many attendees, some of whom were also professional photographers who had heard of the event.

I was personally grateful to be allowed into the shy world of a few of our children who had never revealed much of themselves before this. What they chose to photograph and even more illuminating how they named their photos built some confident bridges between them and their futures. We are deeply indebted to Sara. Please visit her website at www.capturing-neverland.org  to see all the good she does in so many countries.


Juna and Gita, left and a shy Kolpana who brilliantly shared her world through her camera

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The second great adventure for the children will pay dividends in the children’s health and by virtue of that, their ability in school and the sports field for many years to come.

Several years ago we had a young couple Adam and Alissa volunteer with us. Inner city schoolteachers, highly gifted and enthusiastic, they returned home, felt that the world’s many problems could be addressed by individuals, and figured out a way that they might influence a healthy change in at least one area. Thus was born the “Cookbook Project.”

Adam and Alissa have traveled to countless developing countries to hold workshops in orphanages where they teach the children and staff how to prepare and eat a healthy diet based upon what is locally produced. They have an encyclopedic knowledge of food science and health as well as the hardships confronting the diet of many poor areas and homes in those areas.

The two week workshop was highly entertaining and taught so much more than food science, including team building, creativity, public speaking, thinking outside the box, confidence and the ability to laugh your way through unexpected obstacles.

Adam and Alissa really knew how to reach each of the participants individually, which I found key to their success. On the final Saturday they stood by while the students prepared a banquet of mouthwatering delights, all of which consisted of foods that are highly nutritious, chemical free and readily available.

We have adopted two of the suggestions discussed. First, we have introduced brown rice in a 50/50 mix with our regular white rice and will slowly go to 100%. Second, we are making plans to provide the children with a natural home cooked lunch instead of the current offerings. Adam and Alissa were pleased to see our daily fruit intake and saw our morning and evening meals, once the white rice is replaced, to be extremely healthy.

After leaving Papa’s House, Adam and Alissa were returning to India where last year they helped the older girls in an orphanage to make delectable sweets made from all natural ingredients and market them. We were most fortunate to have them spend their time with us and steer us into a healthier diet, which will make more vibrant children in every way. Please also go to their website www.thecookbookproject.org to learn more about their valuable work. 


A busy kitchen preparing a cornucopia of savory main courses and sweets and serving it.

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Each year we lease a bus to Narti, taking the girls originally from Dang district, those who were Kamlari and who are still interested or able to return to their home villages. This year I had 62 girls on the bus with me.

We placed our scooter on top of the bus so that I would have it to visit the children. I spent three days doing that before returning to Kathmandu. The ride home was long but truly delightful; the bike offers a different awareness of your surroundings and makes the journey very personal. It took about 11 hours, but the scenery and thoughtful daydreams kept the time moving at a good pace.

I enjoyed visiting many of our children’s “homes,” and meeting the temporary guardians of our children had beneficial effects that are still a bit vague, but can’t be discounted.

Below are some photos from my trip.

My journey to find one of our daughters sold by her family into a marriage involved a long motorbike ride on a black top road, 20 minutes on motorbike on walking path, pole boat across a wide and rapid river, then a walk across the Serengeti to the foothills beyond.  

I found Kamala, seen here in foreground, with people who just got off the pole boat. She walked me back to the river and there said goodbye. I tried to convince her to return with me, but she was afraid. Her days are filled with cutting grass and sleeping, the area is very poor and challenging, and at 15 her future is as desolate as the Mohave Desert. She was married to an older man who is in India where she said he plans to take her soon. She does not like him. She once easily communicated in English, once her eyes sparkled and she always smiled a little mischievously, once she had plans, hopes and dreams, once she enjoyed laboring over homework on the carpet of her room before turning out the light and nestling in her warm bed, laughing with her roommates before sleeping peacefully, once she was a little girl able to enjoy being a young teen. But last Dashain, a few days after going to her alcoholic mother and uncle, she was sold and gone and no one seemed to have any idea where until I found her little sister, who lives in another orphanage. She knew and took me to Kamala. She lives with the family of her husband, they seem neither good nor bad. They just exist like the landscape does.

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Hope Angel is growing fast; she turned six months on October 30th. She is delightful, full of life and play. She is endearingly contemplative — after long moments of thought she will turn, smile at you and let you know she loves you. She is just beginning to sit on her own, still a little wobbly and she is getting her knees up under her and lifting her body high in preparation for crawling. We are slowly introducing cereal into her daily diet and she seems to know not to suck it. She can find me immediately if I appear in a crowd and she reaches out in my direction. She occasionally returns my wink.

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This pretty much wraps it up for a short update; the children have another week-long holiday coming as Nepal approaches elections and the government wants people to be able to return to their villages to vote. This week there is a transportation bandh (closing) supported by a party-opposing election, but it has not been too successful. School is open and 60% of the teachers are appearing. Life goes on.

I leave you with a few of my personal favorites of the couple thousand photos taken by our 19 children from the “Capturing Neverland” workshop. 

All my best,
Papa

August 23, 2013

The Chelsea Education Center is a daily source of pleasure and validation of our effort to provide a complete education to the children. This initiative was spearheaded by Glenn Detrick, of St. Louis, MO, a Nepal Orphans Home board member who spent his professional career in academics; the center is named in honor of the memory of his daughter Chelsea.

We moved the old volunteer house to larger quarters and opened the center in its place. We have seven courses being taught in twice daily sessions to accommodate the number of our children interested in learning trades. The courses are Computer Science/Software; Computer Hardware/Repair; Mobile Phone Technology/Repair; four sections of Music; Tailoring; Beauty Salon and Motorcycle Mechanics. The back to back sessions start at 4:30 for 45 minutes each and are taught by professionals in the field or by college professors.

We have limited the class size to ensure an optimal teacher-student ratio, and there are 70 students currently in attendance in the one-year designed courses. In some courses the students will have the knowledge to work in their vocations at year’s end, others will have advanced learning available. We will also add a comprehensive course in starting and operating a small business next year, and if space can be created we will introduce other trades.

The idea behind the center is to complement the children’s academics; we have found this style of learning to benefit their approach to their school work. This also gives them a very real sense of life outside of school and offers them skills that will be enjoyed all their lives regardless of practicing them professionally or not.

As our children matriculate through school, some may opt for strictly vocational training and we will be ready when that time comes to offer it. Our children are getting older and in the next 4 years we will have a total of 55 finish high school. Some, perhaps as many as half, will feel that their future would be best served with a vocation, and all of them will have a journeyman’s skill in one or more vocations by that point. The other half will continue on in college and become teachers, medical professionals, scientist, engineers, musicians, artist and among us all there will exist a whole society.

Students between classes at the Chelsea Education Center and a Computer Science class

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While on the subject of education, Saroj and Chham both began college this year. Saroj has chosen to major in computer science and Chham in management. They both attend Herald International College joining 3 other Papa’s House children already attending college. We gave them our traditional send off early one morning, sadly their new uniforms were not completed on time for the morning photo.

Left to right: Kabita starting her second year, Saroj, Chham, Hikmat starting his third year and Sabin entering his second year.

The first term results from Skylark saw the Papa’s House children scoring first in 7 of 12 grade levels, 2nd in 6 grade levels, and 3rd in 9 grade levels. Thirty-eight children scored 90% or better. We are very proud of our children’s prodigious effort and shining results.

A morning assembly at Skylark English School, only part of the 600+ children can be seen

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On February 14th we held our third annual Valentine’s Day Party supported by Possible Worlds Foundation whose founder Toni Thomson has been a NOH board member for many years. A wonderful meal was prepared by our staff and the afternoon was filled with entertainment by both the Papa’s House kids and the Skylark School children.

Volunteer Nepal volunteers representing six countries worked for a week before the event making beautiful bags for every child with their valentine’s cards and many chocolates inside. They also made all the superlative cards and set up the grounds with festive decorations and a photo booth. Our board member Laurie Levine flew in from Australia with her wonderful friend Rosearmy, a professional dancer from Argentina who taught some Latin dance to our kids.


Rosearmy in an impromptu dance class; Laurie with Samjhana

Our smaller girls’ performance, and that of our big girls

Pratap (boys’ house dad) and Kabita the day’s MCs; Kamali singing

Thanks, Possible Worlds!

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NOH has several new children who have come to us since the last update. Aakriti is first up. She is a delightful 5 year old who loves to go for scooter rides with me.  She laughs hard when we hit pot holes causing me to seek out the many that exist on our poor roads. Aakriti had been institutionalized prior to coming to Papa’s House and has since flourished. One of our volunteers, Anne Zrenda, met her several years ago and at that time devoted much attention to improving Aakriti’s life.   Anne supports Aakriti’s daily visit by a special education teacher as well as having her own 24 hour a day didi.  Aakriti today can communicate and walk, she is learning independence, loves music (she had been considered both blind and deaf but we find she has the ability to hear some tones or pitches both voice and music). Having Aakriti with us has been an educational and moving experience for us; she is happy, energetic and patient with us all.

Aakriti with Anita; With Jishnu her personal didi

With Juno one of her house mates; and with my son Aaron

This is David, a sweet, slightly bewildered and very touching 5 year old; above with Kamana

And this is Suman. This 7 year old runs very deep; he is quiet, kind, polite, empathetic and super intelligent. I look forward to meeting him every afternoon when school is let out in his block and sharing a few moments before we collect all the children.

And this is Suman letting David know he has his back on David’s first day of school.

Above is Apsara. She is 11, quick with a smile and very studious; she shares the same last name as our other Apsara, who has been 5 years with us shown above right with her friend Mary.

Our original Apsara recently returned to school after going through her second operation in the past 4 years to relieve pressure upon her skin from severe burns in an accident prior to coming to us.  The operation was performed by a wonderful man Dr. Shankar Rai who is the chief surgeon of a new Cleft Pallet and Burn Center Hospital in Kathmandu. They provide their services at little or no cost to patients in need. We help supply this exciting new hospital with medical professionals who answer the call through our Volunteer department www.volunteernepal.com We have arranged nurses, doctors and CRNA’s to help out at the center. If you are in medicine and would be interested, please contact us.

My CRNA son Aaron and daughter-in-law Jo helping out during their volunteering this summer.
Dr. Rai is shown on the far left in the picture on the right.

While here, Aaron and Jo spent time at the mountain top monastery/nunnery where we send many volunteers to teach, build, maintain the buildings and help with agriculture. While there, they renewed their wedding vows Tibetan style in a service provided by the Rinpoche and nuns in an unforgettable ceremony attended also by several of our volunteers.

Part of the several-hour-long ceremony.

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This year Nepal Orphans Home rose to meet the needs of special situations that fall outside the scope of our mission. One example was helping Dhan Bahadur, a 17 year old neighbor, to receive the transplanted kidney of his mother. Dhan was in the final stage of acute renal failure according to his doctors and yet despite the father’s daily attempts to raise the money by begging on the streets and door to door, he was without any success at all. We met with the surgeons to learn how little time was left and thus deposited with the hospital sufficient funds for the operation to take place. When we let people know of the situation, we received a letter from Basia Going, the owner of Adi Shesha Yoga Studios in Canada. She and her staff immediately organized a fund raising event in their town which raised over $7000.00 for the cause. NOH received donations from 35 of its followers totaling just over $4000.00 more. It has been just under 5 months since Dhan’s successful operation. Dhan’s father has recently returned to his village, and from there he will go high into the mountains to do the dangerous work of picking a wild medicinal plant popular with the Chinese.  His mom remains frail and unable to work, but smiling bravely and doing what she can. We support the family still in a small set of rooms nearby providing rent, food and medicine, something Dhan will be taking for life. Dhan will hopefully be able to return to school soon.  He is considering learning tailoring as an alternative to school so that he can start to earn some income for the family and relieve his aging parents of some of their worry.

Dhan and his family early on; At the hospital with the supplies for his operation

Dhan scheduled for the transplant; Dhan in the ICU the day after

Below, Dhan, Pratap (who devotes hours every day in helping the family) and Dhan’s dad a month after the operation.

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A group of fine young Nepalese men organized an inter school basketball program several years ago; they serve as the referees at the games and coaches at different schools all on their own dime. They simply love the game and recognize the potential it has for the children. The man who took on coaching at Skylark felt we were ready to join the program last year. For both the girls and boys that year was quite a developmental one; they were still learning some of the technical basics and had a dismal record, but a lot of fun. This year they matched their personal abilities with good coaching and began to gel as a team.

About two months ago there was a celebration in honor of the schools participating in the Valley Inter School Basketball tournament. Cila was named the Girls Most Valuable Player for the season among all schools, and we were told has been scouted by a few colleges for a possible scholarship; our girls’ team also won the tournament while our boys came in 2nd.

The boys started off the season a little slow competing against larger schools who have been involved in basketball programs for many years and they were still a little intimidated by formal play, but once they decided to relax and play their style which is more pick-up game ball and have fun they became unstoppable. Their last three games saw them scoring 64 to 18; then 138 to 10 and finally 60 to 12 when the game was stopped at halftime. I saw in their team play the same trust, love and respect they have off the court for one another, no single ego, just team play, lots of hustle and passing to the open man.

Cila with her MVP award and Bisna with the 2nd place tournament award.

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Yesterday Wednesday August 21st was “Brothers Day” in Nepal. The girls as always prepared many a song and dance and a few well written dramas for the boys.  They made bracelets from colored thread to tie upon each boy’s wrist, and they offered “tika” and flowers chopped fine and sprinkled with a personal blessing upon their heads.

Gita and friends waiting off stage; Purnima, Jenny and Ramila from Harmony House

Small Gita leading a group from Imagine House; Gomarti from Rainbow House

Sanjita from Rainbow House; Khusbu and Bhumika from Sanctuary House

Asha and Sumitra from Sanctuary in a drama; Sanctuary House dancing

Dawn Kumari of Harmony House and Gita of Sanctuary House called upon to do an impromptu drama and finally Apsara of Harmony House in a dance. The boys will be hosting the third annual “Sisters Day” on the 7th of September.

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Yesterday I took the five girls shown here back to the “monkey temple” where 6 years ago we visited along with Peter and Barbara Hess and our first daughter Sangeeta. Tempus Fugit!

Sangeeta at the Monkey Temple 6 years ago; center, my first photo of her at 13; above in April.

Today at 23 Sangeeta finds herself at the Children’s Surgical and Rehabilitation Hospital in Banepa learning to be a physical therapist. She has several years of training yet to go, but in a recent e-mail expressed great happiness in the training, new friends and having a direction in life that is so pleasant, promising and rewarding.

In the group photos, on far left is also Sangita but a different spelling of it. Sangita is 19 now and studying in class 9 where she struggles a bit though she works very hard at her school work. She is a great help around the house. She has almost 3 years of Tai Kwon Do behind her. All of these girls came to us without having spent any time in a classroom due to having been Kamlari so they have done remarkably well.

Sangita before leaving Narti for Dhapasi and with Lalita in the beginning of school.

Lalita is next to her, 2nd from left; she has always been a quiet girl with a touching sentiment for little things, be it human, animal or inanimate. She puts homework above all else and does pretty well in school. She has a lot of artistic ability which I hope to help her cultivate when we find a good art teacher and the time and space for lessons. She has always been considered one of our best dancers by the others but with the passing of time seems less inclined to perform. She would like to be a nurse. Lalita turned 17 on July 17th.

Lalita and Pramila six years ago and again yesterday at the prayer wheels.

Pramila is in the middle. She will turn 18 next month. I had been visiting our home in Western Nepal one time 6 years ago after several girls had been rescued and brought there. These three were very close. On my third day there they asked if they could come home with me to Dhapasi, and so the next morning we all squeezed into the little car I had hired for the trip. They moved into the same room together and remain there today. They have different personalities, but complement one another well. Pramila is very quiet and always smiling, she is an observer and wants to please; she admires more gregarious girls but would never want to be one. She has no lofty ambitions, but she does want to finish school and then learn a trade; college does not hold much attraction to her. She, like Sangeeta, always reply that they wish just to work with us, helping others when they get older.

Pramila before leaving Narti with me and on the right just starting school in Dhapasi.

Sushma is a very beautiful girl who works so hard in everything she does. Her bedroom is near the kitchen and she is always helping Dawn Kumari there or in the gardens. She too is quiet and reserved, but if you are her friend then she enjoys your company. Sushma has a brother Ram with us and an older sister Karmu who now stays in the Narti home. These kids, raised without parents are very polite and appreciative of everything. They are extraordinary children to be around and one wants nothing more than to make life special for them.

Sushma at Narti after her rescue and in Dhapasi with her brother Ram and sister Karmu.

Sushma loves Tai Kwon Do and has probably never missed a morning’s lesson in several years. She is 17 now and is reading in class 8.

And on the far right is Binita. Binita is 19 years old now and studies in class 9. She too was rescued six years ago from being a Kamlari and moved into one of our homes in Narti. She was painfully shy and had zero self-confidence or sense of self-worth when she first came over to Dhapasi shortly after rescue, but has really blossomed in the past year or two. She has a great sense of humor and shares it well with her closest friends. She does well in school and attends our Computer Science classes at the CEC after school. She will attend college and with some luck may be able to attend a University after that.

Binita and Sushma Spring of 2008 and Binita and Aramco school friend Spring of 2013.

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And finally let me close the update with a few thoughts about Hope. I am not talking about desired expectations, trust, faith, belief and wishful confidence in a future event; I am talking about our newest family member “Hope Angel.”

One evening near the end of July I received an e-mail from Jehan Seirafi, our former Volunteer Nepal director and a wonderful friend who has since founded Sunsarmaya.org to offer financial care for struggling orphanages. It was a brief e-mail in which she asked if we would be able to take in a 12-week-old baby girl whose feet had been cut off. I could not get the e-mail off my mind that night and the next morning I asked our house managers what they thought. I listened as they all offered really valid reasons as to why we should not take her in. These folks have more love and compassion for children than any I have met, but we are approached almost daily to help people and they have been very good at analyzing each situation and being able to make the hard choices. I wrote back and told Jehan to make us the choice of last resort, that we really could not in all practical ability help her.

At this same time Medical Mercy, which was founded by Dr. Myron and Mrs. Elaine Semkuley in Canada, notified Nepal Project Director Elsie James, and she immediately asked Kathy Procranik to leave her Ormond Beach Florida home and fly to Nepal to help find a home for this little girl. Already assembled here on the ground Elsie had Ramesh Dhamala, Rajendra Koirala and Surekha Limbu at the hospital to intervene in behalf of “Dil,” our Hope’s given name.

For the next few days this little baby was constantly on my mind. I kept mentioning fragments of thoughts about her to Anita, our Imagine House manager and she would knowingly smile at the wrestling match going on in my mind. I wrote to my cousin Anne and told her everything about Hope and admitted how troubled I was over my decision.

“She was called gone by a senior doctor; we were later told that she arrived pretty well bled out after a long journey from her village to the ER at Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu, she went into cardiac arrest, a junior doctor applied paddles twice without her coming back, the senior doctor called it over but the junior said one more time and Hope wailed back to life.”

Anne said to listen to my heart and the right decision would be made. I immediately wrote an e-mail to Jehan and copied Kathy and Elsie and said we have changed our minds and we want to be the home of first and only consideration.

The next morning Kathy called me and said they would like to meet us that day. They were at the hospital then and so I suggested we meet them there. Anita and I had been on our way to the bank and I said we would stop and see the baby at the hospital first.  She asked why, though she already knew the answer.

In the parking lot upon arrival at the hospital, Surekha Limbu in white, Rajendra and Ramesh.

Anita holding “Dil” with Kathy Procranik looking on…

…and moments later one look between Anita and “Dil” would forever change all our lives.

I wrote to Anne and a few friends later:

“Our precious little girl has been named Hope following your suggestion, but I have heard many of our smaller children whisper to her ‘Angel’, as if they know something. She has found a way to touch each of our hearts in exactly the way we did not know we needed them touched; watching some of our older girls talk to her, feed her and hold her with such beatific smiles in the darkening evening’s golden brown hues is more priceless than the Vermeer paintings they remind me of.

Our family has closed around Hope like we do all our children. A new child arrives and their heart beats out of synch; they are feeling alone and then the children draw them into our home and the pain that has brought them here slowly evaporates, and within a few hours their hearts are strengthened by the collective beat of all the children.

This evening with her new Mom Anita radiating love upon her, Hope lay on the bed and surveyed all her sisters cooing over her, she gave a crooked smile, took a deep breath and went to sleep. She had had a long day.

Hope is our family’s finest gift ever; the road ahead will not be easy, but it will be paved in love with all our children sharing her battles. One day the unique spirit of Hope’s will be known to many. Little Hope has a big destiny ahead.”

Hope Angel has been with us since August 8th. I had forgotten how much pleasure can be had by waiting for a baby’s smile. She is a bright happy little one and very communicative. I have been working on her ability to wink and repeat “I Love You.” Her concentration upon your eyes and mouth are similar to that of a chess master. I talk to her a lot and she is pretty intent on listening and smiling. I change her bandages twice daily and attend to her medicine requirements. She has healed quickly. The girls in Anita’s House are doting, older ones sleeping with Hope and Anita to share in night feedings and to play with her until she sleeps again. When I am with Hope I feel strong and immortal, when I leave her in the evening I feel the pain that awaits her. My admittedly inferior knowledge of the future suggests one involving operations and moments of awareness and brief despair (mine for sure) brought on perhaps by the cruelty of others’ insensitivity or her struggle to walk. We want to be sure to equip her with any devices which will keep her natural mobility according to nature’s timeline; she has already learned to roll over and when her bottle is half empty she prefers to hold it alone. She is a strong-willed little girl and she will need to be.

One day I will watch her graduate from a great university and one day I will walk her down the aisle and I will learn to dance so that I may do so with her at her wedding. And her mom and all the brothers and sisters she has now, and all those who will come later will raise a glass in honor of the little girl who twice almost never was.

All my best,
Papa

December 16, 2012

I have been trying to find the time to do our November update since the beginning of November. I had almost given up, thinking that our year-end wrap up in early January would have to suffice. Then yesterday one of our girls asked me to help her write to her little friend in California. I thought that her letter eloquently suggested the spirit of Nepal Orphans Home and would be a great first piece in a pre-Christmas update. We will see what comes after it. The author of the letter is Sita, shown on the right from Christmas past.

Dear Eva,

Merry Christmas.

This is Sita. Papa asked me to help him to write a letter to you to say Happy Christmas. The photo I am sending is from last year. It was the night before Christmas and we all go outside on our ground and sing Christmas songs and drink hot chocolate milk with marshmallows in it. Today is Saturday and we sang songs for Christmas to practice. Last year we put candles on the ground in the shape of a house with a heart for a window, this is our sign.

We are thinking now to make a new sign for this year. In the photo you see only candles, but we also all stood on a brick and put the candles in our hands for a photo, but Papa cannot find that photo.

Christmas is fun. On the morning of Christmas we find in our rooms a big red sock filled with many gifts. Papa always tells us to sleep with one eye open, but it always closes and when we wake there is the socks.  Papa said Santa brings them all.  We open the socks and then drink tea and have biscuits. It is very cold outside, then our house puts on their out dress and we walk to Papa’s House and when we come through the gate we see many big bags and each has a name on it.

After all the other houses come Papa says to find our bag.

After we find our bags we open them and inside are many gifts. We open those and it is very fun. After we open these we go home to eat rice and then we come back to Papa’s house. Then we have our secret Santa. We make a big circle and someone calls out a name, the person who has that name for their secret Santa comes to the middle of the circle to give the gift they made. It is very fun.

After we do the secret Santa we eat. All the house moms and Pratap sir make food and bring it to Papa’s House; Christmas rice is always so good. Then we have dancing and dramas that each house has been practicing and then we say goodbye and go home. Christmas is coming in 9 days. Do you have Christmas too?

Today we are singing Christmas songs after eating tiffin. My best is Silent Nights.

In these photos I am holding our little brother Sandip. Pratap sir helps us to learn the songs. It is fun. This photo is my friend Kanti. She is happy.

This is my Christmas; Merry Christmas to you Eva. Please write me. I Love You.

Sita

*****

Puja (Pupu) as I call her, the other morning and seven or so years of mornings ago imitating me; when she was little she had me hysterically pegged. She may still, but she has become harder to catch in the act as she ages.


Pupu loves to dress up

and act

and pretend to be a rock star

or here she called herself Pakistani Miss

I have written about Pupu a few times. She is such a wonderful child, great entertainer, good student adored by her teachers for her behavior and levity and indispensible friend to all, especially anyone feeling a little down. She is one of our 139 special children helping to make this an extraordinary place to live.

*****

We have brought 22 new children into our homes this past year; they seem like they have always been a part of us. The very young ones have done a remarkable job of learning English and in some cases where they only spoke their mother tongue, Nepalese too. They each bring their special uniqueness and joy to this big stew of a family.







Most of the children come having experienced some pretty grim lives. I shared the story of the arrival of one little girl who arrived during Dashain with a friend of mine as written below. Naumaya is the little girl lower right in brown.

This morning we took in a new little girl; she is nine and her name is Naumaya. She had been in another orphanage for four years when the husband and wife running it decided to close their doors, their reasons not particularly heroic, but it is what it is. They had found homes for all the other children, only 14 as it was, but none for Naumaya. She does have a father who is deaf and dumb and a wanderer in a village very far away.  Four years earlier he abandoned her.

She was not eager to be separated from the man who brought her. In fact she was pretty inconsolable when he left; I tried my best. My staff is all away this week, the last of the holiday. I watched her from a distance out in our large ground wishing, I think, that she could fly over our gate, for where I have no idea. Occasionally one or more of our children would approach her only to have their kindness rebuffed. They would come to me and ask what they could do and I suggested nothing more than they were already doing, as I felt she needed some time alone to come to terms with her new situation. About an hour later she wandered over to where some kids were sitting and talking and after a few minutes they were all off together. When next I found her she was in the room of a wonderful woman from Finland who comes this time each year and teaches the children knitting and quilt making in an exceptional environment of inspiration, humor, sharing and delightful photo ops. Naumaya stood in a sun spot with two knitting needles focused upon a row of stitches she or someone had created and immersed entirely in it. In the sun spot with her were the tiny angel dust like particles floating about, she looked like she was about to be transported.

The other children present were sitting around knitting, with Sirkka, in her large armchair knitting and smiling serenely upon it all.

*****

I took 64 girls back to our former home in Western Nepal, the staging area to meet the kin we had arranged to meet them and care for them during the Dashain and Tihar holiday. Mostly they were met by a married sister, or grandparent.

We left at 4 p.m. for the trip over, after an ill-advised meal of rice for the travelers. I am not sure if there are people more prone to motion sickness than the Nepalese. Our children, bless their hearts, were not five minutes into the 13-hour journey before running into problems. I had purchased two hundred plastic bags which ran out a couple of hours shy of our destination. The sound of "Papa Quick" echoed off the rattling metal cage of the rollicking bus throughoutthe night; the bus was too small for our numbers and the children were 3 and 4 per two-person seat, layered in an attempt at stretching out for sleep to ward off the elements churning their stomachs. The night was long, but my heart as always filled with the touching display of quiet suffering of our beautiful children.

We arrived in Narti around 6:30 to an empty ground that slowly began to receive a trickle of relatives.

I had arranged for a motorcycle to be present to allow me the opportunity to visit as many of our children as a few days would allow, and ease the anxiety plaguing my soul. It took several hours for me to meet the remnants of kin of the children, but by 10 a.m. all that was left in the large field was an old and defiantly stubborn Yamaha, myself and a nervous looking volunteer who had asked to come with us. I reiterated the 40-year distance between my last time on a motorcycle and this moment, in defense of what I feared lay ahead. Many times over the course of our time together I inadvertently abused the imprecise workings of the tired old machine, and it, in turn and understandably, refused to start up again after each time I shut it down. The steering was wobbly, the accelerator sticky, tires bald and hand brake disconnected—much of that I suppose fairly describes myself—but in the last 20-minute ride from one of my visits back to my room, we found in each other displays of what might have been our former glory and thus parted after three contestable days with affection.

Visiting the children did help in many ways and it always moves me into a better place of understanding and appreciation for Nepal Orphans Home.

We had a new scooter generously donated by Professor William (Bill) Lee of Mankota State, Minnesota. Bill has had many Nepalese students in his classes and has been struck by their gentleness, kindness and eagerness to learn. I have shared many a great letter exchange with him. The scooter has provided the staff with a much easier time in doing their daily errands prior to which would find each walking an hour or more;  now they have a much better use of their time. This is the first vehicle for NOH.

And another wish we had listed has been satisfied by Possible Worlds Foundation, Sanctuary for Kids and again Professor Lee.  Combined, theyprovided the capital to allow us the installation of solar lights for the kitchen and common study rooms as well as select bedrooms and halls in each of our 5 homes.  This year it has been predicted by the electric authority that we will have 19 hours per day outages, every day until the monsoon season begins. But now we can see to cook and study, soit feels luxurious having these.

The posted wish list has been most kindly addressed by several very thoughtful people, and we are most grateful for their compassion.

*****

In Dhapasi we had a wonderful Dashain and Tihar made so by many superlative volunteers who were here to give their days, hearts and talents to the children.

Sirkka was back for her fifth year, and Theresa Tate, whose wise counsel I have many times sought over the last three years, enjoyed her first year with us.

I have a long list of others to thank and will do so in the January update. To you all, thank you for bringing so much of your remarkable selves to these children.

We are fast preparing for our Christmas here at Papa’s House, the logistics of it well-devised by Anita Mahato and Gita Lama who each year take on the task with broad smiles. I am anxious to share the many changes that have taken place this year at Nepal Orphans Home and the exuberance in which we are going to be greeting the New Year.

Until then, to all who have touched us this year:

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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