Papa’s House News and Updates

December 3, 2017

2017 has been a good year at NOH. All the children, from our youngest Hope Angel at four years and eight months, to those now hitting twenty-five and older, have had personal breakthrough moments, epiphanies of both mind and soul, catalyzed by situations good or challenging, as they continue to develop character and skills ahead of their ages. Profound moments of realization for the individual and joyful moments for the rest of us to share with them.

Five of our boys won scholarships to a college noted for its basketball program.  Bimal has turned his year’s worth of Saturday morning art instruction by a kind College of Fine Arts instructor, into some captivating and technically advanced paintings in his own style, which he has been selling to very appreciative viewers.


The Artist, Bimal, in a thoughtful moment.

Urmila won a full scholarship and placed first out of hundreds taking an admission test to Kantipur Dental College; four of our nine advanced Taekwondo students tested and won their Black Belts; the others have not yet tested due to time conflicts but will soon.


Sujan, Ram Saran, Sumitra, and Lalita

In less obvious fronts we have witnessed the graceful transition of those leaving their teen years and displaying the best of adultness in how they balance college, work, friends, group living, independence and inter-dependence, maintaining their individuality, and growing even more confident in themselves and their choices for a future.

And then we have lots of children not yet teens who are in the early throngs of maturing, laying claim to an identity they now recognize and nurture.

My camera is always ready and one morning at school I asked these six to stop after they came in the gate so I could take their picture; what was not posed was how they walked away afterwards in such a show of camaraderie.

There are few rewards as fulfilling as sharing the evolution of your children from bundles of energy living in the moment, whose attention span is as brief as a butterfly, to young adults full of quiet conviction and a desire to return to you their thanks for always being there for them.

*****

It has been five weeks since the NOH Business Incubator program helped Ashok and Dhiraj open the “Brothers’ Café” on the grounds of Skylark School. With a student body of over 500 non-NOH students, half of which have the means to buy a good lunch, and over thirty teachers wishing for a variety to choose from for their mid-day meal, we felt this to be a perfectly positioned location for the Brothers to begin their dream.

The boys have done well; they have assembled a staff consisting mostly of our college students who are available after 10am to help. They are working hard in cultivating a following and developing additional opportunities to serve groups remaining on the school grounds after the regular school day has ended. We have every reason to believe that they will be successful in overcoming the natural impediments any business incurs, and we are impressed by the lack of tension and the jovial environment they have created.


Day one at Brothers’ Café, making Momos


A full house at lunchtime

Sharing a laugh with Anita Mahato

Ashok, on the left, finished three years of college, has taught the adult women at our Chelsea Center for two years, and is a member of the Papa’s House Board of Directors. He recently received a scholarship at Thames College to study IT and has begun a three-year program.

Dhiraj, on the right, has always excelled academically and has helped to develop some of the computer programs taught at the Chelsea Center. He has finished two years of college in Science and is taking a year off to contemplate his future while getting his TOFEL certificate, and exploring opportunities in Medicine, or IT.

The boys are part of the twelve children we rescued from an abusive orphanage ten years ago, and they are incredibly good kids. They have received this money as a zero-interest two-year loan payable monthly. The repayment allows the fund to help other students with their own business plans.

The NOH Business Incubator Initiative received a very generous contribution from Gary and Stonie Jefferies who have been donors for several years from their Australian home. They teach ballroom dancing and a few years back completed construction of their dream facility. Once a year they hold a gala event with NOH being the beneficiary of it. Their past support has been with our Kanti Children’s Hospital program for the terminally ill and for the soon to be launched care of the baby facility at another orphanage.  Gary and Stonnie are the brother and sister-in-law of Deb and Alan Norton who spent a year in Nepal--Alan working for the Australian Embassy and Deb reviving and managing our NOH Book Clubs.  They are also very generous donors for our educational programs.

In addition, Kathleen Hayes has been a wonderful supporter with encouragement, business planning, and donations, her latest for the Incubator Program. Kathleen was a member of our “Yoga for Freedom” yoga trek 11 years ago in which each participant’s fees allowed us to support a girl formerly in indentured servitude and bring her into the family. Over twenty girls as a result were brought to Dhapasi and Kathleen has been helping us ever since.

*****

While mentioning the support for the Business Incubator Program I would like to mention a few more programs that have received the support needed to either launch them or expand in a considerable way the program itself. I believe that all our donors know the depth of appreciation NOH has for their support, I find as meaningful the donor who can give $5 as those who manage to raise or simply donate much larger amounts, and my letters to you all are sincere attempts at ensuring your understanding of the benefit the donation has to our work in Nepal. We make sure that our Nepalese staff receives a salary that is generous by community standards, but further they feel like family and have benefits in education, health care, compassionate understanding of personal situations and more. We feel that our staff is with us because they share the common desire to help others and to put that before more tangible goals in life. This is part of what makes our work so enjoyable.  We all wish for the best for others, and from this we reap benefits that feed the heart, and keep us happy.

We have in the past month had the pleasure of donor visits, donors who have come here, seen firsthand the work we do, considered the programs we are running, and made choices as to what would be meaningful for them to support.

I would like to mention them here as a further recognition in how they have actively become a part of NOH.

Cath and Rick Maddox have spent time with us twice and have held very successful fundraisers on three occasions; they exemplify the type of donor mentioned above. Recently they held a fundraiser in their Saudi Aramco home where Rick, a very accomplished and passionate jazz musician plays for the guests and Cath, an extraordinary chef, prepares a meal never forgotten. Their interest in supporting us is twofold:  our funding of a facility that houses abandoned babies found in Kathmandu and our work helping the terminally ill at the children’s hospital, the latter ongoing for four years, the former to begin in January. The support of Cath and Rick and their visits make so much happen.


Rick and Cath visit Dhapasi in November


The Donation Table and The Groaning Board


Rick and a mesmerizing young talent from Turkey who sings the blues

Last week we said goodbye to our friends Eswar and Sugantha Sundar and their beautiful son Sri. Both husband and wife are Medical Doctors and Professors of Medicine in Boston.

While here they spent time at the Kanti Children’s Oncology Program and are considering how they might be able to help from Boston. According to Eswar, most of these children have blood cancers and are dying from them, yet most leukemias should not be fatal. Eswar and Sugantha also went to the baby orphanage and left very hopeful that we will soon be able to help there. They identified one little girl who should be seen by a Pediatric Cardiologist and Neurologist, and we arranged that the following day. The Sundars also very generously contributed to these two programs. While here they spent a lot of time talking with the kids and provided both older children and our Chelsea women courses in basic Life Support, practicing on a reactive dummy named Annie. Sugantha also saved the menu on Thanksgiving by cooking a delicious squash, Indian style, for our 170-strong family and guests.


Sri, Anita, Sugantha, and Eswar

And while speaking of Thanksgiving, one of our most enjoyable celebrations of the year, Laurie Levine was here as she has been for years. Laurie has been in the family for about seven years now, and has served on the NOH board of advisors. Laurie had a very successful fundraiser before coming which she donated towards the enrollment of eight of our college children into an onsite Hotel Management program. Laurie brought with her two wonderful friends, Michael and Veronica who provided a lot of fun, humor, as well as hard work in many aspects of the children’s lives. On Thanksgiving, Laurie, Veronica and Michael cut up 24 pies and cakes, 70 loaves of banana bread, set up all the tables and benches, helped in the kitchen, and kept everyone busy and laughing while waiting for dinner.


Laurie at her fundraiser in Sydney


Yoga with Laurie and Veronica

Michael quizzically looking at his meal


Sugantha on the right serving

NOH wishes to recognize and thank Jonathan Paluga who lives in San Francisco. Jonathan visited us on Thanksgiving Day in 2014 in the company of Hope’s Godmother Kathy Procanik. When he returned home he surprised us with a donation to cover the cost of the Thanksgiving menu. He has kept that up, always surpassing the actual cost. Last year we ordered thirty apple pies and 80 small loaves of banana bread to ensure a tasty and happily remembered meal, and Jon was there again. This year, at Jon’s urging, we spared no expense and once again had an incredible vegetarian Thanksgiving that was enthusiastically eaten, with leftovers for the children’s evening meal as well.

The balance of Jon’s largess has gone to provide something special to some of the poorer people in our village that we help. Thank you, Jon!


Jon Paluga

*****

Recently one of the top resorts in Nepal developed an onsite training program for college students taking Hotel Management. The new Director of this program, Madan Khanal is a friend of our NOH Board Member Tamara Chant who urged us to consider this. We did and were very impressed by the offering. The program works around the student’s college schedule and provides them 5 hours per day of real life experience in their resort. The students choose their area of interest, from Food and Beverage production to Serving, Front Desk, Concierge, and Management.

In the latter months of the course they place the students in top restaurants and hotels in Kathmandu to get further experience beyond that of the Academy’s hotel. Upon graduation they assist with securing jobs both in Kathmandu and currently in the Middle East, but with South East Asian countries in the works.

I accompanied our eight children on their first day and was moved by the photos I was able to capture as they put on their uniforms and awaited the arrival of the resort’s General Manager to welcome them.


The Park Village Resort


Pramila, Lalita, Anu Maya, Sandesh, and Ramesh, the first to emerge in uniform


Anu Maya full of nervous happiness at this threshold to a new world


Lalita helping Bishnu with his bow tie


After a welcoming by the General Manager the kids are led to the hotel to begin training


Madan Khanal flanked by our first group of students in his program

*****

A little over five years ago Linda Mackey of Scotland spent many months with NOH in our Volunteer Nepal program. She connected with one of our young daughters, Saraswati and they remained in touch ever since.

This past fall Linda returned as she had promised she would and spent the Dashain holiday with us, helping in numerous ways, bonding with many of the children who have come since she had left and renewing bonds with many of the older children who she knew before, chief among them Saraswati, who reveled in Linda’s return.

Linda was here to participate in the many “pujas” that mark the Dashain calendar, including “Bhai Tika” where Ram was applying her Tika.

Also in attendance for Bhai Tika, as he has been every year for the past 5 anyway, was Arjun Chaudhary, younger brother to Sarita and Sapana, and elder brother to Gita.


Sapana, Gita, Arjun, and Sarita

*****

I wish to keep this update a little short. In January we will have a look back over the year’s events shaping the children and NOH in general.

I leave you with another short story about the life of one of our girls before she came into our home.

We are deep into our preparations for Christmas, there are several surprises in store for the kids that should make it one of the most memorable yet.

My deepest gratitude to all those who support us financially, spiritually, actively, and sharing with others about us. These kids, and the hundreds of people whose lives we help make easier and more understandable, and the happiness of our staff, have you to thank for our wonderful lives.

Merry Christmas!

Papa

*****

The Little Girl on the Bus

“Who is that little girl, with the big, round, brown eyes, so clear and hopeful looking, sitting in the 8th row?” I asked one of the girls near me as I called out names of the girls I knew should be on the bus. There was a woman in the 4th row clutching goods wrapped in a shawl, avoiding my eyes, sitting next to two small kids, obediently quiet; they were seeking a ride to Bhutwal, three hours distant.  “Perhaps she is with her,” the girl replied. I satisfied myself with this, and signaled for the door to close and we began our twelve-hour mountain precipice journey back to Kathmandu.

When we reached Bhutwal we all got off the bus to stretch for a minute. The girls walked about, excited, happy with the adventure they were experiencing, seeing sights not seen before, and anticipating their new life in Kathmandu only another 9 hours away.

The woman moved off from our congregation, a thin, evaporating presence wrapped in a red woolen shawl, her two children beside and behind her glancing back. They disappeared into the chaos of the bus park crowd. I looked for the little girl but did not see her.

“Jani, Jani, Jani” yelled the young conductor as the driver started the engine which sounded remarkably fit for such a dilapidated, rattling old bus. The girls glided up the steps and filled the seats; after two minutes when no more came the conductor slid the bi-fold door shut and secured it with a metal pin.

As we were leaving the bus park I walked down the aisle to be sure all were on board; at the back of the bus was a small girl covered in a shawl, her head leaned against the shoulder of an older one, her eyes closed as in sleep. The older one looked at me and shook her head softly when she saw I was about to question the little one. I nodded and walked to my seat; when I glanced back before sitting I saw the little one look up at the older one, her large brown eyes sparkling, they smiled at each other, an innocent, refreshing, excited, and certain smile of success.

That was almost seven years ago, her name is Ashmita.

Ashmita remembers being wrapped against her mother’s back in a shawl while her mother worked in a field with many other women. They lived in India, her mother, young and beautiful.

A year before this they were in Nepal, her father was far away at work and her mother, her three-year-old brother and she at home. Two men came, the mother knew one of them; they said they had brought them some food, and asked if they might enter. Poor as they were the mother accepted. They put a drug into her mother’s drink and transported her and the children across the border to India where the mother was sold to an Indian man who allowed her to care for her babies while she was to be one of his wives and workers.

When Ashmita was three, her mother, she, and her five-year-old brother escaped back to Nepal. There they learned that Ashmita’s father had died in a monsoon flood shortly after their disappearance while he was searching for them.

The mother took them to her parents’ house. The three stayed with them, along with an uncle, for the better part of a year, then suddenly, and without explanation the mother and her brother returned to India, to her husband.

For the next three years Ashmita lived with her grandparents and uncle, she attended public school, and she remembers being happy, but when asking about her mother she never received any answer.

One day when Ashmita was seven her mother appeared, but without her brother. She was taken from the grandparents’ house to live with an aunt that she did not know. Her mother stayed with her for three days and then returned to India.

When she turned eight she learned that her brother lived on the streets. He had come to the aunt’s house and stolen a bicycle, was caught, and then disappeared. Ashmita’s aunt then took her to Lawajuni, a home for rescued Kamlari (indentured servants) begun by Nepal Orphans Home.

Ashmita lived happily at Lawajuni for a couple of months, attended the government school with the rest of the girls and began to depend upon herself. The two homes at Lawajuni were very crowded; around 70 girls lived in what was designed for fifty. Ashmita learned that “Papa” the founder of Nepal Orphans Home was coming in a few days to take a bus load of girls to live in the homes of NOH in Kathmandu. The list of girls had been established long before and she was not on it, though she longed to go. After hearing the other girls talk about the opportunities in Kathmandu she knew this was what she wanted. So she asked a couple of older girls to help her and they devised this shaky plan, and that is how Ashmita became “The Little Girl on the Bus.”



Ashmita now. She wins awards for academic performance each term. She walks with me at 4:30 every morning without fail; she is sweet, kind, and determined. She has two dreams she recently told me: one is to live forever with us, and the other is to find her mother, just to see her. The latter dream we tried to make happen this last Dashain, when a woman who might be her mother had been tracked down to a remote village quite far away, near India. Arrangements were made for Ashmita to travel with people we know and trust, to see if this is true. Sadly, it wasn’t. Ashmita returned to Dhapasi with the same effervescent smile as always; I told her that I was sorry that she did not find her mother. “That’s okay,” she said, smiling. “It wasn’t my first dream, and I know that dream will come true.”

September 2017


Left to right and youngest to oldest, Yeshodha, Rojina, Lila, and Sushila

Late one Saturday afternoon in the early fall of 2006, four sisters arrived. They wore their only clothes, ill-fitting government school dresses and matching jerseys. They had been given a blessing when they left their mountain home early that morning, the red remnants marking their foreheads as memory of their mother’s last touch.

They descended down a narrow winding path, the smallest, Yeshodha, riding on her mother’s back to a one-shop village where a worn-out bus would take them to Kathmandu, 6 hours away.

The mountain, and the little village an hour’s walk below, were the only environment they had ever known. In 2006 the Maoists brought terror to remote villages; they would close schools, conscript older students and teachers, and impose themselves upon families for food and shelter. If you were caught sheltering them you were in trouble; if you refused you were in trouble. These were trying times.

Kathmandu remained a relatively safe-haven and NOH was known by some to offer a home to children at risk, including children whose brothers or fathers had been kidnapped, or whose homes were occupied by Maoist soldiers leaving little space, food, or safety for the children.

The moment I saw the girls my smile lit up and it has never failed to whenever we meet in the 11 years since. Getting them settled in their new room I took the photo above. My mind is filled with the first moments of meeting our children, the look in their eyes as they take in your own with shy fleeting glances, wondering what this new life would render to them.

A year later I brought the girls back to see their mother and baby brother. They lived alone in their two-story mud and post home, livestock down and people up. I was struck by the incredible beauty of the mountain, its remoteness, with foliage so thick that you would be surprised to find homes scattered here and there. We spent the night, and the girls, by candlelight, told me stories of leopards, snakes, and Maoists that freely roamed the area--fortunately, not that night or the next morning when we were led down the mountain by their mother, barefoot, with the baby wrapped against her back with her multi-purpose dress.

Today, Yeshodha is a college freshman (class 11 in Nepal), living in our transition house. Rojina is in class fourteen; she is an exceptional student who has skipped a few classes, and teaches our Beauty Parlor class at the Chelsea Center. Sushila also in class 14 is a clerk in the local “super market” where I sometimes shop and get to chat with her when I do. Their Aunt Kalpana has been with us since 2006 and has been the Volunteer House cook for many years.

And that brings us to Lila. She too has done well in school. The three older girls, all working, support their mother in a couple of small rooms a few miles away. 

I had a letter a month ago from Lila. She began with “thank you for my life.” The letter then offered a short stroll through the memories she most cherished and the things she learned growing up with us that became her guiding principles.

She ended the letter with “Papa, I am married now, I love my husband very much. We married quietly, without my family knowing as I was afraid that they would oppose it. We will be fine Papa, I hope you are not angry. I hope I have your blessing. My husband will pay for my college now. Thank you Papa, your daughter Lila.”

Lila and her husband’s official union in his village.
May they work towards and receive the many blessings that life has to offer.
Her mother and sisters all learned a couple of days after the wedding and have blessed her.
She never was at risk of losing mine.

******

As most of you know, towards the end of July our son Bishnu was in a terrible accident between his scooter and a tanker truck, which was in the wrong. Bishnu suffered severe head injuries and the initial prognosis was not good at all. But with time, good medical care, the love of his family here, and the enormous support of our readers, Bishnu recovered and was released to further convalesce at home. He moved back into our college home to be looked after by his 9 brothers and 10 sisters living in different flats there. The other kids had already begun college, but with different schedules were able to always have someone with him.

Bishnu has done very well. He has some residual problems, but the neurologist feels confident that given enough time he will be back to normal. The first thing that returned to him was his warm smile.

Bishnu feels that he has been given a new lease on life; this has triggered in him reflection on how fragile things can be and to better appreciate everyone and everything, taking nothing for granted.

The donor support has enabled NOH to not only insure all medical costs were paid, but also to set up a fixed deposit bank account for Bishnu’s future. Thank you all very much.


Bishnu on his first day of college, almost one month after the others and five weeks after his accident.

******

Between the end of high school and the beginning of college, a span of roughly four months, we encourage the children to find part time work and begin preparations for college. There were 20 graduates this year, 10 boys and 10 girls. After settling into the transition house, all quickly found local work in a variety of fields while learning to be more independent.

One of our children, Urmila, decided to take a “bridge” course in science, while working pretty much full time. The students who finished at the top of the class would be assured entrance into Kanti Dental School’s undergrad studies program. The competition is tough and the odds long with many more wishing entrance into Dental and Nursing college than there are seats available. With admittance to Kanti she would be guaranteed a seat in the Dental School in two years’ time.


Urmila and I in 2006

Urmila and I July 2017

Urmila was worried about the exam, before as well as after. Herald College, where most all the other children will be attending, would begin before these results were known, so I encouraged her to enroll just to be safe. A little over a week after Herald College began, Urmila received notice that she not only passed the exam but came in FIRST overall and was offered a 100% scholarship to Kanti for the first year. If she performs well she will be in the running for a continuation of the scholarship for ensuing years. Urmila, whom I often call Dimples because of her cavernous dimpled smile, has always been focused on achievement in everything she does. We are very proud of her.

******

Out of 30 children who take Taekwondo for an hour every morning this group above was chosen to represent NOH in this past spring’s competition. Those with medals came in first or second. Their coach, center, is a First Dan and top Nepali Competitor who, along with her brother, now studying in Japan, have guided the children for many years.

In August, seven of our children were allowed to test for their black belts in a day-long examination both physical and philosophical, with all being awarded the Black Belt.

Unfortunately, the belts themselves have not yet been forthcoming so the long-awaited ceremony remains on hold at this time, but we will have photos and profiles in the next update. 


Tilak and Sumitra studying

Chiya imagining her Khatas


The new batch in a photo from last year, now yellow belts with a green stripe.

******

Yesterday we were entertained by two Spanish clowns traveling the world looking to share their profession and bring smiles and teach expression to children who may best appreciate it.

They reached us from Myanmar and plan next an extended stay traveling the length of India.

Mayra and Jaume Villarroya gave us a few very engaging hours and brought out the clown in many of our more subdued children. We thank them very much and encourage anyone to learn more at www.clownsciencedreams.wordpress.com.


Sandip and Pretty acting out a silent skit

Mankumari and Anita dissolved in laughter

Jaume offering some theatrical tips

Sarita and Naumaya getting coached on their skit

Jaume and Mayra did a thirty-minute performance, without words, about a painfully shy artist and his muse. The children were spell bound and tickled both.

Himal, their sound technician, and Suman, who, sitting too near the front, became part of the play.

And finally, the dawn of a dream’s reality.

******

In July, Hope was having increasing issues with her left leg and Shriners Children’s Hospital in Boston suggested we come on back. Hope is now enjoying the most comfort and agility she has ever had. Our deepest appreciation to Shriners Children’s Hospital, her surgeon, Dr. Maurice Albright, her care specialist Bernadette Hannigan, and Brock McConkey who made a work of art for Hope with her new prosthetics.

 
Brock and Hope at the Springfield Shriners Prosthetics Department

Family in Maine, Boston, Connecticut, Allendale VA, and North Carolina took us in between medical appointments and provided Hope experiences from a Boston Red Sox game to Children’s Museums, swimming in the ocean, many walks in the Jamaica Plains Arboretum, and lots of very memorable family moments.

Hope was able to meet my four grandchildren, both my sons, as well as my 93-year-old step-mother. My brother Bob again shared his Jamaica Plains home, and Hope spent two weeks in North Carolina with Anita, her brother Vinod, sister-in-law Alecia, and with special guest appearances by Lou Poynton and Sam. At the end of that we all spent a week with my brother Peter and sister-in-law Boo, in their Davidson home before returning to Boston and final appointments.

We cannot begin to properly thank the friends and family who made such special efforts to help us again and let Hope know she has lots of family in the US.

Additionally, I wish to thank those who have contributed over the years to “Hope’s Fund” which is drawn upon for these trips to Shriners, while still being used to support most of our Outreach Programs in Nepal.

Thank you all so very much.

 
                    Arboretum walks with Mom and watching the river flow with Papa


A lake dip with her lifeguard Tika

Reading with my granddaughter Samantha

Body surfing in the Atlantic

Loving her new feet 


Meeting my other grandchildren, Nora, Ian, and little Paxtyn

******

Each of our children are remarkable young people, and each one has had a unique life before we found one another. I thought that they would appreciate having me write their story with which they might share one day with others who will enter their lives, such as husbands, children and grandchildren. I also thought you might appreciate knowing a little more about our children. So, with their okay, I hope to include one story with each update.

The child whose story I am prepared to write and I, sit together where we will not be disturbed, sip milkshakes, and casually go back in their lives. I listen and take notes as their memories flow.

Usually we meet a second time as one previous memory will later bring forth another, and to better establish timelines. In Nepal, birthdays or other ways to mark time do not exist, so time, that which was before our being together, rather than being stacked tends to be more viewed as in a kaleidoscope.

So, let me begin with the life of Srijana.

******

Srijana opened the wooden shutters of her small clay house and let the warm sun sponge up the dampness. It was only Wednesday; father would not come before Friday night. The night’s rain muddied the ground outside; she could hear the bellow of the water buffalo; she had best get busy with her work.

She took the pail from a hook by the door and walked outside, still in her nightdress, over to the lean-to where the buffalo was tied. The beast turned his head as she approached, snot and mucus clinging to his nose and chomping mouth, and made a deep scolding sound while Srijana placed the bucket under the udder and began to pull with all the strength a six-year-old could muster.

Barely 25 kilos herself, she carried the bucket of milk with both hands between her knees, its sloppy weight rocking her side to side. She heaved it up with a groan and poured it into the metal container which she then carried on her hip to the land owner’s house.

She stopped at the water pump after this and pumped some water onto her legs, scrubbed the mud off with her hands and pumped a little more to rinse them clean. Then she went inside and slipped on her ragged light blue public-school shirt and stepped inside the too large dark blue pleated skirt, pulling it up and fastening it at her hip. A quick brush of her hair, she grabbed her torn school bag and walked out the door, turning to put on her rubber sandals while pulling the old wooden door shut.

She liked walking to school along the narrow muddy path between the rice fields, then up to the pitched road for ten minutes to where the small school buzzed with unsupervised children waiting for the Principal and teachers to come.

The school was small and consisted of mostly boys, as all the girls in this part of the country are sold at the age of seven as domestic servants for money enough to buy about 60 kilos of rice. This happens during the Maghi festival which comes in January, the coldest month of winter.  Srijana was the youngest of 5 girls and would herself be sold in a year’s time, but for now she was happy to be able to learn to read and write before her school education ended. 

Srijana’s father was a laborer in the city, about three hours by bus along the pitched road up and over the mountains. Her father would come late on Friday night and Srijana would have rice cooked and waiting for him. He loved his daughter so much and both would sit on the earthen floor with his plate of rice and dhal between them and share, their busy fingers pinching together bites, often bumping each other’s hand. He would jokingly nudge hers aside, while sliding the ball of rice across the dhal and up and into their mouths. They ate quickly and silently, pouring water into their mouths from a single jug, smiling the whole time into the other’s eyes, in the shadowy orange the fire mixed with night made.

Friday nights were the best for Srijana, sharing rice from her father’s plate, her father brushing his teeth at the pump while she scrubbed the cooking pots with sand to clean them. They would finish at the same time, wash their feet in the pump and go inside to lie on their rope beds covered with a straw filled thin cloth. Srijana would watch her father fall quickly into sleep; feeling peaceful and safe, she would soon be asleep too. 

Srijana would wake to the roosters crowing and occasional bellow from the water buffalo. She would go out to milk her while throwing some feed around to quiet the rooster and chickens so her father could sleep a little more.

Her father would come stretching and yawning out of the little hut, scratching his belly and smiling lopsidedly at his daughter, asking if she had been good at her chores that week, and did she get to school on time every day. When she had poured the fresh milk into the metal hip container, her father would put his hand on her shoulder and they would walk to the landowner’s house to deliver the milk. There her father would ask the Ma’am, a heavy woman looking impatient, if his daughter had done well this past week. The Ma’am, her thin lips pressed tight said, “Some days the container is not so full. I think milk is slopping out the top. Your daughter needs to be careful.” Srijana would look at the ground in silence, her neck and cheeks flushing red, this was not true; she would feel her father’s gentle hand squeeze her shoulder softly, and he would say, “Yes, Ma’am. I am sure that this week you will have no complaints,” and they would turn to continue on their rounds. 

Next they would walk to the school and meet the principal who would be sweeping out the bamboo and clay room of straw that had parted from the roofs thatching. “Namaste Dai” the principal would say, bowing with his hands together to her father who returned the same. “Good morning, Srijana.” he continued.  “Good morning, Sir.” Srijana would bow, her hands clasped prayer like below her face. “Has my daughter been a good student this week Dai?” the father would ask. “Dai, I could only wish all the students were like your daughter. She is serious and curious and anything I explain to her she locks into her mind. She could one day be the ma’am here. I am going to miss her after next Maghi,” The principal spoke with eyes sadly twinkling.

From the school they would walk, father’s hand on her shoulder, to a little tea shop and have a cup of chiya. This was their time together. Saturday evening her father would get on a bus for the city so he could work early in the morning. 

And so it was that life went on. There were no thoughts of happiness or sadness, it was just life and as such Srijana lived. She loved school, she loved the day each week alone with her father, but she missed knowing her 4 sisters. It wasn’t like she knew them and they had gone away. Only one did she know a little bit. Asha was sold when Srijana was 4 or 5 and she was bought by someone not far away so she might see her once a year in winter during the Maghi festival when the girls were sold and would be taken away by bus. Srijana enjoyed the festival because her caste would make it party-like, and corn and sweet potatoes would be cooked for all the children to eat. She did not grasp the weight of separation of small girls from their families into a life suddenly alone, deprived of any social interaction, working at a home or highway restaurant from early morning to late at night. Seasons turned to years as small girls became young women, still alone.

Srijana had a mother, but her existence was more like a shadow in her life than a full-bodied mother present and reliable. She worked outside the house, and lived to the best of her understanding of responsibility, which fell a little short of being a mother to her daughters.

******

One Friday her father did not come home. Srijana waited. She had the rice ready and waited, and waited. She fell asleep on the floor when hours later a neighbor came and said, “There has been an accident and your father is dead. Go to your sister’s home and tell her.” With that he left. Srijana was startled and light headed, she couldn’t grasp what was happening, she just started running, and walking, and running again, through the moonlit night, across rice fields silver in the light until hours later she reached the house where Asha was kept. She pounded on the door, she called out her name and when Asha opened the door, and saw her little sister, she flushed with emotions that were new to her— love, happiness, hope.

Little Srijana, seeing Asha, felt the tears come, and was quickly embraced by Asha who knew something was wrong. “You must come home now. Father has died.” The family that “owned” Asha begrudgingly allowed her to go with a promise she would return quickly.

As Asha would discover their father was indeed dead. She had made a system over the years to get word to her sisters and put that into play. The next day they arrived. The sisters were together again and little Srijana watched and listened to everything they said. After three days the body arrived and was set upon a funeral pyre. Her sisters all left the next morning. Bimala, the second oldest who had been “Kamlari” for over 8 years, knelt before Srijana and promised her they would all return and live together one day, no matter what. “Just remember us and trust me,” and with that she rose and quickly walked away.

A difficult year passed without her father and little to eat. Her mother worked hard and brought food for her when she could. The Maghi festival was a few months away and Srijana was concerned that this year she would be sold.

The one year “Puja” to mark the death of her father was also coming soon.

One day when Srijana returned home from school she saw the door open to the small house. She tiptoed over and peeked in, only to find Bimala, Asha, and Gita sitting on the floor by the fire. She smelled rice cooking and saw Bimala open the pot and stir the rice through the vapors. 

She went inside slowly. Seeing her, all three sisters laughed, and called her near. “We have come for the Puja,” Bimala said, “tomorrow,” and Srijana’s sudden joy evaporated knowing they would leave the day after. But she would be wrong.

Death and the anniversary puja of a death are the only possible reasons for owners to allow their “servants” to leave, and most often both events happened without the child ever learning that they had. Bimala had spent the year working hard, staying silent, and smiling a lot, but in her thoughts, she was thinking only of the day she would find a way to leave and collect her sisters.

As the anniversary of her father’s death neared she asked her “family” if she could leave for two days to attend and with her hard work all year, and smiling demeanor they allowed it. “But you must return the following day,” the ma’am said, her finger wagging.

Bimala left early in the morning and went to her sister Gita’s owners and begged them to allow her to attend the puja. They were disinclined to allow it, but Bimala would not leave without her and eventually they let her go. Gita, thanking them beyond need, promised a quick return.

Along the way to Asha’s house Bimala shared with Gita that she heard from other Kamlari that an American man had opened two homes for Kamlari girls who could be rescued. She said, “We will get Asha and Srijana and go there and beg to be taken in.” Gita could not believe such a thing could be true.  She had been six years a servant, quiet for so long she could now barely speak to anyone, but she walked along, frightened not to return to her “family,” yet frightened to return. She knew if she was even late in returning she would suffer a lengthy beating.

They reached Asha’s house as the sun began to set. The ma’am came out and asked why they had come. “It is the one year puja of our father’s death,” said Bimala, “and who is going to do all the work if I let your sister leave? She can pay her respects from here.” Then Asha walked around from behind the house where she had been cleaning the cow shed. She saw her sisters and ran to them. The ma’am said to her, “Say hello quick and get back to work. Hurry up.”

Bimala protested, “Ma’am, she must come. It is just for one day. She will return the next in time to cook rice for the family.” But the ma’am was not in the mood to listen. “Get back to work,” she told Asha.  And with that she turned to go inside. Asha went around the corner of the house in silence, and then turned to her sisters and motioned them to begin to walk away, Bimala shook her head no, but Asha insisted with a big grin, so Bimala and Gita began walking down the narrow dirt road from where they had come. When the house was faint in the distance behind them, they heard Asha yell, “Run quick!” They turned to see Asha drawing near, smiling mischievously. 

Three skinny young girls in tattered dresses running wildly to reclaim their lives. They resembled autumn leaves skittering forward on the dirt road by a firm wind lifting and pushing them into a future whose only certainty was they would be together NO MATTER WHAT.

And that is the story of how the youngest four of the five KC sisters came to NOH. Srijana has always been in the top three of her class every term of her school career. Each of these girls is kind, sweet, and caring.

Below are recent photos and the photos I took when they reached our remote home 9 + years ago.


Bimala


Asha


Gita


​Srijana

And that is the update for September 2017.

Thank you,
Papa

Update on Bishnu

Sixteen days after such a horrific accident, Bishnu had surgery to repair his skull. The surgeon's report after the three hour operation was that everything worked as hoped.

Eight days after the accident, he was brought to consciousness in order to be operated on the 9th day, the ophthalmologist having suggested his eye would be removed during the operation. The operation was then postponed for three days. During this time Bishnu was awake and complaining of hunger, while still on a liquid diet. He had some vision in his right eye and the ophthalmologist was optimistic he could regain full vision. The 12th day came and again the operation was postponed; they gave Bishnu some rice and eggs.

On the evening of the 16th day they began the operation at 6pm and finished at9pm. Bishnu woke the morning of the 17th day, hungry. Later that day with the support of his brothers, he got out of bed and took a few steps. On Sunday, the 6th of August he walked some more with his brothers' help and ate better. After the surgeon saw him, he reported that he should get released in a few days. Bishnu is one tough kid with a future full of wonder and fulfillment waiting in the wings. It has been suggested that he might begin college in another three weeks, roughly one month after his 9 brothers and ten sisters began. He will return home to their care and ours, and I am betting he will halve the estimated time separating himself from walking to school with the others and settling into his seat to begin his journey.

During the long night of his accident I really feared that we might lose him. Many people wrote to say they alone or with groups were praying for him; this, combined with Bishnu's will, gives him a new lease on life. 

Thank you all for the support and love you have shown him.

Papa

Prayers for Bishnu


Bishnu

This morning, July 23rd, we celebrated the first day of college for our freshman children.

Unlike every year for the past six, the skies were clear, and unlike every year, not all 20 of the college-bound children were present.

On Thursday night I received a phone call, I was told there had been an accident and to come to the Teaching Hospital. I called Saroj, my first Nepali son, and met him 5 minutes later. We reached the Teaching Hospital around 10 minutes after and entered the emergency room. The guard asked if we were there for the accident victims and when we said yes he told us the hospital could not help them and had sent the ambulance on to the new Trauma Center in the government’s Bir Hospital. We arrived there just as the ambulance did and were at the back doors when they opened. One of our boys, Ram was okay; the other, Bishnu had received a massive head trauma.

We entered the Trauma Center helping with the gurney and got it into position, and then helped the nurses, with a doctor present, slide a board under Bishnu. At the Teaching Hospital a doctor had examined Bishnu in the ambulance, intubated him, and sent the ambulance on. The trauma doctor was a young woman as were the nurses. After Saroj and I lifted the board onto the bed, one of the women doctors asked me to squeeze the bag to keep air flowing into Bishnu. Saroj and Ram were being questioned by the police. Ram was pretty disoriented; he had been thrown from the bike and came to only when the police arrived. He could not remember much, but the accident involved a tanker truck suddenly turning in front of them and they had no time to stop.

Bishnu has multiple injuries, but the most severe is a fractured skull; his head was split open from the inside corner of his right eye, up above the temple and back to mid head. Bone fragments had chipped away from the skull. We went for a CT scan, me still squeezing the breathing bag.  The scan lasted 20 minutes, then to X-Ray, another 15 minutes and back to where we began. A short while later we went into the OR where they explained that the head wound would be cleaned and temporarily sewn. Saroj and I took turns on the bag during the hour this took.

Finally at 4am we brought him to ICU and the staff there ventilated him and attached all necessary monitors and Saroj and I were instructed out.

In Nepal you must pay in advance of medical needs. I had brought a fair amount of money when I left for the hospital, but while we waited outside the ICU, a nurse came out with a list of supplies they needed, a bill thus far from downstairs, and an amount they wanted in advance for the bed and medical staff. I left Saroj with the money I had, and took Ram home. Along the way Saroj called and said we would need more money. I dropped Ram off and went for more money and returned to the hospital. Saroj had been busy collecting the supplies and medicines. I told him that I would go and get one of our staff to relieve him; I returned at 5:30 with one of our house managers. At 7am I brought Saroj home. I told him to get some sleep and I began my regular routine. Saroj could not sleep and took his scooter back to the hospital.

Our Mrs. Pandey, the Director of Outreach Programs was at the hospital by 10am and stayed until evening, along with Saroj and house manager, Anita Chaudhary.

Our boys have kept a 24-hour vigil at the hospital in shifts; one person must be present outside the ICU to run and get supplies as needed. Saroj has been there most of the time as well. He is an amazing young man who in this crisis has shown impressive calm and managerial abilities.

Today we decided to go ahead with the morning blessing for the college kids. Bishnu was one of five of our boys who received a scholarship to play basketball at Morgan College; these five boys have been playing together since we built our first half court about eight years ago.

The morning ritual begins before sunrise as the kids must be in college at 6am and they walk there. All our children give each one a tika and wish them luck. It was a very somber occasion with everyone thinking only of their missing brother Bishnu, an ever-smiling and very friendly young man whose energy and speed on the courts is remarkable.

Those with the red tika are about to enter college, 18 present here

As of this afternoon, Bishnu remains in induced unconsciousness.  He has been unconscious since the accident. The swelling in his brain has been relieved. A surgeon has been scheduled to work on his skull, and an ophthalmologist has informed us that he will need to remove his right eye.

The forecast thus far stated is that he may need many months of rehabilitation; if they know of the extent of brain damage it hasn’t been shared yet with us.

Bishnu is a very strong young man; there were two times Thursday night when I thought we were about to lose him, and the expression, work, and mutterings by the doctor hurrying back to his bedside suggested this to be true, but he fought back. Now we wait.

The children of NOH all practice different religions and philosophies, but each has in their own way and with their own belief system called upon their higher powers to help. I think the power of prayer by these children will help, and we ask anyone reading this to perhaps take a moment for Bishnu and to join the kids in their prayers.

We will keep updates coming.

Thank you,
Papa

July 2017

Our children are simply the best.

We had a call one day earlier this summer from the village of two sisters who live with us. Their grandmother had suddenly died; she was their only family and has loved and cared for them every Dashain holiday since they have been with us. The caller said that they would be burning the body the next morning. It was then 4pm, their village a 12-hour drive by bus. The next bus left at 5pm and the bus park is 20 minutes away. I told Anita Mahato, their manager, that it did not seem possible; our older boys who help take volunteers to their placements were all on assignments. Anita then called one of our college boys who was at work. She told Ram the situation and he said I will be there in 15 minutes. Anita called our taxi driver friend and he said the same. Ram asked his boss to forgive him, but said my family needs me, and ran up to Anita’s house, no change of clothes or toothbrush with him. The girls threw some clothes into a back pack and were ready when both Ram and the taxi arrived at the gate. They made it to the bus at last boarding and settled in for a 12-hour ride through the mountains in a bald tired, bolt-loosening vibrating old bus. 

They arrived on time the next morning so that the girls could say goodbye.

Anita 

                            

Pushpa

Ram

                                                              ********

The other day some managers and older children sat together at lunch. I brought up having just heard from one of our older daughters who was now back in her village, married and with a child. I asked, somewhat rhetorically, “How many of our girls are now married and with children?” and we began listing them. It did not take long for us to have 27 names on the list. These were all the girls who had decided the village life was what they preferred, most but not all are married, those who are not live with a sister or brother and most likely will soon be. Of the married ones, most now have one child. We are lucky in their keeping in touch with us and occasionally we get a visit as well. 

The last to visit is Binita with her little girl Ritu. Hope fell in love with Ritu and bestowed upon her a bounty from her own younger days, now long gone by. They stayed with us for a week in which every one of the girls in Binita’s previous house took turns holding, playing, and marveling at her little girl. It was a great week to have Binita with us and in many ways educational for the girls to see, that despite the fun, a baby is a 100% commitment and on their terms, not yours.

     

                 Binita and Ritu helped make me see the extended value of NOH.

                                                               **********


                          These are the nine illustrators of Ann Mayer’s newest book 

ANN M. MAYER 

Ann Mayer asked our children to illustrate her second book on endemic and endangered wildlife in Nepal. Ann has become a great friend to NOH and our children. We thank her deeply for her generosity in the development of our children’s awareness of the fragility of Nepal’s Flora and Fauna. 

Ann Mayer is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College with a major in zoology.  After obtaining a Master’s in Education from Harvard University, she taught in the primary grades for 21 years, mostly in upstate New York.

In her retirement, she has combined a lifelong interest in poetry and a fascination with animals to write poems for children. This is her second book of poems about wildlife in Nepal.

To read a more detailed account of her writing experiences and download a free copy of her first poetry book, please visit:

                      http://www.bioscienceresource.org/about-us/our-staff/

 

                        Manisha enjoying reviewing the book and her illustrations within

                                                                   *******

Flower Clown (alias Ron Fowler), who commutes from Cleveland, Ohio, to Bhaktipur, Nepal, on a yearly basis, returned to NOH to give an encore performance before he left Nepal. This guy put on a literally eye-popping show with his magic and balloon making art.

  
 

                Hari trying to figure out how he did that while Sujan is simply in disbelief 

                                                                  *********

Hope turned four years old on April 30th and we were fortunate to have in attendance the people who brought us together 4 years ago.  Regrettably partially hidden from one photo is my dear friend Elsie James who has given so much to the women and children of Nepal for over twenty years as the in-country Director of Medical Mercies of Canada. 


 
                     A beautiful cake made in the bakery of our friend Suren
 

Sureka and Kathy of Medical Mercies Canada

Hope Angel 

       

Elsie James in the glasses

 A little overwhelmed

         
                                                             ************                            

Our graduating class of twenty have had a great three months off. Ten boys and ten girls all finding temporary jobs and working hard. College will start soon. Every year we do an early morning send off for them, each child and all the managers offering blessings and a tika before they walk together for their first day of school. That day should have been here by now, the kids are registered and measured for new uniforms, but the government hasn’t yet decided which day school should start, so we wait. I had hoped to include photos of our college-bound crew, but I have put off this update long enough. Last Saturday some of the Papa’s House board members decided to come and honor them and so below please see the children assembled, those with the red tika are college bound, the other four are on the board or staff members. 
 

                                                               **********

We try to bring excitement into the family life and one of our traditional ways is to occasionally color and number hard boiled eggs that correspond with prizes along the lines of a meal out with one of the managers or at one of the other houses (Hope won a dinner at the college boys house and they made a really big evening for her), shopping trips with a friend and manager, lunch alone with the staff member of their choosing, in all we had 25 prizes, some rather simple, but all memorable. This particular time Carola Drosdeck, the Vice President of NOH and fill-in House Manager for the Sanctuary House while Kamali was away getting married, boiled, colored and numbered 130 eggs with the help of an enthusiastic crowd of Sanctuary House girls.
             

                                    Waiting for the next number to be called

                                                          ***********

Friday Morning July 7th 
  

Sanjeep

Gita

Every morning at 6am there is a basketball lesson taught by Sam when he is here, or Nama, one of our children, when he isn’t. Nama is a sought after college basketball player presently trying out for the national team. Nama and four other boys have played basketball together all the time they have been growing up with us, and several colleges tried to recruit them as a group to come and play. Finally they choose Morgan College which had years ago recruited Cila, our top girl player.
  

Today was a group of 11 and up kids; each day rotates to include all those who wish to play. My favorite group to watch are the under 11 children who can’t, despite a herculean effort, throw the ball as high as the hoop.


    
These are photos of Anita’s House, my last stop in hair braiding. This year 10 of our 20 boys moved to the college house which left 10 mostly small boys in their home. So Anita and Hope, her best friends Kai and Pretty, and two class ten girls from Anita’s old house moved in so Anita, in Sam’s 6 months away, could manage it. Our Sanctuary House, where Anita began her managing career around 9 years ago has been shuttered. It was a beautiful house, but the well had dried up and we were buying tankers of water several times a week. Papa’s House had room for the 14 other girls from Sanctuary House and so we combined them. It was difficult to divide the house, almost all the girls had been together from the beginning, but they embraced this first change in 9 years and are enjoying getting to know their new homes.

  

On Sunday the school celebrates “Teachers Day” where the children have developed a program to honor them. Hope wished to get things started by giving all the teachers in the kindergarten a “Dairy Milk” chocolate bar. Notice the woman in the red kurta, how she touches her right arm with her left hand while receiving her chocolate, this is the proper way to receive anything in Nepal, but sadly a habit that is nearing extinction. 

  

Hope adores all of her teachers very much, so much that during the day she will request that she go and visit them randomly during class time, a request that for sake of Hope’s convincing personality is always granted. 

  

Volunteers who come in the mornings to greet the children discussing their times here

Kids milling about before the assembly

Ranjita delivering a speech

 

The view Ranjita has when she raises her eyes, over 600 students plus teachers. And that is this morning.

                                                                      **********

The following is a collaboration between Sumi and me, coming from recent questions I have asked during our hair braiding time. 

A Day in the Life of Sumi

The fluorescent light flickers on with a little ping, ping, ping, nothing is said. It is four in the morning; my roommates stir slightly then embrace their pillows tighter as they do every morning thinking somehow they will reclaim sleep. Sleep is never so sweet as to when it is denied. I don’t think, I just rise up quickly, I know the routine.

I am the first to the toilet, I wash my face and brush my teeth, leaving the toilet pulling my hair tight, I tie it into a pony tail. I go into the hall where the other girls walk like zombies to one bathroom or another, some smiling as they do when it is raining and they are slipping on the rain ponchos that make us all look childish. Few words are spoken, vowel sounds their communications.

I don’t like anyone telling me what to do, I learned a long time ago that if you do the right thing on your own then people do not tell you what to do.  I learned a long time ago what people expect from me or others. Sometimes I think that they don’t see me as an individual unique being, they just see objects that they need to corral so that they can feel they are doing their job. I make it easy for them; I know what I expect from myself and it is far more than the managers, or teachers, or house captains  expect from any of us.

I tie my black and red belt tightly and neatly in front of my worn Taekwondo uniform and go down for tea, skip the puffs, and walk alone to Papa’s House for practice. Every other morning for six years I have done this; I never miss one, unless it’s raining and then no one comes. The others are good too, but over the years some have given up. The winters are challenging; it is very cold and all you wish to do is huddle, but the Guru arrives and we must take off our jackets, shoes, and bow. Then it begins, the cold ground or concrete brings complaints from the others, but I like it. I feel alive, I feel something is testing me, something I don’t know but which is always present in my life and again I can show that I will pass this test also, with a smile.

When I go through the gate at Papa’s House for Taekwondo I see Papa talking with some children; they have already finished their walk and exercise. Papa walks every morning; he used to run. When I was younger Papa ran everyday with the older boys, long runs to a temple 4 kilometers away. They would race and they had to stop at the Temple and put color on their foreheads to prove they ran the distance. Sometimes they ran together, sometimes in opposite directions as it was a large circle they ran in. Papa would be back on the grounds rested when the boys would come staggering in, bent over to catch their breath. But the years went by, the boys legs became long and strong and then it would be Papa staggering in, bent over trying to catch his breath while the boys sat rested, smiling at each other when Papa would look up and smile at them for what they had become.

Papa is every day following his routine, no matter how sick he might be some days; he always is where we expect him to be. I am the same.

Every morning Papa braids my hair; he does this for a lot of girls. He always asks a lot of questions that are supposed to make us think; sometimes he simply asks, “How are you?” and it is more than “How are you?” It is, “I want you to share with me, what is going on in your heart and mind.” These are the places I keep pretty much to myself, but when Papa asks I feel drawn to tell, like if a mother might ask. I laugh at this thought, Papa is my mother, he cares for me in a way I imagine a mother should care for her daughter, but he shouldn’t be my mother, my mother should be my mother but she isn’t. Papa is also my father watching me perform Taekwondo or winning the competition at school that decides the best athlete of the year, which is me; I know that he is there, watching, but I do not win for him, I suppose it is to show my mother, if she were to exist in my life, that I turned out great without her, was that her wish for me? Did she feel like she would hold me back if she kept me, did she give me away because she loved me or because I was in her way? Maybe I win because that is who I am; if you lead then no one tells you how to follow.

Everything is good here, the other children, the staff, the facilities and opportunities, the Chelsea Center has everything for us in terms of enriching our education and on Saturdays we can use it as we wish, I have become someone that some admire for my accomplishments, but my emotions are still anchored, no matter how wonderful a moment might be, the bubble burst before it gets too high. I have this haunting in my heart of my missing mother, never sharing my moment. I am not so different than all the other children for this reason, though it isn’t a subject we ever discuss I think we all wonder “Why me?”

I am in class ten now; this year there are only 7 of us from Papa’s House. It is early in the year, but in our exams I was first. After class ten you take an exam that determines your fitness for college. It is a matter of pride for students and parents to say that they have passed this exam. In the whole country on average 37% have been passing, but last year they changed the grading system to allow everyone to pass because they said, too many students were taking their own lives if they failed. There is no competition in that.

So after Taekwondo we have our breakfast and then begin to prepare for school, Papa will go house to house braiding hair; some girls in each house only want him, but many of them stay in their rooms and do each other’s hair. 

At nine we walk to school and meet Papa at the gate, he shakes our hands, calls us by name and tells us to have a good day. If our collar is up on one side he fixes it, like a mother would.

School is a little boring, but I try hard to focus. Sometimes I find my focus is so strong that when the bell rings I rise and begin to walk to the next classroom while in my mind the remainder of a math problem or the vision of a poor family in remote areas with dysentery that we study in social slowly evaporates as I settle into the hard wooden bench of the next class.

Sometimes I look out the window and see Papa walking across the school yard to Hope’s classroom and minutes later he carries her in his arms, smiling at her and asking, I imagine, to tell him about her morning. Then another bell and everyone races to the café for their lunch; it is named “Hope’s Café”. I wait until the crowd thins and then I take my lunch at the counter, walk around the corner and stand with my friends and eat. 

Our days are busy; Papa meets us after school and when our lines are made he again shakes our hands as we walk to our homes. When I was small Papa used to give every child a hug and kiss the top of their head when we arrived at school, but we had not so many children then and now we are big and maybe he could not reach the top of our heads. Still, I miss it.

After we reach home we change into our regular clothes and have tea and biscuits and then walk to the Chelsea Center. We spend two hours there where good teachers help us with our homework or teach us computer and some learn the type of skill that one day they might use for work. I don’t know what I want to do with my life; I really don’t have any idea. But I try to do everything better than others so that I will be ready.

At six we go home and wash up for our evening meal, we all eat together and the girls are smiling and happy. After we eat we talk and slowly go about getting ready to do homework back in the dining room on the same benches. All the children help each other with homework or for any reason, this is how it has always been; I don’t know how it works in small families.

When I was six I lived in a village very far away with my aunt. My mother had come to Kathmandu to find work; I had been a long time with my aunt. One day I was told, “You are going to go to Kathmandu to sit with your mother” and I was very excited. When I reached Kathmandu, my mother took me to her room and told me that it was not possible for me to stay with her; she worked for some rich people who would not allow it. These people found a small home with eleven other children in it and paid the owner $100 to take me in. I did not see my mother again.

The owner of the home was not nice; in the evenings he drank alcohol with one of the two didis. They were unfriendly to us; they would sometimes beat us and lock us in our room. We all shared the same room. The other didi was a crippled woman who loved us very much and she did her best to feed and protect us. I was there for only about 2 months. One day Papa came and saw how we lived and he managed to have the owner leave. He asked Vinod, who worked with him, to stay with us and then Papa found a new house to move us into where Vinod became our manager. Eleven of the 12 of us are still together, some of the older ones in college, a couple  have finished college and work for Papa, but we are still together.  

This month I will test for my black belt in Taekwondo. I have to break a brick as part of the test. Yesterday Papa was telling me, “Your body can handle this; it has the strength to do it without any problem, but it is in your mind that you will succeed. If you imagine yourself smashing through the brick it will be done; if you have any doubt in you, if you hesitate you will only hurt your hand. Believe in yourself Sumi, I believe in you, I know you will do this.” I know that I will do it; I believe in me, but more, I believe in Papa.

I am a little scared about growing up and being on my own; my only grain of comfort is that I know Papa will always be there for me if I collapse.

Thank you,

Sumi

Thank you,

Papa

April 2017

Smiley:

If ever there was an example of a dog possessing supernatural powers, she would be Smiley.

One day in 2008 a young and beautiful dog appeared at our door. Her eyes were expressive, and she was gentle, quiet, and humble. There were no indications of ownership with her, indeed, watching her greet everyone and check out the surroundings I felt as if I should search for the pod that carried her to us from another planet. Once she had secured the property and received pats and kind words from us all she sat down near the gate and began eight and one half years of uncanny vigilance.

As children came into our homes, as other dogs were born to us, Smiley accepted them all under her watchful eye. Volunteers who came to know Smiley would often remark that when they would be making their way back home at night Smiley would appear out of nowhere and walk beside them to their door and then disappear into the night. We have a lot of homes and no one was ever too sure where Smiley was; we only knew we were at all times safe.

Smiley walked the line of children to school each day then would come into the school grounds and know which kids were ours. If other children were playing a little too robustly and seemed like they were running towards one of ours, Smiley would quickly place herself between our child and the other. She never missed anything; six hundred children on the open ground and she was everywhere at once.

Smiley would return at lunch time to patrol the grounds as the children ate, talked, and played, then again to receive the homeward bound children at schools end. How she knew the time was anyone’s guess.

Smiley was the alpha dog; though she was somewhat small and gentle looking, all the street dogs of Dhapasi bowed down when she would pass.

In the past two years as Smiley was aging there were other dogs who, sensing her slight infirmities, wished to challenge her authority as we walked through territories ruled by gangs of street dogs. Smiley, knowing the danger to herself never once hesitated to walk us through these dog “No Trespass” zones, leaving me many times charging aggressive dogs snarling back at her.

Smiley was a dog whose very existence caused all to wonder about the relationship between man and their dogs.  Countless times over the years Smiley was the subject of tales of head scratching appearances just when they were needed the most.

Smiley was put to sleep Monday afternoon April 17th, after about a year’s battle with cancer. A legend among dogs for the hundreds who knew her. She will be missed.

Class Ten of 2017-2018:

Another Skylark school year begins on Sunday April 23rd, and all the children are excited. This year NOH will have only 7 children in the graduating class, they are sandwiched between 20 last year and 21 next year. What they lack in numbers they make up for in individual prowess; they are the Seal Team Six of NOH at this time. House Captains, Taekwondo champions, academic leaders, and voted as leaders among their peers. We are going to enjoy watching them leave their marks this year. 


Hari, Sumi, Bimala, Rupa, Anisha, Ramita and Aliza

Hari Sumitra
Bimala Rupa
Anisha Ramita


Aliza

Happy Holi:


Second Annual Graduation Class Trip to Pokhara:

Board Member Carola Drosdeck with 2nd time volunteer and her son, Tyler
Hope saying goodbye to Asha Hope at the launch pad saying goodbye to her mom


And later that same day, Fewa Lake!

Peace Pavilion Managers and chaperones


Pokhara, known as the Switzerland of Nepal

Moving around:

On March 25th we moved our twenty graduates into the college/transition house in the morning, and after lunch managed to move the volunteers from their house to the old Chelsea Center and the boys to the old Volunteer House. As the evening sun began to set, everyone was in their new residence, tired but excited for their new beginning. Our children have become phenomenal at moving; imagine households of twenty or more achieving a complete move, on foot, in about 2 hours’ time. Credit goes to having 100 or more participants focused on the mission. 


On Saturdays the younger children serve lunch to all the others.

After lunch we had a long talk with the new graduates concerning sharing a building in their separate flats, suggestions on establishing routines and people in charge of different aspects of keeping the house functioning as it should. We spoke of respect, responsibility, honoring oneself, bringing balance in one’s life, finding work or volunteer opportunities and the importance of not hesitating if any problems arise in seeking advice.

The children were leaving “Papa’s House,” their emotional cradle, their rooms and roommates, the environment, the family, the certainty, and took their first big step into adulthood. After the talk they walked through the gates together back to their own house and crossed the threshold into their futures, a journey of 40 meters and yet a passing from youth to young adults, from innocence to self-determination. NOH continues to pay for everything in their lives, but they alone must set budgets and learn to live on their own and as a team.

By the end of the second week of April all twenty of these kids had found part time jobs. They have quickly shown that they have what it takes.


A sobering and touching moment for some


A moment of excitement for some


And a moment of tearful goodbyes for others.

School Year Ends:

On Friday, March 31st, the school year ended and a brief holiday began. Days went from rigid scheduling from 5am until bedtimes to complete flexibility. A few of those who always meet for walks or runs at 4:30 continued while others waited for dawn. School books were combed through and passed down to lower levels and children were measured for new uniforms having gone through growth spurts the year before. The sun rose and the sun set, days of rain interrupted days of bright warmth streaming together, films were watched and books were read, then out of nowhere the halfway mark came, tilting thoughts toward the beginning of school approaching.

New Year’s Day, April 14th:

The beginning of the Nepali New Year is as important an event here as December 31st to other parts of the world. It is a time celebrated during the day with family and friends. We are fortunate to have a lot of both.

Anita, Sushmita, and Anisha in their finest Our son Diraj and Cici, from the NOH Board
Chiya Bimala and Naumaya
Enjoying picnic-style a wonderful array of great Nepali foods

Dedication of the Chelsea Center: April 22nd

The Honorable Ineke Stoneham of the US Embassy with Peter Hess, President of NOH Peter with Mr. Roger Biggs Consultant for the Ceres Foundation
Mr. Roger Biggs with Board Member Carola Drosdeck Left: Lily and Chelsea’s father Glenn
All the Dhapasi women dressed so well Dedication speech by Mr. Roger Biggs

The women in the Chelsea Centers Community Room named after Barbara “Boo” Hess for her many years of dedicated work as Treasurer of NOH and winning Charity Status for the USA.

After the rains came the ceremony had to be moved inside the new center, women of the CECC down in the meeting room and all the children and staff upstairs in the classrooms.

This was a wonderful day for Nepal Orphans Home, having been recognized by the Foundation as a charity organization with the dedication to change for the better the lives of many and validating that recognition with such an enabling grant wasn’t something we ever thought would be in our future.

The Chelsea Education and Community Center will long into the future be able to carry forth our aspiration to educate and inspire individuals to recognize and achieve their dreams and by so doing to collectively improve the country of Nepal. In Chelsea’s honor, this will be.

The new Chelsea Education and Community Center Carola in the Meditation Garden built in her honor


A further dedication went to Carola Drosdeck, Vice President of NOH


The Chelsea Detrick Education and Community Center carved in stone

Anita Mahato’s 27th Birthday:

After the Chelsea Center’s Dedication Ceremony Anita was honored at her house by all the children, staff and some board members on the occasion of her 27th birthday.

Little Manisha enjoying the moment Anita and Hope blowing out candles

The answers to life’s most vexing problems are usually quite simple

Hope asked Uncle Peter to help with the ceremonial cutting of the cake

Anita with some of her girls. Anita Mahato grew up quickly and despite not being so much older than many of the children of NOH has earned enormous respect, adulation, and affection from them all. The NOH family has along the way attracted the very best. Anita came to us at 16, quiet, shy and dedicated to learning and helping anyway that she could; she never rested, and by that and her innate understanding of our children has served and lived in ways many wish to pattern their lives after.

On Sunday our Hope Angel turns four. It seems quite hard to imagine. She has become, by her own words, “a big girl now”. She is a girl full of ideas and the determination to see them through.

Till then, the best to you from the NOH family.

Papa

January 2017

The Chelsea Education and Community Center’s new building has turned the last corner and is headed for the finish line. We will soon be entering the decorative stage and have already begun to seek furnishings that will accommodate the growing population and diverse offerings. Members of the Nepal Orphans Home Board of Directors and Advisors, those who are able, will be arriving in Kathmandu in mid April for a week’s worth of meetings and an opening ceremony on the 22nd.  We have invited the US Ambassador to Nepal and a few Nepali dignitaries who have come to know our work well, and a Representative of the Foundation that made the creation of this building possible. It is going to be a very proud moment in the 12-year history of Nepal Orphans Home, and a particularly poignant day in the life of Board Member Glenn Detrick of Washington University as we honor his late daughter Chelsea for whom the Chelsea Center’s concept and building are named.


Glenn and Chelsea, Graduation Day from Elon University

Thanksgiving NOH Style

Before the festivities began we spoke about the meaning of family, of Thanksgiving, about the purity of heart, and the intrinsic nature of our souls and to always keep this as our guide.

Then we began to have some fun.


Pre-Feast Yoga Time led by our Advisory Board Member Laurie Levine


Hope found this an opportune time to sample the banana bread

We sat in a large circle before we began the yoga and spoke about the meaning of Thanksgiving, asked everyone to hold hands and turning to one another tell them what it is about them that they loved.

 In the spirit of Thanksgiving a few donors gave generously for our feast, allowing us the purchase of apple pie, carrot cake and banana bread from a phenomenal, recently opened, bakery.

In addition we had a vegetarian meal of rice, vegetables, apple stuffing, and mushroom gravy. 

The Best of the Best

In December we had the children in each house vote on the one person who they felt showed exemplary character all year long, the one person whose existence in their house made their lives richer for it. The winners received exquisite quilts made by our friend and artist Silke Steuxner. Silke has made these for our children many years running, and they are very highly valued by our children.

Please visit her website www.silketouchquilting.com to learn more about her.


Tilak, Anita, Juna, and Bhumika were the chosen ones.


Four of the beautiful quilts sent by Silke this year.

Kamlari Reunion

(Indentured servant typically contracted out at the age of 7)

For several years a German filmmaker and our friend Susan Gluth had been making a documentary on Urmila Chaudhary, one of our first daughters when we opened our homes in the Dang district for rescued Kamlaris. Urmila has received quite a bit of notoriety over the years with a biographical book and subsequent book tours across Germany all the while keeping her work as President of the Freed Kamlari Association and her continued education foremost in her life.

Susan’s film was accepted into the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival and had its Nepali premiere on December 10th. We housed and provided transportation for 30 former Kamlari for their time in Kathmandu. Susan’s film won.



Before heading to the day long film premiere event

Urmila Waiting to leave for the festival

Wearing their cultural (Tharu) dress these young women became as strong as they were beautiful. Around 70 of our daughters are former Kamlari, each a role model for me.

I was informed that when the film ended you could hear a pin drop, then from the back of the theater doors opened, and in these beautiful girls proudly marched to the stage and stood for a moment, surrounding Urmila, they then did Namaste and left to an emotional and thunderous applause. 

OLE'!


One Saturday we had a group of people from Mexico come to entertain us in a fun-filled, professionally done, and interactive ninety minutes. The kids learned a lot about Mexico. Sanjeep was one of the younger children trying to do the “Mexican Yell” taught by one of the troupe’s males. It is deceptively difficult, but very entertaining when performed by small children.

One of the group let me know that they were opening a Mexican restaurant in Kathmandu; “times, they are a changing.”

Joy to the World. Christmas Eve



Christmas Eve, hot chocolate, photos spanning 11 years appearing like apparitions on the wall, carols half sung then sputtering to hums before a new one whose first line was well rehearsed, the joy of the moment and joy in anticipation of the many pleasant hours to follow that have become our Christmas Eve traditions.  A simple message from our kids to the world, fitting in this time of agonizing intolerance and xenophobia.    

And Christmas Day

The younger girls in “Papa’s House” dance Manisha striking an elderly look before her dance
Urmila Chiaya
Sanu and Pramila watching the show Christmas begins with the Secret Santa exchange
Juna receiving her gift from Anisha Dhiraj and Khusboo
Himal had drawn Hope’s name Sandip sharing his gift with Sunita

Cinema Hall

The parents of one of our volunteers, Mackenzie Perras of Canada, wished to do something special for the children and thus a trip to the Cinema Hall was organized. Upon arrival the kids found that the complete theater sat in wait and we were offered our choice of one of seven films to watch. The children had a great time and will long remember the day. Thank you very much Mr. and Mrs. Perras for this gift and the deeper gift of Mackenzie who is fondly remembered by our children and staff. 

Lining up for popcorn Marching through Dhapasi to waiting buses

Some of the NOH Outreach Programs


Mother Sister Home for Orphans where we cover 40% of their monthly cost


New school building funded by NOH in Ramechhap

We have been supporting the school and a hot lunch program for the teachers and students, and the English teachers’ salaries for the past 7 years. On February 17th there will be a ceremony for the opening of the new school.


The principal and teachers at the Ramechhap School


The Head Lama and assistants of the Bigu Monastery. Four of the 80 nuns at Bigu. 

NOH has had a many year commitment with funds and volunteers with this Monastery. Presently we are helping to support the rebuilding of their completely devastated campus.


The Home for the Blind in Gholadunga

NOH has provided salary, sometimes food, and education support for over two years.  The children shown here wearing new Christmas clothes. One of our sons Rabindra has made it his job to check on them twice a week and while so doing he spends hours helping with their homework, talking with the children, bringing them special treats and sharing life.


Easing the pain, cost of medications, and trying to give some fun and comfort for terminally ill children.

NOH continues to supply terminally ill children in the cancer ward at Kanti Hospital with fresh fruit and food treats twice a week.  Birthdays of the children are celebrated, complete with birthday cake, candles, presents, balloons and sweets. Support (generally for pain medications) is provided for poor families who cannot afford the medical costs.

These are some of the outreach programs that NOH is committed to serving. In our area there are many people being helped with the cost of medical, educational, shelter, and food issues. We are very proud of our support to so many, and are deeply grateful to the donors who make it possible.

***

In a recent essay the children were asked, “If God came to you and said you may ask anything that you wished to know the absolute truth about, what would you ask?” Below are some of their questions.

Young children

  1. God, why did you put people only on earth?
  2. God, where does our soul go when we die?
  3. God, why can’t I watch movies all the time?
  4. God, how many hairs are on my head?
  5. God, why are people jealous of one another?
  6. God, where were you born?

Medium children

  1. God, who created you?
  2. God, why do children die?
  3. God, my parents wanted a son, why did you make me a girl?
  4. God, why is there discrimination?
  5. God, why do poor people have so many more problems?
  6. God, is there any real right and wrong?
  7. God, are you in control of everything?
  8. God, why did you let my parents give birth to me and then you took them from me?
  9. God, why make women carry babies for 9 months, you could have made it for 1 day?
  10. God, in whose image are we made? Some people are ugly and others beautiful.
  11. God, when will I die?
  12. God, why did you make Hell?
  13. God, why do white people make problems for black people?

Older children

  1. God, why don’t you appear?
  2. God, what are your plans for me?
  3. God, why don’t humans use more than 10% of their brain?
  4. God, why are people never satisfied?
  5. God, why did you make different planets?
  6. God, why am I afraid to fall in love?
  7. God, will we ever meet our beloved ones who have died?
  8. God, will you give me back my mother who you took when I was still nursing?
  9. God, why do rich people take poor people’s children as servants?
  10. God, why did you give animals smaller brains?

These essays opened some doors to the children’s thoughts that have been warmly invaluable to me.

Passages

Number One:

Rita in white at our Narti Home in late 2007 Rita after rescue 2007
Rita and Papa 2008 Rita 2009
Rita 2010 Rita 2011
Papa and Rita 2012 Rita and Papa 2013
Rita 2014 Rita 2015
Rita 2016 Rita and Roshen Married 2017

I have said goodbye to a daughter. In 2007 NOH asked those involved in rescuing the Kamlari why all the girls were sold again after being rescued and they said it was because there were no shelters for them. So we opened two homes in the district where selling girls (from the age of seven) was most prevalent, Rita was in the first fifty girls that we took in. These girls will always be very special to me.

As sometimes happens when our children go back to their village during the month-long October holiday, Rita met a young man and fell in love. That was three years ago, Two years ago they found their affection had deepened, and this last year they had a religious ceremony to unite body and soul. Rita returned after the holiday without saying anything about this. Then one day after Christmas we sat down together and reminiscent from the scene in “Fiddler on The Roof” when the Papa says goodbye to his daughter, with the song “Little Bird” playing in my head, Rita told me that she was married and wished to return to her village and live with him. I gave her my blessing, happy for the joy in her eyes, but sad for the uphill battle, though steeped in love, that will become their life.

A few days later her newly minted husband arrived from an all-night bus ride and collected his young wife. He is a good boy and has been working hard to ready a home for them; Rita is a good girl. They are in love.

I slipped some money into her bag while she said her goodbyes. Then I walked them to the gate and swung it open to their future together. I gave Rita a hug; she was crying. Her husband struggled to lift Rita’s much too large bag containing ten years of her life at Papa’s House, and then walk awkwardly by its burden out onto the road where they will find an indifferent old bus to hurry them on board and ferry them, the God of busses willing, fourteen hours to a very poor village to scratch out a life together.

Godspeed Rita.

Number Two:

Hope will become four years old on April 30th. Every moment of her life has been a gift to me, every development the best yet and of late they are coming fast.

Once we have reached school in the mornings and said good bye to the children, Hope and I walk around while Anita takes care of the managers. Of late Hope will then say, “Now Papa, you go home and do your work and I will go to school.” Then I say goodbye, the hug and kiss Hope recently replaced with a blown kiss and saying, “I love you,” before she takes Anita’s hand and walks to her classroom.  Hope has always insisted that Anita stay with her or in “Hope’s Café” where Anita will help our cooks to prepare the tiffin and check on Hope a few times each hour. Then two weeks ago she told Anita that she can go home and return at tiffin time, and said, “I am a big girl now.”

Then last week when the time came for her to go with Anita to the classroom and for her and I to say goodbye, Hope announced that we could leave, “Papa you go do your work and make my tiffin and Mama you go home and come back, I will walk myself to my classroom” in sight but some distance away. She insisted on this and then took her back pack, slipped it over her shoulders, gave us kisses and turned on her heel and walked away. We of course followed every step of her journey over this threshold into being a “big girl”, she turned once about halfway and waved without breaking stride, and then again when she reached the classroom door. I remember a few years ago when Hope made her first solo walk, on Valentine’s Day, of 20’ to my excited arms and unbelieving eyes, her smile so large and her hug so strong, she knew what she had accomplished so unexpectedly. Now I watch her walk away alone to her classroom. These are the moments we bring up many times as our children become adults, perhaps even more so then to compensate for the loss of their youth.

Hope is more insistent upon walking unaided and accepting stumbles with a slightly weary “I am fine,” as she gets up. She walks up and down stairs alone though with me near, and has been trying jumping from very small heights.

Some of her insights are remarkable and now she questions everything until she has been satisfied with your answer.

She likes to sit in front of me on the scooter where she will start it up and then be in charge of the horn and alerting me to things I should be aware of. For some reason I am occasionally startled to see how my little baby girl has grown up.


​Hope helping her mom during the Saraswati Puja February 1st

Number Three:

The third story of Passages is one for NOH. The consistent reader will remember Sanjeev Dahal who I introduced in the last update, along with our Director of the Chelsea Center Hillary and our new Director of Communications for Volunteer Nepal Shreya.

These three folks have been working hard with a dedication rarely seen, and the skills to ensure performance. Along with them Mrs. Pandey has been sharing the directorship of our Outreach Program and Volunteer Nepal, and Anita Mahato whose thoughts on issues pertaining to the children and other managers I have always highly valued, have in combination, made life very smooth.

I had planned to retire in the fall. I have for a few years wished to spend a few months each year in America with Hope and being able to get to know my grandchildren better than I do now, and while in Nepal to have the time away from the desk to be with the children, help where they need it, keep them thinking with writing essays, talking, continuing my Friday night suppers for five, cooking Saturday tiffins, maybe trying some teaching; anything and everything I can think of to do to encourage their self-reliance, instill them with confidence, help them to believe in themselves, and to see the beauty and good in everything, even what is on the surface bad.

Above all I wish to have the time with each child to ensure they feel the love of a parent as I was fortunate enough to have. In their recent essay a few have asked, “Why did you take my parents from me when I was small?” Some have stated that God must not care about them to have done that. This sense of loss and bewilderment touches me deeply, I wish that no child feel this and perhaps this is the reason for what I began some time ago.

We have evolved to the point where we are doing a lot of wonderful things for many communities and individuals, but in doing so I have had less time to be a dedicated Papa to our children, and I do not wish my life to be consumed by administration any longer.  Effective on January first Sanjeev Dahal has been handed the baton and is now the Director of Operations for Nepal Orphans Home. Anita Mahato is now the Director of Managers for NOH and sees to it that the children’s needs and schedules are met and as she has for the last two years she will continue to dole out the funds necessary for the managers to buy the daily needs of the children and be keeper of the daily log for it.

What we have become makes a huge difference in the lives of several hundred individuals every day, but it has also led me astray from being the best Father, Papa and Grandfather that I could be. I will be available if ever called upon by Sanjeev, and will continue in my efforts to raise funds, raise good children, and write about the kids. With the talent that has been assembled I can say with conviction the very best days of Nepal Orphans Home, the Chelsea Center, our Outreach Programs and our Volunteer Program lay ahead, and I will return to the children.

How precious, kind and compassionate our children are. I have learned so much about the meaning of life, how to live a better life, and how to rise above the damage done by other troubled souls. These children, not by words, but by their way of life, are little prophets one and all who make it easy to believe that one’s own life can bring remarkable change in a world that is abundantly lopsided in its equality.

All my best,
Papa

November 2016

The making of men and women.

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


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

CECC Building

As seen from the boys house balcony From the street

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

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

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

*****

Outreach

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

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

Kanti Children’s Hospital

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

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

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

Ramechhap

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

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

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

Bigu

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

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

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

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

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

New Staff


Shreya, Hillary and Sanjeev

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

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

Sisters Day

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

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

Tihar

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

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

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


Dashain

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

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

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

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

Saroj taking the boys to the Fun Park


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

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

Sandip and his alter hero Sanjiv and Suman sliding

Halloween Nepal style

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

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

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

A “mummy”-making contest And the mummies. 

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

Sports Day

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

My Girl


Hope unquestionably enters every contest with determination and fun

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

Thank you.

Papa


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

August 2016

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

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


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


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

*******

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

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

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

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

*******

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

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


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


*******

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

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

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

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

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

*******

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

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

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


August 21st, 2013 

 July 15th, 2016

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

WHERE THERE IS HOPE

THERE IS HELP

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

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

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

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

*******

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


The Community Service Center Office

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

All my best,
Papa

June 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The sands of Daytona Beach

Waving hello to Minnie Mouse

With Anita and Paxtyn, my newest granddaughter

Building Snowmen

*******

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

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

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


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

*******

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


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


Alicia and Sumitra both second place



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


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

*******

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

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

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

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

Please check out his website.


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

*******

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


*******

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

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

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


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

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

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


The buses start to roll in

One of the English classes

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

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

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

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

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

*******

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

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

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


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

*******



All photos from the ward by Carola Drosdeck

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


Laying out the foundation

A “Puja” ceremonial blessing

*******

 On April 30th Hope Angel turned three years old!

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


Hope’s beautiful cake

Some of the girls in attendance


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

*******

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




*******

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

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

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

*******

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Truck getting stuck in the lower elevation

A school passed along the way

The son featured in the newspaper article

Curious women looking at Chham

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

Chham with the son

Dividing the dhal

On their way up the mountain to home

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

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

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

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

Thank you for the time you have spent reading this.

Papa 

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