Papa’s House News and Updates

November 2016

The making of men and women.

Something that everyone who visits the homes of NOH will remark upon is how close a relationship the children have. Our older children are always available to play, talk with and listen to the youngest children. They know how to share the moments, to be inclusive, and to feel what their brothers and sisters are feeling. They know when to play the fool and when to take seriously the mood of the moment of the little ones; you will as often see our teenagers hanging out with our smallest children as you will see them with each other. Our older children help to make Nepal Orphans Home a happy and nurturing place for us all to grow up in. 


“Never is a man as tall as when he will stoop down to help a child.”

CECC Building

As seen from the boys house balcony From the street

Our new Chelsea Education and Community Center has once again resumed a pace which will allow the opening of its doors by early spring. The month of October is a holy month and work is slowed to between a crawl and nonexistent.

The building is going to provide a space where individuals will recognize their potential and have the guidance and tools to achieve personal greatness. Education is the key to all that is important to the human endeavor, and here its collective energy is ushering in a dynamic change in our community.

Parbati, Tara, Minu, Sabitri, and Sabina make up our Women’s Council. These women bring to the task a combination of experience and tradition, the spirit of young women yearning to be heard and those who straddle both. They meet with our Chelsea staff every Friday afternoon to discuss the CECC and our community. They suggest workshops that they feel would be helpful or enlightening, and discuss ways in which the community might better serve the individual and how we might play a small part in making our world a bit more just and equitable.

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Outreach

The NOH Outreach means a great deal to the staff, our children, and the Board members of Nepal Orphans Home. We are very proud of the dedication to this and the result thereof.

Sanjeev Dahal shown here with support money and an agreement with Mrs. Mina Thapa who is the founder and director of Mother-Sister Nepal, an NGO serving the women of remote Sindhupalchowk as well as caring for children who lost both parents in the earthquakes of 2015. This is one of two orphanages that would not be able to provide optimum care for the children if it were not for our help.

Kanti Children’s Hospital

Our work here varies.  In some months we are able to grant wishes to the children such as the one described in the last update.  In addition, Saroj and Himal, two of our college and post college boys, work in this outreach program, and have been taking children who are feeling well enough out to fun places for the day.

We also help when needed with buying pain medications, chemo treatments, and necessary testing. These occurrences are when children’s parents have absolutely no means to provide any sort of medical treatment. Without prepayment for medical care the service is not given.

We also celebrate a lot of birthdays with the children and provide enough cakes, balloons, and other treats to turn the ward very festive. Early last month we arranged for “Clowns without Borders” to put on an afternoon performance attended by most of the hospital.

Ramechhap

School building site about one year ago The first floor, of two, walled in, June 2016
The foundations beginnings Jan 2016  One of the makeshift classrooms

The village of Dhumrikhaka is an area where NOH has been helping for the past 7-8 years. Their school was heavily damaged in the first earthquake, but then completely lost in the second one two weeks later. The village sits two and a half hours’ hike (for the young) up a very steep mountain. It is a small village of very limited means. We have supported the school there with teacher salaries and a hot lunch program for the 80 to 100 (on average) students in the school. This is also a very popular destination for our volunteers. The people are lovely.

Life there is exasperatingly difficult. If you were curious by the construction timeline, it is because they have so little water available that mixing concrete has to have water set aside over a period of time before they can do it. We have encouraged the village elders to get a price on having water delivered from a boring down below using lift stations; this would provide all the water needs of each household in the village from a single tap. We will do our best to pay for having this done in the next few months. NOH is building the school and we are hopeful now to have a completion ceremony in April in time for the start of the new school year. 

Bigu

Post earthquake, all but one building lost Four of the 80 Buddhist nuns
The new house and kitchen The Lama and head administrative nuns

The destruction was complete in the earthquake.  They lost every building save the one in the above photo which sustained severe damage. Immediately after the quake, NOH provided emergency funds for tents, blankets and food. Then after a plan was decided upon and they wished to move everyone to Kathmandu, NOH was there for them. Now is the time when all have returned and construction is going on quickly in an attempt to get under shelter before the snow flies. NOH has committed a substantial amount of money for the construction.

Bigu sits on a mountain top, a bus ride and two days’ hike from Kathmandu. It is a very spiritual place and a favorite also of our volunteers who teach, help with maintenance, or work in the gardens or kitchen. Several years ago my son had his wedding performed by the Lama and attended by all the nuns, from seven years of age to eighty years old.

NOH has been involved with Bigu for seven years now and we look forward to our next generation carrying on with it.

These are a few of our ongoing outreach programs which we believe strongly in.

New Staff


Shreya, Hillary and Sanjeev

In our newsletter you will have been introduced to these wonderful new hires. They are exceptional people with hearts set on making a difference in the lives of many.

Shreya is our Volunteer Nepal Communications Director, Hillary has been hired to be the Director of our Chelsea Education and Community Center, and Sanjeev is our new Director of Education and Outreach Programs. 

Sisters Day

The older boys doing a self-choreographed skit Ram sharing his passion for singing
Young boys dancing Priya after receiving Tika from her brothers
Kajul receiving her blessing Anisha feeling honored by her brothers

This was the 4th annual “Sisters Day” celebration which happened on September 17th. The program is completely put on by the boys and includes a fine meal that they have prepared and served for all the girls. It is an occasion which further galvanizes our family’s togetherness and helps make it a little smaller with the blessings from all the boys to all the girls.

Tihar

Dog day and our Tinky and Lucky are honored Cow Day, Laxmi Puja

Tihar is a five-day festival with each day honoring a different deity. The third day honors dogs. The fourth day honors cows and is called Laxmi Puja. The Goddess Laxmi will come to every house and business to bring wealth to it in the following year. Mandalas are created by the entrance and painted footsteps lead to the house’s interior Puja room.

During Tihar the fifth day is when brothers are honored. They receive flowered “mallas" and carefully applied Tikas from all the girls, then in return they offer the same to their sisters. After this the first meal of the day is broken together.


Dashain

Dashain is a period of reverence that spans three weeks. There are certain days within that are sacred, and on these days families come together in ritual. Kathmandu is a ghost town for a few lovely days as most return to their village birth place.

On Tika day a banquet is prepared the day before. In the morning the women all bathe and do Puja alone, and then all the children gather to receive a blessing. The elder is the first to offer Tika, and a blessing to every person younger, which in my case is most of Kathmandu. This then is followed by our senior staff.

Manisha Aakriti and Gita
Srijhana, Hope and Hope’s doll Sandesh, Tilak, and Bimala
Urmila  Manisha and Mina
Priya Aakriti

In addition to the Tika and separate blessings to each member you also apply “Jamala” a special type of wheat grown for this occasion only, into the hair.  When all is done the banquet is served and after that the day quiets down to walks and resting. Each community will erect a “Ping” three very tall bamboo pieces forming a tripod from which a heavy rope and swing is attached. Children play on these for several days leading up to “Tika” day but at sunset on that day these are removed for the year. 

Saroj taking the boys to the Fun Park


Suman, Sanjiv, Davit, and Sandip, the fabulous four enjoying a day at the Kathmandu fun park courtesy of our elder son Saroj, who is also a part-time manager in their house.

Saroj and his sister Sangita were the first two children of NOH. Sangita is now 25 and living on her own while Saroj at 22 is an all-around help with the outreach department, volunteer department and co-manager of the boys. I think he is one of several of our children who will lead the next generation of work done by NOH.

Sandip and his alter hero Sanjiv and Suman sliding

Halloween Nepal style

With deep gratitude to Hillary and volunteers Amanda and Romina, the kids had a very active and fun Halloween party.

Apple bobbing  and frightening décor by the children
The children made their own costumes from whatever could be found

I think we had the only jack-o-lantern-worthy pumpkin in Nepal. Manisha, tongue in cheek, making the “trick or treat” rounds.

A “mummy”-making contest And the mummies. 

Then Hillary led a brave young group in learning “The Monster Mash” while Hope tried to keep up.

Sports Day

With many events designed by our volunteers that were meant to challenge dexterity, endurance and the ability to perform while laughing hysterically, we had “Sports Day.”

My Girl


Hope unquestionably enters every contest with determination and fun

She is a keen observer of body mechanics To Manisha, winning is being with her friend

Hope has brought us all heightened sensitivities. Being around her leads us to recognize our own potential and strengthens our resolve to be better people and to work hard to acquire the skills necessary to make a difference with our lives, and to know that it does matter. 

Every morning Hope stands next to me to welcome each of her sisters and brothers as they enter the school gate, and I have learned that in the blue moon when I am not present she stands alone to do so.

Hope has been patient with my tendency to hover around her in protection, but lately she is asking me to give her space and allow her to fall, just like others do. It has been the hardest lesson for me coming from her, but I have witnessed that she recognizes her abilities and is as careful as the situation demands it to be. Most importantly I am allowing her the requested space to grow.

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We will soon be celebrating Thanksgiving. I have been quietly making this our most significant celebration of the year. Last year the nation was held in siege by politics that closed the border to trade and thus we had fire wood only with which to cook and nothing to cook beyond rice and dhal. Last year, in advance of Thanksgiving, a couple of donors contributed towards a memorable feast; as it turned out, what we lacked in food was made up for with sharing our feelings. So this year we still have last year’s contributions and some new ones and the day will long be remembered as much for the meal as for the reflection of what abundant blessings each one of us has to be thankful for.

I hope that your own Thanksgiving brings with it the appreciation of pure love for one another.

Thank you.

Papa


​11 years ago, a child alone, bereft of hope, my inspiration. Now, full of Hope.
 

August 2016

NOH received a grant in 2015 to construct its own facility for our Chelsea Education and Community Center. In the June update I wrote about the center. In 2015 we opened the doors to the women of Dhapasi to attend free classes in English, Math, Nepali and computers. As of this writing we have 250+ women attending daily classes. The women attend from 10am until 3pm with an average of five classes simultaneously in session.

We had a ceremony to bless the ground and building on July 20th, eight days after site work had begun, attended by many of our students and teachers.


The monsoon season is a tricky time to begin a project like this and it has indeed hampered our progress, but as of August 11th we were almost out of the ground and will begin to make up time. We are building a foundation which begins 5’ below ground level and has many tie beams strengthening the structure. The photos below show the progress of three weeks.


In stark contrast to our Chelsea Center is the school we are building in Ramechhap, also mentioned in June’s update. There the problem is they have so little water that mixing cement is not possible for days. The ability to collect rain water to use is nonexistent as the rains keep skirting this hill (mountain) top village. I will have new photos of that in our next update.

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Every morning a group of children from different homes will meet just before 5 and walk, run, practice Taekwondo, or play basketball. One of those with me is Asmita, 2nd from left in left photo being honored for her school work, and above.

One morning we had passed an elderly woman sitting along the road side, I did not think too much about it and kept walking. As we were about to make a sharp turn on our path I noticed Asmita was not with us. It is dark at that hour, but when I scanned the distance behind us I saw her escorting the elderly lady. The pace of the older woman was such that Asmita had fallen way behind. The woman needed support as she walked and Asmita provided it all the way to the woman’s house which was on our route but some distance ahead. I could hear Asmita chatting amiably with the woman, calming her and perhaps flooding her with memories of her own daughter long ago.

Unlike me, Asmita had stopped and asked the woman if she was okay and the woman replied that she could not walk the rest of the way home alone.

Asmita has been with us for 7 years, one half of her life. She is always cheerful and works very hard at school finishing in the top three each term. I was very proud of her for doing this. It is not uncommon at all to find our children quietly helping others.

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On July 31st we sent 12 more children off to college. As we do each year, we gather with them to offer our blessings and give them a tika, and as the weather does every year it rained. School begins at 6am and as they have to walk about two miles, so we had the ceremony at 5am.

This year’s 12 did very well on their School Leaving Exams with the highest scoring a 3.6 GPA and the lowest a 2.8 GPA. So now we have 24 children attending college and two in university.


As a congratulatory gesture and to have the children gain some more exposure to life, we arranged for two of our managers and these 12 children to go to Pokhara, a destination of choice among anyone you might ask anywhere in Nepal. Pokhara is called the Switzerland of Nepal, mist-covered lakes with majestic mountains on their edge rising craggily into the clouds. They spent four days exploring; everything they did was a new experience for them and they returned seeming a little worldlier and deeply appreciative.


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After last year’s earthquake we accepted Sarita (far left). She has been a joy to have around; she is quiet and a little shy, but quick with a smile. She is a good student who has learned English very quickly. 

In addition we had brother and sister Samita and Sanjeep delivered last year at the exact moment the earthquake occurred. They too have brought a lot of fun to the family, serious students but with a welcomed amount of mischievousness from Sanjeep. Samita is also a faithful walker with me every morning.

In the last couple months we have welcomed Ranjhana on the left and Manisha on the right.

Manisha came to us just three weeks ago; she is 6 and has charmed all her house mates. Ranjhana is quiet and very polite; she has become part of an inseparable group of girls in her home.

It is heartbreaking to find children in the situations that demand help; we are fortunate to have the type of donor support that allows us to bring them into our family where they thrive in an environment of kindness and well being.

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Some leaders are born to it. This is Hope at school. She attends Nursery Class each morning for a few hours, and as these photos display she thinks that she is the teacher’s assistant. 

In her first ever exam she finished rather quickly, put her pencil down, called the teacher’s attention to it and then got up and walked around the room helping others who seemed to be having trouble. The concept of this being a test of an individual’s knowledge seemed less important to her then making sure the students understood. Her exceptional teacher, seen standing just past Hope in the second photo has been charmed into submission by Hope; then again I believe we all have.

On August 7th we marked the three year anniversary of Hopes coming home to us. 


August 21st, 2013 

 July 15th, 2016

Hope has received donations over the years and has only used a small portion of them. So we use the “Hope Fund” to help other children with medical needs. I am working on making a website for her. The website will be part of the NOH website. Her website, once built, may use what you see below as a logo. I welcome comments and ideas on the logo.

WHERE THERE IS HOPE

THERE IS HELP

Our Hope Fund continues to help the sick and disabled. Sometimes this is heart wrenching and brings us closer to the mysteries of life and death, and in some cases brings pause in the belief that there is a higher order to life.

Yesterday an eight year old boy received his wish, a remote controlled helicopter. Sadly his wish was only the day before informed. He is being sent home now, the medical options for him exhausted. He is no longer ambulatory and speaking is difficult, but he can sit with help and his face and searching eyes are an ocean of thought and emotion.

His very loving father sat behind him on the bed propping him up against his chest when a very large remote controlled helicopter was presented. The boy smiled at it, his eyes caressed every part of the gift, and his father too smiled, feeling his son’s momentary departure from the misery of dying. The helicopter was started up and the blades sent a gentle breeze fluttering the boys eyes, widened at the sight of potential for what the helicopter can do.

The father and mother soon after carried the boy and his helicopter from the ward to go home. In my daydream I see the father and his son sitting in their yard, his son propped against him, a brilliantly blue sky with wisps of fluffy white clouds sailing through as the father sends the helicopter above them to his son’s delight and as it rises higher and higher the son will close his eyes and let go to follow the helicopter to a place peaceful and free of anxiety, pain, and sadness.

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Nepal Orphans Home has just opened an office in our Chelsea Center to handle all our outreach programs. Present staff are doubling up; using the office full time is Mrs. Pandey who also serves as manager of our volunteer program under director Eileen Witham. Merging our staff in these related endeavors has increased our capacity and performance in the care of many projects. Below are photos of the new office and the Shoe and Tailoring shops run by our children as independent contractors. 


The Community Service Center Office

And that’s the way it is for August 13th, 2016.

All my best,
Papa

June 2016

In late January Hope, Anita and I flew to America where Shriners Children’s Hospital in Boston had accepted her as a patient. Shriners would be a great model for how the planet should work. Phenomenal medical personnel, incredible attention to detail and bedside care beyond belief. Everyone on “Hope’s Team” deserves special mention, but the head of it all, Bernadette Hannigan, will never be forgotten.

This was an occasion to marvel once again at Hope, a little girl who has never once complained about her situation, who makes do with enthusiasm and smiles for every challenge before her.

For Anita and me, the thought of Hope enduring all that an operation entails flooded our thoughts with anguish as the day approached. Shriners’ staff knows a parent’s anxiety and has polished their craft to eliminating it in the way they relate to the patient. The morning of the operation filled us with dread; for Hope, she was simply enjoying her morning as we drove to the hospital with her stomach empty; she did not question her rising in the dark, why she missed her morning bottle or complain about her hunger or departure from routine. Anita had done a remarkable job of letting Hope know everything about this trip and allowing her to be free of concern.

Once in the hospital things move swiftly while surgeons and anesthesiologist, nurses and nurse practitioners all come to brief you and entertain Hope. The anesthesiologists, two of them, brought in the mask that they would use and had Hope pick out some scents she liked to cake the inside with. They explained to us their methodology to eliminate as much post-operative pain and grogginess as possible by using an ultrasound to locate a vein and induce a blocker, and, along with the surgeon’s visit, it all helped to eliminate any fear we had. But still.

We were instructed to put a gown on Hope and ourselves, along with masks, as they were allowing us to wheel Hope into the OR as we requested. Suddenly it was time and people were pulling and pushing the gurney as we walked on either side talking to Hope who was sitting quietly taking it all in.

Inside the OR the medical staff turned from what they were doing and started to entertain Hope with stuffed animals; before I knew it, the anesthesiologist from behind her gently placed the mask on Hope while we held her in a sitting position.  She did not look confused or scared, and in just a moment she slumped down and was out. The staff then became business-oriented and asked us to kiss her and leave, their smiles kind and assuring us that she would be fine.

Leaving the OR and our baby behind weighed so heavy upon us. We would be called the second she was out of the OR and be with her when she awoke in recovery. We sat together on the 9th floor overlooking a grey, wintery but bustling Boston, our quietness punctuated by our personal favorite Hope “remember when’s.”

The call came and we rushed to the recovery room; our little Angel had a massive cast to her thigh, one arm full of monitors and another with an IV needle heavily bandaged to keep it in place. Her eyes were closed. They positioned the gurney and a nursing staff began monitoring and adjusting with us on one side of the gurney. We began to call her name. We watched her eye lids flutter and soon they opened; she looked at us quizzically, then smiled weakly. In short order she asked for something to drink; the nurses listened for gurgling sounds in her and then okayed sips of juice. Maybe an hour’s time passed before they started disconnecting many monitors and prepared her to move to her room.

My brother Bob arrived minutes later and took this first photo. This is Hope, less than 2 hours out of surgery and her smile never faded despite restricted movements with her cast, fluids and monitors.

Hope’s recovery was quick.  After 5 weeks we were allowed to go to Connecticut  to be fitted for new prosthetics; we worked with NEOPS whose staff led with their hearts in wishing to produce the best possible devices for Hope. We remained in Boston with my brother Bob and drove each time the 2.5 hour journey for her visits.

One day the new prosthetics were done and we went to try them out. They brought them into one of the rooms and set them down before Hope who was quick to examine them closely. She particulary loved the feet with rubber toes.

This was a touching 10 weeks with time spent with our families. My brothers Peter and Bob and sister in law Boo, my aunt Beth, uncle George, cousin Liz, my sons Jerry and Aaron and daughter-in-law Jo and my beautiful grandchildren; Kathy Procranik who was largely responsible for bringing Hope into our lives, and her husband Tony; Anita’s brother Vinod and sister in law Alecia, her parents and grandmother, all went out of their way to welcome and care for us on this journey. None of this would have happened if not for Margaret Ikeda, a pediatrician and family friend who made the application to Shriner’s in our behalf and spent a considerable amount of time and professional courtesy over six months of paperwork between herself and Shriners which made this all possible. In addition she arranged with Devon Bell, the prosthetics craftsman at NEOPS, to take Hope on as a patient, his youngest ever, which requires a whole new set of skills to accomplish. And finally to the donors who unsolicited had contributed to Hope’s care made this journey an outstanding success. We have left America with deepened relationships and many new friends as well. Thank you all.


The sands of Daytona Beach

Waving hello to Minnie Mouse

With Anita and Paxtyn, my newest granddaughter

Building Snowmen

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Arriving home and in the embrace of our children made the previous 10 weeks surreal. Hope had sharply increased her communication much to the astonishment of her brothers and sisters. She got swept up in a tide of attention and love.

Our managers had done a splendid job of keeping the children safe and on schedule. They all proved their mettle, especially Sam who was in charge and whose hair was turning grey quicker than a new president’s.

We missed many important occasions beginning with Valentine’s Day, produced once again by the staff of Volunteer Nepal with funding by Toni Thomson and her Possible Worlds of Canada NGO. 


Our children were voted by the school as the recipients of many of the superlatives. 

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Also missed was the first time our Taekwondo children participated in competition. Twelve of the 30 children learning Taekwondo have been practicing every other day for 5-7 years in all types of weather and never with complaint. The other eighteen are in their second year. From the thirty, fifteen children were chosen for the competition. They did well, as a team they came in 2nd and as individuals as follows:


Deepa unavailable for photo in uniform, 1st place and Chiya 1st place, both undefeated


Alicia and Sumitra both second place



Suman, Hematha, Ram and Tilak bottom all third in a day long in fighting


The NOH team achieving second place; one of their coaches in the middle

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On May 17th Panos Karan and Fumiko Tanaka arrived after a few months of e-mail exchange.

“Keys of Change” www.keysofchange.org is an NGO they started to bring classical music to underserved countries. Assembled on a dark and thundering day were 30 of our most musically interested children to listen to Panos play lots of Beethoven, and a Franz Liszt piece that commands all 88 keys.

Panos has performed in over 50 countries in, as he said, “serious venues for serious people,” and decided it was time to have fun with his music and inspire children. During his 40 minute recital he instructed the children by telling stories in a very compelling way and asking them questions as he would finish a piece. There are many videos of Panos performing on YouTube, one recent one from April at Boston Symphony Hall with a youth orchestra from Japan that he has worked with since the tsunami and arranged for their trip to perform in Boston. It is a moving performance.

Panos and Fumiko returned to our home two Saturdays after to visit with our kids. They helped to serve lunch and clean up after. This is an amazing and highly accomplished young man who has and could continue to dazzle the musical world, but has chosen time out to inspire children.

Please check out his website.


May 17th concert with our spell bound children and below serving lunch to the children

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Nepal Orphans Home’s newest daughter Ranjana arrived in the middle of board member Carola Drosdeck’s 6 week presence. House manager Anita Chaudhary and I welcomed Ranjana at the gate to our home and then Carola and Anita took over, cleaned her up, made her comfortable in her room, helped her pick out new clothes and walked her to school to meet her brothers and sisters for lunch. Carola spent the day with her and enabled the softest of landings for Ranjana’s new life.


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One of the finest endeavors begun by NOH has been the Chelsea Education and Community Center opening its doors to the adult women of the area. At this writing over two hundred women are on a schedule for classes 6 days a week; others come hoping to audit classes until room becomes available for them. Space is limited. Our teachers for the adult women include four of our own children who are in college and have become excellent teachers. Their college is out at 10 each morning, allowing them full days of teaching. They join 13 other graduate students that we have hired from Thames College to round out the faculty. They refer to themselves as “Team Chelsea.”

The students are learning English, Math, Computer and Nepali from 10am till 3pm all for free. From 4pm until 6pm our own children are at the Chelsea Center where the grad students work closely with them emphasizing math and computer.

An incredible young woman, Manon Pruvost, has joined NOH and has been restructuring the CECC with a more systematic and structured curriculum that enables the student population to expand and the teaching to be more effective. 


Manon Proust in the green Chelsea shirt as the busses rolled in

She also has fun and helped to organize a field trip to the National Gardens. This was a joyous occasion which had 200 women groaning at day’s end when told it was time to board the busses for home.

Some of the assembled before the busses arrived. Carola with our oldest student, so eager to learn and grateful for this opportunity, she helps give confidence and inspiration to all the other women.


The buses start to roll in

One of the English classes

NOH began their vocational school many years before now; the first two years we focused on teaching the trades as well as music and basic computer skills. Then, Glenn Detrick came into our lives. Glenn visited NOH one rainy day to deliver his daughter Chelsea’s large Beanie Baby collection to our children. Chelsea had fought cancer for a few years and had succumbed to it in the previous year. In her honor Glenn had established the Chelsea Center in St. Louis at Webster Groves High School. It flourishes today. Glenn was swept up in the atmosphere of our homes, the incredible children and their dedication to learning and said he would like to help.

Glenn Detrick, alone and with his friends, has enabled the humble vocational center we began to develop into a large, robust, community, and personal life changing center. Very soon NOH will break ground on building a new Chelsea Educational and Community Center for which we will have a dedication ceremony early next spring.

This is Chelsea, by numerous accounts and from her father’s insightful and emotionally thought-provoking book about her life, I have learned what an exceptional person she was, gracing the earth for such a short while.

We recently posted a large photo of Chelsea in the CECC. The women asked about her and in pure Nepali fashion, unprompted, in an act of the highest respect, kissed their fingers and touched Chelsea’s forehead and said a prayer.

A father’s tribute to the inspiration he received by his daughter has made life easier and better, through education, for hundreds. People like this are, to me, saintly.

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NOH stays very busy trying to make a difference for people in need. We listen, we see, we learn and act without hesitation to find a way to remove burdens from people’s lives.

One program in its earliest stages is working with children who are terminally ill and in the final stages of their lives. We have started small, being a presence in the ward two times a week, bringing fruits and sweets, organizing birthday parties and being ready to help poor families with the cost of medicine or other care. We hope to develop this further into a program modeled after the “Make A Wish Foundation”. We had tried before the earthquake with a young boy who wished to meet his favorite actor. We did everything we could think of to get the actor to come for an hour or two, but he said he couldn’t spare the time. The boy died a little while after that. This failed at that time as I had not established enough of what was needed before offering a wish to this child.  Sunita Pandey who co-manages our Volunteer Nepal arm has taken on the work at Kanti Children’s Hospital and serves it well.

Unless you have a galvanized heart you may wish to not look at these photos. Such beautiful children. Saroj, my first son, is in the first photo far left; Mrs. Pandey can be found feeding the little girl with the thousand yard stare. The birthday party was for the little boy with the red shirt in the second photo. Such beautiful and courageous little people.


Sometimes you really do not know a person until you see them interacting in a situation like this, they then become deeply human, transformed before your eyes. Volunteers and staff alike never leave this ward with dry eyes. 

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All photos from the ward by Carola Drosdeck

We have helped a Dalit (untouchables by the arcane practice of religious hierarchy) village in the hills of Ramechhap for many years. We primarily support the school with a hot lunch program, teacher salaries and other educational support when needed. The school was destroyed in the second earthquake. We helped then to get a temporary school put together and since have been working to build a new school. Numerous hurdles have kept that from happening and many natural hurdles remain; the area is hard to reach and water in very anemic supply. Yet we have been able to recently begin the construction. NOH received donations for earthquake relief from donors who knew we would use every penny of it properly. We hired an engineer who designed a school and gave an estimate of its construction.  NOH has agreed to pay for the complete job. We hope, barring the seasonal rains inhibiting things too much, to have the school completed by the end of the year.


Laying out the foundation

A “Puja” ceremonial blessing

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 On April 30th Hope Angel turned three years old!

A year makes a big difference. Last year we celebrated 5 days after the earthquake as a means to forget for a few hours, and though we are still receiving aftershocks in the mid four range, we have this year moved on and are no longer weighed down with anxiety.


Hope’s beautiful cake

Some of the girls in attendance


The other day the girls were working in the yard, and Hope was hanging with them. I with my camera came around the corner and saw this. Hope had picked up a long drain plunger and did a series of moves that had pretty accurate precision. In a letter to a friend I shared these photos with the idea that Hope had been a Ninja warrior in a past life. Then, with a moments further reflection I remembered she had just watched the Ninja Turtles. I still admire the form.

*******

NOH has at this time 24 of our children in College or University. We have 20 more who will join them next spring. Next year our college transition houses may have more children in them than some of our regular houses. Fortunately, we still have many young ones among us. Watching these younger children, some who have been with us since 4 years old, will be fascinating; they will undoubtedly set new academic standards few others will approach.




*******

Our children now fill about half of our 43 staff positions. Others are managing their own business under our watchful eye. Two that deserve their own space now are below.

Our new Shoe Shop on the ground floor of the Sanctuary House. The children make all our school shoes as well as sell them to other students’ parents.

Our new Tailoring Shop on the ground floor of the Chelsea Center. Here three of our girls manage the shop during the day and teach sewing between 4 and 6 pm. Since opening the shop they have been kept busy with many new orders. They have long been making our uniforms as well as the uniforms for Gholadunga, a home for the blind that we support. There is still painting to do and signs to be made and hung.

*******

Around two weeks ago I read a newspaper article which spoke of a remote village of 29 families surviving on nettle soup. The community there is Chepang, formerly a nomadic people who lived in the forest and did quite well in their own way.

A few years ago the government decided that they were hurting the forest and made them settle in villages together and learn to be farmers or tradesmen.

The article said that these 29 families were slowly starving; their crops were insufficient to feed them for more than 4 months and had earlier run out. We were curious to learn more about them and how to address their inability to be self-sustaining, but most importantly we wished to feed them.

I called two of our older boys who were on their college break; both these boys are immensely capable in remote travel; Chham has a government earned trekking license and Rabindra is from one of the harshest and most unforgiving areas of Nepal and well-seasoned in hard work and innovation.

We met at 9:30 and I proposed that they take a bus to Dhading Besi, the district seat of the land where the village is and hire a 4-wheel truck, load it with rice, dhal, oil, salt, and flour and try and deliver it to the village. We have two good friends in Dhading, honorary uncles of Hope and I called them to meet Chham and Rabindra in Dhading Besi and help them secure a truck and guide them to where to buy the goods.

By 11am Chham and Rabindra were on their way and by late afternoon they had found a truck and driver, had it loaded with 2000lbs of food and set off for the village which lay at the top of a mountain range a good 5 hours distance.

The “road” up was loosened by rains and barely supportive. After a few hours it was dark and dangerous to continue and so they stopped at a house they had passed and asked for shelter for the night. They slept in the cow shed, received a hot meal of rice in the morning and continued.

The rains came, the truck repeatedly got stuck and slid precariously close to sheer drop offs. A few people walking up to villages were given rides and used to push the truck each time it was stuck. The driver wished to stop after the progress was so utterly slow, but Chham and Rabindra were able to coax out the best in him and shared their enthusiasm for not quitting on these people starving up ahead.  They continued for hours more and finally reached an impasse. One of the riders said the village lay another 3 hours hike up the mountain.

Chham and Rabindra paid him to go to the village and let the people know to come down and collect the goods and then waited.

After 5 hours they saw a trail of people making their way down the steep incline on switchbacks. Soon they were surrounded by the villagers. Chham had the newspaper article with him which had a photo of one of the villagers and his son; he used this to find the boy.

It was late in the day now, but the rain had stopped. The food was unloaded and the villagers made ready to carry it home, they were deeply thankful; they felt witness to a miracle that Chham and Rabindra should show up with so much food for them.


Truck getting stuck in the lower elevation

A school passed along the way

The son featured in the newspaper article

Curious women looking at Chham

Rice distribution, man in the dress shirt from a lower village agreed to come and help. He spoke Chepang and knew the villagers

Chham with the son

Dividing the dhal

On their way up the mountain to home

Mission accomplished, Rabindra and Chham breathe in the beauty and serenity before starting down towards home. They arrived late the next day, exhausted, but pleased to have helped people.

"Our children do not talk so much about life, they just live it; they do not talk about giving a gift to a friend, they just do it; they don’t think about carrying the school bag of another who isn’t feeling well, they simply take it; there is no pretense, no calculations. They simply choose to engage everything straight from the heart.

“We have choices in life and each and every one of us has so much power.  If you choose to live a positive, optimistic life, to help others, to love your family and friends, to think ‘How can I make a difference in someone’s life every day?’ then you will make that difference; not only in their lives but in the quality of your own. It does not take a special person or a rich person; it just takes a caring person."

I wrote the above some years ago. I was reminded of it when the boys returned triumphant and proud. Most people would have quit on this task, but our children will never quit, they will see the joy where others see vexation, they will dig deeper when others throw in the towel. They are, like all our children, first and foremost, “caring people.”

Thank you for the time you have spent reading this.

Papa 

February 15, 2016

About Hari, from an update written on Monday, August 10, 2008: 

It is all too easy to overlook the remarkableness of some people. Hari Nepali is a good illustration; he is one of those who in his quiet way keeps the roof of a small society from sagging by his constant cheerfulness and good energy. Hari spreads himself out well; he is always there in any group, a little on the periphery, watching and smiling. You don’t always know he is there until your gaze is drawn to the emanation of joy from the little guy whose smile is contagious. Hari was part of the six boys and six girls that Nepal Orphans Home rescued from a small orphanage abandoned by those in whose care they had been assigned three years ago next month. All 12 of these children have contributed so much to Papa’s House and are exceptional in many ways. Some are very talented in sports, or school work; some in overcoming physical challenges with humor and determination; Hari is a natural at building others’ confidence with an encouraging smile in the most sincere way. Ask others what they would like to be when they grow up and you will see their eyes, like a magic Eight-ball, bring “doctor or social worker” hazily to the surface; ask Hari, and, his grin widening a bit, quickly replies, “bus driver!” I can see and hope that one day Hari will be our bus driver; Hari will shepherd our Papa’s House children where they are going, swinging the door wide open from his seat and smiling his Hari smile down upon the next generation of Papa’s House children stepping up and into his carefully driven bus. Hari Nepali, future bus driver for Papa’s House. 


Hari in 2009

 Hari in 2006

Hari late in 2005

Hari on Bai Tika fall of 2008

Hari and his 11 friends when we rescued them in September 2005

More than seven years later Hari is about to complete class 8 with a great command of English and grades slightly above average. His academic accomplishments are noteworthy when you consider that he had never been in school before his rescue and began then attending an English medium school while not knowing any English at all. However proud of Hari I am for his academics I am more so for the truly fine person he continues to be. There is no pretense with Hari; he knows how to be happy and how to make others happy.

Last month I asked Hari if I could interview him, which he found pretty comical. “Why would you want to interview me?” he asked with his disarmingly sincere grin before we sat on the steps one Saturday for an impromptu session. Hari has changed so very little from the Hari I wrote about above, but here is the conversation we had. I asked questions and he delivered off the cuff responses without much elaboration.

What do you remember about your time before coming to live at Papa’s House?
“I think that I was a little bad in my village and then in the home I was sent to.”

What have you learned since joining our family?
“I have learned what respect means,” he hesitates. “I have learned to love and be loved by many brothers and sisters.”

Tell me some of the things you might want to be when you are finished with school?
“I would like to play football for the Nepal National Team and also to have my own shoe shop.”
(Hari presently is one of a dozen children making all our shoes and selling them to outsiders as well.)

How do you wish to accomplish this?
“I will learn about business in college and then open my shop.”

When do you plan to have a family?
“When I am 30-35 I hope to have a wife and 2 children, one boy first and then one girl.”

What qualities would you wish to have other people see in you?
“That I try to be helpful and respectful to all others.”

How do you see yourself?
“I think I need to be better at caring for others and to help others to be more confident.”

Can you give me just one word that describes for you living at Papas House?
Hari smiled and looked heavenward for a few seconds then lowered his gaze to me and said, 
​“Truthfulness.”

I was still contemplating that one as Hari stood and brushed off his pants and said, “Thank you Papa, is that all?”


Hari being interviewed in early January 2016


Christmas 2015

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at Papa’s House


Pramila and Urmila

Asmita and Salina

Sima and Saroj

Manisha

Ishwor and Ashok

Saraswati and Anisha

Older girls dancing on Christmas Day

Sujan and Kajul exchanging Secret Santa gifts

Sujan patiently waiting to hear his name

Gita and Sarita

The time leading up to Christmas this year was much more relaxed and enjoyable with a further division of labor and a cut back in gift giving and expectations. The children focused more on making special gifts for their Secret Santa sharing and on the program they would perform on Christmas Day.

Christmas Eve is always the highlight and that will never change; the environment always becomes charged with the children’s heightened sense of family, caring and the mysteries of the holiday. There is a touching reverence in their eyes and voices as they sing Joy to The World and Drummer Boy in one voice; the air is filled with a solemnity and peace while we make our way through the 4 or 5 songs that flow freely, though inaccurately, from our sporadic rehearsals. As has been tradition for us, after a couple of hours of candle lit fun and hot chocolate prepared over a wood fire, (still our only cooking source), we left Papa’s House grounds in a long line all holding candles and singing as we made our way to the first house, Anita Mahato’s Imagine house and bid goodnight to the girls and staff who live there. This procession continued until we were back to Papa’s House with only the girls and staff who live there. On route much of Dhapasi comes outside to wish us a Merry Christmas, many more this year as 185 of the women in the village feel a stronger connection to us as they come to our Chelsea Education and Community Center every day for free lessons in English, Math, Nepali and Computer. As we pass the Skylark School’s Hostel we are showered with colored confetti painstakingly cut, but freely tossed down upon us from the 80 students living there.

Once home in their houses the children have their own traditions to uphold; these are a little different for each house and testify to the unity of each family unit.

Christmas Day this year differed in not having all the children’s gift bags scattered across the frozen lawn. While the children, slept each house manager placed all the gifts under their own family decorated tree. After a leisurely morning in their homes the children and staff all assembled at Papa’s House for their Christmas program and to enjoy a delicious meal prepared by all the staff and many of the girls in their own homes earlier in the morning and brought to share.

New stockings were made this year by our tailoring girls; the size I had suggested became a challenge to fill, but they were and then Santa managed to place or hang these in every room for the children’s awakening.


​Stoking the magic a few days before Christmas

Another wonderful Christmas come and gone in a year of adversity and triumph and above all sharing and comforting one another while the grounds continued rumbling beneath us. 


14 Days

We frequently offer the children essays to write and most all enjoy entering the contest. Our most recent one was “An asteroid will be hitting the earth; the planet has 14 days left.  How will you spend your time?”  The children’s essays were impressively well thought out and creative, some humorous, others beautiful, and very touching. Many of the children wished to spend time with elderly people to learn what it is like to grow older; there were some who wished to create something that would live on after them, and in many cases this involved making memories for others to remember them by. Many would busy themselves trying to find people from their past to say thank-you or I am sorry, but all said that when time was almost out they wanted to be with their NOH family because this is where they know love is real; they want us all to be together in the end and together they will not have any fear.

The winners who were chosen with the greatest of difficulty according to the judges are, shown by house with their judges:


Bimal first, Tilak second and Nama third

Sapana first, Kajul second and Srijhana third

Mary second, Sita third and Sumitra first

Pramila third, Urmila first and Samira second

Dawn Kumari

Dawn Kumari Gurung has been with me from the very beginning. She was the cook and Didi in the first orphanage that I found and she helped me in our efforts to free the children from their hideous life. We have been through wonderful times and times of unimaginable nightmares together; and in all times she has been solid as a rock, calm, pragmatic and determined. I don’t know of anyone who works harder than she, in illness and in health, she simply refuses to stop. In April when the earthquake came it was at tiffin time and I was cooking. Once we had collected all the children from all the homes and calmed them on our large playground, suddenly home to all our neighbors, she and I went about fixing food for everyone, shoulder to shoulder, in silence, both knowing that we needed to be the ones to keep the children safe, to ease their fears, to get a routine restored, to smile and laugh again and joke with them about it. Dawn Kumari has always been my anchor, a place to find resilience and resolve.


Dawn Kuamri Christmas 2005 with Kanchi (Sujan now)

Christmas afternoon gift boxes piled high

Dawn Kumari with one of our 37 children in 2005

The Didi’s in our first Home, D.K. 4th from left

So it was with great pleasure that we surprised Dawn Kuamri after lunch one day with a tribute to her over 10 years of quiet performance, always shoring up the homes, each and every day, never seemingly put out by the hardships life in Nepal renders more often than blessings.


Quilts


 Quilts made by Silke Steuxner

​​ Children of the Winter with their warm rewards

Late last fall we received a shipment of absolutely stunning quilts by professional quilter Silke Steuxner. Silke had only heard about us from friends and had become a FaceBook friend to NOH and Volunteer Nepal and this was enough to inspire her to create these beautiful quilts, over a year in the making.

We had been trying to decide how to distribute them and settled upon having all of the children vote for the one child that, since winter began, has been the most helpful to the house managers and the children within. The four winners pictured above are Anupa from Harmony House, Anu from Sanctuary House, Kamana from Imagine House and Roshen from Possibilities House. There were other smaller quilts as well which went to our smallest children. There will be more “Children of the Season” though never again prizes as great as these.

Silke has recently returned from a quilting competition in Japan where she placed second. NOH has been blessed by its many friends and their special way to reach out to the children.


Carlyn Doan

Carlyn Doan is a volunteer from many years ago who returned to Nepal this year with her sister. Carlyn has been supporting a young man, now in college in India, since meeting him as an orphan in one of the orphanages that we were helping then and where she did her placement. Both Bir Jung and Carlyn have done very well in the years in between and Bir Jung has a great future ahead of him because of her.

They came on a Saturday morning bringing dozens of t-shirts and tie dye materials and taught the children tie dying. The caliber of our volunteers has always been very high and they continue to affect the lives of those they met here for long after they have returned home.


Carlyn arriving at the gate

Suman dipping his shirt

Samira smiling as always

Rita and her creation

Chelsea Education and Community Center

Our Chelsea Education and Community Center, founded by Glenn Detrick, has a new Director, Michael “Abraham” Triozzi. The former Director of Volunteer Nepal returned to us to serve while awaiting his induction into the Peace Corps this fall. We have expanded our Adult Learning Center to include Nepali and Conversational English to supplement the English, Math and Computer literacy courses that began almost a year ago. 185 women now have daily classes with us.

Our children also continue to develop enriched knowledge of math using the online Khan Academy math program and various computer language and hardware courses. Tailoring is a staple that continues to turn out very accomplished seamstresses. We have six girls who have formed their own tailoring business and, when not working for us making uniforms, curtains, sheets, pillow cases and the children’s Kurta Sulwars, they receive orders. Thus far they have sent Kurtas of their own design to Germany and Australia. Two of these girls also manage a local tailoring shop. We are very proud of what the CECC has accomplished over the years for our children as well as the community; the difference it has made to each facet is one of the very best of the many outreach programs of NOH.


Anupa reading a collection of stories compiled by a volunteer working through the CECC,
and Puja reading “Chelsea’s Story” one Saturday afternoon.


CECC Director Michael “Abraham” Triozzi


Shriners Children’s Hospital

On January 27th I, along with Anita Mahato and Hope boarded a plane bound for America. Hope had been accepted as a patient at Shriners Children’s Hospital. This is one of the finest medical facilities anywhere and they offer their services for free to children from all over the world with serious medical situations.

I am writing this update from Boston, Massachusetts, where we have begun our work with Shriners. On Thursday morning, February 25th at 8am, Hope will undergo revision surgery. She will remain in the hospital, with us, for two days and then be able to return home to my brother Bob’s House in Jamaica Plain, for an estimated three weeks’ recovery.

We will then go to Branford, Connecticut, and be received by NEOPS, the leading prosthetics device makers in New England, to be fitted with state of the art prosthetics. Both Shriners and NEOPS accept patients like Hope for life. As Hope grows she may require more surgeries and she will need larger prosthetics every eighteen months or so.

We left for America early enough so that we could visit family and friends from Florida and on our way up to Boston. This opportunity for Hope is a dream come true for all of us at Nepal Orphans Home. Hope is a truly remarkable little girl who has further galvanized our very large family and opened hearts wherever she goes.









 


Papa’s House

We have five weeks left of school this year. In another two weeks our twelve Class 10 children will leave school and do home study in preparation for their final exams that will allow them to proceed on to college. Last year only 43% of all students in the country passed the exam. In the history of NOH we have had only one student not pass the exam, but she did so the following year. We have had three students not qualify to sit for the exam 5 years ago but they have since all passed it in the first division.

Twelve students this year will join last year’s four, the previous year’s seven, the year before four and the year before that our first. Of those sixteen students one dropped out after two years in pre- engineering, one has finished and now works as a Volunteer Coordinator for Volunteer Nepal; three have gone on to university with one working part time as a guide for Volunteer Nepal and the others continue in college. When we send this year’s twelve to college in late June they will make a total of 25 of our NOH children in college or university. The numbers begin to grow much more quickly thereafter.

Worry as all parents do about their children finding their way and being prepared, we have thus found it unnecessary. All of our children have fulfilled our expectations in their academic pursuits as well as following our suggested guidelines for securing part time work while in college and living successfully in the college transition houses we set up.

This year’s twelve students sitting for their School Leaving Exam Certificate (SLC) are:


Kamal

Pramila

Roshan

Sabina

Sushma

Rabindra

Purna

Khem Raj

Himal

Ishwor

 Kabita

Puja

Each of these students has already proved to be exceptionally kind, caring and happy; several are class leaders, some academic leaders, others winners of superlatives or house captains chosen by their house mates for their helpfulness and ability to understand and get the job done.

It has in many ways been a much more difficult time for this year’s graduates having lost so much school due to the earthquakes and political problems of Nepal. But I feel confident that when they sit for their exams in a little more than 3 weeks’ time they will be the cream of the crop.

And that is it for this February update.

All my best,
Papa

November 8th, 2015

I begin this update a couple of days shy of Tihar, the caboose of this month-long train of festivals and celebration. I hope to conclude it by Wednesday, Laxmi Puja, the pinnacle of the festival of light. It is a day carefully prepared for by every household no matter how humble. Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth will be guided into the home or business by a pathway of small candles beginning at a Mandela painted outside and culminating in the room where money is stored. In my first few Tihars, candles were all that was used and its low flickering glow under lighting the faces of those gathered offered a reverential stillness and beauty to all. Now Christmas lights left on through the night drape many homes and businesses, and our pre-dawn walks, when there is power, are in a dazzle of blue and green energizing the otherwise gentleness that beckons before dawn. 

Aakriti and Santoshi Sujan Muskan Mary

Nepal goes from one calamity to another, never collecting its breath between. We are shortly about to enter what may arguably be our most unforgivable crises in recent history and it seems too late to stop it. Ignoring the task of rebuilding Nepal and taking care of its people in the aftermath of the back to back earthquakes, the government focused only on writing a constitution which alienated the simple folks who toil in back breaking labor in the fields along the border of India that feed the nation. They are, by way of average estimates, 40% of the population.

In response the people have left the fields and massed at the border, closing the trade routes from India, the sole provider of petroleum products as well as medicines and most of the staples a small landlocked country depends upon.

Because of this, the shelter and food supplies the people of Nepal’s higher elevations have been waiting for since the earthquakes have not been able to get delivered by the foreign relief agencies accepting this life saving task from a government otherwise engaged. Many people are about to enter a nightmare of freezing temperatures without the shelter, food or supplies to last till spring.

Meanwhile in Kathmandu and along the industrial belt, the lack of petrol, diesel and cooking gas has brought the nation to its knees. There is no abundance of wood for cooking and no mechanism for delivery of products, no diesel to run generators which power everything from hospitals to grocery stores to the internet. School buses will cease to run and public transportation becomes scarce and overburdened. The shutdown has been very effective, but thus far has only brought about a match of will. The new government of Nepal has dug in its heels against altering the biased constitution and the Mahadesi have grown stronger in numbers with unofficial support of India.  Meanwhile we learn to do without, a lesson valuable in countless ways. Necessity brings evolution in creative and satisfying ways.

Salina Sabina Ranjeeta Kelasi

A little over three years ago Vinod Mahato, big brother to Anita and Sunita, left the only home he had ever known and boarded a plane for America to marry his girlfriend of many years.


Vinod’s long goodbye, here with Anita and 34 hours later his arrival in North Carolina.

Vinod and Alecia fell in love when they first saw one another in Dhapasi in 2008. Alecia, along with her mother Marcie, were volunteering; it was Marcie’s second time with us. Both Alecia and Vinod were determined to complete college and graduate schools and exhibited tremendous patience over the following years while trying to arrange Vinod’s visa. Vinod left here with a 10th grade education, but once in America set to work. He received his GED and began college. His grades have always been excellent and he has won the hearts of school administrators and has earned awards and scholarships. He is now at North Carolina State University as a junior  majoring in Business Administration. Both he and Alecia have kept their eye on their goal, lived frugally, balanced several jobs with school and study, and somehow have sustained the energy to arrive where they are today. Vinod came to work for NOH nine years ago as my indispensable right hand. It would be a wonderful journey to have them back with NOH after their academic goals have been met.


​Vinod and Alecia returned this past summer for six weeks, shown here with Anita and Hope, his mother and father. 

Ramita Anu Alina Anita

This past July we assembled in the early morning drizzle to offer our blessings to the children on their first day of college. We have only three this time around, but next July I will be writing about 12 more going, and a scant 20 months hence 20 more bound for college.


Dhiraj who will study in Science; Kabita in Business, and Lalita in Hotel Management

As they approached the gate to leave, I felt compelled to record this important moment in their young lives. They were so small when they first came. I am happy for them, I remember this moment in my own life; but these moments are surely bittersweet. I think Kabita in the second photo, shot with my long lens, is telling Lalita, “Yep, Papa is still watching us.”

Sita Alecia Manesha Rupa


Sarita when she arrived

On August 13th we welcomed Sarita, shown here with her mother, into our home. They are from Gorkha. While our older son Chham was in his village after the quake he learned about Sarita and how she lost her father and brother in the earthquake’s landslide which wiped out their entire village. Chham’s village suffered the same fate, as well as Dawn Kumari’s, my first employee. Sarita’s extended family has suffered many deaths and her mother’s health is very poor. Chham interviewed many people to make sure that all he had been told was completely true and then called me and asked if we could take her in. When Chham returned, he did so bringing them with him. The mother then left to return to her village where she has absolutely nothing and must start over again with other surviving members of her family. NOH and Possible Worlds together have sent a relief package with Chham to build a small home for his mother and contribute towards a small school for the children so that they can begin to return to a pre- earthquake routine while the adults try to rebuild their village.

Junu, Samita and Sarita Sarita flashing the peace sign with Sanjeev
Sumi Apsara Shanta Khusboo

We were contacted shortly after the earthquake by “Clowns without Borders”. This is an international group of volunteer clowns who last year traveled to 50 areas steeped in conflict, like Syria, in order to give the children a few hours in which they can forget about their lives and have peace and laughter fill their hearts. Through many e-mail exchanges I learned a bit about the individuals who came to us, and I was so impressed by their full time occupations and accomplishments in contrast to their dedication to this cause. After their performance they spent a few hours with us over lunch and I could not have been more honored or humbled by their sincerity, kindness and compassion. Incredible individuals with an incredible organization, this day helped to further separate all of us from our not so distant past; the laughter was uncontrollable and the memories lasting.

Santoshi Sita Gita Gayatri

Teej this year was held on September 16th. This is a celebration for women; they dress in their very best after a predawn bath, fasting and prayer. The married women pray for the long life and good health of their husbands. I had thought that the single women and girls prayed for an eventual good husband, but that thought has been corrected this year. I don’t know what they pray for; their participation may simply be festively inspired solidarity. From dawn to the dark of evening, married women in groups will be found endlessly dancing at neighborhood temples, then return home to break their fast and sleep. Below are some of our daughters in celebration of Teej.

Sunita Kolpana
Seema and Sarita Prity and Hope
Santi Saraswati

This year we had a special guest for Teej. Dr. Helena Teixeira, a semi-retired eminent plastic surgeon from Portugal with 30 years’ experience in burn care, came to us as a volunteer. We had arranged for her to spend her time with our good friend Dr. Shankar Rai who began a hospital several years ago to help burn and cleft pallet patients regardless of ability to pay. These two distinguished surgeons learned much from each other during a month’s service together. Further, our daughters all had a chance to relax in her company and absorb some of what it takes to be such a fine role model.


Rita, Dr. Teixeira and Kabita

Kanti Shanti Cila Deepa

The above photo breaks between stories are the girls of Sanctuary House.

Sanctuary House was named after the wonderful charity Sanctuary For Kids which began several years ago from the inspiration of Amanda Tapping and Jill Bodie. They had heard about us from one of our volunteers, a dynamic young man from Scotland who was helping Amanda with her website. His praise was rewarded with a visit to NOH by Amanda and Jill which culminated in our being selected as one of the Nepali charities they wished to support.

Amanda surrounded by her smallest fans A precious photo of Jill receiving a hug
Amanda with Mon Kumari Kanchan, Jill and Sunita

The above photos were taken in early November 2009 during their week’s visit. Shortly into the New Year we were informed that they wished to help support our work. They provided a grant that was intended for the first Papa’s House on our future campus — a home for 26 girls we had rescued earlier in the year. We had brought the girls to Dhapasi and opened a new house for them and they have continued to support these girls every year since. Thus was born the name “Sanctuary House.”

NOH never was able to buy the land we wished and planned for; it was simply too expensive and the original grant remained untouched all these years in our bank account. Then a few months ago we learned of a great house on a double lot that was supposed to be available for lease. I went to speak with the owners and they said they would not lease the property, but would sell it. They were charitable in the price they offered to us and I passed this along to the NOH Board of Directors who approved the purchase. I wrote to Amanda and Jill about it and asked if perhaps we could use their original grant for the purchase and they wholeheartedly agreed.

We had been looking for a new house for the boys after the earthquake, as well as for the Sanctuary girls. We found an ideal house for the girls a few months earlier and so decided to give our first owned residence in Nepal for use of the boys.

Thank you, Amanda and Jill. Please discover the special work being done by Sanctuary For Kids

The Boys of Possibilities House

Sanjeev Davit Sandeep Suman

The Chelsea Education Center (CEC) was renamed the Chelsea Education and Community Center (CECC) when we began teaching English to the women of Dhapasi close to 5 months ago. One hundred and twenty women attend daily classes of fifteen each. These women are dedicated students who can be seen looking up from their homework in front of their homes or in their shops to say “good morning,” smiling infectiously as I pass by.

After the Tihar holiday ends we are starting to teach an online math program to 65 more women, many from the English classes. The course has been designed to introduce them to computers, allow them to practice simple English and to learn domestic and small shop accounting.

The staff of the CECC. Missing is our daughter Kabita Karki. She, along with yellow-shirted son Ashok, teach English from 11am to 3pm after they have finished their college day which runs 6am till 10am. They are of course paid faculty and are very popular among their students.

Hem Bimal Sujan Rajan

We have a new batch of 18 Taekwondo students who recently received their yellow belts after six months of preparation.  Our original group had lost its longest attending students, Saroj and Chham, when they decided to quit due to college scheduling problems. The remaining 16 tested a couple of months ago to receive their black tip and their next grading period, in another 8 months, will earn them all black belts.


Waiting their turn, grading for their black tip & new group before earning their yellow belts.

We began Taekwondo as a daily morning practice in 2008. The children have shown a strong commitment enduring predawn sessions in the cold of winter and heat of summer as well as time lost to early morning study, but they all are achievers and handle all aspects of life well.

Maila Hari Ram Sandesh

Our sewing group has been working hard. They stay busy making all of the children’s uniforms and kurta sulwars and they have dabbled in design of clothing that emphasizes originality. We had applied for a grant to have our children make all the uniforms for the Ramechhap School we support, but lost out for this year. We are presently working with two former volunteers from Switzerland and Germany who spent time with the girls and have ordered 10 “original” kurtas. The girls finished them and they are now with me waiting sending.


Sunita wearing one of her designs.

We are selling these in a market making price of $10 plus shipping. The girls keep all the money and pool it to help grow their business. Please consider making orders. The array of fabrics here is quite good, many of the designs ordered from our volunteers were with the idea of pullover beach wear or après beach with jeans. To order, please simply write to me with questions and style suggestions. We use a sizing chart for western women found on the internet, but will happily work from your own measurements.


​ Our tailoring group: From left Sunita, Lalita, Sanu, Puja, Amrita and Kamali

Missing from the photo is Samjhana who remains in school and works only on Saturdays. Amrita and Puja have been hired by our tailoring instructor to work in and manage her second shop. Sunita and Kamali help us at tiffin time by running the sales counter at Café Hope, our school café; Sanu augments her tailoring income by taking care of my house and garden every other day and Lalita goes to the shop at 11am after her college classes finish.

Ramesh Mahendra Ram S. Tilak

August 29th was “Brothers Day”. The girls organized a day to make all their brothers feel special, appreciated and loved. It was, as always, a fun day with singing, dancing, theater, games and laughter. The girls prepared all the food for a many itemed lunch eaten picnic style on the grounds at Papa’s House.

Ram and Sushma Sangeeta and Saroj

Two of our many real brothers and sisters in our family, but the children all have a deep feeling of fraternity with one another.

Dawn Kumari acting the role of stern mother Suman, Sanjeev, Sandeep and Davit
Hope applauding Manisha and Samjhana dancing
Hope laughing during the play Sanjeev and Sandeep in discussion
Some older girls dancing And some younger girls waiting to dance
Gorkha Lalit Bishnu Nama

Jennifer Hyett has been a returning volunteer for several years. Her primary work here is with “Our Children’s Protection Foundation,” a small orphanage near us that we have been helping for a few years now. This past visit Jennifer brought her mother Elizabeth who is 100% Scottish determined and kept up a heady pace of work both at Our Children’s and with our children. Some of the most rewarding times she spent here, for our children, was in knitting with them. We love volunteers like this and would encourage other retirees to consider the same.


Khem Raj Purna Kamal Himal

Sisters Day came on October 3rd this year. The boys outdid themselves in planning and performance. It is really nice to see how the boys, on their own, put together a program, practice it for a month, older boys helping with dance routines and skits by the younger ones, and everyone truly admiring the individuals’ effort.

Davit and Sandeep as characters in a play Ramesh applying Tika to his sisters
Junu, Samita and Manisha Combined effort of the boys
Ram C. Prity
Davit and Nargish Sanu, Urmila and Pramila
Ishwor Roshan Rabindra Nargish (Didi’s daughter)

Our Book Club has had the leadership taken on by Deb Norton and Jacqueline Crowe, two Australian women whose husbands are in Nepal with the Australian Government. The club meets after school every Tuesday and Thursday. The children are discovering the love of reading and becoming good readers in the process. We really appreciate the time, love and effort these marvelous women are giving which goes well beyond the classes themselves, but into the heart of our homes.


​The Book Club. Deb Norton in white with Jacqeline behind her left shoulder.

Saraswati Anita Sima Kamana

On the morning of October 16th 55 of our children boarded a bus back to their villages in Dang district, a 12-hour ride into a simple, farming, mud hut, hand-to-mouth existence from which they came what seems a lifetime ago. With the previously mentioned petrol problem, we had a very difficult time chartering a bus; it took days for the owner/driver to accumulate the necessary diesel. For the first time in 8 years I did not go with the girls; I was unable to find petrol for the scooter and in Dang no petrol existed either so my work there would have been impossible. In the days before, we managed to get thirty-five other children back to their far-cast villages.

The “Sea Princess” arrives in Dhapasi Suman, sad and anxious, Ram resolved
Girls getting settled in Some girls in last looks as the engine starts

It is never easy to say goodbye; the closeness of the family is expressed on these mornings in tears. Going back to their villages is a personal choice. They are often not appreciated and are made to feel a bit alien in a family fractured many years before when they were sold, a family worn down since by severe poverty, illness, alcohol, illiteracy, and death further hardening them as their numbers dwindle. To me it is a hallmark of our children to continually return and quietly roll up their sleeves and help where they can while often under the disparaging comments of a non-nuclear family bitter in spirit.

Sunita Geeta Sushmita Gita

We celebrated Dashain on October 22nd sharing the day and traditional Hindu feast with several of our volunteers.  A much smaller family, we had a light and warm time together, but each of us lost at times in thought of those not with us.

During the blessing and Tika ceremony Prity playing “ping”
Maila and Rabindra Volunteer sharing photos with Manisha
Geeta on the ping Samjhana


Asha, Bimala, Srijana, Anita, and Geeta
​Four amazing sisters with Anita

Sarita Anisha Sarmila Asha

A day at the zoo, October19th. The animals, we found out, sleep at midday.


Kamal, Bimala, and Sapana

Volunteer and Manisha “Wow” most often heard from Hope
The Aviary VN Director Eileen and 10 month volunteer Kelly
Samjhana Juna Prity Kausil

November 12th

Today we had an arranged visit by Chris Ellis, a Sydney Australia Emergency Room Doctor, who had met Deb Norton and was eager to come and teach a course in first aid. The information was comprehensive and covered everything imaginable, delivered in a very lighthearted way which the kids and I will remember for a very long time. 


Our patient Kamal had a pretty bad day suffering everything from a common cold to brain infections, diarrhea, vomiting; he was burned and choking, had a severed artery, a cut vein and he was in an auto accident near the end. Thank you very much for your wit and wisdom, Dr. Chris Ellis.

Amrita Rita Man Kumari Nirmala

Children’s Day was held on September 15th at Skylark School. Among the day-long festival there was a costume contest.



The children dressed as characters in Hindu scripture or in their native dress.

Kabita Asmita Srijana Sandhya
Hope Angel Bimala Pushpa Sapana

The girls of Imagine House

And below the managers of the three houses shown above.​

Anita Mahato Cila Regmi Deepa Regmi Sam Isherwood

Anita, Imagine House; Cila and Deepa, Sanctuary House and Sam, Possibilites House. The three girls came to us as young children and grew into this role, Sam has been working for NOH for around 5 years in different capacities and makes an extraordinary manager for the boys.

Missing from these story breaks are the girls of Harmony House, known here as Papa’s House, and those of our college boys’ house. All the children’s photos and names can be found in the gallery here on the website.

Nepal Orphans Home received an incredible outpouring of donations after the earthquakes, designated for earthquake relief. We were deeply touched by the faith in us to properly distribute these funds as directed by the donors as well as by the sheer display of kindness and compassion from several hundred donors. We have left to distribute the funds earmarked for rebuilding the school in Ramechhap, though a lot of other Ramechhap relief was immediately dispatched after the earthquake. The school rebuilding has been a long process, but now with the monsoon over, the engineering for the school finished, and the government’s position on school rebuilding participation noted, we will begin construction.

Thank you very much.

All my best,
Papa

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.

**********

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

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