Papa’s House News and Updates

December 16, 2012

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

Dear Eva,

Merry Christmas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sita

*****

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


Pupu loves to dress up

and act

and pretend to be a rock star

or here she called herself Pakistani Miss

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

*****

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







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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!

August 20, 2012

Snap Shots: Papa’s House Home School


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

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

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

A Tour of Dhapasi

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


Our curd shop

Sneakers and running shoes

Our Samosa and Cello Roti shop

Our daily fresh fruit purchases are made here

Yarn Shop

Cloth Shop

Our Bakery

One of our clothing stores

Our secondary vegetable shop

Our Tailor

Our 3-generation-run bulk supply food store

Our mops and utensil shop

Ice cream and Paneer shop

Spice shop
Our neighbor’s vegetable shop

Our plastic sandals and Mehindi shop

Pharmacy (pharmacist Rahjendra standing)

A local family we help with school

Cabinet shop

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

Nepal Orphans Home Helping Hand

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


This year’s group (four missing)

The five graduates from 2012, all college bound


The missing four children from the group picture

Kabita and Sabita Go to College

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


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

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

New Children

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


Salina

Priya

Urajhan

Sanjeta

Gomati

Kanti

Kalpana

Alysha

Samirha


Kausil on left with Anita and Priety

Ghost Hill

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

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

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

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

Dhapasi Street Cleaning

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

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

Brothers Day

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


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


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


Hari; Small girls’ dance performance; Pinky looking on


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

Teachers Day

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

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


Front Asha, Chiaya and Apsara

Mrs. Sangeta Rai, School Principal

Our older girls dancing

Sunita singing the blues

Saroj (Carlos Santana) on his electric guitar

Chham on a borrowed guitar


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

Tikapur

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Little Reflection

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

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

Changes

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


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

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


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


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

******

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

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

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

May 1, 2012

May 1, 2012


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

******

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


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

******

Anisha, September 2007 and September 2011

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

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


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

******

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


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


Sarita, Gita and Sapana


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


Pushpa and Anita                     Muskan and Manisha          Nirmala and Sharmila


Apsara and Kabita                 Srijana and Punima               Anita and Sunita


Kamali and Lalita                  Isha and Bhumika               Sushila and Kamala


Aliza and Elina                                   (left and right) Sima and Anisha

And we have three sets of brothers and sisters:


Deepa, Cila and brother Roshen                             Ram and his sister Sushma


Saroj and his sister Sangita

And two sets of brothers:


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

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Our newest garden:

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

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

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


The boy’s new Possibilities Home                          View from the balcony

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


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

******

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


Vinod with his sister Anita at his farewell party.

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

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

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

******

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


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


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

******

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

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

******

Meanwhile at the Skylark School...


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

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


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


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

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


Samjhana

Yeshordha

Asha

Tilak

Sapana

Anita

Sunita

Purnima

Mankumari

Pushpa

Sandiya

Kailashi

Anu

Anita

Apsara


Our five #1 ranked at Skylark for the year

******

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

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

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

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

All my best;
Namaste
Papa

February 16, 2012

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

******

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

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

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


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

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

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




******

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

******

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



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

******

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

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


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

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

******

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



******

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Gita and Juna in our smallest girls dance:

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

And from the photo booth I leave you these:


******

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

Thank you,
Papa