Papa’s House News & Updates: 2008

Monday, December 22 – The Imagine Fundraiser

Nepal Orphans Home was the beneficiary of two magnificent fundraisers in December. The Imagine event on December 11th was beautifully organized in an elegant mall near Cleveland, Ohio. Jesse Bach, the young man who initiated the idea for the fundraiser and inspired his friends to help, was a volunteer this past summer at Papa’s House and at Lawajuni, where the rescued Kamlari girls are housed. He was so moved by his experience that he came home and motivated his many friends to have a fundraiser. Jonathan and Candy Koslen stepped up to host the fundraiser for NOH, combining the event with the opening of their new gallery for New Image Photography at Eton Mall. They solicited gifts from many of the stores in this mall for the silent auction.

Jesse, who is a shop teacher at one of the nearby schools, made three beautiful tables for the silent auction. There were bumper stickers with “SAVE THE KAMLARI,”  T-shirts with Sita’s face pictured on the back, and photo tri-folds of the young Nepalese girls on the tables. The gallery’s donation was the beautiful posters of several of the rescued Kamlari with their photos (by Michael) and brief bios. Balloon arches and bundles made the place look festive. The crowd was enthusiastic and interested. Marcie Westphalen, one of our directors, and her daughter Alecia (both were NOH volunteers this past summer) drove up from Raleigh, and Scott Simon, another volunteer, flew in from college in Kentucky. Carola Drosdeck, also on the NOH Board of Directors, attended as well.

Like Toni Thomson’s second annual Possible Worlds evening in Toronto held a week earlier, the event generated significant contributions to NOH for support of rescued Kamlari girls at Lawajuni hostel in Narti. Moreover, awareness of and interest in the work of NOH has greatly increased.

Tables of silent auction items at Eton Mall:

One of Jesse’s three handmade tables, this one is a Shaker style, with beautiful curves and wood:

The sign reads:

Through these pictures you have met many girls.
Each one of them is a human being, just like you.
They have hopes and dreams, which have been crushed by circumstances.
These girls are the lucky ones. They have been rescued and are safe.
Imagine all of the girls you haven't met.
Help them.

Peter Hess, NOH president, Jesse Bach, NOH volunteer, Jonathan and Candy Koslen, New Image Photography gallery owners:

A pretty packed gallery where people could go online to make donations, or pay by check:

(L-R) Boo Hess, NOH secretary/treasurer, Peter Hess, NOH president, Scott Simon, volunteer, Jesse Bach, volunteer, Alecia Westphalen, volunteer, her mother Marcie Westphalen, and Carola Drosdeck, both Directors on NOH Board. Our sign, for Michael’s benefit, read “Wish you were here,” but most of us felt the sign that said “Wish we were there” was more truthful.


Monday, December 1 – Our New Cows

The very sweetest milk that I have ever tasted was brought to me by Sabita, our head Didi in Lawajuni, just before I slept. It had been expressed only hours earlier by many of our girls trying their hands at milking. I arrived with two volunteers just after dark to find all the girls gathered around our new cows that had arrived only an hour before. Frank and Neal, as they have been named, brought along their daughters, so we have four Jerseys, all looking very healthy, Frank and Neal’s udders huge with delay.

Sabita brought a tray with two tall metal cups sending warm clouds of sweet evaporation above the boiled nectar. Many of the children gathered around watching, refusing to share with me this first cup. The other cup was given to Sunita, who would return to Dhapasi with me early the next morning. The greatest gifts are those given from simple gestures of the heart, in this case the smiles and warm eyes of our Lawajuni daughters as I sipped.

The milk was made all the more delicious knowing that the extreme kindness of those few who cared enough about others to allow us to buy the cows, and from that moment on provide such wonderful nutrition to our girls; and by knowing that it was our girls who had all excitedly shared in the milking, and then circled Sabita while she cooked two cups’ worth as a gift for us.

To all of you, thank you for this wonderful purchase that will continue to give for generations to come. The first step on the road to independence and good health has been given.

Sabita saying goodbye to Sunita early the next morning.


Wednesday, November 12th

October in Nepal is a time of festivals. Dashain, the first is a time of reflection, reverence and merriment; a fitting time for Papa’s House 1 and 2 to play host to “The Pilgrimage of Hope,” a group of young people from Australia during this time who had come to work and learn about the culture through their own sacrifice. Please learn more about this wonderful organization at

We found in each member of the two groups serving at our homes unique individuals who are dealing with the awakenings of their spirit while serving people in many developing countries. The members were all teenagers who had earned the money to pay for their own trips, and then spent the better part of each day in manual labor in order to improve upon the conditions of others. The groups also took the time to get to know our children on a one-to-one basis; friendships were struck during games, picnics, and quiet talks sharing perspectives on life. Our children were also the beneficiaries of clothes and sports equipment carried all the way from Australia by the children who had to share their own luggage restrictions in order to carry items to give away. Nepal Orphans Home thanks Brother James the director of Pilgrimage of Hope, Peter, the Papa’s House group leader, and all the young folks who impressed us with their compassion and integrity. We hope that 2008 was but the first year of a long-lasting relationship.

Peter of Pilgrimage of Hope
observing Gita receiving a new jacket

  Brother James (left of center)
watching as a new sidewalk is constructed

After Dashain there is a short break before Tihar, another week-long series of celebration culminating in the Newar New Year. Each day honors a different creature ending with brothers, whom many a sister has probably proclaimed to be a creature indeed. On Bai Tika the girls in our Home honored all their brothers in Papa’s House 2. The girls had been honored during Dashain in a similar manner but not precisely by their brothers.

Our girls, Sita and Rokmani (left) and Sangita and Lalita (right) during Dashain
A few of our boys being feted by the girls on Bia Tika

October finishes in Nepal with our borrowing of the Halloween tradition. Last year was our first Halloween party, thrown by volunteers present at the time, and this year the children eagerly awaited the day. Big children and small giggled away many hours in costumes brought by volunteers over the past two years, played many games inside and out, and bobbed for apples in the slightly frigid air.

 Ramila and Jeni, watching Susmita dipping her hand in a bowl of worms (pasta) under the sheet held down by Anita.

 Sita, all Angel.


Susmita, a Princess Angel.

Peter Hess and his wife Boo made their third trip back to Papa’s House for a month’s stay while Peter is on sabbatical from Davidson College. Peter is the President of Nepal Orphans Home and Boo the accountant. Together they have handled all the administrative duties, resulting in our current 501(c)3 status, and have put together our extraordinary board of directors and advisors. It is their effort which has resulted in our getting on the radar of a few international foundations which we hope will one day bear fruit. The children adore them. Both spend all their time with the children, reserving the necessary administrative work for after the children have gone to bed. The Davidson community has been completely supportive of Nepal Orphans Home since its inception almost five years ago. Peter and Boo bring suitcases full of goods dropped off at their home by their many friends and this year in addition brought contributed funds to buy new jackets for all of the older girls.

  Boo here with a few of the girls after taking them shopping
at a new Kathmandu store.

Boo with Urmila, Sita, and Rukmani on a picnic outing.


Peter upon a late evening arrival at “Lawajuni” Papa’s House 3 in Narti, Dang.

While here, Peter met with Sanu Kaji the founder of FOST (Foundation for Sustainable Technologies; in order to begin a working relationship that will establish the use of these technologies in Papa’s House 3 in Dang, as well as our schools in the district of Ramechhap. Sanu held a very informative workshop at Papa’s House on October 25th. Peter has been corresponding with a recent graduate of sustainable engineering who, along with his wife, will soon arrive and spend six months as a volunteer working with Papa’s House and FOST to implement some of the vast array of technologies created by FOST.

  Sanu Kaji of FOST at the Papa’s House workshop.

Late October also brought back Toni Thomson for her third visit. Toni is the filmmaker from Toronto who has been working on a documentary of Papa’s House for the last two years. She has recently completed her first full-length documentary titled “Leave Her to Die,” about an HIV orphanage in Thailand. The film has been met with wide acclaim at festivals, and has been nominated for best feature presentation at one. Please see more about Toni at As Nepal Orphans Home continues to expand, Toni is finding it difficult to bring the film to a conclusion, but has decided that her current filming at Lawajuni will be a fitting end for this one and a nice segue for the next possible film, entirely on Nepal Orphans Home’s work to rescue Kamlari girls, of which we have 54 to date.

Toni and her helper Saroj, interviewing Peter.

Papa’s House has brought four new girls from Lawajuni to live in Dhapsi. One set of sisters, Binita and Bimala, and then Sita and Gayatri. We now have 13 girls from Lawajuni with us here and attending the Skylark School. These last four, like their predecessors, are very serious about their studies and have started speaking English. They have blended in seamlessly with our other children and great new friendships have been firmed up. Binita has a very problematic overbite and Sushma, also from Lawajuni, a mouth full of very crooked teeth. On the same day that Lila had her braces removed, after 26 months these two had the upper braces applied. We will show you the results in a scant two years or so.

  Sushma (left) and Binita (right)

Lila, now without braces

Sangita and Binita (right) at a Temple with Boo

As the cold sets in with the dryness of winter, the children have started to add a few blankets to their beds. The change in temperature brings out the knitting needles as well, and we currently have around 20 girls making scarves and stocking caps after completing their homework at night and on Saturdays. We are currently undergoing 8 to10 hours a day without electricity with a forecast of 14 hours a day beginning December 1st. We have learned to do most everything by candlelight. Winters are long and cold without heat, and we have to bathe in very cold water.

Yet when I make my rounds at night, usually by candlelight, dispensing medicine and sharing time with each child, I find them all full of joy and without complaint about the elements. I am very proud of all our children. I never think about the number of them, as there is so much individual interaction. Last night I learned that in the past week two of our children had displayed the type of character any parent hopes their children will have learned. Rukmani, another of our transplanted Lawajuni children, had found 50rs on the school playground and turned it in to the principal. Then yesterday Depa and Susila found a whopping 7500rs on the playground and turned that in as well. Other children informed me of this, and when I went to the children involved and asked them they very humbly said of course they had never considered not doing that.


I went to Lamahi to Lawajuni last week to see how the cow shed and cows were doing. The cow shed has been completed but the cows still not purchased. The ones in charge sited the month-long Dashain and Tihar holidays as the reason. I have been assured that this week Frank and Neal will be delivering milk to the girls. I will return next week to check on this. We have 43 girls in Lawajuni now, a few more than what we had proposed with our budget. But extraordinary situations call for extraordinary action and the Kamalari system is nothing if not extraordinary. Each time that I am at Lawajuni my heart is simultaneously filled with joy and despair. Joy for the girls present, mitigated only by our inability to presently do as much for them as we would like, and despair at the number of girls we can’t rescue just yet. I am also in awe of the incredible spirit of these girls. We have a volunteer staying there for the next month who is giving yoga lessons early in the morning along with teaching art and English to the girls. We also have one of the most amazing women I have ever met, Sirkka Turkki, volunteering there.

I will devote the next edition of our updates to Sirkka and our amazing volunteers who have been the army of goodwill, education, benevolence, and compassion that helps us to reach out to many children all over Nepal. Our volunteer program has also helped to financially sustain our work here for the better part of the last 12 months. We are anxious to showcase the many superlative folks who have made us proud as volunteers and members of the growing family of Nepal Orphans Home, and will do so very soon.

All from our early morning Yoga class at Lawajuni

We have just received our certificate from the Ministry of Woman and Children stating that Papa’s House is an official adoption center, one of 34 in the New Nepal. We are very proud of this and hope that the obvious good suggested by this will manifest itself in the future.

I leave you now with some random photos and sincere thanks for your support through out these troubling economic times.


Picnic fun a few Saturdays ago

 Asheka on her birthday

Sangita, from Lawajuni. Passed her first term
in Skylark all in English.

Apsara, who on November 23rd will undergo extensive skin grafts. A very sweet girl.

Bimila, one of newest daughters from Lawajuni.
Always reading textbooks.

 Urmila and Gita, also from Lawajuni

Susmita, curious, comical, and loves playing with her doll.

Sangita, Lalita, Parmila,Sushma, and Binita,
at a temple outing with Boo.


Friday, October 3rd

Nepal Orphans Home is very proud to announce that our Cow Fund has been met and exceeded by the last donation. We have been generously given $1650.00 by a combined effort of eight donors. The construction of the cow shed has begun, and upon completion we will buy the two Jerseys. Photos of each event will be posted as soon as I can get to Papa’s House 3, Lawajuni, and take them. I will be posting the names of the donors after permission to do so is granted. However the names Frank and Neal will be spoken by the girls of Lawajuni as they milk our new friends. 

(File photos, not Frank and Neal.)

With the success of the Cow Fund and with extreme gratefulness for that, we would like again to post a present need. As mentioned in the write-up about our desire to make the purchase of the cows, we hadn’t done it in budget due to the emergency rescue of several new girls, also shown in the same update. If anyone would like to contribute to our cost of $800.00 (in this first year) for each girl rescued it would help us immensely. We will post a profile and photo of each new girl as soon as our goal of $800.00 per child is met. With your help we can give the gift of freedom, an education, a sense of worth, a life free of fear, full of laughter and hope in the warm and embracing family in Lawajuni.

Sunita Chaudary, rescued March 2008

Thank you.

Nepal Orphans Home, Inc.

Friday, September 26th

I have just returned from Lawajuni, our Home for ex-Kamlari girls in Lamahi. We have recently rescued some more girls who were found to be in very desperate straits in their servitude. SWAN, our local partner in Lamahi, monitors all the girls who have been sold from Dang district and have a well-developed network to inform them if a girl’s health is in jeopardy or she is being severely abused by the people who have purchased her. Out of the hundreds who need rescuing a list came back with over thirty who made the cut for needing immediate rescue.

Nepal Orphans Home is very pleased that we are there to provide a home and support for some of these girls. We are troubled as always that we are unable to do more, and our clear objective is to one day insure that the Kamlari practice is ended forever.

11 of these girls have been recently rescued

Lawajuni is a place of extreme joy. The girls are flush with freedom and excited for their future. They quickly acclimate in Papa’s House and set their sights on school. They perhaps talk occasionally with one another about their past, and with me they have detailed a rough history, but they choose to put it behind them. They laugh, play, and study with a great reverence for the freedom to be able to do so. The eight girls whom we have moved to Papa’s House in Dhapsi might be found at four in the morning already studying, having risen on their own. When the power is out, which is currently five hours a day, they use small thumb lights to read and write by. When a new girl is rescued the others warmly embrace her and help her begin a new journey, one that will be supported with love and care by Nepal Orphans Home, but determined by their own abundant strengths.

These girls are a large part of the solution for this wretched practice. They are not going to rest upon their own freedom, they are dedicated to becoming actively involved in the freeing of all their sisters, and insuring one day that the last chapter is written by them.

I leave you now with a few random shots from earlier this week.



Wednesday, September 17th

Last Sunday we celebrated children’s day in Nepal. The school we attend, Skylark English, had given the children free reign to produce a day of programs. It was a fun day attended by all 69 of our children in our two Dhapasi Homes.

Sam Isherwood is one of our current group of volunteers who has made a big difference in the lives of our children. Sam has established a great rapport with the children by simply being present and available, talking, joking, playing basketball and other games, helping with homework, and listening, encouraging. Sam works for Mount Baker Ski Resort, which very kindly provided us with over 100 t-shirts with the Mount Baker logo. These are very high-quality shirts that look great on the children, and it is the first time that we have all been able to wear the same shirt. We have a size for everyone and enough shirts left over for me to take to Lamahi for our 30 girls there, and the three didis as well.

Rosan and Susmita

Puja and Anita

Blanca, a new volunteer, and Sangita #2

Small Sangita and Mary

Each morning in our school there is a short program where children are given the tasks of presenting national and international news, delivering poems, jokes, or stories that they have found moving, sharing little-known facts in a quiz, and offering self-written speeches on a variety of subjects. It is a time also when the school recognizes students who have achieved in extracurricular activities and are applauded by the student body and teachers alike.

Two weeks ago Lalita, Sangita, and Pramila, three of the eight children we brought from our Home in Lamahi to live in Papa’s House, were honored for their effort in school. The Kamlari girls came to Dhapasi with a very limited ability to speak Nepali, and without a clue about English. I have never seen individuals work so hard to overcome these obstacles. They never sit idle; all of their time is spent struggling to read English, pronouncing words over and over again, and then on to math, science, social studies. All of these courses are written in English, and their classes are all being taught in English. They rise early in the morning and stay up late, whispering their lessons alone or to each other in an endless quiz. We have had a tutor come each day after school for them and I work with them for about 30 minutes at night while doing my rounds.



I was very moved watching these girls speak. It wasn’t so long ago that they were slaves, living difficult, despairing lives in ragged work clothes, without friends to socialize with, and at the mercy and whim of their owners. In their young lives they suffered the loss of their parents and then were sold to strangers and moved far away; or in the case of other Kamlari they are sold by their parents because they are girls, and on what little people have to live on where they are from, girls are an unnecessary burden.

As they stood before the crowd of 400 students waiting their turn to speak I would catch their eye and they would smile shyly; their pride matched by their nerves. When Lalita was introduced, the first of them to speak, my breath caught, and my heart pounded. Lalita stepped forward, looked at her script, then up at the student body, paused for a second that seemed eternal, then spoke firmly and with conviction, her head high and eyes locked into the crowds. She spoke unfalteringly, and then said thank you and merged back into the others. She and our other Kamlari girls became one that day with the students at Skylark, but they are separated also—by their past, and by what has ignited inside them that has set them on a trajectory of high achievement one day.

We took advantage of a sunny Saturday recently to go to Tolka; an opportunity for new volunteers and our children to have a nice long walk together to an extraordinarily beautiful area where we picnic. We pack lunches, drinks, balls and Frisbees, cards and books, and descend into the valley along a very narrow path winding its way through rice paddies, then up the other side and into a pasture where the hilltop has sprouted a collection of gnarled pines that filter the sun in a beautiful mosaic. Sheep and cows are brought there by old woman and young girls with only a small stick to guide them. The old women pay us little attention, but the young girls in their old clothes cast long and thoughtful gazes at our children.

cow-herding young girl

Mary, Depa, and Pramila


Kabita,Lalita,and Mary

Binu and Bhumika

Urmila-ex Kamlari


Sangita and Saroj, brother and sister


We have three different teachers employed to give homework help to the children after school. One of them is a teacher at Skylark whom all the children love. On Fridays Ranu Mam checks their homework quickly and then has all the children assemble on the rooftop, where she and her talented daughters teach the children new dances. Fridays have become a favorite in our home.

Ramila and Anita

Big Bhumika


Gita, ex-Kamlari

Skylark School asked Vinod, the Boy’s Home man in charge, to organize a basketball team quickly so that they could enter a tournament of local schools. With very little time Vinod was able to have a group of boys ready in spirit, if not ability or a remembrance of rules, assembled. They lasted five games, dominating the first two and then succumbing in the last three, but playing admirably and honestly. Vinod intends to have Skylark School a force to be reckoned with next year.



Dashain is around the corner; October 1st is our last day of school for a two-week break. Of our 69 children in Dhapasi about 25 will have a chaperoned trip back to their village to celebrate this very highest of the Hindu Holy occasions. It is a quiet time, certain days marking different ways to show your respect. A lot of candles and quaint beliefs, a lot of profound good feelings with conditioned reverence.

It is always difficult to see the children walk out the gate; they leave with a guardian next to them, but they turn many times to smile and wave again at the assembled brothers and sisters seeing them off. With each child goes a little bit of what makes our family whole, but we keep them warm in our hearts with memories of them shared by those left behind, through the days of absence.

The doors to their rooms closed, the inside feels hollow, unsettled, and too quiet. We have fun but we are always mindful of the days yet to be spent before the return of the many pieces of our collective heart.

That is it for today.


Puja and Bipana

Sangita and Saroj

Anita and friends on Teej

Monday, August 18

Everyday for a month now it has been my intention to compose this update. I have just turned off my phone and locked my door. It is three o’clock, the children and I will spot one another through the large window in front of my desk in another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Then, until the last is put to bed at 9pm I will have to once again forfeit any idea of completing this.

I returned home at 1pm from completing a list of meetings and errands, prepared a little lunch, organized a few thoughts and pictures for this when my phone rang. Kabita Karki was not feeling well and wanted to return home from school. Vinod brought her to the gate where I met them, and then put her to bed with medicines while thoughts of the God’s toying with me seems to be getting a little excessive. She is resting now.

So, to begin. Sickness has been almost plague like in our home for the last 6 weeks or more. We began innocently one morning with little Yeshorda waking to a slightly swollen gland in her neck, and fever. The mumps had set in and moved rapidly through our house like a virus wild fire, scorching room after room. In all only 7 or 8 girls became victims while in the boys’ home two. Softball-sized glands pushed tightly against the slight necks of the children, hugely distorting their wholesomeness. I was able to keep them comfortable and entertained, yet boredom took its grip and they longed to return to school. The cases presented a few days apart usually, those on the mend antsy while the new cases quiet and a little anxious.

Mumps gave way to the chicken pox, back-to-back epidemics. As of this writing we still have 5 children bearing residuals of our last battles. The chicken pox started with the child growing a little quiet and if near leaning against me for the comfort of the long arm and large gentle hand they know will smooth their backs. A general malaise turns into blistering temperatures that force eruptions of the pox themselves, a small peppering here and there at first, turning soon the body into a Jackson Pollack canvas of red and opaque hues.

Some of the 18 or so girls affected had blisters upon blisters, inside their mouths, on their eyelids, their scalps bumpy and tender. Our nearby medicine seller has done good business while the village of Dhapasi fell tightly in the grip of chicken pox. We easily went through 150 bottles of calamine lotion and nearly an equal amount of Ibuprofen and Paracetamol solution. A cotton farm somewhere was rejoicing in sales. This is an illness that is intensely laborious for the care giver, an hour minimum for each patient in each 17-hour day. At its zenith we had 7 at one time. With each of your children you run the gamut of emotions when they are feeling so sick, as well as looking as grotesque as ours did. There are many moments of extreme empathy and tenderness, and as they start to turn the corner and feel better, just look hideous, there are many more moments of laughter. Little treats to eat and coloring books, stories read, time talking with a relaxation not generally enabled when all the children are at home are the medicines that relight their spirits once again. Some of the times that bring us closer are those spent in sickness. The depth of love and security in the children’s hearts always grows when they are nursed round the clock back to health, when tousled haired Papa’s magically appear in the night, responding to the fever burning their bodies, and sitting with them until the medicine douses the intensity of the fire and they slip off into the stream of sleep. We are not a group of children and a few adults living together, we are a family, and each child feels like a very special daughter or son with many brothers and sisters. It is not the clean clothes, and single beds, the good education, the certainty of a meal that smells as delightful cooking as it is in eating, it is not all the little things in a child’s or adolescent’s life that are important and here as consistent as the northern star; thanks being given here to many who have felt this and helped pay for it; it is rather a very unique and unexplainable phenomenon that has brought us all together, lost little people in a world of chaos and deprivation have all been guided to us and each complementing our unit, our strength, with their own offerings of love and need.

The other morning Gita, the young lady who has been the big sister here from 4 years ago, and I were braiding hair and getting the children ready for school. Standing in the midst of a sea of heads, Bipana, now 15, suddenly stated to all and no one in particular, “Didi, you are the Moon and Papa is our Sun.” Smiles flashed about like heat lightning on a warm summer’s night as we continued quietly braiding as we have each day for over four years now.

The boys’ house has long been much better at celebrating birthdays than we have. Vinod really likes to make the occasion festive, and with the volunteers living in the boys’ home they have all been found to wanting to kick things up a notch as well. My nephew Jamie, who, like all volunteers, has left an indelible impression upon all our children, took it one step further. He brought to Nepal the “Macarena,” and left the music behind. Talk of wild Macarena fest would meet the girls and I the morning after, when we collected the boys on our walk to school.

So we decided that if on birthday nights the sky would be rain free we would celebrate on our roof and the girls would sing and dance. Eight of our girls have had birthdays since my last update, and on two occasions we have been able to have the party on the roof under the evening sky. Our girls are great fun to watch as they laugh and dance together while bright pinks and oranges scratch the darkening horizon.

In Papa’s House 1 we brought 8 of the girls from our Lamahi Home to live with us. In their wake we rescued 8 more girls to take their place. In addition we brought Ram Chuadery, the incredibly sweet and sincere 11-year-old brother of Sushma and Karmu, to live in the Papa’s House 2, keeping the parentless children together. Our work in Lamahi to rescue girls from indentured servitude has a depth and resonance that is felt with each beat of my heart, and likewise helping to bring this centuries old practice to an end has become a new calling with each board member and volunteer that has had the pleasure to spend time in Papa’s House “Lawajuni” in Dang.

We have rescued 35 girls thus far. SWAN, the local Tharu organization that we work with, has a list of over 100 girls who live each day in the grim reality of being overworked in freedomless abuse, lacking human warmth and kindness. These girls could be rescued if only they had a place like ours to go. We have room for maybe 15 more in our two buildings that make up Lawajuni, but we are without a budget for rescuing more at this time.

We have tried to put together a “Trek for Freedom” for this October, an amazing 15-day trek to the base camp of Everest, which was to provide enough funds to rescue 20 more girls. As the deadline for the deposit for the trek approached we lowered our sites to 10 girls; each trekker would provide the capital for us to rescue one girl and cover her cost for a year. To date we have had limited response and not a single deposit made. From the advertising we have however spread awareness and received quite a few letters of interest in our work; so this is good. We are also considering starting our own trekking business to help us subsidize our Kamlari work and our Dhapasi homes. This coming January another sale of girls will take place. In Dang where SWAN and our work for rescuing the girls is based the numbers will be way down, but still maybe in the hundreds. SWAN has made enormous progress in shaming those who buy the girls through relentless advertising and campaign work.

Understandably, with the world’s economic environment soft, with people in the US losing their homes, jobs, or simple unable to fuel their cars and stomachs both, donations are way down this year. During this time we have been called upon to increase our support of children in need in Nepal. The economy in Nepal, already one of the poorest countries on earth, has grown much worse, and people are starving. We help when and how we can; we can’t always say no with our one eye on the future, we sometimes have to have faith and act now when the cry is before us. Even if you are unable to send a donation, to pass along our web address would be a great contribution. Eventually our address finds its way into the hands of grant writers, or the benefactors of a foundation with funds earmarked for our type of work.

Recently, the Ministry of Woman and Social Welfare recognized Nepal Orphans Home Inc’s contributions to Nepal. They have sent a team of 6 to inspect our homes, interview our children and staff, neighbors too. They have accepted us as a member in good standing, and honored us by allowing us to be a partner program in the adoption process of the New Nepal. The training and implementation of this is yet to come, but with the swearing in of our new Prime Minister today, and the new President two weeks ago, things will hopefully start to happen. We are very excited by the honor and hope that it will translate into helping other adoptable children find loving parents to spend the rest of their lives with.

As previously mentioned, our volunteers have been terrific. This year has seen a healthy increase in numbers, and at a time with the drying up of donations, it is this program that has kept us going. Ninety-five percent of the volunteers are profoundly affected by the experience. It isn’t the reality of life they see in their placements, the hardships that people endure here simply to live another day with a belly not aching through the night for lack of rice, that moves them the most, it is the spirit of the Nepalese people, their humor, and ability to smile at the good things they see and feel each day that stick in the minds and hearts of our volunteers, and make them go home committed to doing something to continue in their own ways to help us help others.

Please read the journals of some of the volunteers at our web site, and consider experiencing it yourself.

With hope for the next update to be written much quicker than this one, I leave you now with some random photos of our family.



Lalita and Sangita

Group shot with volunteers


New girls in Lawajuni

New girls in Lawajuni

New girls in Lawajuni

New girls in Lawajuni

New girls in Lawajuni

New girls in Lawajuni

Anita’s birthday

Best friend Ramila


Lamahi girls at our Dhapasi school

Ram, Karmu, and Susma

Puja on the mend

Boys’ Home birthday party

Susma’s birthday





Tuesday, June 3

It has been almost a month since our last update. We have had a busy time with quite a few volunteers coming in and out of the volunteer house during breaks in their placements.

Last Saturday morning we had testing for our Tae Kwon Do children. The last test was about a year ago, it was the first test for the children after almost many months of steadfast practice four early mornings a week. I had initially put it off due to the high cost of the exam for our 14 children, but the children never uttered a single complaint in not advancing and I relented. After that exam I had told the children to learn the martial art for sake of the knowledge, not for the acquiring of higher belts and they said fine. A year past, four children dropped out in favor of their studies and the remaining 10 continued to rise in the cold and dark. I felt the time had come to reward them. Tom Gilbert, who I will speak more about in a minute, and I stood watching the children being tested and concluded security will never be an issue in our homes in the near future. Chham and Saroj in particular are two gentle souls with an arsenal of quick and powerful moves mastered.

Chham and Saroj



Tom and Fiona Gilbert were here earlier in the year for a month and formed a very loving relationship with Kabita and Apsara. They have come back after doing their due diligence with the laws on adoption with the intent to make it happen. As I write this they are hiking to the girls' birth village, with the girls' mother, in order to get the VDC to attest to some documents. They have met with government officials and advocates here and in the States in this pursuit. It has been heartwarming to watch this family in the making working so hard together, on the emotional rollercoaster ride through this maze. Kabita celebrated her 14th birthday on May 30th with Tom and Fiona paying for our extended family of 60 to swim for three hours as part of the celebration. Our volunteers are simply the best, and the four or five present from their assignments elsewhere spent the day with the children with seemingly inexhaustible energy.

Tom, Apsara, Fiona, and Kabita





Gwyn and Ramila

Kabita, Anita, Karmu, and Sunita

For Kabita’s birthday cake we made chocolate fudge sauce for the pound cakes and then smothered it with fresh mango and shaved (melted, warped, and hardened in transit) Easter bunnies brought from America by Tom and Fiona. Depa and Anita have been my apprentices for awhile in the cake business but I found on this last occasion myself being nudged out of the way. Kabita Mahato celebrated her 13th birthday shortly before with a fresh design and taste by the girls.

Kabita's Birthday

Kabita's Birthday

Kabita Mahato's Birthday

Our 52 children and a few poor children in the village whom we have educated for years now attend the Skylark School here in Dhapasi. This is a very demanding school, English medium that will not allow Nepali to be spoken except in the children’s Nepali language class. It is a day and boarding school with two homes full of boarding students who on average have been there for a few years. Our children entered the school the first day wide eyed and a little intimidated. In our walk to school in the past year we would meet the Skylark boarding students at an intersection. Their line would sail past ours; the children seemed large, and smart, all speaking English, and all barley glancing at our line. I would watch our children look at them and then at each other and chat in Nepali in awe of the line of Titans passing by, casting long shadows upon us.

Because we are the only other group attending the school, the teachers, for reasons of their own, started to cultivate a little academic competition between us. When I heard about this I was annoyed and feared for our children’s self esteem; but I vowed to hold my thoughts for awhile. A weekly exam was to be held on Friday and all our children would tell me at bedtime that the teachers were making comments about how great the Skylark boarding students were and used them as examples for others to try to rise to. There was some arrogance and chest thumping by the teachers that I found unsettling and decided I would speak with the principal about it. Our children, I was prepared to say, had mostly been deprived a decent education prior to joining our family; and though they work very hard to make up for lost time, it wasn’t acceptable to promote this type of competition; it was reminiscent to me of our Olympic Hockey team made up of college boys having to take on the professional superstars of the Russian government.

The children returned from school on Friday and said the exams were rough. They were pretty quiet on Saturday, mostly reading and practicing their lessons. On Sunday our long single file line walked quietly to school absent the usual banter. Results were to be known and the kids felt much crowing would be done by the Skylark boarders and teachers; it looked to be a long day.

I watch the children enter our gate after school each day from the balcony outside my room. They always wave when they turn the corner and first see me, and when they enter the gate they call out my name as they break the line and rush inside. On this Sunday when they first looked up I saw smiles on every face and then I saw raised thumbs of victory held still, strong, and proud, if only for a moment. We had risen to the occasion and took top honors (in average scores) in every class; all the teachers  bestowing the praise our children deserved upon them. Our four Kadkha sisters, Depa, Binu, Hikmat, the three Kabitas, Puja, some of our new children from last fall Sabina, Yeshorda, Ashok, Ishwor and others quietly showed what we are made of. After this the tension at school was lifted and new friends were formed between the students drawn into unwitting combat. Now, the boarders do not seem quite so big, and they smile freely and call out the names of our children when we see them on the walk to school; as it should be.

Summer is here and I have honored my promise to the children to never complain about the heat; this made when winter seemed to never end and my bones felt cold and brittle. With the power outages stilling the small relief that our fans offer I told the children they could all sleep on the large balcony in front of my room. They love the feeling of darkness closing in around them while a slightly spooky breeze rustles through nearby trees. They spread blankets and watch the stars with excited chatter that by the hour starts to dim until they are fast asleep. The rains will come soon, but for now this is great fun, and relief.

Sleeping out

Sleeping out

Sleeping out

Sleeping out

In Lamahi we have four new girls. We sadly have lost two, both being called upon by ailing relatives to return to their village to care for them. They sell the girls, but they don’t hesitate to call upon them in their hour of need as old age and poverty leak the life out of their tired bodies.

Mina, 13

Mahima, 12

Susila, 16

Nirmala, 11

I spent three wonderful days there last week. There is so much we need to do to make things better for the girls, but it will have to take time. I brought Gita back with me to live in our Papa’s Girls House in Dhapasi. Gita hasn’t a trace of family anywhere and a smile and heart that never fails to move one's soul. In another week we will be bringing four or five more girls in order to take advantage of the school system here, as the government school in Lamahi is clearly broke. These girls are older with great potential. The younger girls we have a little time with and I hope we can start to concentrate our wonderful flow of volunteers there to teach. Once the girls move in we will absolutely be at capacity and further considerations will be impossible. In Lamahi we will replace those who have come here by having SWAN rescue others.

Anu Maya and Gita

One of our little daughters in Lamahi, Sunita, spent some time talking to me about her little brother. She is 13, and he about 11 from what she figures. He is all the family she has, but he has been forced to live on the streets of Lamahi, nine kilometers from our Home.

He is not doing well and she fears for him, and is sad that she is safe, warm, well fed, and being educated and he is alone, begging for food. I asked the staff at SWAN what we can do, but they said “sadly nothing.” This is not part of their charter and they are very underfunded as it is; his case isn’t unique they claim. Sunita was hoping our Papa’s House Two might provide a bed for him, but we are maxed out there as well. I would like to try to find foster parents for him in Lamahi if possible, and will look into it upon my return.


I bought a bicycle for the girls in Lamahi and rode it home against a strong head wind. The villagers working the fields along the way all had a good laugh to see me ride by. The bicycle is the most common mode of transportation after walking, in those parts. This will help the didis with going to market.

When I finally reached our compound the girls were all inside. I rang the little thumb bell on the bike as I wobbled the last few yards to the door, my legs shot. The girls were surprised and excited to see me. I enjoyed the balance of the afternoon with my back against a birch tree watching them ride around the field. Seeing their smiles and hearing their laughter filled my heart with gratitude towards our board members and the several wonderful people who have read about our work in Lamahi and have sent donations to help make it a reality. I am convinced that there isn’t a person on earth who, given an afternoon with these girls, wouldn’t find themselves reflecting on life and its purpose, and dedicating themselves to wanting to help others.

New bike

New bike

New bike

New bike

Karmu finally will go under the knife tomorrow afternoon. After scheduling problems with more operations than the staff can handle and bundhs on the other occasions, we were admitted yesterday. She will be the last to be operated on, sometime late in the afternoon. This was our third trip there. Soon Karmu will begin the rehabilitative work to bring her hand new function and appearance, and her new life will continue.

Thank you to all.



Tuesday, May 6

While the country of Nepal forges ahead with remaking itself—with petrol shortages, cooking gas shortages, electricity shortages, water shortages, school book shortages, food shortages resulting in starvation in many corners, food prices rising 35% higher than a few months ago—Papa’s House One, Two, and Three remain sanctuaries of joy, security, fun, and hope in the dreams of 78 children.

Since our last update we have celebrated seven birthdays in Papa’s House. We continue to glue together pound cakes with our own fudge sauce and cover it all with a variety of fruits, chocolate bits, and peanut butter. For Kausila’s recent birthday we found individual unfrosted fruit cupcakes that we smothered in fudge and capped with fresh strawberries.

Anu Maya

Sangita's birthday

Anita and Sunita's 18th birthday


Karmu and Sunita before her party

Kausila's birthday

Karmu, shown in her birthday photo with Sunita, will be entering the Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre for Disabled Children on Monday the 12th of May for surgery to rebuild her hand. Karmu is one of our Lamahi daughters and has been living in Papa’s House for the past month. Karmu and I have made two trips to the Centre for evaluation. The surgeons are optimistic that they will improve the use and appearance of her hand enough to warrant the procedure and three weeks of rehab after. The Centre is 90 minutes outside of Kathmandu in a quiet mountain-top retreat. I and our didis will be sharing rotations for the required guardian's presence 24 hours a day. The cost and shortage of petrol will require each of us to stay a few days before being relieved. We are fortunate that a new volunteer, Tracy Pursel from Alabama (who happens to be a very experienced physical/occupational therapist), will be arriving soon after the operation. We are hoping that with Tracy we might be able to spring Karmu a little early from the centre. In addition we have a little girl with CP, and another with severe burns who Tracy is interested in working with.

Volunteer Janette

Volunteer Zoe

Volunteer Pontus

Volunteers are very important to our work and finances. We have been blessed with some of the most wonderful and caring people on earth who have traveled far to bring their special talents and zest for life to the many projects that Nepal Orphans Home operates. The fees that they pay help to cover the great expense we face in rescuing and educating so many children, but as important, their presence here expands the universe for all the children, offering them a new set of dreams and horizons. The children and volunteers make personal connections that they keep alive through e-mail exchanges. Gwynn Alexander, one of our recent volunteers who I wrote about in an earlier update, mailed me a few weeks ago and said that her two-week vacation is coming and she wants to use it to fly all the way here from Canada to spend it with the children. She eased the transition into Papa’s House for Ramila and Susmita who had both freshly arrived when Gwynn was here. Ramila is a very precious and shy little girl who tries so hard to learn English. At bedtime one night I asked her if she remembered Gwynn. She looked at me, her eyes wide. I said that Gwynn misses her very much and sends her love to her. At this, tears started rolling down her cheeks. Our little Anita was next to her watching and she suddenly started crying, both girls' chins quivering and tears streaming, silently crying. I asked Anita, “Why are you crying, sweetheart?” and all she could do was point at Ramila. I have not told Ramila that Gwynn is arriving soon, but I can’t wait to see this reunion.



In about five weeks Marcie Westphalen will be returning for a visit in the company of her daughter Alecia. The children are anxiously awaiting this. Just mention her name and smiles appear. Marcie has joined our Board since her last visit and has dedicated much of her spirit to our work here.

Tom and Fiona Gilbert are also grabbing three weeks out of their very busy professional lives to surprise Kabita and Apsara Basnet on the occasion of Kabita’s 14th birthday on May 30th. They as well are members of our Board and have brought a fresh wind to the sails of the vision started four years ago.

The Hindu New Year took place in April. I had a trip planned to Lamahi to collect Karmu, unaware that it was New Years. I felt very bad that I would not be with our Papa’s House Dhapasi children during this rather mild but celebrated occasion; but in turn the girls in Papa’s House Three were thrilled when our oldest child Anita and I showed up. I am more impressed with these girls with each visit. They are clear eyed and focused on their new life of freedom. They do not waste a second in anger over their past. The energy and excitement they exude really fills the heart. Anyone in their presence is going to be thinking about how they can further help us to rescue more girls. We celebrated New Years with a picnic. To see the girls quietly go about all the work necessary to putting it all together, from collecting fire wood, to cooking, and to my troubled eyes the executing of two chickens brought squawking along with us during our 20 minute trip to the chosen picnic grounds, was very impressive. During the day I was given the opportunity to share quiet conversations with many of the girls, not easy with my limited Nepalese and Nepalese being their second language, but we managed. I am hopeful and touched by them all, each unique in their soul. But one little girl Gita, shown here in two photos, one with our Papa’s House daughter Nirmala, and the other alone, has taken up permanent residence in my ever-expanding heart. She is a quiet observer watching from the outside of a group with dazzling smiling eyes. Gita I learned has no family at all. Most of the girls have no parents, and those who do have been shunned by their parents, but they all have some distant relative, some piece of family somewhere. Gita has none. Her smile, like Helen of Troy, could launch a thousand ships. It is easy to say about this little girl that she is an old soul, her eyes have seen so much.

Gathering firewood

Our Anita and little Sita

Our new Sangita

Our Nirmala and Gita

A very special girl, Gita

Home and School grounds

Three of ours in class

Since that trip I have made one more to Lamahi with Nirmala, Anita, and Samjhana. Samjhana, who has been with us for close to four years, has taken on the role of big sister, and buyer in the Lamahi house. She controls all the money and has tightened up on everything from too much food getting cooked to too much free time. She has started a regiment with early morning exercise for the girls to after-school homework help. She is currently laying out a huge garden that will help us to feed everyone as well as giving the girls a few chores to do. Samjhana is definitely one of our early success stories. She will also continue in her studies at the same school the girls attend. She is a natural leader with a charisma that entices a happy following.

Back home in Dhapasi our two homes spent a lot of time together in the 10 days of school closings during the election period. One day we had scheduled the use of the local pool for the morning shift. It was the only morning in memory when it rained; but wet is wet and the kids still had a ball playing in the pool, jumping out and shivering warmth back into their bones and repeating it all again.





During this time a consensus was reached that Papa’s House Two would become the boys’ home and Papa’s House would be the girls’ home. So with able precision we advanced the idea one morning and had everyone moved before a shared tiffin in the girls home. We gained six new and wonderful little girls while loosing five very loved and special guys. We are still together on Saturdays and holy days, and the boys still come for karate in the mornings. Vinod, who is running Papa’s House Two, does a superlative job with the boys. They love him to pieces. He has them up early for a run and exercise and is completely devoted to their needs. After school he works with them on their homework until dinner, and after dinner they play as a group, tell stories, and just hang out together until he puts them to bed. Papa’s House Two is also the Volunteer Home and those Volunteers there briefly during their training and those who stay to work in our Homes comment daily about what an exceptional young man Vinod is.

The power has just gone out yet again and my laptop batteries are getting low so it is time to close. If you are a new reader with some vacation time coming, please take a look at, our volunteer website. There is not a more meaningful way to spend your vacation time than in a very unique culture helping beautiful children get a hand up in life. You will never forget it. And on a personal note, Liz and John Mitchell, please e-mail me. Your address has stopped working from some time ago.

To our readers and supporters from our 78 children and loving staff.



Monday, March 24 – Special Update

What is the look of a little girl who has been sold into indentured servitude? I thought mostly about this during the long journey to Lamahi in Western Nepal. What would I see in their eyes; would there be life in them, trust, hope, bitterness, fear, resentment? Selling humans, little girls in this district, boys in another, what is this all about?

I was about to find out that slaves—I have no desire to use a gentler term—looked like these 25 young girls, and sadly around 375 more this year alone, just in this rather large district. These 25 we were able to free. Take a slow look into their faces.

When I arrived the girls were waiting under the shade of lovely white birch trees. They put “Tika” on my forehead, and handmade flower leis around my neck, and smiled shyly, some giggling, some squirming in excitement. I had asked that no one in Lamahi know me as anything but a simple volunteer; but word leaked out that I was “Papa,” the luckiest guy in the world to be able to represent Nepal Orphans Home and experience first hand the love of so many wonderful children.

I spent four wonderful days getting to know these soft-spoken, sweet children who are full of grace and resilience. Through SWAN, a local Taru Community organization made up of former Kamalari girls and a few compassionate social minded local Taru men, we agreed to rescue these 25 girls. Two buildings that were in ruins were chosen for us to rehab. They are on the expansive grounds of the very poor local government school 9 km outside of Lamahi, in Dang district. The school operates out of two old buildings about a par 4 shot from our two buildings. The clearing backs up to jungle. It is a lovely and peaceful setting under a mix of Birch and oak trees, the ground a soft carpet of wild pale green turf.

In addition to our 25 girls, we have hired two former Kamalari girls as Didis to care for the children. SWAN staff stops by on a regular basis to make sure the girls are well. At our estimated cost of $800 per child for this year we have been able to fix up the buildings and stock them with all the required furniture, outfit the kitchen, take care of all their medical and dental needs, their clothing needs, some sports equipment, birthdays, a few personal items, and anything else that a growing child might need.

Water is fresh, drawn from a nearby well. We do not have the money in the budget right now for a security fence but this is something that needs to be attended to as soon as we can. People and wild animals are free to approach the buildings. We have installed electricity for lighting and are in the process of installing fans. Dang is in the lower part of Nepal where it is quite hot all the time. We built toilets inside the buildings but bathing remains to be done at the well outside. It is still a very spartan life, but the girls are free and they are being educated. Even our Didis have become inspired to join the school, their own education having stopped when they were quite young.

These girls, sold by their families in a practice that dates back hundreds of years, were rescued by members of SWAN and brought from many places all over Nepal just days before I arrived. They were still learning about one another and sharing their thoughts and concerns as to what now the future might hold, if it could be trusted. I noticed a lot of bonding taking place, a lot of sharing of stories drawing these simple human beings close together.

SWAN is aware of most if not all the girls sold over the years in this district and they try to find sponsors like us willing to take on the care of the children. It is a very long term commitment. Most of our girls have no parents anymore, and no relatives that could care for them. Still, some other Kamalari girls have parents, but if rescued the parents refuse to accept them back. Girls are worth very little to the people in this ethnic group, they represent a financial burden that never gets paid back. So they sell them, and it is over.

We will be educating and training these girls to become independent and strong. They in turn will fight for the cessation of this unquestionably horrific practice. Looked at from a business standpoint I think it is entirely possible to bring it to an end, and at a tremendous savings over waiting till after the fact to rescue the children. Please feel free to write to us if you would like to know how you could help.

Please take another look at these beautiful little spirits and think about the gift of life.

Gauntlet of affection

Maya & Sangita

Ram Kumari

Manthara & Kalpana

Manisha & Sita

Sita, Manisha & Siukuimer

Lawajuni means "New Beginning"

One of the two buildings we refurbished

Maya, Yougmaya & Parmila

Gita, Gayatri & Sita outside the school building



Monday, March 3

Spring has come, and its first gentle rain has cleaned the dust from the many dogwoods in blossom. We made it through winter, our chilblained hands quickly healing; days are warm and full of promise. Nepal has done an extraordinary pivot in this past week. We have gone from a 16-day bloody impasse in the Terai that dried up the availability of all products across the country, a time in which business and industry sputtered to a close, schools were disrupted, transportation was non-existent, and tempers flared in the rope like veins of street protesters citywide. The overwhelming consensus was imminent civil war, with the failure for the third time of elections. Scott Purdey wrote to me from Los Angeles and said he would be arriving in a few days, and I wrote back advising against it. He replied that a full moon was going to usher in a new beginning and not to worry. I do not know what happened, but the country has been signing peace accords left and right over the last week, supplies are raining down upon the country and for the first time in two years a sense of optimism and good cheer is thick in the air.

Scott arrived to the delight of all. He has come for the second time in two years, encouraging the children's wonderment of our universe with more photos from the Jet Propulsion Lab of our cosmos. He also made it in time to celebrate Bhumika's birthday last night. It has been a busy few weeks of birthdays, with Mary and Nirmala's waiting in the wings this week.

Cila's Birthday
Cila's Birthday
Ramila's Birthday
Ramila's Birthday
Bipana's Birthday
Bipana's Birthday
Bhumika's Birthday
Bhumika's Birthday
Scott and Kabita
Scott and Kabita
Roshan & Scott's gift
Roshan & Scott's gift

Last Thursday my friend and our Principal Milan Godar celebrated an important event in his young daughter's life; her first solid food. In the day-long ceremony family and friends arrive to give blessings to his still unnamed daughter. For lack of cooking gas, as the strike was still in full bloom, all the food had to be prepared over a wood fire. Neighbors step in to handle these things, allowing family to be free to receive others. Milan and I have been going through some difficult times these past few weeks concerning our school and its future. As with other events changing so dramatically our situation also caught a strong tailwind and Papa's Trinity Academy is now in gear to open for its third official year with the addition of class 8.

Milan and his daughter

Volunteer Nepal has enjoyed a steady flow of wonderful people coming to help. I wrote last time about Gwynn Alexander, shown here with Susmita and Ramila. Gwynn is, simply put, a neat person who has led a fascinating life. She gave her time here with an abundance of love, constantly and quietly. We had a few new children arrive during her stay and she was the greatest single source of security and comfort for them during their transition to a new life.

Gwynn, Susmita & Ramila

This coming Saturday we are losing MaryKate Catandella. Five months when it begins seems like forever, but it too has passed. There isn't enough ink to express our gratitude to her; she came when we had just discovered the plight of the children in that small home, scheming to run away as a group one night soon for lack of love and care. Along with Vinod she spent her days at the home, encouraging the children, letting them know they were going to be spared any further abuse. She was instrumental in our setting up the new Home and has given new life to the 12 children we moved into it. These kids are all speaking some English now because of her daily teaching, they are off and running, healthy and strong, happy and secure; their hearts full. We hate to have her leave, but we understand how missed she has been by her friends and family in America.

MaryKate, Jiny, Sangita & Apsara
MaryKate, Jiny, Sangita & Apsara
Vinod & Small Bhumika
Vinod & Small Bhumika

Two new volunteers left a week ago for their chosen placements, one of our village schools in Ramachhap district. Pontus and Stacey, a social worker from Sweden and a policewoman from the UK, shown here along the difficult trail to the village. I will have further updates on them as time passes.

Pontus and Stacey on the trail to their placement
Pontus and Stacey on the trail to their placement

At Papa's House we have started a new class on Friday afternoons. A local beautician arrives at 2pm; Friday is a half day at school, and she instructs some of our girls. Each Friday different children in the house will have their hair worked on by the students and each other under the master's professional eye. This class has brought a lot of excitement to all the children in the house in addition to those picked to attend the class. This makes the third profession that our older children will be prepared to go into should they choose.

Our new hair class
Our new hair class

Last Saturday morning after tea I took Chham to the yard along with our football and tee. I set up the tee and told Chham to go to the other end of the field and await my kick. He was to catch the ball and try to run past me to the wall without my touching him first. As my kick unintentionally went nowhere near him I was able to reach him at about the time he got the ball in hand. Then I said that he would have three tries to reach the wall; if he failed it would be my turn. Soon, many of the children came out to watch. I suggested no other rules but asked for teams to be made. I then went to the sideline and watched before my eyes the evolution of football. These children did not know anything about American football; yet, they started developing plans and strategies, passing, lateralling, plays involving running and blocking, all on their own. Football was born again with a remarkable resemblance to today's game.

Chham and the boys
Chham and the boys

In closing I want to announce that Nepal Orphans Home, Inc, under the very diligent care of my sister in law Boo, has been given 501(c)3 status by the federal government. We now qualify to seek grants to enable us to sustain our programs and with success in receiving them to expand our reach.

We are very proud and excited by this. It certainly doesn't guarantee an easier time of paying for our Homes and School, but it might open some new doors. Now, as in the past, we are still very much reliant upon the goodwill of those who learn about us, to help save these children. Each of the past two years has seen an increase in donor support, which we are heartened by; but it still falls far shy of our cost. To those who have been constant supporters in the past we are eternally grateful, and to those who might consider charitable donations I assure you that your investment in these children makes a 100% difference in their lives, and in time the welfare of Nepal as a whole.


Thursday, February 21

I would like to introduce our two new daughters, sisters Sangita and Susmita. They came to us two weeks ago by way of parental loss and were living in extremely poor conditions with grandparents. Their village is much like what you will see further along in this update—isolated, without power, and where the villagers scrape the earth to get by. Until April Sangita and Susmita will attend school at our other home. Each morning our four newest girls walk in line with all their new brothers and sisters to where the road wishbones; the four of them turn and say goodbye, one by one, to the others before proceeding on to the new home. When the gate opens Susmita and Ramila scan the yard quick for Gwynn Alexander’s waiting lap. These are two very quiet little girls who (along with all the children) adore Gwynn. Once settled side by side in her warm embrace they simply beam, resting securely against Gwynn while watching the others play.

Susmita (5) and Sangita (10)

Gwynn is a volunteer from Alberta, Canada. She is in Nepal for the second time after a long intermission, having decided to return to further her interest in the collection of histories of the Ghurkhas. She planned to stay in a small village a three-day hike from the road, but after meeting our children she confessed she would be ecstatic to stay and help us instead. When you see the look on the face of the children she engages, you are given a real treat.

Sangita and Apsara Nupane both enter the gate and get swept up in a fast game of bean bag tag, the game of the season. Both of them fresh from one of life’s more absolute tragedies, they are soon giggling wildly in play, their young faces serene, eyes sparkling.

Nepal Orphans Home has taken on a couple of other projects. Though we remain unsubsidized while awaiting our 501(c)3 status, and our coffers do anything but suggest the taking on of other projects, sometimes you just can’t say no. Papa’s House 1 and 2 and Papa’s Trinity Academy will always be the main focus of our organization, but some of the situations in Nepal compel one to say yes and simply start to do what is needed. There are around 400 girls who were sold into slavery this year in this one district. We wanted to do something about this but at a minimum cost of $800.00 per girl, our board said this year we simply can’t do it. Then one 11-year-old girl hanged herself after being sold, and that was it. We are opening a Papa’s House 3 in the distant village of Lamahi.

I will be speaking more on this in the next update, but we are refurbishing two small buildings and getting them equipped. We have saved 25 young Taru girls from a life of indentured servitude. We have reached an agreement with another organization who will pay for their education while we provide them a home. The girls will soon move in, and in the next update I will present them to you. We have received two donations totaling $5000.00 to put towards this project, and we have a lead on a foundation in San Francisco that helps organizations that help woman and children. We will be writing to them soon to see if we qualify.

What I would like to share at this time are the very heartwarming projects that we have initiated in two remote villages. In the hilly region of Nepal people seem very much forgotten. Their villages are not on any power grid and thus seem disconnected in total. They fend for themselves. Each village has a community school, but to call them schools is pretty misleading. The villages are about nine hours apart, each in a different direction from the district seat Manthali. One has 40 students and the other 102. They both have a building, and that is pretty much where it stops. The teachers are locals who do their best. Both villages primarily consist of Dalits, the caste otherwise known as untouchables. Dalit children, like the Kamalari girls, are where we would like to focus our help when possible. After several trips to the villages we were convinced that these folks had a genuine interest in educating their children; they simply lacked the money to do it. We have provided all the necessary supplies to equip the schools, commissioned uniforms for the children to be made by the local woman, set up a school lunch program in each village that insures a hot and nutritious meal per day for the children, and are supplying salaries for hiring teachers, small salaries for women to help at the school and for those who will make the difficult trek into Manthali for supplies as needed, and all the cooking and serving utensils. In addition we formed committees to help run the school, monitor expenses, and monitor supplies and food. We found something for each parent to do concerning the school.

The love and affection that these folks showed, their excitement, humor, and gratitude, their sense that maybe Nepal doesn’t know they exist but God must, has combined to make this a truly rewarding effort.

As we are able we will do more there. The school buildings lack windows and doors and need interior renovations. But they have school supplies, all the books they need, globes and maps that show them the world and will inspire them beyond their humble little valley.

Village elder handing out supplies

Some of the moms

Woman teaching child to eat with a spoon

Mom and daughter

Mom and children

Hot lunch program

That is it for now.


Thursday, January 31

I have been looking back over this past year and find it remarkable that all those events were as recent as 12 months ago. Just before Christmas last year our family was joined by Rasmita, Mary’s little sister, and by Kausila and Bhulmika, also from the same desperately poor village. Counting them, we have increased our fold by 25 children. It is a tough idea to grasp, that so many children need us. In reading the updates from 2007 I find the change and lack of change interesting to note. My comments on the political environment so dire at time, and yet so little altered; the inertia of the country stubbornly mired partly by the goodwill in financial support by donor nations. The threat of collapse ever present, people have learned to simply live with it, showing no more anxiety than they would a forecast for inclement weather.

In January of 2007 we were anxiously watching the completion of our new school building for which we had agreed to take on a three-year lease. At that time I sent a message on our updates that read,

If any teacher reading this is interested please e-mail me. We have 14 wonderful Nepalese teachers, but I want to introduce more international exposure to the children. We are an English medium school, so language is not a barrier. I am only looking for four teachers for this year, preferably on a 1-year contract, but I will accept volunteer teachers on a 1 month minimum basis. The pay will be the same as what our Nepalese teachers receive, on average $71.00 per month, which is above the standard. For further inducement I can offer room and board. We eat rice and vegetables twice a day, we have no heat, and the water is always cold. Our water comes from a well, and one must remain vigilant in their fight against skin infections. The power goes out frequently, the nation is trying to form a new government and meanwhile we cope with protests, closures, transportation strikes, and shortages on a daily basis. However, if you ever wanted to do something in your life that may allow you to discover the meaning of love, then you should contact me.

Well, only one answered the call; her name is Kira Schlesinger, a dynamic young woman from South Africa. It has taken Kira a year of traveling through India to reach us, but she has settled in now and started teaching last week, to the delight of our students.

In February we welcomed Sarah Redford, a volunteer from Ratclif, Arkansas. Sarah was a steady and pleasant presence, always available and chipper in her room on the girl’s floor. During that time I wrote,

We still have two of our girls unable to make it back to us. They had gone to their village in Eastern Nepal during our winter break. Just after arriving, the area erupted into violent protest against the interim government. The people of the Terai amount to over 40% of the population of Nepal but are completely ignored in the representation in parliament and so have taken to the streets. There are curfews and complete bundhs, or forced closing down of everything. In this case all vehicles are torched if found operating. Nepal relies upon this area, which borders India, for all our supplies: petrol, food, raw materials, etc. So even in Kathmandu, business has been crippled, and shortages have driven prices way up. The good thing is that it also limited transportation, so things are much quieter and the air much cleaner. I have spoken to Anita by phone and she said they are okay but scared. The situation isn’t good as houses are being invaded and then torched by mobs as well as by the “security forces.”

The girls did make it back, but the Terai has disintegrated. It is completely lawless with roaming gangs. The Terai has formed its own militia and will be a formidable force in keeping the country out of balance and the third attempt at elections doubtful. Unreasonably nothing is being done to address this. The girls have never gone back, and they now occupy the room where Sarah once was.

I also wrote at that time about the load shedding:

On the 13th they have said it will increase to 7 hours a day (we are doing the same again this year). The other evening, I was talking with Puja and Anu Maya, roommates in the first room of my rounds each night. They share their large room with Anita and Sunita, the sisters still in the Terai. I was holding a small flashlight that illuminated the two girls sitting together on the top bunk. Puja was suggesting that they sleep with some other girls that night.

I asked her why and she said, “Because Paaapppa, last night a ghost came to our room.”

Puja now talks more like Katherine Hepburn in later life than Katherine Hepburn did.

“Are you sure?” I asked, and she said, “Yes, and he spoke to me.”

“What did he say, Puja?”

“Well, he said”—she lowered her little girl's voice into a growling baritone—“WHO ARE YOU?”

“And then what happened?”

“Well, I said my name was Puja and he said 'WHO IS THAT NEXT TO YOU?' And when Anu Maya didn’t answer the ghost did this -- ” and with that, Puja grabbed Anu’s pony tail and yanked it back. Poor Anu maybe hearing this account for the first time was already a little wide eyed, and then to hear Puja in her ghost voice and snatching her pony tail started the climb down the ladder with her doll and pillow in hand on her way to another girls bed, a big girl too. Puja remained for a moment, her eyes twinkling mischievously.

Anu Maya and Puja, still close, have since separated and now occupy different rooms. Anu has taken a new girl, a few years younger, under her wing, while Puja has shifted into a new room on the second floor that she shares with two girls who are also new. They are both taller and a little more serious and yet still have the same impish smiles and twinkling eyes.

Also in February, I wrote,

It is very cold today; the sky thick in dull grayness, the wind blowing in fits and spurts.

It is tiffin (lunch) time and we have maybe 60 cold immune children running around on the playground below in stocking caps and sweaters. I am looking out and I see the mother of one child walking unobserved by the children, including hers, on the dirt road that passes by our playground wall. The wall is high from the roadside. She is wearing the large porter's basket strapped across her forehead, the load pressing her bent back low.

How different things are around the world, and yet how similar people everywhere are. She is likely the sole breadwinner in the family; doing man's work, bending her skeleton, wearing her body out, though she is maybe only thirty. As I type she passed by again and I wonder about her thoughts. Her daughter is in class now, out of the elements, doing her job; getting an education, learning a little more than the next child in hope that she will one day be the source of her worn mother's comfort. The odds are good that if our school did not exist her daughter would be beside her, in rags, carrying her own load under the peels of laughter and freedom of the children in another playground.

Her mother cares, like mothers everywhere, about her daughter. And she toils in the cold under back-breaking loads for ten hours without complaint, only with the desire that her efforts enable her daughter not to have to do the same. In other countries schools are free, food is provided to the poor, money to the unemployed. Here, a person has no lifeline; they live and die by their luck and wits alone.

Next week we are going to have to make an announcement at school that the Ministry of Education has decided to bow to the pressure of surrounding schools and close ours. The other schools have won a year-long campaign insisting that our school threatened their existence by providing free education. What they refuse to accept is we only provide free education to the children that the other schools refuse to accept since they are too poor to pay. We are not certain what April (the end of this school year and beginning of next) will bring; the only certainty in Nepal has always been that things change on a dime. We have over two hundred children paying nothing and getting a good education and that might be a number that keeps us open in the end, but we are working on alternate plans to provide education to Dalit (untouchable caste) girls from other villages if it doesn’t. I will update the readers as events unfold.

About this time Gabrielle Elliot joined us. She went to work with a human rights group that was just forming in Kathmandu. Gabrielle has returned recently to Kathmandu to continue her work. Janelle Olson and Joanne Popescu also arrived in tandem from Saskatchewan. They were completely devoted to the children and fit seamlessly into the schedule, eating the same rice and vegetables day in and day out with a smile. All four volunteers joined our children and some neighbor girls on Holi, a day-long colored water battle; a very wet, colorful, and memorable day for all.

In March I wrote,

About three weeks ago we had a visit from a lady who runs a refugee camp. She asked if we would take on two more children, sisters. We agreed, and the next day Kabita, a 12 year old, came with her into our home. Three days later Apsara was brought to us. Apsara, who is 9, was very sick upon her arrival. It took several days of bedside care to get her to the point of eating with the others, or even talking. She is still not 100% but has joined the others in all that makes life in our home special. They are neat little girls. The other night when I went in to say goodnight, Kabita had Apsara and the other three girls in her room were all sitting in full lotus position and meditating. They were still and serene.

Today, both sisters are room captains. Kabita shares with Puja and our newest Apsara on the second floor. Apsara shares with Sita, Anita Basnet and Anu Basnet in her original room. Kabita has become a charming, thoughtful and pleasant 13 year old who loves writing, knitting, and her school work. She remains number one in her class. Apsara is always smiling, her English is incredible, she is loving, affectionate, funny, and patient with her young charges. Both caught the hearts and minds of Fiona and Tom Gilbert, members of our Board of Advisors who spent a month with us at Christmas time. The four of them hit it off in a way that suggests there is much at play in this universe that causes mere mortals to really wonder about life.

In April we were visited by my good friend and long-time supporter Karen Billing and her very impressive and sweet daughter Emily. They arrived from London, Karen bringing her good cheer, amusing insights, and financial assistance while daughter Emily shared cross continent knowledge, styles, current events, and enthusiasm with our children. Emily also brought a very large donation that she had raised herself from bake sales at her school. Karen has since joined our Board and most recently hosted a fund raiser in London which attracted Jeremy Irons to attend. You can read about this here.

Also in April we were visited by Mikel Dunham. I would highly recommend reading his site: Mikel has gained access to the most important people figuring in Nepal’s state of affairs. He also brings the raw and gripping narratives of the people affected by this country's protracted civil war onto the page for some disturbing and heart-wrenching reading. His interview with a few of our children willing to speak about their past can be found in his archives. Mikel continues his honest journalism here at a time when journalists are coming up missing and later found dead, when newspapers are closed and writers and editors threatened for speaking the truth.

April also brought Dr. Carolyn Cheong and her husband Vincent to Nepal, where among other things they spent time in Gundu bringing medicine and expertise to a community without. They also got to know our children and gave of themselves to the delight and appreciation of all, leaving photos and personal letters to each child on the day they left to return to Australia.

John Cordel completed a five-month volunteering stay with us as May approached. From his first day, John was a pure delight to have around. His sense of humor and observations were always uplifting and made all seek his companionship. He continues to write and express his great desire to afford a return to Nepal.

In May, Kabita Mahato came shyly to our home by way of Keri Wingate, an exceptional volunteer from New Zealand. As I wrote on May 6th,

Our newest child has joined us from the Terai, the area presently suffering from great political upheaval. Kabita Mahato was found by one of our volunteers, Keri Wingate, while she was researching a school in that area at which to teach. Keri had been on a three-week trek over much of Nepal, from the mountains to the lowlands, in an effort to find the place she felt most needed a volunteer teacher. She started in the mountains and would report back that the people in this remote area are very poor, but they have some fertile ground, water is plentiful, the air is pure and cool, and they seem quite content with life. When Keri reached the Terai she called to say she had found where she needs to be. The people of the Terai have long been ignored by the politicians in Kathmandu; it is a very low desolate area where crops grow in dust. The sun is bright and close, wrinkling plants and skin alike. Schools receive little or no government support, and have no facilities; toilets do not exist. The people look bereft of hope, shuffling about, watchful to avoid the attention of the Maoists. Keri’s guide is a friend of Papa’s House and is from this region. Soon after settling they learned about Kabita, a shy quiet little girl who worked from before the sun rose till long after it set, both in the fields and helping in people’s houses. She went to school when she could. This is an area of very dark skinned folks, but Keri learned that the villagers stated Kabita would never marry as she is “too black.” This was particularly sad to hear, and I knew when Keri told me about her that we were going to give Kabita a good life. She is a very beautiful little girl. Kabita has joined me in what had become my solitary yoga and meditation sessions at sunrise each morning. She quietly imitates my every move, occasionally flashing me a brilliant white smile spun from her heart and out her eyes. When she arrived she spoke neither Nepali nor English, but has since progressed very well. She is sharp and works at cultivating her mind as she once did the fields — tirelessly and determined.

It only took a few months for Kabita to become number one in her class, beating Kabita Basnet by one point. They trade off that title to this day.

My brother Peter and sister in law Boo came back for the second time this May. They have been a constant source of moral support from the time I first arrived in Nepal and knew that I had found my future. They also were frequent contributors back in the very early days when I was rebuilding a school and caring for different individuals. When Peter and Boo come they bring laughter and activity, calmness and optimism, peace and security. While they are here I am able to relax and drop my guard; I don’t feel so much like the single adult protecting so many young lives in this troubled country. The children all eagerly await Peter and Boo’s arrival and the individual attention and interest they show all our children. While the children are at school Peter is painting and fixing; after school he might be found helping our oldest child Anita with calculus and playing baseball with the boys. Peter makes every moment count. Boo brings the unique gift that she has always given everyone she has met: a sense that they are really special and she is thrilled to know them. She somehow knows what each child wants to express, and in her time with them, doing activities they cherish, she fills them with love and joy. When they returned to Davidson this time they left behind a commitment that they would take over the endless task of meeting the government requirements in accounting and secure our 501(c)3 status. They also reformed the corporation and built the Board's membership. I have every confidence that the work we have begun in the past three years will continue to flourish and spread over generations to come. I also have little doubt but that some of our children are not so many years away from picking up the reigns and guiding Nepal Orphans Home countrywide; Nepalese children turning into adults and passing along their good fortune to touch many more.

Peter’s own comments on their visit can be found here.

June brought a visit by Dr. Jennifer Rothchild and her assistant Priti Shrestha. Jennifer was doing research on Nepalese children living in a group dynamic. We had a wonderful time and the children took quickly to them both. We really have been blessed by the quality of people who have come into our home.

On Tuesday, July 3rd, I wrote,

Yesterday was a day that would make any Papa proud. The results from the first term unit test were compiled, and an afternoon assembly was called for the honors. Our principal Milan Godar started the results with class one. He asked the students who they thought had the top test score and the name they hollered out was indeed correct: Kabita Mahato, our newest child from the very desolate Terai. This was again repeated through all seven of our classes, with the exception of class four. Our children took the top spot, walking humbly to the front when their names were called amid thunderous applause by all the students in our school, privileged and scholarship alike. In most cases our children all ranked in the top five in every class. It should be mentioned that of the original 10 students with whom we opened our first school — children who did not attend school because schools in this area would not help them — three scored in the top five in their class. One little boy in class four, one of our original students, is a child easily overlooked by both adults and children. He is beyond poor, his ears are at right angles to his head, and he has the pallor of someone constantly a bit unclean, mostly due to not having water in his dirt-floored home. But from the time we took him into our first school his eyes have been alive and clear, and he smiles a lot. When he speaks he does so too quickly, as if he is used to his audience being a moving target. As long as I have known him he has walked with an amusing little preoccupied swagger; not meant for the sake of others so much for himself; as his eyes usually don’t meet others. Well yesterday, when Milan called out to the assembly, “Who do you think took first place in class four?” they were all wrong, and my little friend, Chaplin-like, swaggered forward, to the sound of my thunderous applause.

Only this morning I was walking away from our school where Milan and I had been talking in front of the gate. I had just delivered my children. As I rounded the corner to walk into town my young friend called to me. I went to him and stood before him as he studied the ground. He then started to speak but language was replaced by a sob, his shoulders started to shake and I held him close. After a moment he said that his father had died. Life extracts a heavy toll on the very poor; for some it simply knows no end. I will stay a little closer to him and see what will be.

During July, Upasana Khatri, a Nepali girl attending Davidson college, spent a month with us. She is a marvelous girl with a great head on her shoulders. Her family has been very kind to Papa’s House, and Upasana gave a lot of love, attention, and inspiration to our older girls while living with us.

Toni Thomson of Buck Productions spent an exciting two weeks with us while filming our daily lives and interviewing the children and all those associated with us. Toni is a wonderful filmmaker and has dedicated her life and talent to helping children. We are extremely fortunate to have had Toni learn about us. While here she spent countless hours with our children, teaching them about the computer and film editing. She even made a short film with them, which was presented to me on her last night.

Toni accepted our invitation to join our Board and has increased my confidence with her determination and positive outlook. She has just departed from her second trip to Nepal to be with us. She has completed her filming now. She spent Christmas with us and brought joy to all. Prior to coming she had a fundraiser in Toronto for us that raised a lot of money for our Home. Toni shared with me a rough cut of her other documentary, which she had just completed. It is about another orphanage, this one for HIV children in Thailand. Watching it I was very moved by the story, as well as breathlessly captivated by the professionalism and creativity in the documentary. The children adore her and extracted many promises that she will again return. In the meantime my scanner has been busy sending along their letters.

Marcie Westphalen also made her first trip to Asia at this time after many months of e-mail correspondence with me. She is one of a kind, a heart as big as they come — completely selfless and moved by the lives of children everywhere. Marcie did a whole lot of due diligence before sharing our story with others; but after she was convinced we were for real she trumpeted our cause. Her section of North Carolina is now very familiar with Papa’s House and Papa’s Trinity Academy. Through her endless efforts she has raised not only awareness but a lot of money that has been sent to us by her great friends and neighbors in Raleigh, North Carolina. I wrote two pages, I think, about Marcie on the web site. I will extract just a short paragraph for now.

Marcie became “Mom” immediately. Watching her made me realize the importance of a mom to our children. The children have often said to others that I am their mother and father, but I saw with Marcie where that is only half true. Every one of our children felt she was spending more time with them than with the others. Every one of our children confided in her, shared her warm embrace, and made her laugh. Each morning Marcie would have a pre-selected room come to my kitchen where she would make them an American breakfast of pancakes, French toast, etc. These times were highly anticipated by the children and much discussed both before and after.

Marcie too accepted our request that she join our Board. She is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of the children of Nepal. This summer she will return with her first daughter Alicia, an event to which the children and I have been counting down the days.

On August 8th Sita joined us. Of that day I wrote,

She and all her paperwork were dropped off at our school early in the morning, culminating a week’s worth of legal necessities. Her head shaven in an affordable method against lice, she sat small and quiet in the jovial racket of bustling students entering our school. She joined our single file procession home after school, taking in new sights and capturing snippets of talk in the line of her new sisters and brothers. Her life started again, at 10, completely in the company of strangers. This might be a traumatic time for most, but our calm, humorous, and compassionate children ward that off. After bathing and slipping into nice new clothes she returned to the room she will share with Kabita and Apsara, both staying close to her. With each passing hour she gently opens up like a tightly closed morning flower, displaying her beauty drawn by the warmth of her new family.

Sita has just returned from school, and from my window I watched the long red sweater turn the final corner towards home. With the power about to go out I stayed at my desk and listened to the children mounting the stairs in laughter, drawing close. As coincidence would have it Sita was the first at my desk to give me a kiss hello. She knew I was buying a jacket today for our newest and second youngest child, and she was excited to see it and take it to Ramila. She still shares a room with Apsara, she is still quiet and very sweet, but she is no longer the newest and has eased the way for others after her.

September 4th brought Puja’s 10th birthday. I had written about preordering a cake in the likeness of Cinderella, which, when we went to collect it, was dropped by the counter man. When his grip was first lost he tried in vain to grab it, causing Cinderella to spin once in the air before meeting the ground. Puja was placid, Zen like in her acceptance.

Now, Thursday the 31st, I have just spent the last hour of our first three hours of load shedding today, making a chocolate frosting for 40 cupcakes bought in Puja’s honor. For Sarita’s recent birthday, cakes were not available, so I melted chocolate and peanut butter together and used it to glue 4 pound cakes into one, and then covered it all with my concoction. It was a success and many voiced their preference for it over “bought cakes.”

When Puja returned from our winter break with her grandmother she informed me one night that we have been mistaken about her birthday all this time. Contrary to what the papers from the VDC report, her grandmother remembers her being born on the 29th of January; her grandmother is “very sure of this.” And, she has not been 9 like the papers said, but she has been 10, and now she is 11. I asked her what she wanted to do and she said “Well, we must celebrate this one.” Last night when I was putting her to bed she asked if I would be making her a cake today, and when I told her when the lights go out in the morning I would do it, she asked if I was thinking of buying her a present or not. She seems a little tentative about this new date and how much celebrating we think it deserves. I bought her a new doll and a new black sweater.

Speaking of celebrating, yesterday was the birthday of Wally Wombat, a gift to Apsara and Kabita by Fiona Gilbert. Four or five of the children prepared the room that Wally shares with Kabita (half the nights); They cut out small squares of paper and loaded each with little treats for each invited (doll) guest. The party was a huge success and Wally seemed to be smiling a little broader. Last night, I was talking to Sangita at bed time, and I noticed on the lap of her doll was a small paper with the treats. I asked about it and she said she found it there when she returned to her room before supper. Seems Sangita was too busy earlier to bring her doll to the party so the kids sneaked party food into the room and placed it in her lap.

September brought a bout of conjunctivitis early on. I wrote,

Our children have been passing conjunctivitis around for the past two weeks, which is now pretty much over. Some of them suffered worse than others, but all looked ghoulish with their blood-red, seeping, infected eyes. I had the proper medicine to treat them, three times a day; each staying home during the worst of their bouts. The eye drops sting quite a bit at first, slowly giving way to relief. My sympathetic pain was eased a bit by the humor some of them showed when I would go bed to bed giving the eye drops, the recipient rigid, boldly using self restraint while the others would giggle with nervous empathy awaiting their turn. I was most impressed by the muscle power in the eyelids of 8 year olds.

In September we were running every morning, but as December approached and the cold grew deeper every day, one morning I and the few remaining simply nodded to one another and went back to our rooms. It was on September 27th that I wrote,

We have been under siege by a lazy rain for three days now; the warmer air has been washed away. Last night flannel pajamas and blankets came out of storage; a few stocking caps and many shawls could be seen at the candle lit dinner table; the combination of darkness and steady rain has quieted everyone down, the kids wondering how to study for the next day's exams when we have no lights. Winter is indeed coming too quick and my thoughts of last December, that I would never be warm again, seem still fresh in mind. Bathing after school yesterday took admirable determination, as the water had been chilling all day in the tank, but the small children still managed humor and twinkling-eyed smiles.

The cold here is pretty difficult to deal with, as there is no escaping it. We have no warm rooms to go to; everything is cold all the time. Today the icy wind howls across the valley and into our rooms, turning the cement walls and floors frigid. After school bathing is not as funny as it once was when the cold air was first thickening. Now in the early morning when we are doing hair, those who will be bathing that day all grimly remark about it. What remains pleasant about it is after the shower, the many layers of clothes bring a sense of warmth; and for me anyway, the hot coffee then tastes excellent in a rewarding sort of way. About 6 weeks to go and this will be only a memory.

September saw the Dawn Kumari cooking school go into high gear. This idea has paid dividends not originally considered. We just finished our winter vacation, and Dawn Kumari, who never asks for anything, finally did so with a request for time to walk back to her village in Gorka, 4 days away. Among the remaining children, 6 or 7 had learned to cook, and we set up a schedule for the 17 days of vacation. I would wake two each morning long before dawn and open up the kitchen for them, and they would prepare tea first and after, the morning rice for all their sisters, and sole remaining brother Chham. These kids wake with a smile, cook and clean in the cold and never seem the least bit put out by it. This house is simply amazing with the degree of good energy always permeating the air; laughter and giggles resonate. The other night the lights went out at 6 for three hours. Supper is usually complete by 6:30 and with the darkness and cold the kids get ready for bed, even those older with homework to do. On these nights I sometimes find little ones asleep by the time I reach their room. This night I finished with Sangita and Nirmala around 8. They were both in bed talking; blankets pulled high leaving only their mouths and eyes exposed. After saying goodnight I returned to my room to eat something. At 9 the lights returned and I went back down to make sure all lights were off. In the darkened hall I could hear Sangita and Nirmala still talking and laughing in their rooms.

At 10:00 I heard some noises, wind driven, but I went down to check on it with my flashlight. Entering the hall on the 3rd floor I could still hear Sangita and Nirmala, their conversation a little slower now, a little more muffled, but still not giving way to sleep.

I retuned to my room thinking how they will treasure their friendship, and I suppose this time in their lives, forever.

Our days are routine; each segment of time brings a new occupation, be it preparing for school, going to school, etc. Each has its own opportunity for interaction with these kids that is always rewarding. They grow a little bit each day, finding new strengths and weaknesses. Mary and Rasmita, sisters, watch each other develop as they deal with their own. I will remember one night watching a little of that, as I wrote,

On Friday night Mary asked me if she could sleep in a different room. Rasmita, her bed companion, looked at me with bug eyes, waiting to hear my answer. I said yes. Later after making my rounds I went back to Rasmita's bed, where I found her quietly crying. She said she was a little afraid to sleep alone. I surrounded her with all her dolls and reminded her that she was only alone in bed, that four other girls were in the room, but she was only slightly consoled. I turned out their light and after twenty minutes checked on her. She was fast asleep hugging her large soft doll. The next night as they were getting ready for bed she told Mary that she could go sleep in the other room again. I asked Rasmita why she felt that way and she said, “Last night I have learned to sleep alone.” Mary smiled up at me and Rasmita didn’t protest when she slipped into bed next to her.

The three sewing machines for which Stephen and Martha Porter sent us a check to cover the purchase have been turning out some very impressive work. Saraswoti continues to come each afternoon and expertly guides these kids through step after step in the creation of very beautiful Nepali style wear. All our mending for the two homes is collected on Friday mornings and the Friday sewing class does it all. Our smaller children have all been given warm cloth hats, and other clothes made by our kids. Sunita recently completed her first Kurta Sulwar which is every bit as professionally made as any I have seen.

Knitting is another new fascination of about 15 of our girls. I have gone room to room on a Saturday afternoon and found in each, girls sitting, knitting covering their laps, hands swiftly creating another warm muffler, hat, socks, or shawl. I feel like I am living in a Jane Austen novel; the wool is pretty inexpensive so trips to the wool shop are always a pleasure; and I see the joy light up the girls eyes when I return. Such simple gifts are so handsomely rewarded.

October found us taking over another small orphanage.

I found twelve children who were neglected and malnourished, lacking a change of clothes, medicines for many skin and other ailments; without beds, blankets, and not going to school.

At this time our newest volunteer MaryKate Catandella had just arrived. She jumped into the care of these children while still in their small home and has not stopped yet. She has been instrumental in every move we have made with these children, from picking out our new home, to setting up a school and teaching  them. Mary Mom, as she is known, has taught these children years of lessons all in the few months since past. MaryKate doesn’t like to leave the house unless the children are with her; she loves to be home and near them all the time. Along with Vinod Mahato, the young man whom I placed in charge of these guys, these children have made very long strides. These are truly beautiful children in every sense. The youngest there, Bhumika, has finally had her spastic walking diagnosed as CP. This little girl never stops smiling; she has an incredible sense of humor, and is completely fearless and courageous. She and MaryKate are inseparable; I am not at this moment sure which force wins out in two months when MaryKate's time is up, her Connecticut family or Bhumika.

October brought Dashain, the holiest of Hindu occasions, and Roshan Regmi, the little brother of Depa and Cila who have been with me a couple of years now. Roshan made the 13th child in our new Home. Sisters Anu and Anita came just before Dashain; like Sita they joined us at school and entered in our procession home from school and into their new lives. Age here seems to be whatever might best serve the circumstance, but I am guessing Anu to be 7 and Anita 4. Anu is eager to please and very smart. Her English is accomplished. Little Anita is extremely entertaining; she watched others and then mimicked their behavior perfectly when it first came to routines like bathing, and good night rituals. Her English is fast approaching that of her Nepalese. She also never complains or cries, and has a built-in ruggedness smoothed by active play with so many big sisters and brothers. When bathing she has never uttered a peep while the icy wind with its chilling bite grabs her skin.

Late October brought three more world-class volunteers here; Stephanie French and Kathleen Hepburn worked closely with Prakash Poudel, our new Volunteer Coordinator. They traveled to remote areas helping us to establish our presence and also served in schools that had rarely had non Nepali teachers. Sara Winterrowd also taught everyday in a squatter’s village, bringing hope and joy and some great English lessons to the very poor children there.

November united us with Bipana and Ishawa who came from an isolated village a day’s journey away. Bipana moved into our House while Ishawa settled into Papa’s House annex with Vinod and MaryKate, making 14 children there.

One morning in December a father along with his little girl stopped me. They were sitting in front of Saraswoti’s tailoring shop. They came from the same distant village as she and learned about us through her family that still lives there. The father said that they are very poor and he has 6 daughters. He has sold most of them in hopes of a better life (?) for his daughters. However, upon learning about us he has brought his one daughter Apsara, who is about 11, to see us and request that we help her. We did so. After a week's time in which they returned to their village and gathered the proper paperwork, they once again met me one morning on the road, and without fanfare, a single touch, a glance, or even a goodbye from him, his daughter placed her hand in mine and we walked back Home. When bathing her the first time we discovered that she has been very badly burned, extremely disfigured from her stomach to her thighs. I have not learned the story behind this yet, we didn’t draw attention to it then and haven’t since. She is a sweet and quiet little girl sharing a new room opened up on the second floor with Puja and Kabita Basnet.

And finally, just before Christmas Ramila entered the family. Ramila had never before this trip to us left her village. She had never seen an engine-driven vehicle; never had her senses assaulted the way only Kathmandu in its high decibel air horn blowing, black smoke spewing, road free for all of oversized trucks and buses can do.

She is a little pixie with the most lovable eyes that never look directly into yours but always from her head held at some slight angle.

It has been a year. Our Home has been an oasis for me in a country still steeped in unrest.

As fragile an existence as one should feel here I have found that through the kindness of our village, Papa’s House has been nestled, safe and secure. It is a tough area and many around us have fallen victim to crime that makes one shudder; but never us. The Young Communist League is the strong arm of the Maoists. They do all the dirty deeds, they are fearless and feared. They have a branch in Dhapasi that is run by the uncle of a young girl I have helped for years; I have only recently learned this. Whenever he passes by me in the streets, alone or with his gang, he does Namaste with a very warm smile.

I have spilled my anger on this web site over the political unrest and how horribly children and others are treated in Nepal; the violence is horrific and cold blooded. But in our own small universe, even the hardest of soldiers ignores us. In our school we have the children of Maoists; in our second home we have a child who has a father who is the field commander for the Maoists of Eastern Nepal. These parents give us blessings.

The unspeakable acts of torture upon woman and children is an event read daily in the papers here. Small, back page stuff. I am searching here for a way to properly put into perspective what goodwill emanates from Papa’s House’s and School. We are left alone to care for the children lucky enough to make it to us.

In closing, we exist now largely thru the support of many small donors. Our 501(c)3 status, which will allow us to seek out grants, is forthcoming, but until then I want every donor to know, from the $10.00 each month student at Salem College, to the occasional giver, your contributions will never be forgotten. When I write a letter to you after your donation, it is truly from a very full and appreciative heart.

Kira Schlesinger

Toni shooting the documentary

Mary and Rasmita

Ramila and little Anita

New Apsara with Saraswoti

Kabita Mahato now

MaryKate and Bhulmika

Tom, Fiona, Apsara, Kabita

Anu Maya

Playing Holi

Our school

Papa's House


Papa's House 2

Marcie, Peter & Boo




Monday, January 28

Papa’s House welcomed three little girls in late fall of 2006. Rasmita Rai was joining her sister Mary, who has been with us for about two years, and with her came Kausila Shrestha and Bhumika Rai from the same remote and agonizingly poor village. We have never really taken a moment to present our children, and I will hope to do better by it this year. In 2007 Papa’s House welcomed a total of 22 new children; 12 at one time last fall, when we took over a pathetically operated small orphanage. Ten others found their individual way here, each with their own remarkable stories of a much challenged existence. They each melt easily into the mix and have made Papa’s House 1 and 2 joyous places filled with love and good will. We have grown to be a very strong family, caring and watching for one another, all the time inspiring each other to improve in every way possible. It would be our children who have secured the top positions in their respective classes, shutting out nuclear family students with many years of private school behind them, time and time again; all the while being loved and admired by those same students. Our two homes share many happy times together on Saturdays and other Holi days. We are currently very close to capacity; a population cap placed to insure the best possible individual care and attention can be given to every child. Arriving at this cap is a little sad, as the need for us is unabated in Nepal. We have to say no quite a lot lately. Following this update will be another in which we look back over 2007 and look forward into our future plans. We are certainly proud of what has been accomplished by the assistance of many individual donors and the others who have taken on our cause and made it their own, who are now part of our Board of Directors and Advisors.

Apsara and Bhumika sharing a moment
Apsara and Bhumika sharing a moment

Two months ago we were asked to take a young girl from a village in the mid mountains, where we have become established with our volunteers helping in schools. At that time we had to say no; she more than met the entire criterion for acceptance, but the space wasn’t available. Last Thursday I received a phone call from one of our staff members who was in that village looking at a school that needed some help. He said that early that same morning this young girl took her life. On a cold morning she went to the river, disrobed and entered the freezing rapid flow and let go of her existence on earth.

So you see, we do make a difference in the lives of as many as we can. I don’t want to have to say no to children living desperate, hopeless, and painful lives, when their sorrow becomes greater than their fear of the unknown, and they also let go. It doesn’t take that much to save a life, and that, at least in this case, is what we did not do.

Here below are some of the luckier ones.

As we found them

Bhumika Rai, 7

Ashika Lama, 6

Jeny Rai, 5

Sumitra Devakota, 8

Sabina Tamang, 8

Yasorda Sunwar, 10

Rajan Yadev, 6

Hari Nepali, 8

Roshan Regmi, 8

Ishowar Shrestha, 12

Dhiraj Yadev, 9

Purna Rai, 10

Tilak Magar, 9

Ashok Yadev, 11

Ramila Khadka

Anu Basnet

Sita Timalsina

Anita Basnet

Kabita Mahato

Rasmita Rai

Kausalya Shrestha

Bhumika Rai

Apsara Neupane

Bipana Thapa

Kabita Basnet

Apsara Basnet



Monday, January 7

This past month seems to have flown by and yet looking back each day has seen people having very special moments in which time has stood still and their lives have been nudged a little closer to goodness and grace.

Early in December, evenings were held in honor of Papa’s House. First in London where our Board member Karen Billing hosted a beautiful event at the Watford Grammar School for Girls, to honor Shiva Charity and Papa’s House. Karen has been a long-time supporter through Shiva of a school in Darjeeling, and for three years has worked and devoted part of her earnings to our house as well. Karen’s business is a testament to her character. She toils countless hours making exquisite pieces of art and then gives away the profits. She has made two trips here to spend time with the children, her last visit with her beautiful daughter Emily.

Karen put on a very entertaining evening with her favorite actor Jeremy Irons, who was moved by Karen’s sincerity and agreed to come. Mr. Irons had traveled to Nepal and shared his experiences and more in an intimate gathering of supporters. Karen was moved by the extreme kindness, humor and humbleness he displayed.

Karen Billing and Jeremy Irons
Karen Billing and Jeremy Irons

And on the other side of the Atlantic, in Toronto, Canada, another Board member Toni Thomson hosted a beautifully arranged evening in a friend's art gallery for 65 people, braving an ice storm to arrive. Another friend of hers took Toni’s photos, and after enlarging them skillfully, displayed them on the gallery walls. Toni has been working on two documentaries, one of which is about Papa’s House. She is just wrapping up her other one and preparing to enter it in a major film festival, but she took time away from that to host this evening and then fly to Nepal to spend Christmas with the children. She is a very special person, soft spoken, compassionate, and through the art of filmmaking devotes her life’s work to helping make children’s lives a little happier. Our sincere thanks to both of them for their unswerving dedication.

Toni Thomson and Sangita
Toni Thomson and Sangita

This has been a month of goodbyes as well. Stephanie French had traveled here from Australia to work with the children. She was brought up in Tasmania and has seen the difficulties of life. She showed an abundance of strength, humor, and compassion in all the works she performed. Kathleen Hepburn came from Canada. She has an amazing depth to her, a black belt in Tai kwon do; she rose each morning in the dark to attend the children’s practice. She is a great artist, very quiet, and always looking for how she can be helping others. Sara Winterowd came from California. She selected a placement as a teacher in a squatter’s camp. One would never know that a school existed at what from the road appears to be the very worst possible situation people have found themselves in. Yet Sara, with effervescent energy, walked down into this no man’s land everyday and gave the very poorest of children hope and encouragement. I am immensely proud that all three of these volunteers represented us and gave so much of themselves to people far less fortunate.

Stephanie French in Thimi
Stephanie French in Thimi
Kathleen Hepburn in Monteli
Kathleen Hepburn in Monteli
Sara Winterowd
Sara Winterowd
Displaced persons camp where Sara taught
Displaced persons camp where Sara taught

Tom and Fiona Gilbert have also just left us. I have become aware of the many miracles in life, especially in my last four years in Nepal. When you look back over how things first connected and follow the many events taking place that lead people together, you have to recognize that there exist many forces that shape our lives, that guide events and bring long-awaited unions together. When Fiona first volunteered she simply expressed an interest in serving with Tom for a month in our Home. But after we started exchanging e-mails it became apparent that they were not going to be ordinary volunteers. They took a sincere interest in what Papa’s House was all about, in the children, and in our future. They are both highly degreed people, very busy in their professions and yet have such huge hearts that filling them through helping our children became a joyful third occupation.

Tom, Fiona, and Puja
Tom, Fiona, and Puja
Tom and Fiona with some of the children
Tom and Fiona with some of the children

They asked a lot of questions and offered a lot of excellent advice. They set up a blog,, through which they shared the experience, the countdown before coming and the days here. Through this they also raised a lot of money for Papa’s House, but they themselves were the very biggest donors. I picked them up at the airport and we had to hire another taxi only for the luggage, which cost them a fortune in overweight fines. They brought medicines and school supplies, fun games for the children, vitamins, and arts and crafts, enough of everything to last 50 children a very long time. But their greatest gift of all was the time spent with the children. They spent early mornings till late nights walking between our two homes making sure that every child had quality one on one time with them, every day without fail. And, they showed all the children what beauty lies within some marriages. The boys and girls in our homes saw the gentleness and affection, the respect, kindness, and deep love that they have for each other.

Every child felt loved by them, but two little girls in particular have connected so strongly, and they with them, that the most cynical observer would have to admit these four people are meant to be together. Believe as you might, but I believe that these four people have found each other, again. To witness this is to glimpse at the compelling draw of life’s magic.

Christmas was very special again this year. Christmas Eve with a film, everyone in their pajamas and cuddling for warmth we watched Christmas films and ate chocolates. Long after the children descended into sleep Santa piled four gifts for each child under the tree and placed stockings in the middle of the floor in every room. Stockings were a first, a thoughtful addition brought by Toni. Christmas day was relaxed and fun and ended with Samjhana’s birthday party.



Apsara (new)
Opening gifts
Opening gifts
"What is this?"
"What is this?"

December is thick with birthdays and almost all of them falling on the evenings without power. This has been a good year; we have been blessed by the interest in our children taken by quite a few very special people. Our children have learned a lot this year by those same individuals, and in turn they have all walked away with a greater appreciation for the wonders of life brought so innocently, quietly, and with the most heartwarming of smiles by our children.

Depa on her birthday
Depa on her birthday
Hikmat on his birthday

Fiona at her birthday party

Nirmala and Kancha

I am going to start work on a year-end look back and where we hope to be going in the future. I will have this posted this week without fail so please check back.

Our collected best to all.