Papa’s House News & Updates

May 12, 2014

SOME OF THE FACES OF HOLI

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





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


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

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


After meeting at Papa’s House

Anita and her match at Swayembunath​

Bumikha and her match

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

Kamana and her new friend

Sushmita and her young man

Sam and John Lambert
 

Julie Brockish, Tamara Chant, Yoav Deri
and Anita Mahato

Group shot at a small Stupa

Catherine McLandress, Papa and Hope

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


Tamara, a Smith grad, with a Smith prodigy

Chham and Nissim Bar-El crooning

Tamara with her friend Shoshana on right 

Yoav with his many admirers 

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


Priti, Jennifer, Kabita and Puja reminiscing 

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


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

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


Lauren Yanks greeting her class one cold morning


Lauren’s two Saturday morning classes in Public Speaking

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


Kanchi with Hem this past Saturday

Kanchi, Suman, David and Hem

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

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


Jishnu and Aakriti, May 2014

Shivahari and Aakriti, April 2013

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

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


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

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


Rui preparing to photograph Priya

Sam with Rui and Bruno at the Skylark school

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

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

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


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

Anita Mahato and her sister Sunita turned 24.

And Hope turned 1!

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

Papa’s House News & Updates

February 18, 2014

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


Sunita with Salina on Salina’s arrival at NOH.

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


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

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


Lachi with Salina; Jishnu with Aakriti

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

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


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


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


Tailoring classes will soon make our uniforms; Computer Software class

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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


Sandip and Preti; Hope and a Christmas morning yawn

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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





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


Volunteer created sign; Saroj and Kabita start things off


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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

All my best,
Papa


Papa’s House News & Updates

November 13, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Below are some photos from my trip.

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

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

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

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

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

All my best,
Papa

Papa’s House News & Updates

August 23, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rosearmy in an impromptu dance class; Laurie with Samjhana

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

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

Thanks, Possible Worlds!

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

Aakriti with Anita; With Jishnu her personal didi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part of the several-hour-long ceremony.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sanjita from Rainbow House; Khusbu and Bhumika from Sanctuary House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anita holding “Dil” with Kathy Procranik looking on…

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

I wrote to Anne and a few friends later:

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

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

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

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

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

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

All my best,
Papa

Papa’s House News & Updates

December 16, 2012

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

Dear Eva,

Merry Christmas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sita

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


Pupu loves to dress up

and act

and pretend to be a rock star

or here she called herself Pakistani Miss

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

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







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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Papa’s House News & Updates

August 20, 2012

Snap Shots: Papa’s House Home School


Board Member Carola Drosdeck with some of the girls and Board Member Tamara Saltzman reading to others

The monsoon season began late this year and rarely did it reveal its typical daily deluge. Our walk to school thus far has favored relative dryness, and only on a few occasions has the walk home required our rain ponchos. The girls and I have not lost a morning’s run to inclemency though more than a few times we began in the departing night’s rain which would yield to a drizzle as the sun rose. One evening this week the first sign of fall gently blew in over the mountains, and we were treated to an orange cinnamon sunset casting all briefly with colorful crisp edges until the light evaporated into cool darkness; a pleasant teaser for the months to come.

Housing continues to creep weed-like across Dhapasi. The single-wide road is now often jammed as construction vehicles overloaded with sand or brick groan by. Our walk to and from school requires great vigilance.  The once open pasture land now supports houses with high compound walls, and few cows remain in the absence of grazing fields. Hundreds of millions of dollars flow seemingly without tether into the capital city while the rest of Nepal slips deeper into despair. New faces will soon outnumber the old and they tend to be drivers instead of walkers, keeping them separate and foreign. The boom is taking its toll on the water supply as those with the wealth to build large homes bore deeper wells with greater capacity. We now have water tankers come weekly to supplement the anemic trickle from our wells.

A Tour of Dhapasi

One Saturday a few weeks ago, Anita, some children and I went to do some errands. I brought my camera along so that I could share with you a little bit of our life.


Our curd shop

Sneakers and running shoes

Our Samosa and Cello Roti shop

Our daily fresh fruit purchases are made here

Yarn Shop

Cloth Shop

Our Bakery

One of our clothing stores

Our secondary vegetable shop

Our Tailor

Our 3-generation-run bulk supply food store

Our mops and utensil shop

Ice cream and Paneer shop

Spice shop
Our neighbor’s vegetable shop

Our plastic sandals and Mehindi shop

Pharmacy (pharmacist Rahjendra standing)

A local family we help with school

Cabinet shop

Dhapasi, despite its growth, is still a good village; it has been good to NOH and I believe we have in turn been helpful neighbors. I have made note of the fact that after 8 years of daily morning runs, the villagers and I had at some point reversed roles and I tend to greet them with “Namaste” while they all say a hearty “Good morning!” to me, and I often hear them greet each other with “Good morning” as well. This I suppose is my small and debatably unfortunate contribution to cultural dilution.

Nepal Orphans Home Helping Hand

Each year NOH helps between 30 and 35 local children to attend Skylark English School.


This year’s group (four missing)

The five graduates from 2012, all college bound


The missing four children from the group picture

Kabita and Sabita Go to College

As we did for Hikmat last year, we assembled early on a rainy first day of college to wish Kabita and Sabita good luck and offer our blessings as they begin their college career. Two more, Anil and Sangeeta, will begin after another month. The number of our children attending college will start to increase each year, a somewhat scary proposition. We find comfort though in “Life’s Handy Work” — Laura@LifesHandyWork.com or www.lifeshandywork.com. A former volunteer Laura Handy Nimick and her husband Justin two years ago started their NGO in Washington state to support the college fees of the NOH children. They have taken their NGO a long ways in a short time with fun local community fundraising events. We are very grateful for the support they have provided our children.


Top: Kabita and Sabita ; volunteers Cici with her friend and my wonderful cousin Anne
Anita and Pratap blessing Kabita; Gita, Kabita’s House Mother; Susmita and Kamana

Kabita and Sabita will be attending Herald International College in Chakrapath, the college level of a school that all our children attended many years ago when we were far fewer in number. They will be majoring in management.  Anil is awaiting results from his entrance exam from the Medical College of Kathmandu where he will take a three-year course to be a Lab Technician, and Sangeeta will join Brooklyn College after her preliminary exam results are known, in an as yet undisclosed discipline.

New Children

We have had the shared good fortune to be able to welcome some new children since the past update. These children have come from far and wide and who, with the exception of a few, have lost their parents; those few have mothers but they are unable to support or care for them.


Salina

Priya

Urajhan

Sanjeta

Gomati

Kanti

Kalpana

Alysha

Samirha


Kausil on left with Anita and Priety

Ghost Hill

We often hike to a beautiful pasture land of rolling hills covered with bent gnarly pines that may have at one time been the enchanted playground of witches and fairies. It’s known in Nepali as “Ghost Hill” and is a place everyone knows not to be visited after dark.

I told the children a week in advance of the well advertised “Blue Moon” that we would be going there for a night time picnic. They were sure that I was kidding, but with the passage of time they laughed nervously and began to believe it may be so. They said I was crazy and they would not go, but on the evening chosen the children tentatively assembled on our grounds just before dark. I had advised them to wear black to become less offensive to the spirits we may encounter.

The staff passed out packaged food to our 139 wide-eyed children as the procession left the gates single file under an eerie quiet in this novel adventure. The silver blue moon beamed down from a cloudless sky, sharpening shadows in the deepening night as we shuffled along on our shoulder-width raised mud path. Dogs howled, bushes shook with the fleet movements of small creatures as we passed and a gentle breeze lifted our hair. 
Once there, the children clustered whispering, lest they attract attention. At the urging of Pratap, they formed a tight circle in a clearing and sat. I had asked Pratap to distract the children with a scary story while I slipped into the woods where I donned a large black sheet in which I had cut two holes for my eyes. From a hundred feet away I started moaning loudly yelping occasionally for good measure. This hushed the startled children who drew their circle a bit tighter. I then started running in and out of the trees getting a little closer to the children with each pass; the black sheet flying behind me, I whooped like a banshee. The children rose as if glued together, clutching one another following my approach and retreats.

Emboldened by squeals of fear, I decided to make a dash directly for the circle, but the sheet slipped over my eyes, and blinded, I kept bumping into things and tripping over the sheet. I reached the point of bruised exhaustion at about the same time the children concluded I was the most spastic ghost imaginable and with nothing to fear they relaxed. I slinked back into the forest, the yelping now a whimper, and packed up my sheet. Rejoining the group moments later I found them talking animatedly. After some moments I asked those closest to me if they had seen or heard anything unusual and with practiced nonchalance, they said no and to that party line held tight for the better part of the following week.

Dhapasi Street Cleaning

Once or twice a month all the children gather at 5:30 on Saturday morning and collect the abundant litter covering the streets that form a triangle between Skylark School and three of our five homes. On the alternate Saturdays we cut the grass of our large playground by hand with small scythes. The children enjoy the tasks with enthusiasm for the results and to be all together in a common effort. I have asked if they would like to sleep in a little on Saturdays, but they prefer to rise slightly before the sun. With both tasks we are finished before the morning tea is ready.

The neighbors look on these mornings, curious and amused. Occasionally pedestrians or porch sitters will compliment the children’s efforts, but judging by how quickly the tide of debris reclaims the streets I suspect we have done little to raise the conscience of anyone. While the enjoyment of the clean streets has such a brief life we are pleased nonetheless by the act.

Brothers Day

Brothers Day was Thursday, August 2nd, one of a few days each year in Nepal set aside for sisters to honor their brothers. The girls make friendship bracelets and tie them onto the wrist of our boys They choreograph dances and sing, in addition to making and serving the lunch in a fun and tender national holiday.


The banner makers with banner made from rice colored and applied one grain at a time.
Right: Sumitra holding Sandip, whose wrist gives witness to all of his sisters’ affection.


Asha and Toffey; Gita applying Tika to Diraj; Hikmat, the day’s MC


Hari; Small girls’ dance performance; Pinky looking on


Juna and Man Kumari share a shawl; Salina and Gita; Kamali and Asmita

Teachers Day

Live a year in Nepal and one will find that the people love to celebrate and have others honor them.

This year Teachers Day was a well-polished event with superlative performances by many of the students at Skylark. It is truly wonderful to see the children illustrating talents one might not have known they possessed; or delighting in seeing them after a year’s practice. A large number of our Papa’s House children made music, sang and danced.


Front Asha, Chiaya and Apsara

Mrs. Sangeta Rai, School Principal

Our older girls dancing

Sunita singing the blues

Saroj (Carlos Santana) on his electric guitar

Chham on a borrowed guitar


Kamali singing Nepali love songs; Anu Maya singing English love songs

Tikapur

Our first term exams finished on Wednesday, August 1st, Brothers Day was the 2nd, and so I chose Friday the 3rd to take one of our children back to her village in an effort to find her parents. Chiaya has been living with us for four years. She was Kamlari (indentured) for several years before that, turned 16 last March, and until recently has never shown any interest in finding out about her family. With our children who believe they may still have family but have not cared to find out, we let them know that we will help to find them if the desire strikes.

Our records indicated that Chiaya was from Tikapur, but she remembered very little about it. She thought it had been at least five years since she had been home, but she wasn’t too sure.

As it was cheaper than driving, we flew to Nepalgunj where a good friend to NOH had arranged a jeep and driver for us for the ride to Tikapur. Three hours later we left a hard road after driving into the business area of Tikapur, a quarter-mile of 2- and 3-story buildings, and began down a dirt washboard with small cement houses and an occasional vegetable stall along the shoulders. Slowly the road started to disappear. The rain was incessant, our progress slowed to a crawl. After thirty minutes, Chiaya thought she recognized a pathway on the right, so we stopped and she and I entered the pounding rain. Chiaya’s excitement took over and she left the laughable protection the umbrella offered and leaped forward deer-like, her feet finding the highest spots to land. I splashed behind finding only ankle-deep water. We approached five small mud huts and she called back, “I think this is it,” and entered the last one. It was very dark inside; a woman was sleeping on a rope bed covered by a mosquito net.  Chiaya opened the netting and looked into the woman’s face, turned to me and whispered, “I think I am wrong,” closed the netting and retreated into the rising water. We made it back to the jeep completely soaked ten minutes later and began again. After another twenty minutes, she called out for us to stop.  “This is it. I remember the army watchtower there.” She pointed to a 20’ watchtower with an armed infantryman silently peering out from under a too-large helmet. Taking in the total absence of life or structures, I was left wondering what he was watching for as we again plunged out of the jeep and into the deluge.  We walked for 15 minutes to a path on our right where Chiaya bounded pixie-like to the first of five huts which felt strangely familiar, and again stooped into the entrance where a lady sat on a bed and with obvious confusion said, “Lali??” Chiaya’s given name was Lalita and this bewildered woman was Chiaya’s aunt. The poor woman had woken with a fright after we left the first time, thinking the ghost of her niece had come and lifted her netting and left. She was none too sure even now if this was an apparition or not. We had driven in a very long half circle dissected by the long pathway to this house. Chiaya had found some family.

These photos were taken two days later when I went to retrieve Chiaya. The woman with her is the aunt who still appeared slightly unsure with the reality of Chiaya. The little girl is a sister born five years ago that Chiaya did not know about. Chiaya has a mother — she was in another hut and bedridden; Chiaya did not want me to see her. Chiaya was told that her father, who is handicapped, had gone to India to work. She has two married sisters; one is only 14 years old.  Those members of the family able to work do so in the fields of landowners and receive some produce and a few rupees. This is a difficult life, exposed to the elements; on this last day the temperature caused my perspiration to sizzle on my head.  The humidity inexpressible, I missed the rain. In winter it is bone-numbing cold. Snakes are everywhere, especially during monsoon when they like to seek higher ground; rope beds a frequent haunt. Mosquitoes that carry a litany of disease pepper the sky.

It is a tough life, the people fending against it as best they can. It helps to consider this before judging them for selling their daughters; perhaps they feel this is offering them a way out. Sadly in most cases it only offers lowering them to the fire from the frying pan.

Chiaya was pretty quiet most of the way home. She was deep in thought and I think troubled by her own good fortune. I gave her time.  When at last she was ready to share some feelings she began by simply asking if we could take into our home Manisha, the 5-year old sister she had found. I simply said “yes.”

A Little Reflection

We never know which way the wind will blow and how with it our lives will change. I have somewhat changed my thinking that we have quite a bit of control over our lives. We do and we don’t; our greatest control is in how we react to life and in not a small way by this we affect for sure the quality of life. This was superbly illustrated to me after spending some time with people who daily suffer from food insecurity and wretched living conditions. Yet they laugh a lot, are kind to one another and sleep easy at night. I mention this only to support my point that our greatest control is in dealing with what life offers. All the positive thinking in the world will not stop that random drunk driver from hitting someone and paralyzing them, yet how the patient deals with this situation will decide the quality of life from that moment on. How we choose to react to life’s comparatively little irritations and occasional hurdles will bring us joy or frustration, we can empower the irritant or make it powerless.

Life in Nepal can be difficult; phones, internet, businesses simply do not work well, strikes frequently close transportation and schools, today’s paper speaks of 20 hours per day without electric after the monsoon ends, and yet every day here is one of abundant joy because that is the way our children see life. They are happy and optimistic. They are also serious about wanting to make a difference with their lives; how little they know that they already have.

Changes

In our continuous effort to improve everything we do and to ensure seamless continuity in the event anything should ever happen to me, I have given up my position as manager of Harmony House. Doing this was to me at one time inconceivable, but trying to manage Harmony House while administrating everything we do in Nepal was becoming more than I could do at its best, and only one of these two jobs could be filled indigenously. My moving out was painful for everyone, but a month later we are all doing much better. Last year we were visited by the elder sister of one of our older girls and her brief time then left its mark on me. We called her and asked if she would be interested in training for the job and found that the timing was a godsend for her; she arrived by bus three days later. Anita (referred to as “new Anita” until we figure out an alternative) has settled in and is doing a splendid job.


Anita now on left and last year when she visited her sister Sarita

Not being tied to one home has allowed me the opportunity to spend more time at the other homes and better address their needs. We have begun a program where on Friday nights I bring some girls with me for dinner at the boys’ house, this was never done before. The first two Fridays were so much fun that I decided I would bring five boys to eat at the girls’ homes on Sunday and Wednesday nights on a rotating basis.


Friday night Sarita and Asha eating Tibetan and Nepali Momos with Pratap and Devika’s boys.


And Sunday night at Gita’s House the boys and I dined on a beautifully crafted and delicious meal.

******

Change can be a good thing and I am finding being able to share my time evenly among all the children a great deal of fun; focusing more time on our present needs and future growth will enable us to better care for our family, and position us for the many challenges the future holds.

And that is the way it is in Dhapasi, Nepal, where children find a family and love, grow strong and educated, and time passes much too quick for their Papa.

I leave you with some photos from Saturday, August 18th, 2012.

Papa’s House News & Updates

May 1, 2012

May 1, 2012


A few photos from “HOLI,” the festival of color celebrating the triumph of good over evil.

******

Friday April 13th was New Year’s day in Nepal, the year now 2069. 2068 was a good year for Nepal Orphans Home (NOH). Our children are growing into impressively strong young people, and twenty new children have joined the family. One of many touching moments came with the reuniting of sisters after an eight-year separation. At Skylark English Medium school our children continue to receive praise for their wonderful personalities and top academic performances. We have bid farewell to much-loved staff and welcomed new, while our family dog (now fixed) presented us with five puppies early Christmas morning. And in the interim between New Year’s and now, we have opened a new home and a small home school for accelerated studies; one child has entered the job market while another attends college. Our food support of a small orphanage near us continues after one full year and the educational support and hot lunch program of a remote Dalit village entered its fourth year. A small and heart-filled Tibetan school near the Bigu Monastery continues to receive our volunteers and periodic financial support, while back at home, as we have since our inception, we helped support the education of 35 local children in order that they attend Skylark. These are but a few of the ways in which NOH has been able to lend a helping hand due to the kindness of many.


Sherpa School (left two photos) and our program at Dumrikhaka (Dalit Village)

******

Anisha, September 2007 and September 2011

Let me begin this update with what occurred on the afternoon of February 26th.  Anisha, seen in the top two photos, came to our former home Lawajuni in the Dang district rescued by SWAN in late 2007 and transferred over to Dhapasi the next year. She has been a model child who has learned English quickly and made great strides at school, always finishing near the top of her class and jumping grade levels. When Anisha was 7 she was separated from her sister, who was also sold as a Kamlari (indentured servant). She has had her sister Sima in her heart and mind every day since then, but on an overcast afternoon after eight years apart, they were reunited at the NOH Imagine House in Dhapasi. After a three-month search by SWAN, we one day received word that Sima had been found, and we sent Vinod the next day to rescue her. After a brief but firm discussion with the woman with whom she had been a servant for eight years, Sima, allowed only what she was wearing at the moment to be taken, walked away from the house and into freedom.

At 4 p.m. the following day Vinod called me from a taxi and said some of the sweetest sounding words I had heard all year: “Papa, we are in Dhapasi.” With that I called Anita while tying my shoes on the run; I made it to her house just moments later. The children surrounded Anisha and anxiously stared down the road. A minute later the little white taxi appeared, our children started applauding, the door opened, and Sima rose from the back, out of a group of thirty girls her eyes immediately connected with her little sister, and she shyly folded into her embrace.


Sima and Anisha a nanosecond after arrival, and a few days later with Imagine House manager Anita.

******

We have reunited or ensured the togetherness of 19 sets of sisters at NOH, two sets consisting of four sisters each, one set of three and 16 sets of two.


Sisters Asha, Gita, Srijana and Bimala              Sisters Lila, Rogina, Yeshordha and Susila


Sarita, Gita and Sapana


Asmita and Asha; Minakshee and Gayatri; Anu and Anita;Juna and Kamana


Pushpa and Anita                     Muskan and Manisha          Nirmala and Sharmila


Apsara and Kabita                 Srijana and Punima               Anita and Sunita


Kamali and Lalita                  Isha and Bhumika               Sushila and Kamala


Aliza and Elina                                   (left and right) Sima and Anisha

And we have three sets of brothers and sisters:


Deepa, Cila and brother Roshen                             Ram and his sister Sushma


Saroj and his sister Sangita

And two sets of brothers:


Sandesh, Sujan and Maila (Dawn Kumari’s sons); Dhiraj, Rajan and Ashok

******

Our newest garden:

The last harvest before preparing the ground for our spring crop.

The ground we leased next to our cottage has responded well to the children’s efforts. Pratap, our Possibilities Boys’ House dad, has taken the lead in teaching the children how to grow crops and manage the land for future yields. The boys have moved into a new home now which has space for a small garden so the daily labors of the garden shown above will fall to Papa’s Harmony House girls under Dawn Kumari, whose skillful guidance in our old gardens have kept fresh spinach, lettuce and vegetables on our plates year round for many years.

******

As mentioned we have opened a new home for girls this month. We found a wonderful home for lease not far from the Skylark School. One Saturday morning Pratap and I, along with several of the children, went for a walk through the home before signing the lease. The boys fell in love with it, and, as it was large enough to accommodate their existing numbers and more, we decided to have them move into it, and the new girls would take over their home.


The boy’s new Possibilities Home                          View from the balcony

******

One week after we got the boys settled, we welcomed the first five new girls into their new home. Anita Mahato’s twin sister Sunita accepted our offer to manage the new home. Sunita had been handling the cooking and cleaning responsibilities at the Imagine house since we opened it. Sunita, like her sister, is adored and brings to the new home a gentle loving firmness and precise scheduling. The new children will fill the house in stages roughly two weeks apart.


Front to back and left to right: Sita holding “Lucky”, Bajan, Anupa and Nirmala; Back row: Ratan and Sunita

******

On the evening of April 3rd Vinod boarded a plane bound for America; this has been a dream he has patiently waited to begin for several years. Our children and his family who had arrived from their village sent him off to his new life with love and happiness. I offer a reconstituted summation of the journey in which Vinod spoke of the tears he experienced going through security and waiting to board the plane in Kathmandu. In the first leg of the journey his feelings of aloneness and loss as the miles sped him away from the only life he knew and cherished so much were more painful than he had imagined.


Vinod with his sister Anita at his farewell party.

But then, several hours later in Doha’s terminal, his thoughts gently turned towards the family awaiting him in America, picturing their preparations in meeting him in Washington, and he smiled, knowing his life together with Alecia was at long last about to become no longer separable by governments, and that reality brought him comfort. Many long hours in flight and then in Germany an interminable layover finally passed with e-mails written to his future and past, his past deep in sleep while his future family awaited in late morning America. He boarded the last plane with his thoughts having lost their tether, like tumbleweed blown across a barren desert, and settled anxiously to pass another twelve hours. 

At last, dazed but wide eyed, his plane touched down in Washington; he queued properly and with exhausted, fearful reticence he handed over a thick stack of documents to the immigration officer, whose serious demeanor kept Vinod’s breath at bay for many minutes. Then the officer’s stern face softened into a smile as he looked at Vinod and said, “Welcome to America, Son.”

Vinod found his cuffed-up suitcase in the carousel, and with his heart pounding walked through the last set of doors separating him from his Alecia. Finally being in America he did not want to bring any attention to himself lest he feel that long umbrella handle of fate come around his neck and yank him back from where he came, but his legs did not listen when Alecia appeared in the distance and he broke into a trot, oblivious to the stares around him, and finally into Alecia’s powerful embrace; he was home.

******

We are fortunate to be joined in the Volunteer House by Yem (the “Y” is silent) Mahato, Vinod’s cousin. Yem had come with Vinod’s parents and sister to say goodbye and I saw a remarkable similarity to Vinod, Anita and Sunita in him; he has a wonderful work ethic, he places integrity and character above all else, and he smiles from the heart. Yem will be taking on the vacated role of Volunteer House Manager for Sam, who has asked for up to a year’s leave.


Yem, the new volunteer Nepal house manager, and Sam teaching some basketball moves.


And Hari, shown above, a young family man with Dhapasi roots for several generations
and a friend of mine for eight years, will be taking Vinod’s pivotal role as coordinator under Christina.

******

At the beginning of this update I mentioned that we have started a new school here at home. The school came into being to serve new children who have previously been deprived an education; the idea is to accelerate their ability to communicate in English and get their math and other matriculating subjects up to par all in one year. At the end of the year they will have the option of joining the others at Skylark or continue to work with the new school’s superb staff and further catch up or leap ahead of their peers, as the case might be. My belief is that with concentrated lessons taught individually by wonderful and compassionate teachers most all children will show incredible results. At this writing there are only eight students in the program, but that will increase a little bit over the next month.

We have one excellent full-time teacher in Mrs. Sunita Pandey, and with her a teacher’s helper in our own Kabita Karki, who has a three-month wait for the results of her School Leaving Exam before she can begin college. Volunteers come from our Volunteer Nepal department, some of whom have teacher training, and they offer one-on-one help to the children.

******

Meanwhile at the Skylark School...


Mina, Principal Sangita Rai, Chiaya and Srijana; and Asha, Anisha and Gita

The end of the school year’s results and awards ceremony was held on April 12th at the Skylark School. The children of Nepal Orphans Home were well represented there, receiving First, Second and Third in their classes above.


Pinky, above left, was 100% all year; Saraswati above was #2 in her class;
Apsara, Yeshorda (missing) and Sangita Kumari received 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in their class.


Asha, Srijana and Kushbu 3rd, 1st and 2nd; Ishwor, far right, was 2nd place in his class

And below, honored at our own ceremony for maintaining over 90% through the year, are:


Samjhana

Yeshordha

Asha

Tilak

Sapana

Anita

Sunita

Purnima

Mankumari

Pushpa

Sandiya

Kailashi

Anu

Anita

Apsara


Our five #1 ranked at Skylark for the year

******

Today is May 1st, a holiday here to celebrate Labor Day. As I write this it is 5 p.m. and we are all inside; the electricity, which should be on for another hour, has been lost to a tremendous wind storm. Looking out my window debris fills the air; a tin roof over part of our cottage has become partially unfastened and yawns wide towards the neighbors with each gust. The NOH banner on our house took flight while some girls and I watched from their window, its 6’ by 8’ canvas cart-wheeled taut through the sky until sheered down by headwinds. Gusts come and make the curtains breathe and dance ghost-like, while the pressure against the glass is as tense as the girls’ expressions. I ran into our yard to retrieve the banner under the pensive eyes of our children, who then smiled at my pretending to take flight myself in pursuit of the skittering banner.

The steady gale is slowing now, and in between loud gusts pushing the storm away, we relax. Our dogs frolic in the yard, chasing large flying rice sacks. My desk and computer are covered in a fine powder of dirt as dust now settles in the calm. This is spring in the Kathmandu Valley; we live on the very precipice of a large valley and we are the first line of defense for the rest of the city against these winds blowing in from Sagamartha. It is the least we can do.

I hear the children now laughingly recounting the storm and their fear; it is the way of our children, as I have learned in listening to them talk among themselves and laugh away the storms in their earlier lives.

Thank you to all of you who have helped us to allow these children the opportunity to have a good life.

All my best;
Namaste
Papa

Papa’s House News & Updates

February 16, 2012

On Christmas Eve this year the children received their 2nd term final exam scores. The exam period is a highly competitive time when grades in the 90’s may not be good enough to finish in the top three of your class.  Skylark English School has 78 children as boarders; many of these children have exemplary academic abilities and have been sent to board at Skylark by parents wanting the best for their children, so it is quite exceptional to have our children -- with the many interruptions to their education prior to joining us -- achieve the rankings that they have.

With great pride in all our children’s effort I present here those who distinguished themselves by ranking in the top three of their class in an English medium school of over 600 children.

Coming in first in their respective classes, left to right from top are:

Rupa, Khusbu and Samjhana and below Kanchi, Apsara, Saraswati and Srijana


Coming in second in their respective classes, left to right:
Anu, Sangita Kumari, Sunita and Anisha

And coming in third in their respective classes, left to right: 
Ishwor, Gita Yogi, Yeshordha and Gita KC.

The averaging together of the 2nd term scores of these 15 students resulted in a 93.26% score. Congratulations to them all.

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Christmas this year was magical.  On Christmas Eve we had a caroling in our yard, by candlelight,  and not a person present was untouched by an air charged with so much love.   Every eye you met seemed to possess a deeper spiritual understanding under the phosphorescent twinkling.  I felt that angels had descended upon us.  The feeling was unlike any I have ever experienced.

Many  former volunteers made an effort to be here for Christmas, flying in from four continents.  Bob Linscott, my little brother, arrived with 120 school bags donated from Samsonite Luggage, and Kylie Penneck from Australia with Christmas caps for all.

Along with the volunteers already present, they helped make the pretty large production of Christmas easy.  During the day we formed the Nepal Orphans Home Logo on the ground with bricks and placed upon it candles and after that the children who from this arrangement sang the carols.


I feel that this holiday season has exceeded all others in a sense of real magic and of inexplicable occurrences.  After it was over the children, friends, volunteers and staff assembled shook their heads and stated their belief that there was something pretty powerful in the air.  After the caroling and hot chocolate, the children not living in Harmony House prepared to walk back to their respective homes, their candles still alive. They formed a long line with staff and volunteers and as they walked through the dark streets they spontaneously started singing Christmas Carols again which brought our Hindu and Buddhist neighbors to the street to watch.  The angelic voices and candle glow brought the very best out of each heart watching, who called out to them “Merry Christmas”, the pronunciation of which is strange to their tongues and a phrase they learned, I think, in our honor.

The line of almost 90 children took a while to pass and as it did these children transformed our little village of Dhapasi in yet another way; they again have nudged people to understand and see from their hearts and souls.  It is readily apparent that more people than not truly care about others and wish nothing but peace and happiness for all.

Christmas Day was a long and joyous occasion with gifts to be opened, programs the children had created to perform and a special meal together.  When the day came to an end, the children retired to their rooms and spoke softly and lovingly of the many blessings they have found in their lives, while close to 30 volunteers and friends went out to eat together and raise a glass to the amazing children of NOH which had brought them all together.




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At 5:00 am on Christmas morning. Papa’s House Doggy Lama, Sweetie, delivered 6 beautiful puppies.  Sweetie was a Christmas gift to Dawn Kumari last year.  As of today, all the puppies have been distributed among the four homes where they eagerly see the children off to school and welcome them home each day.

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For six years now, six days a week, Milan Bhandari, a 1st Dan Tai Kwon Do Master, has been instructing our children.  Unfortunately Nepal has limited opportunities for young people and Milan was forced to join the over 800 Nepalese who leave Nepal every single day of the week for work in other countries.  For Milan it is Malaysia. Milan is one of the finest young men I know; soft spoken and unerringly polite, Milan was always here on time to teach regardless of the weather or his own health.  He loves his country and family, but on December 18th Milan came to offer a last lesson and introduce his replacements just hours before boarding a plane. We will miss him and keep him always in our hearts.



Milan on left with his handpicked successors (brother and sister) who alternate days.

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On New Year’s Day the Skylark School held its Sports Day Competition at the Kathmandu Police Academy.  This is an event that takes place every three years with months of preparation and excitedly anticipated by all the school.  It was a very fun day with over 35 events drawing from work the parents of participants. In the company of several friends and volunteers not yet departed after Christmas, our children walked the two and a half miles from our homes to the playing fields. The children of NOH stay in good shape.  In each house a number of the children run every morning in the dark and cold, repelling whatever the weather might be. So it was not surprising when Sumitra Devkota was named the athlete of the day having won every event she was placed in.

Sumitra on left edging out her competition, and on the right Kabita, Lalita and Deepa taking 1st 2nd and 3rd in their divisions:


 
Sapana Chaudhary left winning the 800 meter and Puja Sapkota winning the 400 meter:

And Chham Gurung in a come from behind finish in his 3rd consecutive race: 

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Our children are born into a few different religions and in a country that recognizes the primary holy days of each religion, eastern and western, we encourage the children to learn about and participate  in or observe the rituals of each.  On January 28th the Hindu God Saraswati is celebrated. Saraswati is the Goddess of education and on this day all students, teachers and administrators offer a “puja” for her.  Anita Mahato, the Imagine House manager, likes to have our Puja at her house. She and her girls spend the evening before the holiday in the kitchen making breads and other foods from scratch to feed all the children wishing to attend.



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With many thanks to Possible Worlds, the Canadian NGO founded by Toni Thomson, who is also a member of the NOH board of directors, we were able to celebrate Valentine’s Day again this year by inviting the teachers of Skylark School and their 78 boarders.  Pratap Chettri, the Possibility Homes boys’ house Dad, Gita Lama, the Sanctuary House manager, Anita Mahato, the Imagine House manager, spent the better part of three weeks planning and preparing for the event, while the children in each house worked on dance and singing performances each Saturday.

Each child attending was to make a minimum of 5 Valentine’s cards -- three for friends and two unnamed which would have names added once we saw which Valentine’s Day bags were a little light. Our children are prodigious card makers; amazing drawings and scissor art goes into each painstakingly created work of art, usually after their homework is finished at night and by the fading illumination of rechargeable lights.  Often, many evenings would be spent on a single card.

The program schedule had school being dismissed at 12:15 and all the students, teachers and guest arriving at 1 pm, each wearing an article of red.  On the 10th of February all the cards were collected and personal bags made up by our staff were filled with the cards, chocolates and cloth roses. Also on the tenth we collected a Superlatives voting list of 15 categories including one for the “Teacher who most inspires you.”

A photo booth was set up for “Valentines” photos while the performing programs went on.

A spectacular meal was prepared by the house managers and their staff on Monday evening and on Tuesday morning our wonderful didis joined Dawn Kumari in our kitchen to cook.  Close to 500 handmade rotis were produced that morning in our 12’ by 12 ‘ kitchen by six of our didis, while also cooking the food created the night before, and at precisely one o’clock they had everything outside on serving tables for the arriving crowd.  Unlike today (February 16th) the day was full of sun and warmth.  On the 13th we had a windy and bitter cold, rain-filled day and the 15th was like today -- windy, dark and very cold.  If you think the power of positive thinking among our family can’t change the weather I offer this as pretty compelling evidence to the contrary.

The serving begins and on right Gita, Ramila, Sita and Anita eating their tiffin:

There was a pretty even distribution of Superlative awards handed out to robust applause for each; and also judging for the dance and singing performances shown below. 

Our senior girls in a traditional Nepalese dance (Lalita and Asha in front) and some of our boys in a modern dance; both choreographed by our Saturday dance instructor and the children themselves:

Little Gita and Juna in our smallest girls dance:

Pushpa on left and Samjhana peeking out at the crowd while awaiting their turn:

Sunita Khadka, whom I have suggested to be the reincarnation of Edith Piaf; Chham and Kamali:

                              
And voted top singer of the day, Sunita Thapa, accompanied by our boys:
   
         
Lalita on left and Srijana on right who was voted the individual dancer of the day:

 
Winners in the Superlative awards presented by Anita and Gita were:

Smartest Female Student, Sapana Chaudhary        Smartest Male Student, Ishwor Shrestha


Female Most Likely to Succeed, Binita Chaudhary; Most Helpful Male, Saroj Nepali


Best Female Athlete, Sumitra Devkota                   Best Male Athlete, Chham Gurung


Most Inspirational Student, Susila Khadka (on right);      School Princess for 2012, Shila Regmi

And from the photo booth I leave you these:


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Our children are dedicated to their education and can be found studying or reading all the time, even while squeezing in a little play.  My mother, who was a librarian and instilled in her children the love of reading, would be very proud of the children of NOH.

Thank you,
Papa