Papa’s Updates

Papa’s House News and Updates

Michael’s CV stories: April 17th

An update on our situation in Nepal:  We have been in a lockdown period for about three weeks now. What this means is the only time that you may be on the street is in the early mornings to buy vegetables, grains, and staples from your neighborhood seller. The quantity and quality of the vegetables have been quite good, but the cost about triple what it is normally. Before sunrise, a few licensed vegetable wholesalers can go to the wholesale market and load their trucks for distribution in neighborhood shops. A licensed milk truck is also allowed to pick up milk from the dairy and bring it to the local shops. From two days ago, bread has been brought to our local shops from a small bakery here in Dhapasi.


Along a street in Dhapasi

Shortly after sunrise people will go to their nearest or favorite neighborhood shop to get what they need. In front of the shops, circles have been spray painted to mark where one is allowed to stand. You hop-scotch your way forward as people are served. The shops will have ribbon crisscrossing the opening to keep people away from the counter. You call out your order, the owner will place the items in a basket that you stretch to retrieve, then you put the money in the same basket and the transaction is finished. People wear masks, and some gloves. The shopkeepers spray the money with a disinfectant when it is in the basket. They are wearing gloves.


Waiting to make a purchase from a shop in Dhapasi

The people of Nepal are taking this situation with the gravity it deserves. Our only chance as a nation is to prevent the CV from coming into the country. Sadly, combating it would be Quixotic at best. Everyone knows that it would be tantamount to kicking a massive beehive if the CV spreads here. According to the latest government report, there are presently 16 confirmed cases in Nepal, I believe all attributed to people coming from other countries. I do not know how testing is done, perhaps only when someone shows up sick, but the government has said that contact searches are being done for each case.

It seems to be that natural disasters and plagues bring out the essence of people. Good people seem to be better, wanting to reach out and help others, while bad people become worse. The past three weeks have brought both to my door. The bad situations seem explosive, the pressure of restricted movement, lack of money, poor nutrition, and uncertainty build until something sets the person off.

And there are small gestures that reveal a person has been thinking about their lives and where they fit in humanity. They wish to reach out to others, even if behind masks and at two meters distant. They do so with their softening eyes, a wink, a nod, and their patience in line. This is a big tell for me, as people in Nepal tend to elbow their way to the front of any line, resulting in loud chaos.

There is a lot of need now and it is growing. This is a cash society, and when you have no cash you get nothing, be it medical care or food. NOH has been supporting our usual array of people; at least those that we can reach. There is one young friend of ours, a nurse, now unemployed while caring full time for a mother in her last stage of cancer. There is no father, and there are two younger sisters, neither who work. We have been unable to reach each other so that I can get money to her for her mom’s care. The police and army patrol the streets and you do not want to be out of your own neighborhood after the early morning lift for food, or even out period. We will think of a solution to getting money to her in the next day.

As we previously reported, we managed to get most of our children back to their villages before the lock down. Those who have a guardian, an aunt, in few cases a mother, a grandparent, or older sibling are staying with them. Some who had none of the above are staying with their friends in their homes. All are well and out of harm’s way. They help with the daily work in the fields, with livestock, cooking, and cleaning. We have a good network of communication among all our children and staff.

One of our older daughters called me the other day to ask if we could help a young girl in her village. Her description of the situation caused me profound sadness, followed by determined joy. My daughter Urmila learned from neighbors that a young girl named Shristi, has been abandoned by her mother and father. The parents, uneducated and poor, split from one another. Both quickly found new partners. Shristi was with her mother, but then her mother’s new partner said she could not stay, and her mother told her to go live with her father. The father and his partner both told her to go stay with her grandmother.  The grandmother told Urmila that she is tired of caring for her, saying her father is only my stepson and so the girl is not even my kin. So, the grandmother is now refusing to care for her. Urmila found Shristi sitting under a tree and crying. If she goes to either parent’s house, they beat her and send her away. When she goes back to her grandmother’s, she scolds her, calls her names, and says she will not care for her anymore. Imagine if you will, being Shristi, your parents beat you and tell you to go away. She is only nine or ten years old.  No one will feed her. She is out on her own, no house, no water, no other clothes, no food, no toilet, and no love. At what age could any of us handle that? So I instructed Urmila to take her in and provide her with comfort and explain to her that she can come and live at NOH, where young girls live among many friends, are encouraged to dream big, are able to live in security, sleep in a warm and comfortable bed, eat nutritious food, go to school, laugh, play, and feel loved and appreciated by everyone in the family. Her nightmare is over. Urmila came to us when she was seven, thirteen years ago, and in another year will graduate from dental school. Now it is Shristi’s turn.

Shristi’s story is all too common for us. In village life, illiteracy, poverty, hunger, and alcohol turn people mean. They have maybe never known love of a parent and thus never muster the same for their children, at least their girl children. Little boys are maybe abused, but they are also kept close in order to help the family one day, to marry and bring in a wife to work as well.

Shristi will be one of nine young girls who will be coming to us as soon as the country re-opens. Each girl has pretty much the same story, either sold or at the edge of being sold, or abandoned. But these girls will all recover their childhood and begin to blossom with great potential. They each will begin to exude joy, love, and compassion for each other, and like the hundreds before them they will feel the love of family and be dedicated, happy young women. Knowing this was the determined joy I mentioned earlier.

Nepal hopes to open by May 1st. Then we are all together again, in our state of blissful cooperation.

We wish you all the absolute best during your personal time of suffering and loss.

Thank you.

Papa

January 2020

On Sunday, February 1, 2004 a 51-year-old experiencing the world beyond America for the first time in his life arrived in Nepal. He had prepared for this moment for the past year by slowly withdrawing from society, beyond his family, and looking inward to sift through his life and pack it away in hope of arriving in Nepal as empty a vessel as possible.

Here is an attempt to sum up the past 16 years. The years have been good, that much comes easy to this report. This morning as I write we have 32 of our children attending a picnic, 14 more from class 10 at school in an exam prep course, 57 children at college, 11 children in 4 different countries in work/study programs, several here in Dhapasi as full time staff, and approximately 30 more children who have married and are living mostly back in the villages of their husbands, and who have provided NOH with around 9 grandchildren.

And so, let us look back over the years.

2004: February

Arrived in Trisoli, a small and remote village as a volunteer. It profoundly changed my life and I knew before leaving that I would return to Nepal. This I managed to do by late June.

2004: August

Returned to Nepal and settled in Kathmandu.

Took over management of a home with 26 children living in miserable conditions. The children did not attend school, but rather were required to panhandle for money and food. They were sick, malnourished, and ridden with scabies and other skin conditions. They also smiled with a radiance like I had not seen before.

The children and a few of the “guardians” of the home The amazing Chham

2004: Christmas

By Christmas our 26 children had grown to 37.

For Christmas the children received a metal box filled with gifts, practical and fun as well.

2005

By spring of 2005 we had 50 children in the home. Known locally as “Papa’s House” We sent them all to an English Medium school. While the children were at school we began a free school in our home with close to 60 village children who I had noticed were playing in the streets during the day.

2005: January poor village children attending our new free school.

2005: March rapid growth of our free school after receiving a sizeable Christmas donation.

2005: April our children in the morning ready to walk to their new school.

2006

My older brother Peter and his wife Boo came for a visit. They were moved by the children and our small village school. They also recognized the need for us to become a registered charity in the states. Boo took this challenge on and in August of 2007 NOH was incorporated in North Carolina. The first NOH Annual Report was for the year 2006. In February 2008, NOH received its 501(c)3 status from IRS, which was retroactive from August 29, 2005, which meant earlier donations to NOH from that date were tax deductible. The Board of Directors was created with Peter as President and Boo as Treasurer. The other board members were made up of friends and family who were very involved in the work we were doing.

Each year our operations expanded to help more children. In 2006 Papa’s House moved to a new, larger building to accommodate the growing family. Our school, Papa’s Trinity Academy, enabled more than 200 more children from the community to attend for free.

Our Papa’s Trinity Academy’s new home where our children also lived. Our dedicated teachers.

A morning assembly at PTA and some of our older children who attended the Science Lab School.

2006: Christmas

Our Family on a cold Christmas morning Gift giving Christmas
First Christmas for some, third for others.

2007

In 2007 NOH was asked to take over a nearby destitute orphanage with a dozen children. Another building was leased in Dhapasi for a second Papa’s House and additional staff were hired. Papa’s Trinity Academy leased a new building for its school as the enrollment had grown to over 340 children, the vast majority attending for free.

Children we took in Expanded teaching staff

NOH began a collaboration with Society Welfare Action Nepal (SWAN), a Nepali nongovernmental organization operating in the Dang district, some 12 hours away by bus, to rescue Kamlari girls from indentured servitude. NOH renovated two buildings in a tiny village called Narti and opened the Lawajuni (New Beginning) Home, providing shelter, food, clothing, schooling, and health care for girls rescued by SWAN.  Over the year more than 60 girls who had been sold into slavery came to the Lawajuni Home, gaining their freedom, recovering their childhoods and attending school. NOH was able to bring 12 of these girls to Dhapasi, raising the number of children provided for in Papa’s Dhapasi Houses to 70.


The two homes

Within one year of opening we had 100 girls rescued and living here. In 2007 we brought twelve to Dhapasi. The first of many to come in the following years.



Just some of the first girls to be rescued from indentured servitude

2008

In 2008, concerns with the management and direction of Papa’s Trinity Academy forced NOH to cease its support of the school. The children of Papa’s House began to attend the Skylark School, an English-medium private school in Dhapasi.  NOH then initiated support of two schools in remote villages in the Ramechhap district, the Shree Sham primary school in Dumrikharka and the Mudkeswori primary school in Votetar, funding hot lunch programs and contributing to teacher salaries and school supplies for over 140 children, most of whom are Dalits (untouchables).


This is the Shree Shram School in Ramechhap in April for the New Years beginning session.

Both schools suffered from a lack of attendance. We provided the hot lunch program as an incentive for the children to attend, as well as the supplies necessary for them to benefit in class.




The Mudkeswori School where we began the same program for the children’s education.

In addition to our educational support in the remote village of Dumrikhaka we also began a women’s collective for the village.

There were several environmental issues that severely diminished the quality of life there. Cooking was done indoors without ventilation over fires of twigs, brush, and trash. The land surrounding the village was simply an open container for debris. With the help of FoST, a Kathmandu NGO striving to raise awareness in environmental health and sustainable technologies, NOH introduced a system to make virtually smokeless briquettes for cooking, and in addition retrofitted the interior clay stoves with ventilation. The debris and trash casually spread everywhere was the primary source for these briquettes. The incentive for doing this was two pronged, first to increase the health of the people and environment and secondly to allow the women’s collective to begin selling these briquettes to other villages for income.


2009

In early 2009, NOH brought another 26 rescued Kamlari girls from Lawajuni to Dhapasi, where the education was significantly better. We opened a third home, known as Papa’s Kalpana (Imagine) House. The girls moved into the building originally housing our boys, who relocated to a newly expanded and renovated home on the same grounds, Papa’s Sambhav Possibilities) House for boys. Later in the same year, 28 more girls rescued by SWAN (Society Action Welfare Nepal) came from our Lawajuni homes to live in NOH’s fourth and newest home, Papa’s Gumba (Sanctuary) House.

A truly wonderful event occurred in early 2009 when one of our Volunteers happened to be creating a website for Sanctuary for Children. The founders, Amanda Tapping and Jill Bodie, learned about us and decided to visit. Sanctuary for Children (S4K) had recently formed and owing to Amanda and Jill’s celebrity recognition in the film industry it garnered a multitude of fans in support of their mission to help children.

Amanda surrounded by some of the children Jill with a couple of our older girls

The support from Sanctuary for Kids, which was to last for eight years when they closed S4K   and dispersed the balance of funds to a number of organizations like ours, allowed us in 2009 to open our new Sanctuary House and bring an additional 28 rescued Kamlari to live with us in Dhapasi.

Above and below some of our new children who arrived in 2009.


2010

By 2010 NOH was operating four homes in Dhapasi, all within a short walking distance of each other. Over half of the children then provided for in Papa’s Houses were rescued Kamlari girls.


Welcoming new girls and boys

The boys came when their orphanage was closed These girls were brought from Lawajuni

NOH also began supporting three more outreach programs in 2010. The Bigu Nuns Monastery, a school for Sherpa children, and some additional local community support, from medical to educational.


Bigu Nuns’ Monastery


Sherpa School

Since 2005, NOH has also operated a volunteer program. With placements in reputable NGO’s and local community projects, Volunteer Nepal grew steadily by way of the testimony’s volunteers took back home with them.  They described life-changing experiences with us and felt they had received more than promised in every aspect. The income from Volunteer Nepal helped provide revenue for our expenses and support for local organizations allowing us to expand both our outreach programs and the care for our growing family. Volunteer Nepal continues to this day.


Papa’s House Children in 2010

2011

2011 began with 113 children, 86 girls and 27 boys.

Additional community support in 2011included a local outreach. NOH paid weekly visits and provided medical intervention and nutritional support for mothers and children in a neglected slum in Kathmandu known as Dalu.


At home the children were learning to prepare, grow, and cultivate vegetables.

As well as cultivating a crop of great perfomances at school.

Ishwor 86.22% Samjhana 100% Srijana 95%
Apsara 93% Rupa 94% Khusbu 94.83% Sita 91.56%
Kamal 82.5% Sangita 93% Kanchi 99%
Sumitra 88.4% Asha 90.88% Anisha 88.8%

And this year the first of our children to begin college.

It was an early, rainy, August morning when all the children walked together with Hikmat to his first day of college.

Christmas Morning 2011

2012

A fifth home, Indreni (Rainbow) House, was opened in early 2012. A total of 124 children now resided in Papa’s House’s. Even with all the growth, one constant has been the exceptional care our children receive. Papa’s House children are secure, happy members of a loving family.

Adding the Indreni House required us to Home School for one year the children who would be sitting there. Mrs. Sunita Pandey who is now our Director of Papa’s House was the sole teacher for them all. Her task would be with teaching them English and grade level subjects in order that they could attend the Skylark School the following year. These children ranged had little formal education and spoke the language of their villages.


We created uniforms for the children for their homeschool.

2013

2013 began with 135 children, 9 of them in college.

Maintaining all of our Outreach programs we continued to serve local needs as best we could. We raised the money to help a dying 16-year-old boy receive a new kidney, and care for him and his family for 1 year. Today he greets us each morning when he brings his son to Skylark school.


The donated kidney came from his mom. With operation supplies he waits.

NOH opened an after-school Vocational Training Center. Classes were held in Computer Hardware and Software, Guitar, Voice, and Harmonium, Tailoring, Beauty Salon, Motorcycle Repair, and Mobile Phone Repair.



NOH added to their list of Outreach Programs by beginning support of the Gholdunga Home for the Blind.

Money for rent, food, and salary for management was provided. All the children had exhaustive eye exams and as a result one young teenage girl had a corneal transplant.


The children and the home as we found them in 2013.


Just recently at Papa’s House we celebrated some of the holding children’s birthdays.

But the greatest event of the year occurred on August 8th, when we brought Hope Angel home from the hospital. Only 13 weeks old and twice having battled back from death. Hope is our Jedi Warrior, and my inspiration to be a better person.

From an Update in 2013, excerpts from a letter to my cousin Anne.

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

Our family has closed around Hope like we do all our children. A new child arrives and their heart beats out of synch; they are feeling alone, afraid, and then the children draw them in and the pain that has brought them here evaporates, and within a few hours they smile as their heart becomes part of the collective beat of all the children.

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

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


Hope today with her Dad, Sam


Meeting friends


And with Mom, Anita

2014

2014 began with 141 children. There were 16 children in college.

Some of the college children Cila won a full basketball scholarship

Our Chelsea Education and Community Center began teaching local women during the daytime. They came to learn English, simple math to help them with their small shops, and some to learn to read and write.

The women arriving early for school Tilak and his first shoe

In the afternoon classes we added a course in Shoe Making which resulted in our children opening Papa’s Shoe Shop which provided the kids an income and us all of our school shoes. The children also made shoes for some other school children and a few of the homes that we support.

We opened Hope’s Café at the Skylark School in order to provide our children with a hot and nutritious lunch and to well over 100 other Skylark children.

Children in front of Hope’s Café at lunch time Hope

Our Outreach Programs expanded to include the EDUC School which provides a good education for children of street vendors. Kanti Children’s Hospital Oncology unit to provide medicine and grant final wishes to the children there whose parents are destitute and cannot provide the medicines themselves. Om’s House, a small orphanage that cares for children with disabilities, and OCPF a small orphanage near us. We also extended more support to local families in great need. Hope’s Fund was established to provide primarily medical support or living support to those with disabilities.

EDUC Kanti Children’s Hospital
Om’s House OCPF
Local families in need It was a great year of service and Hope

2015

2015 Began with 136 children. 25 of them in college.

This was a most uncommon year, with two devastating earthquakes; political strikes resulting in months of severe shortages of petrol, cooking gas, food supplies; but it was also a good year too.

January

Our Education and Community Center purchased 36 laptops and began a Math curriculum using Khan Academy online.

Board Member Ted Seymour guided this programs construction with help from Emily Gabbard a Math whiz who volunteered with us.

Ted and Emily with some students Binod, one of our math teachers

February


Our first purchased home. The boys moved in.

February 14th

At the annual Valentines Day Celebration at Skylark Anita was on one side in front of the stage watching with Hope while I was on the opposite side taking photos. Suddenly Hope left Anita’s arms, walking solo for the first time and she came towards me landing and laughing in my outstretched arms. A marathon first walk distance. A walk that will never be forgotten. Others with camera’s caught it on film for us.

March


We opened the Papa’s House Tailoring Shop, owned and managed by our girls.

April

The school year ended in April with 14 of our children scoring between 1st and 3rd in their classes.

Ranked second in their classes Ranked third in their classes


Ranked first in their class

April 18th

One Billion (Girls) Rising came to Dhapasi

April 25th

Just before noon a 7.8 magnitude earthquake would change our lives forever. 9000 people dead, 22,000 people injured.

That same afternoon our children began a clean-up, while neighbors sat huddled in the middle of our grounds, far away from structures, too much in shock to do anything.

By the next day NOH organized its Volunteer Nepal department to go to remote villages that we supported and bring blankets, money and other supplies. The journeys were difficult because of landslides, and the destruction so widespread, but our staff made it through, and they were often the first people to reach those in need.

Aftershocks in the high 6’s were frequent. Our kids showed great strength, and adaptability to living without many things, and prevailing fear among the general population. The children’s support for one another was very touching. We refused to sit around paralyzed like most and each day we strived to bring more order with the clean-up and attempts to resume normalcy.

April 30th

Hope’s Birthday!


We decided to celebrate it well.

May 2nd


We welcomed new children, sister and brother Samita and Sanjeev.

May 11th

A second earthquake. 7.3 magnitude. Our neighborhood below.


The second earthquake opened fresh wounds, so we doubled down on arranging picnics and fashion shows, sports days, and other fun activities and made adventure from the shortages.



August 13th

Another new child arrived. She is from Gorkha, a remote mountainous region that was devastated by the earthquake and had lost her family.

Sarita in front, day of arrival Same day, flashing the peace sign

July and through the rest of the year. Political strife closed our southern border which resulted in severe shortages in petrol, food supplies, cooking gas, all transported goods and goods from India. The Chinese border remained closed due to the earthquake’s landslides. As fall came on the electric was reduced to 8-10 hours per day.

2015 was a year to remember, for it taught each of us about our personal strength, and the power of love for your family.

2016

We began the year with 132 children (39 in college).

This year was notable for the hard work and support that our Outreach Program provided.

Donations poured in as a result of last year’s two earthquakes, allowing us to assist many communities, organizations, and families.

Earthquake rebuilding support was given to

  1. Mother Sister Nepal, an orphanage opened in a remote area to house children orphaned by the earthquake.

     
  2. The total cost of building a new school at the Dumrikhaka Village that we have supported for many years.

     
  3. The Bigu Buddhist Nuns’ Monastery.


     
  4. A boy’s home in Charikot, part of the Bal Mandir network of 9 Children’s Homes.

     
  5. Chaturali Village Medical Clinic.
  6. Home and School in Ghorka, a remote mountain region devastated by the quakes.
  7. Home in Trisoli.
  8. Several families homes in our own community.
  9. The home of our Tutung Volunteer Host family.

In April we welcomed Ranjana into our home.

In May we sent two of our older boys to bring rescue supplies to a Chepong Community of 29 families that had no food and were living on nettle soup.

In June we took hope to Boston in order to have her first operation and to be fitted with state-of-the-art prosthetics.

In August we broke ground on our new Education and Community Center. Early in 2016 NOH President Peter Hess submitted a proposal in response to a request from a Swiss Charity organization. Peter wrote a compelling work outlining the benefit to NOH and the Dhapasi Community if we were able to build a new Center and the grant was approved.


The new center was built on the grounds of our Boy’s Possibilities House

Meanwhile all our other Outreach Programs continued unabated.

2017

2017 began with 132 children, 44 of whom are in college.

In the summer of 2017, following board meetings in Dhapasi, the NOH Board of Directors approved the Strategic Vision of Nepal Orphans Home.  In the fall the in-country operations of Nepal Orphans Home become the Papa’s House Nongovernmental Organization (NGO), rather than an International Nongovernmental Organization (INGO).

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

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

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

Our first black belt holders Bimal, the artist
Urmila in 2017 and on right in 2007 at our Lawajuni Home

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

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

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

2017 2007 Ashok 4th from the left, Dhiraj far right

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

Dhiraj, on the right, has always excelled academically and has helped to develop some of the computer programs taught at the Chelsea Center. He has finished two years of college in Science and is taking a year off to contemplate his future while getting his TOFEL certificate, and exploring opportunities in Medicine, or IT. As an update, Dhiraj will graduate from an IT college in Australia in February 2021. He works very hard and supports himself entirely.

In April the completed Chelsea Education and Community Center was officially opened.

The newly completed CECC An American Embassy Rep and Peter Hess, President of Nepal Orphans Home

Dedication speech by Mr. Roger Biggs representing the Charitable Foundation that provided the grant. And on the right, local woman filling the main hall of the new CECC.

2018

We began the year with 125 Children 51 of them in college.

NOH spent the year in reflection and considering what if any changes we wish to make going forward. A new Director of NOH was named, Mrs. Sunita Pandey who already had seven years working for us while serving in every department.

In our Outreach Program we continued our care for all the existing programs but informed several that the funding was going to be reduced in 2018, and then again in 2019. We increased our local support for individuals and families in need, and we increased our support for the babies at Bal Mandir Orphanage.

One of the babies at Bal Mandir A young boy we took to the Jaipur Clinic in India

NOH enrolled nine of our college students into an apprenticeship program at Park Village Academy under a 6-month program in Hotel Management. The hours spent there allowed for their regular college classes to continue.

The Business Incubator Program helped the older college students to open “Papa’s House Pies” on the grounds of the Chelsea Center, and provided a new loan to the “Brother’s Café” for expansion.

The highlight of the year was the marriage of Anita and Sam. Old friends from 3 continents arrived to witness this remarkable day. Soon thereafter they moved to North Carolina to begin their family’s journey together. Hope absolutely loves it there.

In the fall Hope Angel had her second operation at Shriner’s and came through giving the “thumbs up” while still in recovery. She is the bravest little person I know.

2019

103 children in our Dhapasi homes 57 of them in college.

We welcomed two new children, a brother and sister, in April.


Arrival of Saurob and Renukha


Later that same month with new friends

In April NOH opened its Sanctuary College Girls House to include girls who wished to fully commit to their studies and achieve academic excellence. Twenty-four girls reside there.

Our Outreach program added a small orphanage that housed 10 girls aged 5-8. In addition to providing food, each afternoon two of our college girls go there to mentor the children.

At the end of 2019 NOH ceased to support the Dumrikhaka school. After 10 years of receiving NOH support, including building a new school, it was determined that the village was able to maintain the hot lunch, and teacher support programs on their own.  We reduced support, as planned, for several other Outreach projects feeling confident that these programs could now be self-sustaining.

The Chelsea Education and Community Center, under the Direction of Prashanna Bista flourished. Well over 200 community women continue to receive an education there as well as experiencing workshops in life skills and using the center as a nucleus for celebrating some of the important holidays each year.

In service to our own children the CECC has two hours of daily academics taught by highly educated teachers. The children also have had numerous workshops in life skills and have started training in a variety of media programs.

2019 was a year in which we tightened up our operations, shored up continued educational opportunities for our staff and older children, fine-tuned our Human Resources program for our 42 staff members, over half of whom are our grown children, enabling them savings plans, health benefits, and access to additional training.

We feel that going into 2020 we are prepared to welcome more children into NOH while creating academic and vocational opportunities for our existing children through collaborations and contacts made in Germany, Australia, China, and Portugal.

By way of summation I wish to share this. We frequently suggest to the children essays to write. One was:

 “An asteroid will be hitting the earth; the planet has 14 days left.  How will you spend your time?”  

The children’s essays were impressively well thought out and creative, some humorous, others beautiful, and very touching. Many of the children wished to spend time with elderly people to learn what it is like to grow older; there were some who wished to create something that would live on after them, and in many cases this involved making memories for others to remember them by. Many would busy themselves trying to find people from their past to say thank-you or I am sorry, but all said that when time was almost out they wanted to be with their NOH family because this is where they know love is real; they want us all to be together in the end and together they will not have any fear. Rarely has love been so eloquently expressed.

Thank you all for so many years of support. Because of you the lives of hundreds of children have gone from tragic to beautiful. Sixteen years recorded and generations left to go.

Love,
​Papa

December 2nd, 2019

The last three months have seen many changes in the lives of our children, long-held dreams coming to fruition, new paths planned out and begun. Our family possesses a vibrant sense of energy, pumped up and sustained by witnessing the accomplishments of individuals and recognizing the results of their efforts toward goals which were born as fragile dreams, but piece by piece became solid realities.

 

Lalita, Sandesh, Ram C., Ram S., and Ramesh receiving a Puja from the family the day before they left for Beijing to work as apprentices in Hotel Management. They spent two years in college here in Hotel Management, then attended a Beijing-affiliated college in Nepal for six months of further training and Mandarin lessons. They will be in China at one of many four-star hotels as apprentices for two years. They receive room and board, and a generous wage. They have classroom time each weekday followed by their shift, but have Saturdays and Sundays free. The college has an excellent placement program upon graduation.

*****


​Sabina at her Puja and at the terminal entrance where we had to let go and wish her Godspeed.

Sabina came to us when she was seven. It seems as if she always knew what she wanted to do with her life. She kept a steady focus on school—in attitude, behavior, cheerfulness, and generosity (with both time and energy) for others.  She is going to be a nurse. She is now in Germany having completed a German Language course and signing a contract with a wonderful family to be their au pair. She lives with the family, works 30 hours a week in care of their two young sons, and attends a school for advancing her German. After one year she is eligible to attend college and will be granted a resident visa to study and work. There she will become a nurse. We have five other girls who will be following her to Germany in January.

*****

And then there is Pupu who has kept us laughing for the past 14 years. She would find humor and a perfect delivery for it even if we were walking to the gallows together. Cherished by everyone she has met in her life, she will remain forever in our hearts.


I was honored to be often imitated by her.

Dawn Kumari, her Mom for all these years.

Puja, who I have called Pupu since her arrival, was accepted into college in Sydney, Australia to study Social Work. She left us on Thanksgiving Day in the company of our son Dhiraj who himself was accepted into college for IT in Sydney eighteen months ago. He came home to visit us during our month of Dashain. When Dhiraj first set his sights on Australia, he was encouraged by Laurie Levine and her husband Stan. Laurie has been a part of the NOH family for ten years. Once Dhiraj was accepted, based upon his excellent academic records, Laurie and Stan who live in Sydney, helped him to make connections. They introduced him to a friend who has a small restaurant chain and the rest was made possible by Dhiraj. His attitude before going to Sydney was to never say no. This applied to his work ethic and he proved himself indispensable to the restaurant and has made an excellent income which has allowed him to pay for his own college fees. Stan and Laurie treat him like a son and are very proud, as are we, of his accomplishments. We will next meet in February of 2021 when he graduates; he asked for my attendance and I will find a way to make that happen.


​Mina, Laurie, and Dhiraj

*****

And Anumaya! Anumaya came to NOH shortly after Pupu and they became instant best friends. I have written about them several times, one of the more memorable stories was how Pupu used to terrorize Anumaya at night. Pupu would climb into bed with Anu after she had fallen asleep and begin to whisper ghost stories complete with sound effects which would bring Anumaya groggily awake to Pupu’s story’s crescendo. Her heartbeat beyond measure, she would realize it was only Pupu’s work by the laughter emanating from Pupu who would be hiding under the covers cackling away.

Anumaya, who has always had a penchant for organizing anything and everyone, will be leaving us December the 10th. She was chosen among four of our children to become part of a small staff at an 800-year-old Portuguese family estate whose current generation of owners have a celebrated wine orchard and guests from all over the world. The owners are exceptionally kind people whose staff has been unchanged for many decades. They were eager to reach out to our children and offer this opportunity.  Once Anumaya has settled in, they are anxious to present the same offer to other children of NOH in the making of the next generation of their family staff. We have our dear friend Rui Peres to thank for the introductions and a year’s worth of navigating the immigration requirements.

*****


​Himal, second from left

Rabindra, tallest in photo on left, offering a blessing

The day after we celebrated Thanksgiving, Himal left for Maleny, Australia, near Brisbane.  Maleny is a small town, unique in many ways.  For instance, by their own ordinance, the businesses close at 4pm each day so that everyone can be with their families and attend community events like little league games. The town is very invested in their school system and two years ago they reached out to NOH through our Volunteer Nepal branch and asked us to arrange a two-week stay with us, volunteering in remote as well as local placements. As I recall there were twenty-four who came, ten adult chaperones among them. The two weeks forged an incredible bond between our Volunteer Staff and themselves, so much so that the Maleny group raised enough money to invite the VN staff to Maleny for two weeks in a cultural exchange a year later. Himal was among the staff who went, and he fell in love with the town and its people, and they with him.

Himal has been working towards acceptance into an IT College in Brisbane and to qualify for a visa once accepted. It has taken a year of setbacks and disappointments that would have stopped an ordinary person, but Himal is not that. Unflappable and eternally optimistic, he prevailed.

In the photo of the boys above are ten success stories. This photo was taken the day over a decade ago we took the boys into our home from another orphanage that the government had shut down. Each of them has been a pure delight to raise. From the left, Mahendra is now in the Hotel Management College and will leave for China next May. Himal is next, followed by Khemraj who almost two years ago started his own trekking company here in Kathmandu. Then is Kamal, who has taught at the Chelsea Center for the last two years and is now going back to University while working part time. He has raised four of his poor young cousins these last 18 months, an incredible act of kindness and determination. Next are Ramesh, who has left for China; Rabindra who has been the “Papa’s House” book-keeper for the past two years, and has raised his young nephew for the same amount of time; Ankit, who is now in training to join with the British Army, also teaches the adult women at the Chelsea Center; Nama, a great basketball player who just received a four-year scholarship to play in a well-known Kathmandu university and has traveled to other countries on the Junior National team of Nepal; Bishnu, who married last year and opened a small general store in his village as well as a chicken farm; and finally Lalit, who has been our top student in college and is now starting university, studying computer science.

*****

Five years ago, a young man was invited to our Thanksgiving celebration by another visiting friend of ours. He was moved by the overwhelming warmth of the event, by the humble meal, and mostly by the children’s joy and camaraderie. A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving the following year we received a donation from Jon along with a memorable letter expressing how touched he was to be among us the year before. He said he wished to give back to the children and with his donation provide a truly splendid meal. Jon has continued to do so and this year his generosity allowed for a beyond tantalizing spread. For the first time ever, we barbecued chicken for the growing number of non-vegetarians among us, and a delight for the invited guest who rarely if ever can experience such eating pleasure. Jon’s donation this year exceeded the cost of the meal, so we gave the balance to several of our invited guests who lead truly difficult lives, but always have a smile to offer.

Over one hundred of our children were present. As some of us were reminiscing, we counted close to fifty other children who have since returned to their villages and beyond, most with families of their own now. With 59 children in college and university, 43 children in classes 1-10, and one child in a special needs school, we are a family whose nest will never be emptied.

There is so much more that has happened over the past few months: exciting new staff, tremendous work at our Chelsea Center, accomplishments of our children, and new ideas adopted. There have been weddings, horizons lifted, goals set and others met. I will share all of this in January as we look back over 2019.

But we wished to get this transition-themed update out before Christmas. With so many children in higher education now, we have had to decrease our support for village schools, orphanages, and monasteries. Our work at Kanti Children’s Hospital will not be affected, nor the educational support for many poor children in our community and our Chelsea Center. As we have promised our children that each and every one of them will be able to attend college and university, or technical training, or work/study programs in other countries, the next few years will have increased costs; then things will begin to taper off and NOH will be able to be a source of deliverance for the many programs we supported in our outreach.

Thank you very much for your support.

Papa

June 2019

The new Skylark school year began in late April. It was met with unbridled enthusiasm. The children all having advanced were entering a new world of relative seniority and feeling themselves edging closer to a sense of self-determination typical of kids across the globe when a certain age is met. This idea of independence is enhanced in the western world as driver licenses are granted and the use of family cars literally delivers un-surveyed new territories to young folks. Here the transformation is more internalized; it consists of curious new feelings spoken among friends and some changes in habit. For the older girls it seems subduing; the often-frenetic schoolyard movements give way to sitting with friends and vaguely observing one’s environment. The graduating class typically withdraws itself from the rest as they feel compelled by need or tradition to feel hyper-vigilant of their studies. They, from the first day of school, straddle the threshold between the present and their post-Skylark future.


Our fourteen students who are in their last year of Skylark

*****

NOH has been providing care for a small orphanage near us for about ten years now. Three or four years ago one of our volunteers who spent her time at this orphanage began donating funds to us, targeted to the expanded care of this home. This year, in addition to her covering the lease of the home, Jennifer Hyett provided the funds to send their children to Skylark. Our girls tailoring shop has made all the uniforms. They are a delightfully cute group of children who have seized this opportunity very appreciatively.


Sajan, the young man on the left, has been hired by Jennifer to bring the children to and from school. Sajan, who has CP, has been in this home for the last 12 years or so and is an excellent and protective big brother whom all the children adore.

*****

This year’s Skylark graduating class has had a beautiful transition period into independence. This is largely due to the very careful planning by Prashanna, the CECC Director, and Sunita Pandey the Director of Papa’s House. The graduates all found employment quickly or took on valuable (experientially) internships. One of our daughters, a good student, black belt holder, and all-around wonderful person, went back to her village where she has three sisters all married. Chiya decided to follow in their footsteps with a young man she met during Dashain two years ago.

Many well-planned workshops for our senior class last year enabled them to develop the confidence and presentation skills necessary for going out and seeking positions.

The graduates’ days are planned and full, and they continue to expand their practical and knowledge-based skills. The girls and boys occupy our separate college transition houses where they have learned how to live independent of a manager by dividing tasks that serve the whole. They have learned that the smooth functioning of the group depends upon the timely execution of an individual duties. We are very proud of them all. There is no doubt that what they have learned far surpasses what most college freshmen have a clue about; and this will help them to achieve happiness and success in life, and when college begins in July.


Seventeen of our eighteen grads along with Mrs. Pandey, her husband and daughter on their graduation trip to Pokhara.

*****

We hired two of our recent graduates, Bimala and Mina, to spend their afternoons at an orphanage we were requested to help. There are 10 small girls between the age of 5 and 8 living there. For one reason or another the care for these children had the ebb and flow of the impermanence of funds-so sometimes there was food, sometimes not; sometimes school, sometimes not; sometimes clean clothes, sometimes not.

The lack of funds or a business plan for opening an orphanage never seems a consideration for many homes and the children pay the price. When alerted, the government agencies refrain is, “Are they better off here or on the street?” This is of course shameful. But like with the home mentioned earlier that we have supported for about ten or more years, NOH cannot turn its back on the children, regardless of the confounding existence of the home’s management.

Last week I visited this new home during the hours that Mina and Bimala were present. I found 10 of the most adorable children, their lot in life immensely improved by our providing their food and afternoon childcare. Mina and Bimala are fun and intelligent girls who help with homework and basic mentoring, and have provided an oasis for these girls’ lives, allowing them to sleep with bellies full of nutritious food and to dream childhood dreams undisturbed by the dubious nature of their management.


In April of 2020 NOH will have 14 beds available for new children as this year’s 14 graduates move into the college house. I wish we had room for more than that. It would be nice to see these ten children under our superlative care though previous discussions have centered around our bringing younger girls who have been sold in the continued tradition of Kamlari (indentured servitude). We will soon make the difficult choice. Meanwhile we will make sure these children are well fed, educated, and hopeful.

*****

Srijana and Anupa are beginning their college days with gusto. In addition to learning teaching skills at the Chelsea Center they have also developed a new IT Club with their older brother Ashok as the club advisor. The club meets weekly to explore online tutorials and certificate courses, and to work on their website. Each member of the club has Information Technology as their college major. Both of these girls have six years of computer education through the Chelsea Education and Community Center from our top-notch instructors.

In addition to this, Srijana and Anupa go to our Kanti Children’s Hospital outreach program every afternoon to provide the children in the cancer ward a pleasant reprieve from the slow drip of chemo and uncertain futures by introducing art projects, games, or simple one-on-one conversation.


Anupa on the left and Srijana with their newly designed logo

*****

Another one of our children who makes his life happen is Chham. Chham was among those in the first home we took over in 2005. He was perhaps eight years old then and exhibited a remarkable energy and desire for helping. He was a “big” brother to his smaller siblings and even some older than him. He was a very quiet boy who knew his environment well--his expression always a slight smile with curious, yearning eyes.

Chham graduated with a degree in social work two years ago. Before graduating, he decided that the best he can do in social work is to be independent and simply do it. He has worked hard all his life and saved his money. After the earthquake Chham managed to rebuild a small school and his family’s home in his remote mountain village; he did so with his own labor and that of village people he organized, his savings, and money gifted to him for the cause.

Chham is the essence of the famous Gorkha warrior which consist solely of his caste, Gurung.

In college Chham always had a side gig, or two, or three. He sold light bulbs door to door, vegetables on the street with a pushcart, then he decided to furnish pushcart sellers with vegetables. He has a keen eye for how success can be achieved by hard work and thinking how to do better, how to develop a niche that others have not seen missing.

Presently Chham is the owner of Four Brothers Trekking. He started the business three years ago and managed his three brothers into it. Chham has received his license from the government in high-altitude trekking...a major accomplishment. The brothers are all hardworking, honest Gurung men whose backyard is the Himalayas; they have always worked as porters. Their website is most impressive; please go to www.fourbrotherstrek.com to learn more. Chham has recently put money down on a jeep to take trekkers to remote areas. He is a young man on a mission.

We are proud of every one of our children. The success of some of our older children can be attributed to the support of NOH by our wonderful family of donors. And the opportunities that are available for all our children, especially educationally, are made entirely possible by you.


Chham in early 2005, we were then taking over the home he was in...and in February 2019


A very proud Chham and his new 20-year-old jeep

*****

Our new brother and sister, Saroub and Renukha have settled in well. They are smart kids, but their academic education just begins. Renukha had less classroom time than Saroub whose own experience with school was very limited. However, they love school and seem to be quick learners. They joined class three together.  This is an all English school, but their teachers are sensitive to that and our kids are helping them a lot. This week the children have their mid-term exams which make even the best of students nervous; but when asked if they have any tension, they offer sweet what-me-worry smiles in response. 


Sandip and Saroub shooting baskets and Renukha on a Saturday afternoon

*****

Taekwondo


Back: Sujan, Hemantha, Mary, Muskan, Sumi, and Suman
Front: Sita, Juna, Sandip, Alisha, Anita, and Asha

These eleven uniformed children are the last remaining active Taekwondo students. Eighteen or so others have conflicts between the 5 a.m. lesson time and college which begins at 6 a.m. and have sadly dropped out. Many before those photographed here achieved black belt status.

In the last three competitions we have done well with Alisha winning twice in sparring and a second-place finish once. Suman has placed second once and third twice in sparring. Asha has a third place in sparring and a second place in forms. Anita and Sita both have third place finishes in sparring, and Muskan a second-place finish in sparring.


Alisha

Asha

Suman

Muskan

*****

Photo Club

Our newly formed photo club is led by Khusbu Singh.


Khusbu shown here collecting an academic award from the Skylark Principal

She and a handful of others have been interested in photography ever since “Finding Neverland” came to us during Dashain of 2013. This was an NGO from Dubai that brought good small cameras as gifts and professional instructors for a two-week workshop ending in a public exhibition of the children’s work. One club member, Selina, sent me some photos last night where she was playing around with imagery perspectives.

We have discussed the idea of the club doing a yearlong project that would capture their lives in the four seasons of Dhapasi. We will see how this goes, possibly putting it together both online and in book form when the year is over. And in this coming Dashain, Ted Seymour, an accomplished photographer and NOH Board Member, will again be present to lead photography workshops as he does yearly.

Meanwhile I leave you with a couple of Selina’s Saturday photographic ideas.

And below, a couple of nature shots from Gita: 

*****

By my observation there are three types of people who would risk death to climb Mount Everest. The mountain climbers who have their lives, dreams, and years in preparation for it by climbing 6000 to 8000 meter peaks across the globe in order to best position themselves to achieve success. Then there are the vain who are not willing to sacrifice their time and energy in preparation and who think they can buy their way to the top while risking others’ lives for their quest, lacking even the passion to call it Quixotic. And finally, the Sherpa, super humans born to the mountain who hold it in extreme reverence, who worship it as their Mother. Given educational opportunities for their children or other gainful employment, the Sherpa would prefer to live in peaceful concert with Sagarmatha in her shadow.

The climb to the summit is nightmarishly treacherous. The real climbers know this, the Sherpas know this, and the vain soon learn it. Though some have been removed, the mountain is strewn with over 300 bodies, frozen to this day in the position of their death, many on the path to the summit, that must be stepped over.

Among the dead are many Sherpas who have given up their lives to help their clients; many are highly skilled climbers caught in unexpected weather. Many, including around thirty Sherpas, have been swept away in avalanches, one in 2014 and another during the 2015 earthquake. And many are the vain who despite every heroic effort of their Sherpas to sometimes literally short rope them to the top, become insubordinate, reckless, sick, or disastrously confused in the death zone, imperiling many, especially the Sherpas, whose sense of honor compels them to extraordinary effort and often the ultimate sacrifice while trying to protect them.

I would like to introduce you to a climber who does not fit neatly into any of the above descriptions. Nisha Bhote is the 20-year-old eldest daughter with four sisters and a younger brother. Her father struggles as a Sherpa for teams ascending Mount Everest. He began as a porter when a young man, but gradually worked his way up.

Nisha would listen to the stories of her father and other Sherpas of the good days and bad days of climbing Everest in advance to set all the ropes and ladders, and then guiding westerners to the summit. She was quietly fascinated by them and a seed of yearning was planted early on. But life for the family in their remote and very poor village was a constant struggle. The local school was in disarray and qualified teachers nonexistent. Nisha’s father wanted more for his children than he could give and worried about their futures. Finally, he managed to send Nisha to Kathmandu to live with an aunt and attend Skylark English School here in Dhapasi. But the spell of the mountains never left her, knowledge that she kept to herself as she knew her family’s finances would never support her interest.

For two years Nisha dreamed of climbing Mount Everest and with the passage of time she found the dream overtaking her daily thoughts, interrupting her ability to concentrate in college. It was becoming an obsession building pressure within her until one day she confronted her father and shared what was in her heart. Her father is a calm, quiet, and methodical man. He listened gently to the outpouring of his daughter’s heart. Then he answered that she is his first daughter and together they would find a way to make her dream come true.

They found little support or understanding for Nisha’s desire; the community saw it as self-indulgent. This did not surprise Nisha but caused her sadness and to further wrestle with the guilt she already felt over becoming a burden to her father and her family. The Sherpa community views climbing Mount Everest as something they must do to survive; they are the guardians of the mountain and of those who find it sport, but their respect for Sagarmatha gives little room to understand a young Sherpa girl’s desire. But despite this, her father defended his daughter’s ambition and training began.

For lack of money the training was limited to the conditioning Nisha could do on her own, then technical training by her father and his friends, and finally she was outfitted with the discards of western climbers. She went to Lobuche (20,161 ft.) for strength and acclimation training. She did one other more technical peak just a short while before beginning the 10-day trek to the Everest Base Camp at over 17,000 ft.

Nisha was allowed to join a small expedition guided by a friend of her father. Her father was a guide in a larger expedition at the same time and they would see one another in Base Camp.

Base Camp is where acclimation begins; it is for some a slow process and will involve round trips to Camp One (20,000 ft.) two or three times and then to Camp Two (21,000 ft) one time before leaving BC for good and settling at Camp One.

Base Camp to Camp One passes under the Icefall. This is a horror chamber filled with rumbling from below the surface, thunderous explosions of ice cracking and falling, and with sudden gusts of very strong wind. Ice is frozen in a wave’s curl over a path filled with numerous, often hidden crevasses. This area is best passed through before dawn when the temperatures are the coldest. Some of the crevasses are bridged with an aluminum ladder with loose ropes on each side, the distance across up to 16 ft., the distance down thousands of feet. You are wearing thick boots with crampons to grab the ice, but here they must try and straddle the distance between ladder rungs. You pass over one at a time, knowing the slightest misstep ends your life.

Camp One is called the Valley of Silence. You lay in your tent hearing the moans of crevasses opening and closing beneath the surface and the pounding headaches cause sleepless nights when your determination to go on is severely tested.

Camp Two is at 21,000 ft., reached after seemingly endless slow walking. You set up camp on a rocky flat under a 4000 ft. sheer ice wall known as the Lhotse Wall. You are exhausted and the temptation is to rest, but the determined will walk around breathing deep, saturating the body with more oxygen. This night was the second in which Nisha could not sleep or eat, and in the dawning light she would have to climb the Lhotse Wall to Camp Three.

“We walked a little way to the Wall; it was a slow walk and hard, but warmed us up. At the Wall there are many ropes dangling down, you choose carefully, apply your carabiners, and climb. After maybe 90 minutes there is an Ice Bulge that is more than vertical that you must climb over. You push deep into the ice with your crampons and ice ax, breathe deep, one slow step after another, staying aware and focused, but not thinking of anything but each step. Finally, we reached camp. This night I used oxygen for about 5 hours, the altitude is around 24,000’. I slept deeply.

“Camp Three was at around 25,000ft. This is a dangerous, small plateau on the rock face. If you must leave your tent at night you must be fully dressed and secured to the ropes. This is a narrow platform. I am so tired. We leave in a few hours for Camp Four.

“Once under way we traversed the wall to a rocky section, frozen monoliths and a tangle of ropes with many crevasses--some narrow enough to step over, some wider to jump over--but I am short, and my legs have lost their jump. Others have the ladders over, that must be crossed one slow fitted step at a time with only a loose rope in each hand for balance. Once past this we faced another wall to traverse, this is very steep but not too high. Past this we see Camp Four. This is in the Death Zone, 26,000 ft. We camp. We are practically in space here. Everyone is lost in their own thoughts. The wind howls; fear is in everyone’s eyes. I try to stay hydrated and I nibble on some energy bars as darkness begins to fall bringing with it severe cold and haunting winds. In about six hours we will prepare for our summit attempt. We lie still in our tents and try to rest.

“I heard my guide calling me. Suddenly it was time to begin. I left the tent and the night sky was clear. It looked like we were in the Milky Way galaxy, billions of stars softly twinkling in a white vapor-like sea. The winds at that time were coming in strong gusts, then stopping. I looked ahead and could see a line of flickering head lamps worming its way higher and it suddenly filled me with excitement. We climb and climb. It is terrifying in the darkness, and it is so cold that the crampons barely cut into the ice. Some have stopped climbing and you must unhitch from the rope to go around them, and soon others are descending having reached their limit of endurance, they unhitch and go around you and hitch again. I was feeling pretty good and my pace felt comfortable. I reached the balcony where one can take a short rest; we have climbed for six hours so far. I changed my oxygen bottle as the first thin line of light seemed drawn onto the curvature of the horizon, I stood ready to go on, my feet were very cold, and I kicked my boots a few times in response. I climbed more and after rounding a corner and up a short ridge I came to the South Summit. We traversed across the summit and around another corner there lay the peak of Everest itself. My eyes began to tear. It was so close now just maybe 100 meters, yet hours away as the most daunting climb is yet to come. Everest has done its best to keep her summit from being reached thus far, but has saved its greatest gauntlet so near to success. The Knife Ridge is worse than anyone could ever prepare you for. It is very steep and barely wide enough to cross, 2 ft. at best. To each side is a freefall of about 3000 meters. Your feet are frozen, the optimism you moments before felt has turned to sheer panic. You climb a step and breathe. You are at a crazy angle, the winds are blowing so hard, nothing but freefall to each side of you. Another step, your lungs are bursting, your heart wild in your chest and then you come to the remains of the Hillary Step, a 12-meter, but now more manageable, rock climb. It was mostly hard packed snow and ice and though strenuous it was a relief from the Knife Edge.

“Everest’s peak is not visible now and I am losing my hope. We transverse this area painfully slowly. A few climbers are now descending, here there is room for them to pass by. They have reached the top. We climb yet another ridge and upon reaching it I realize …


May 23rd, 2019

“I have made it. After a few moments at the top trying to take in the view through teary eyes I moved off the top and wrapped my culture dress around me, removed my oxygen mask and goggles and quickly posed for sake of my culture. And then we began our descent, back along the Knife Ridge, climbing down scarier than climbing up. Once off the Knife Ridge the path widens and teams ascending are painstakingly trudging by. I saw my father coming up and when he was near his eyes met mine; they were smiling. He turned me around and looked at my oxygen tank, my regulator was too low, and he increased it. We talked for a moment, then he patted my shoulders and continued on.”

*****

Nisha Bhote is a quiet girl who does not see her accomplishment worthy of much talk. She is back now blending anonymously in the dusty streets of Dhapasi. During her time on Everest, eleven people gave up their lives attempting to Summit. Nisha was kind enough to tell her story to me, and I have expressed her feelings as accurately as possible in the story above.

That is the update for June 2019.

Thank you all for your support.

Papa

February 15th, 2019

Yesterday we celebrated Valentine’s Day, a long-running tradition at NOH in concert with the Skylark School, made possible by Possible Worlds NGO. The young dreamer on the left, Khusboo, received an award for “Top Student” of Skylark and is shown here receiving it.

And this adorable little mop-head, Anita, holding her first Christmas stocking back in 2007, was voted Skylark’s “Prettiest Girl.” She is also one of our more gifted academically.

Rajan, on his first day of school and yesterday, at one of his last days of school, was voted the student “Most Likely to Succeed.”

This was a day that touched me deeply to see how our children have grown and become such peer admired and accomplished young people. This list of awards bestowed upon our senior and junior classes at Skylark is a long one. The strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” swirled in my thoughts as I watched, and what parent has not risen to their feet with a trembling chin and looked upon the stage through teary eyes as their son’s or daughter’s name has been called, and felt what life is really all about clarified in that moment.

In attendance yesterday were many of our college and working children who themselves were called to the stage in years past, and they whistled and cheered watching their younger brothers and sisters, who many years prior stood in the audience and cheered for them. And many more will follow.

Transitions are demanding upon our emotions and bring about a good deal of reflection and wonder. Going off to college is a tough one for parents and children alike, in different ways, quietly angst-ridden for both. But they usher in new chapters in our lives which both parties will embrace, slowly and then fully when enough time has allowed us to resolve the loss. Saturday lunches with all the children help us to know that everything is going to be fine, to see our children evolving into the young adults we wished for them to be, and to feel the joy for them in their own discoveries.

The future remains uncertain, but forever in my thoughts, perhaps too much so. The other day while I was braiding hair for school, one of the girls said, "Papa, how long will you be here?" I thought she meant living with them, or perhaps more morbidly, living on earth, and thus described my loose plans which brought me to a time line of 7 more years, with them. They all listened politely, exchanging looks with one eyebrow raised, when she said, "No, I mean now, I have to get something, but I don't want you to leave before doing my hair.”

The love of children at all ages is very rewarding, but I am of late particularly moved by the demonstrated affection towards me of our boys and girls who are now young adults and have grown into a sense, through both of our aging, of wishing to watch over me a bit as I have always watched over them. Their kindness and attitude are sometimes as sobering as they are touching, as it suggests they see me as needing some watching over, something I hope not to see in myself for a good many years to come. Their concern is premature, but tender and gratifying.

So, with this I leave you the roll call of our children who remain in our homes and others near to us and still in our care, at least educationally. The New Year in Nepal is fast approaching, and the children advance another level in school and in life. At this time next year our doors will be swung wide open to receive a new batch of very small children who have been orphaned or abandoned, and for them a new life, a chance to be children in a loving, happy, and safe family where dreams are encouraged, desired, and supported by one and all will begin.

View the 2019–2020 photos:

Thank you,
Papa

November 2018

It is time for me to begin the “Update.” This happens when the inspiration appears, or deadline looms large. In the former case, I am sometimes delightfully pulled along in a subconscious flow, tapping away, and trying not to disturb the fragile relationship between the current, and my own thoughts, I try to be still and simply write. When this works, the ambient sounds of my neighborhood, kids playing in the streets, half-deflated soccer balls being kicked across the gravel road, vendors on bicycles with booming baritones shouting out their wares to people inside their homes, the shrieking whistle of trash collectors, will all fade away. In the latter case, feeling the pressure of a deadline to write, I am assaulted by it all.

There is a lot to share in this update. I am touched by the evolution of our children and organization and will be writing about that and more. But first I am writing this under the eclipse of Hope’s surgery which will take place in Greensville, SC, the other side of the planet from me, at 6:45 pm my time, just 4 hours and thirty minutes hence.

Her operation was postponed from September, when I was present for her, due to Hurricane Florence that swept in that week. It is hard not to be with her now, but she is with her mom Anita, who has raised the bar on good mothering to a lofty extent, and her loving step-father Sam. Hope will be fine.

Hope is one of the most impressive children, scratch that, humans I know. She has never questioned her missing feet, nor has she ever complained. When she falls, she quickly offers “I’m okay” for my sake, I believe, and carries on with a smile. Though unspoken by Hope, nor showing in her face, I believe that usually present in her thoughts is her desire to walk, run, and stay in pace with the others. Anita sent me a video shortly after they moved to North Carolina. Hope had received a push scooter a week earlier and spent hours each day getting the hang of it while going up and down the wide sidewalks of their community with her mom, or grandmother at her side. Meanwhile Hope met some of the kids in the neighborhood who all had scooters as well and would ride them in small packs. The video Anita sent showed this pack coming down the sidewalk, literally downhill, a gentle but steady decline. All the kids with their colorful helmets were gliding along without a care, and then I spotted Hope in the middle, the most demanding of positions in a pack, and there she was with equal grace and calm.  As they passed where Anita was filming, Hope looked up and smiled and in that smile I saw her quiet victory. It was her moment, undiscerned by all others, but I could see and feel in her smile her pulsing with joy at a threshold crossed, and as the camera swung to catch the retreating pack I cheered from my desk 8000 miles away and felt flush with the grateful exultation one can only feel as a parent’s witness to their child’s moment of inner bliss, their triumph of accomplishment. The potency of such moments leaves one spent, mortality over-ridden by the spirit alone. These are the sweet flashes in time that remind one of how utterly great life can be.

Hope has adapted well to her new environment, a culture with its own rules that she eagerly accepts. She made neighborhood friends that go to her school, some in her class. To the bus stop each morning go the mothers, chatting while their sons and daughters walk side by side, backpacks in place, busy with conversation likely around “What’s in your lunch box today?” When the bus comes, Hope makes the first step up with her compensating arm muscles in a swift move that belies the quick calculations she performs necessary to rise in step with the others. She waves out the window and is gone into her own separate world until 3:30 brings her round again. The walk home, as in the walk to school, brings her to independence, this brings her back to family — the two worlds that children navigate as they begin to explore their way in the world.

Anita overheard Hope’s new friend one day, in the innocent inquisitiveness of small children, ask Hope what happened to her feet. This is a question Hope has never asked us, though we were prepared for it, and as thus we have never provided an answer to. “I had an accident,” Anita heard her reply, simply stated as one might say, “We had pizza last night.” Her friend said “Oh,” and they resumed their banter. A stated fact given, curiosity filled, and life goes on.

Most likely when you are reading this, Hope will be back in school. Sam and Anita have purchased a wheelchair for Hope and made arrangements for the handicapped bus to come and pick her up. Hope has allowed herself one week only to be absent from school, this she reassured her friends when they hugged her goodbye on Friday.


*****

Later this same day, Hope came through the operation in good form.


Hope before walking into the OR

Hope in the recovery room

At this Shriners Hospital the child must say goodbye to the parents outside the operating rooms. Hope took it all in stride according to Anita, and followed the process without complaint. The medical staff had high praise for Hope when they came to inform Anita and Sam that the operation was over. Back in her room Hope gives one thumbs up — she scores most everything that is going on in her day by the number of thumbs up or down.

Anita did not take time to remove her jacket in her excitement to see Hope when she came back to her room. And, still waiting for Hope was a Halloween party. Shriners Hospitals are amazing places, very worthy of support.

And last, after Hope and I shared a video call, she slept, the long anticipated (by her parents) day was done, and all was well.

*****

Ishwor and his classmates have just completed their two years of “college.” Now they will begin University. Ishwor had taken the challenging science stream for the past two years, sacrificing free time to achieve entrance to a medical science path in the university system. He sat for the exam, along with over a thousand other students and achieved the rank of 24th overall. He will soon enter Manmohan Memorial Institute of Health Sciences to earn his four-year bachelor’s degree in Medical Laboratory Technology. The competition for entrance to the limited seats available is great obviously, and thus scholarships are only for the first 16 places. The top eleven win coveted seats at the Government University, the next five are granted some scholarship money from the better private schools, and the others unceremoniously vie for the best they can find.


Ishwor, a fine athlete, scholar, and gentleman

*****

Also in this same class Sabina, another science student, decided to complement her studies by learning German at the Embassy here. She wishes to study nursing and wisely feels her best career move at this stage would be to do so in Germany. Sabina began her language studies a few months ago in addition to the mind-numbing coursework she had. She will qualify to sit for the visa exam in another three months, and upon passing it will be eligible for work in Germany, and then after one year’s residency she would be allowed to attend nursing school there.


Sabina in black jacket at last February’s Valentine’s Day celebration

*****

Dhiraj is settling in nicely in Australia. He wrote the following letter last week:

Dear Papa

How are you? I want you to know that I miss you guys so much and there is not even a single day I don't miss u guys and of course you papa.

Life is moving on with a lot of interesting and new things every day.  I feel really blessed to have Laurie and Stan in my life and they have hearts of gold.

I work 10 hours a day and 5-6 days a week. I have made around AUD$2500 till today in a month. I work for a Chicken shop where we sell a lot of chicken and salads. It is owned by one of Stan’s friends who is a South African. There are 4 Nepali boys working there with me. They are paid $14 an hour and he used to pay me around $13 per hour when he was training me. Now I am trained and work hard and he pays me $16 an hour. I have created a small family for myself with Laurie and Stan and all their family members and friends. Lots of their Family invite me for dinner and breakfast, everyone wants to see me and talk to me about my life in Nepal and changes, so it feels like home Papa. I am loving it here and excited about my university soon starting on 12th of November. I feel I am so blessed Papa. First to get you in my life. I would not have able to do this in my life and secondly all the people I have known because of you Papa. Thanks, Papa for all those strict rules in the hostel with Sam and all the house managers. Whatever I am doing is your achievement Papa.

Thanks for life Papa.

Thank you for everything Papa

Please bless me, Papa,

I Love you

I miss you

A big hug and with tears on my eyes

Love you Always

Dhiraj

Dee(That's what everyone calls me at work)

And a small bit of my reply:

Dear Dhiraj

I am very proud of you, but Australia is not the proving ground for it, I have been proud of you from long ago. Australia simply provides further evidence of why.

This Dashain you were here in spirit, remembered well, and you will never be forgotten. But you were 1 among many children not in attendance when everyone younger than me (I could have simply said everyone) sat cross legged on the mats and prepared to receive my blessing. What an absolute honor that act is in my eyes. One more of the many benefits of age, and my life among you all.


Dhiraj taking a Sydney arrival selfie

With Papa in 2009

*****

Nama is an athlete with natural talent, but he has become superb due to his commitment to the sport of basketball. At Skylark he commanded the courts and gained the awareness of college programs. He received a full scholarship at Morgan College, noted more for its basketball program then its academics, which are still better than the average.

Nama has also just completed his college classes and is looking at University. This past year he did pretty well academically while playing for Morgan, as well as on the National level on the Nepal Army team. The National level of play is most impressive, and they compete throughout the year both in-country and internationally.

In addition to his on-court prowess is his off-court kindness and eagerness to help anyone in need. If ever he sees me toiling outside he will come and try to relieve me of the tools and take over. He is a quiet leader, by example, in all that he does.

*****

This is a recent painting by Bimal. I admired it profusely, so he gave it to me. I instead had it framed and it hangs in the Chelsea Center where many eyes get the pleasure. We have as a Saturday art teacher a man with flawless technical abilities; he teaches at the Art College and paints when he has time, often commissioned. He has been teaching Bimal and others for over a year now and Bimal, a very gifted young man who loves to paint, has had his own technical level increased remarkably. What I love about his new style is how he imbues his paintings with the emotions of the people inhabiting the canvas. Bimal has a sensitive artist soul with the deft touch of a great craftsman.

*****

Anisha had been working as a waitress for several months in the late afternoons and early evenings while attending college. She works and studies hard. NOH has been supporting the babies at the quasi-government orphanage for quite some time. We thought the time had come for us to have one of our own there each day to make sure the babies received individual attention and our thoughts turned to Anisha, and when asked if she would like to do it she jumped at the opportunity. She has been there for several months now and a world of difference has resulted by it in the energy level and number of smiles the babies share. And we are feeling a lot more serene in our involvement in trying to make the best of the situation for them.


The bottom two photos show Anisha with Sarika, the little one that I wrote about in an earlier update. She is now getting the attention and touch all babies deserve…but which before Anisha were not coming her way…and now she is blossoming because of it.

*****

Our daughter Mary came to us from as far west in Nepal as the country goes. A mountain village without electricity, nor the sound even of petrol-powered mechanics. A peaceful place, but one that demands an abiding relationship with nature to survive in. I wrote a story about Mary and how she happened to come to us almost 9 years ago, leaving behind her father and little sister who was only 3 at the time. Mary often thought about her sister and over the past few months her thoughts were shared with us and we decided to try and find her. Clues were few, but tangible. The family had lost direct contact with her sister 6 years ago when a family friend said he could get her into a school in Kathmandu. They allowed him to bring her and then lost touch with their friend, and as the seasons came and went, time soon covered her tracks, and memory. But with a little effort we found that her sister was in an orphanage on the other side of Kathmandu. We called them and found the man whose family started the orphanage 35 years ago rather surprised when I let him know about Laxmi, Mary’s sister. I took Mary to meet her little sister the next day, and then a couple of weeks later we picked up Laxmi and brought her to stay with Mary for part of our Dashain. Coincidentally, this search provided collateral information that Mary’s father is a kidney patient here at the government hospital; he has severe renal failure in both kidneys and is on dialysis. His situation is unfortunate as he hasn’t any money for ongoing treatment. But now Mary and Laxmi have had the opportunity to meet with him and their aunt, after so many years. The universe presents opportunity, but not always solution.


Mary and Laxmi reunited. Sisters, but in Laxmi’s mind she never knew

*****

Late in the summer we turned our attention to tightening the bonds between the 250 women who attend free classes each day at our Chelsea Center and the children of NOH. Ted Seymour, a member of the NOH Board, spent a month here observing all of our programs and this idea was part of his suggestions. So, to this end we began the “Auntie Program.”

One of the quaint practices in Nepal has all children calling older women “Auntie” and older men “Uncle.” All adults refer to older males as “Dhaai” and older woman as “Didi”, brother and sister, and “Bhaai” for a younger male and “Bahini” for a younger female. Thus everyone is your brother or your sister. It is quaint, but it serves a greater purpose to strengthen the bonds of respect and behavior among all people, and it helps to keep insensitivities at bay.

We decided to ask the Aunties if they would host a child for a normal family dinner. The response was excellent initially, but as we added some rules such as picking up the child and bringing them home again, and being absolutely on time both ways, the numbers thinned. The final count was 38 Aunties were excited to do this with the rules in place. The Aunties were advised to allow the child to participate in the dinner preparations and to strive to make them feel like family as opposed to a guest. The two rules need to leap huge cultural impediments. Time is a loose concept among the Nepalis, and “Guest is God” is a notion applied to anyone entering your house, thus serving the guest with the utmost of care and respect is a cultural imperative. But they did well on both counts and the kids and aunties had fun, which was the largest end-point. All things take time to make perfect, but we are optimistic that this is a program with great possibilities. The debriefing after was full of positive responses and setting a date for the next dinner received an enthusiastic affirmation.

Another aspect of the culture is to not demonstrably show affection, hugging is rare, and yet, to my delighted eyes, when we called out the names of the “couples” many Aunties gave their child a welcome hug. Just amazing, and I was moved to see this, as hugging is something that I know our children enjoy.



The Aunties and their daughters and sons for the evening

*****

As most of you know, October is the time when Dashain and Tihar are experienced in Nepal and India. These are 30-plus day festivals in honor of gods, families, and a small sampling of animals, the cow taking the seat of highest honor. There are two days of particular reverence and tradition, one in Dashain and the other in Tihar.

On “Dashain” families gather and after bathing but before eating, a Puja is given. The elder of the family will lead off applying “tika” to the foreheads of the assembled family who kneel or sit cross-legged in wait. While applying the tika, made from color and rice, it is incumbent to offer a blessing, then place a specially grown straw called “Jamula” behind the ear or tucked into the hair, and finally you place some small bills and coins into the recipient’s hands. It is a tradition easy for me to like. It takes the Western world’s seasonally spoken “Peace be with you” up a few notches.

After the patriarch completes all, then the matriarch and others who wish to do so, such as uncles and elder brothers or sisters are free to follow suit.

If tikas took the shape of countries, Rajan had the U.S. Mary, good natured as Sarita mocked a selfie.

Aakriti’s World, gentle, intriguing

Mina developing into her new name “Naina”

Urmila, brilliant, kind, yearning

Kailashi, Sumitra, Sarita, alive and energized

Ashok, garland by Prashanna

Sapana, Gita, and Sarita, three special, real sisters

*****

“PAPA’S HOUSE PIES”

A love of pie baking and sharing spawned the idea that we should sell them. Pie is a new taste in Nepal; I am not aware of anything closely resembling traditional pies here, though bakeries are in a renaissance period in Kathmandu.

So, we shaped this to be a business that will grow and as it does, employ more of our science stream college and university students to give a few hours a week each, as they can afford. Their time in the bakery we feel will be a necessary mental release from study, clearing their thoughts and allow them to return fresh and sharp to the books.

We will put all the profit from this business into a special fund to provide support (rent and food) for the university level kids to be able to focus on their demanding studies. Science students attend school from 10 a.m. until 5-6 p.m. six days a week, leaving no time for earning. By participating in the pie business, they are “earning” their support with just a few hours a week according to their own schedule.

Marketing has occupied a lot of time this past month, as well as preparing the bakery, and developing new pies according to seasonally available produce. We hope to open after Tihar. Our first target will be the US Embassy where they have already posted our advertisement on their bulletin board, a local restaurant where embassy staff take their lunch, local coffee shops, and we hope a local grocer where the embassy staff shops. Closer to home we will have Pie Fridays at the Chelsea Center and encourage the “Aunties” to buy our pies, tarts, muffins, and cookies to take home to family.

As through our years of the Chelsea Center changing the educational landscape of our adult community, we hope to change the dietary taste, and bring some occasional treats into the homes of Dhapasi. Beta testing has shown this will happen; it is a great cause and a wonderful taste.


Former cow shed that we remodeled after purchasing the property and before building the Chelsea Center. It went from cow shed to college boys home one year, to office space, and now the “first” home of “Papa’s House Bakery.”

Asha has a career interest in baking. We sent her to a six-month course at a fine resort to open the pathway for her. They did not do pies, but her familiarity in the kitchen, her availability during the day, her having cooked with me for years at our Friday night dinners, and her excitement have made starting this business easy. She will eventually manage what will one day be another of our children’s enterprises.

*****

Thanksgiving of 2013 was one that will never be forgotten. We had Hope with us, and NOH seemed to find its center around her. A time of deeply felt family unity from which all individuals prospered. Present that year was Kathy Procanik, one of Hope’s godmothers. Before leaving her hotel to come to Thanksgiving dinner she invited a young man she had met, and a few others who had no plans for the day, to come with her. The young man is Jonathan Paluga. I wrote about him last year, and he deserves to be written about every year.

Moved by the way we celebrated Thanksgiving, by the children and their love for one another, their caring, and their spirit, he sent a donation and a beautiful letter describing what the day had meant to him soon after he returned home.

The next year he returned with his partner Kym. A month before coming he sent another donation which he hoped would pay for the Thanksgiving dinner, which made it a Thanksgiving Feast!

Each year since, Jonathan has increased his commitment to our children’s Thanksgiving in an amount that broadly exceeds the cost of a Feast and is then applied to the educational enhancement opportunities we encourage among our children.

To me, Jonathan exemplifies the spirit of Thanksgiving whose meaning I yearly impress upon our children in a sermon they politely endure before they eat.

What Jonathan does makes possible a day that is eagerly looked forward to, as deeply to the children as Christmas, and Dashain. It is my favorite family event, as closely resembling an American Thanksgiving family dinner as we can muster with the challenges of Nepal always lurking. The gift is for us, but I have to imagine that when Jonathan and Kym sit down with their own family for Thanksgiving, that they are holding hands under the table and smiling as the blessing is given, knowing what a blessing they have bestowed upon us across the planet.

Kym with Hope and me in 2014 Jonathan and Kym at Bouda

*****

SANCTUARY FOR KIDS

Mother, actress, director, and philanthropist, Amanda Tapping lives to give hope and opportunity to all people. Amanda has united legions of fans to have the courage to listen to their hearts and act accordingly, to find their voice, to learn they are not alone, that they can change the world and themselves through reaching out their hands to others.

How is it that a highly successful celebrity can be so honest, down to earth, available, and use her position to motivate others to find their spirit and make it come alive, with as much attention as she gives to her craft? Both are full time occupations sometimes done well by two different individuals, never both done by one.

One of my favorite photos. This is Jill Bodie who along with Amanda and Jill’s husband, Damian Kindler, founded Sanctuary for Kids in 2008. Jill is a mother, a wife, a teacher and life coach with extraordinary passion for making a difference for children left behind by societies too busy to care.

This is Sylvia Patterson, the Director of (S4K). I have not met Sylvia but through e-mails. She is the orchestra leader whose consummate skill in business guides the foundation and weaves it into the lives of far-flung organizations such as ours, while handling the myriad logistics that have enabled S4K to unite Amanda’s fan base and turn it into highly successful yearly conventions that benefit attendees and beneficiaries alike.

I had an introductory e-mail to Amanda in early 2009. One of our volunteers, a gifted young Irishman, was building the S4K website at the time. He was moved by NOH and quietly lobbied Amanda, Jill, and Damian to consider making us one of their first grant recipients.

Through this, Amanda, Jill, and I exchanged several e-mails and soon thereafter plans were made for them to come to Nepal along with one of Jill’s daughters, Hannah. I was at that time unaware of Amanda’s fame as I had been off the grid for quite a few years here, and even previously in America I did not watch television or read about entertainment. Then one day I mentioned to another volunteer that Amanda Tapping was coming for a visit and this volunteer was incredulous, remarking, “How in the world do YOU know Amanda Tapping?!” This mid-thirty aged man pursuing his PhD in Education proclaimed gushingly, “I am so in love with her,” and proceeded to fill me with nervousness over meeting Amanda.

When Amanda, Jill, and Hannah arrived I found in Amanda a beautiful and radiant woman as kind and easy as a girl next door that one had grown up with and who made you feel that nothing was special about them but their enduring friendship to you for life. As Amanda and Jill would sit in late afternoon conversations with me, their fame disappeared, I felt more in the company of two people who were special because they had chosen to live their lives in service to others, both highly intelligent and motivated, and with a great sense of humor. They asked insightful questions and would be moved to silence and tears to hear about the lives of our children before coming to us.

Once, four years ago I had an e-mail from a friend who was also a big fan of Amanda’s. She said to go to You Tube and watch an interview Amanda had done in London before a large audience.

Midway in the interview Amanda was open to questions from the audience. One question was along the lines of “What was the last thing that inspired you?” a rather generic question. Amanda sat quiet for a moment, then said “Hope.” She then proceeded to tell the story of our daughter and she did so through tears. This broadened into a response that included factually accurate stories of not just Hope but many of our children. The audience was breathless, the on-stage interviewer speechless. This is Amanda Tapping, an amazing human being who clearly listens and takes it all to heart.

Two years ago, Anita and I were in Boston where Hope was getting surgery at Shriners. Jill wrote to me and said she was in Massachusetts getting her daughter settled in college. She wrote that she would love to come and help us out with babysitting, errand running, or in any way we might need help during this time. Again, as illustration of kindness to all, Jill, very successful, known to many celebrities, very busy, was willing to drop what she was doing and lend a hand to simple people she knew mostly by our shared values and the long-time support of S4K for our work.

The day came for goodbye, Saraswati’s face said it all. Amanda and Jill had reached the heart of all our children, every one of them, by their motherhood, comfort, listening, and embracing.

Amanda leaving each child aware that if they believe in themselves and work hard they will be everything they wish to become.

Jill letting the kids know what a mother feels like. And Hannah mesmerizing the children by her beauty, calm, and intelligence.

I write about S4K now as earlier this year Amanda, Jill, and Sylvia let us know that S4K will cease to exist after December of this year. They have served so many over the last ten years. From S4K we have received countless number of volunteers, individuals who have been devoted fans and participants in S4K from its inception, fine people who have remained friends and supporters. Through S4K came a wonderful Director of Volunteer Nepal, another who has for 7 years been coming and in one long stretch served as a house manager and helped manage our Chelsea Education Center; they remain close friends to us today.

The financial support of S4K has been incredible. Year after year, it has enabled education, housing costs, medical interventions--all to make the children’s lives more individual and less part of a large group, special moments, security, happiness, comfort, and a validation for our work and future proposals.

To me, what this relationship has meant is all the above and more. Through these three successful women I have been made to feel deeply appreciated, to feel special, that my quiet life is more important than I see for myself. They have been friends to me, cheering me on, and letting me know they not only have my back, but my heart as well.

Thank you, Sanctuary for Kids, for your many splendid gifts.

Love,

Michael

*****

From 2010

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

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

Those of you who have been in Nepal with us know how precious and unnaturally kind and compassionate our children are. I have learned so much about the meaning of life and how to better live it from our children. I have learned about being patient and appreciating the moment. I have learned not to hold anger at those who have brought harm to us, learned in fact to try and understand, to empathize in an effort to discover the motive of these lonely people. I have learned how to laugh at myself, how to love and feel loved. These children are little prophets one and all who make it easy to believe that one’s own life can bring remarkable change in a world that is abundantly lopsided in its equality.

 

August 2018

Volunteer Nepal was fortunate to host a group of student volunteers and their chaperones from NYC at the beginning of July. Adam Aronovitz and Alissa Bilfield were volunteers with us many years ago and have returned a few times since in different capacities. This time it was with Adam’s NGO Global Routes Org. This group was under Alissa’s leadership in conjunction with Ruth Rabiott and her NGO HEAF. Taking a break from volunteering, they planned a great July 4th afternoon celebration for all our children, our Chelsea teachers and Volunteer staff.



Bottom left: Ruth Rabiott and one of her chaperones, a recent Davidson College grad, who is entering Columbia University this fall. Middle right photo: Chanda, a PhD holder and fellow chaperone with her new friend Chiya. These two hit it off and have become pen pals.

*****

On the educational front we had a first for NOH. Khusbu was ranked number one at Skylark for the “Boost-up” exam given to the children in preparation for their school leaving exam which will take place in March. This is a huge achievement. Other children performed very well in their regular first term exam as seen below.

Mrs. Pandey, our Director of NOH, Manisha ranked 3rd, Samita ranked 1st Mankumari ranked 3rd, Pushpa ranked 1st, Khusbu in rear, Sarita ranked 2nd, (missing is Kajul who ranked 3rd), all in their separate classes for their first term exam and flanked by Prashanna, whose incredible effort as the Director of the Chelsea Center deserves much of the credit.

*****

The first week of July was spectacular, a very busy and poignant one culminating in the ceremony in which we honored the union of Sam, Anita, and Hope. Family and old friends came from four countries to honor them.

From the left: Vinod (Anita’s brother), Sam, Alecia (Vinod’s wife), Anita and Hope, Ted, Papa, Parks (Justin and Laura’s son), Jake, Laura, Justin (Laura’s husband), Blanca and her partner Victor. Missing from the photo is Sunita, Anita’s twin who flew in from her job in Kuwait. All of these folks began volunteering with us 10 years or more ago and have remained good friends ever since.

*****

The Ceremony: July 7th

Our daughter Asha doing the make-up, hair was done by our daughter Naumaya, and garland by our daughter Sarita. In the photo on the right, Anita, Sam and Hope meeting all our children and staff who had come to walk them to the Skylark School where the ceremony was held.

Anu, class 10 Bimala holding the daughter of our daughter Srijhana, and Samjhana
Alicia, Sushmita, and Kailashi Our daughter Sangita and her daughter Sankriti
The exchanging of rings Ranjana
Purnima, Srijhana, Chiya, and Saraswati Santoshi, Akkriti, and Ranjana
Kanchi and Hope walking to the ceremony Entering the tent to a standing ovation scared Hope
Ram singing Paul Stookey’s “Wedding Song” Anita surrounded by her family
Laura and Justin Selina and friends dancing
Bhumika as Sam in a beautifully performed play about how Sam and Anita fell in love (with a little help from the children) Alicia, as Anita, in a scene that brought tears to everyone

Sangita, Pramila, and Lalita, I brought them from our home in the western region when they were 10, they remained roommates and best friends until Sangita’s marriage three years ago, this was only our second time together since. And on right, the actors along with Sam and Anita.

Gita Our good friend Lou and Sumitra
Our daughter Meena looking radiant

Victor and Spanish film star Blanca, who spent a week working with the children on their play. She has been a constant friend for ten years now.

Cutting of the cake Sushma

It is quite hard to summarize the day’s gathering and the strongly felt emotions exhibited by all those who came in honor of Anita and Sam, over three hundred strong. Tears of happiness and those of a separation nearing, deep laughter slipping into wet-eyed quietness, a day bringing us all to ponder our own lives, our own milestones, and our preparedness for tomorrow. Godspeed Anita, Hope, and Sam.

*****

As I write this update I am pleased to report that Anita, Hope, and Sam have settled into their new lives. They are living presently with Vinod and Alecia, and Anita’s parents in a beautiful Hindi community where all the residents are young brilliant people brought there by the many firms in the Research Triangle of North Carolina. A lot of the residents have brought their aging parents and they carry on the wonderful traditions of Hindi family life, and community. Hope quickly made friends with three neighbor girls her age and they spend evenings riding their push scooters on the safe sidewalks while parents meet and chat, celebrating the good things of life, like friendship and family, every day.

*****

On July 25th we did our annual “Puja” for the new college students at 5:30am on their first day of school. This is year eight and unique in that it did not rain as it has in all seven previous years. An auspicious sign for these seven.


Hari, Sumitra, Ramita, Aliza, Anisha, Bimala, and Rupa. (college uniforms yet to arrive, but college t-shirts provided, Sumitra feared getting hers stained so did not wear it.


Hari and Sumitra, rescued from the same orphanage in 2007


Aliza and Anisha both rescued in 2007 from having been sold into indentured servitude


Bimala and Ramita, also both rescued in 2007


Rupa, as well rescued in 2007

All these children have worked very hard to achieve what they have earned. Each of them have part or full time jobs which they attend to six days a week, as well as college six days. They are responsible, loving, and sincere young adults, in possession of what it takes to lead a happy, purposeful, and productive life.

*****

On Saturday August 11th we will say goodbye to Dhiraj. With commendable fortitude he has taken on the challenge of attending school in Australia. Dhiraj took extra classes to round out his already impressive resume, talked daily about going, imagining himself there, filed paperwork accurately and timely, took on applying for loans, seeking acceptance at a well-reputed small college in Sydney with a good IT program, sought and received recommendation letters directed to the college, laid out his plan for the next few years to us in how he would manage this, and sought the guidance of a consultant for college admissions, finding a very good one who was as impressed with Dhiraj as we have always been and went to bat for him. Piece by piece over the last year things fell into place, he received loans, was accepted at the college of his choice, and had only to receive his visa as the last hurdle, and on Tuesday of this week, while on a borrowed scooter he received a call from his consultant who advised him to pull the scooter over and turn it off for a moment, and when he did the consultant gave him the good news. A year’s worth of devotion to a dream was rewarded.

Rescued from the same orphanage with Hari Charming Anita at seven at Papa’s House
Early days at Skylark Dhiraj has always believed in himself
Dhiraj at his farewell Puja Our Director Sunita Pandey giving Dhiraj a Tika

*****

NOH has 54 children currently in college (grades 11-12 or plus 2) or university. In April of 2019 fourteen more will join them. As mentioned earlier this is our eighth year of sending children to college and thus many of the original group are now in their careers. Looking back over time at these young men and women who came to us while very young is incredibly touching. Many individuals who had first hand experience with the NOH family became such kind supporters, offering what they could and when they could. And then there is Toni Thomson, the extraordinary film maker who made the documentary on NOH, What It Takes to Be Extraordinary, which continues to generate new supporters, and through her “Possible Worlds Foundation,” provides yearly support. Amanda Tapping and Jill Bodie who started “Sanctuary for Kids” in Vancouver and made us one of their first beneficiary’s 11 years ago, have been an extraordinary support over the years allowing us to bring more children in desperate need, into the family. Laura and Justin Nimick, (shown above in a couple of wedding photos) who began “Life’s Handy Work” to help support our educational program, after Laura volunteered with us ten years ago. There has been a handful of unsung heroes, incredibly kind donors who have always sought anonymity, but have year after year given with such warmth and grace to help our children succeed, to all of you the NOH family salutes and carries your kindness and care in our hearts.

NOH started Volunteer Nepal in 2005. The program connects volunteers with talent and passion to poor villages across Nepal in great need. It has been a very robust program that consistently makes big differences in the lives of individuals, families, and communities that in many cases had not experienced westerners before. Through Volunteer Nepal’s volunteers we have been able to financially support education programs in many areas, as well as bringing qualified teachers to them. We have been able to run medical camps for remote areas, and after the earthquake of 2015 Volunteer Nepal staff was at some of our placements devastated by the quake within 2-3 days bringing blankets, food, tents, cash, to the people there. Long before others arrived Volunteer Nepal brought a lifeline. Some of these places were very difficult to reach, but we did, and we returned many times to restock what was needed.

Volunteer Nepal fees make all that possible, and also goes a long way towards the operational cost of NOH and its many outreach programs that are designed to provide meaningful assistance for children in need in Nepal.

From the beginning it was our goal to one day be able to do all we do in a self-dependent way, and Volunteer Nepal was part of that concept. We are still years away from reaching that goal, and with the number of children we have in college and more than that still behind them we will continue to need the support of the broadening family of NOH. Our children are the living embodiment of the mythological Phoenix, rising from the ashes of their early childhood traumas to become the exceptional young men and women, generous in spirit, they have become.

And below, some photos of the future great men and women of NOH.


Enduring Brother’s Day in 2017, I laugh so much with this photo





Thank you, all my best,
​Papa

May 2018

Congratulations, Hillary!

On May 8, Hillary Bernhardt left us to return to school for her master’s degree at Yale School of Management. Hillary served magnificently for close to 18 months as the Director of our Chelsea Education and Community Center.

A goodbye ceremony was attended at noon by well over 200 of the woman students of the CECC, which included speeches in her honor and dance performances. For the celebration after school, Hillary had hung photos of every child as parting gifts, and all our children and staff showed their love and appreciation right up until her taxi’s arrival. Then in a fitting gesture, all the Chelsea teachers caravanned to the airport and ushered her to the door where security forced their final farewell. Hillary has accepted a position on the NOH Board of Directors, so her ideas shall continue specifically benefiting the CECC as well as NOH as a whole..

Carola Drosdeck Visits Dhapasi

Carola Drosdeck, Vice President of NOH, left Dhapasi after a six week stay. Carola is adored by all and accomplished many things in every department while here. In a goodbye ceremony held at the Chelsea Center and drawing a standing room only crowd, Prashanna, our new Director of the Chelsea Center, gave tribute to her energy, inspiration, and laughter brought to all, and the dozens of adopted administrative changes she suggested.

Papa's Visit to the Baby Orphanage

On Saturday, May 5, Sam and I visited the baby orphanage where NOH provides all the food, many of the supplies, and incentive pay for the staff to provide the best care possible to the babies. Presently they number around 24, more may have come since. The babies range in age from a few days to around two years, when they move to the toddler building.

My very favorite baby is 8-month-old Sarika. She is host to a number of medical issues. She is very tiny, rarely makes a sound, but never fails to offer an old soul smile and look searchingly into the eyes of anyone holding her. I always feel as if I have received the blessing of a Saint when I hold her. And maybe I have.

Happy Birthday, Hope Angel!

Hope Angel celebrated her 5th birthday on April 30th. She brings so much joy to everyone’s life. Hope, like many of our children, possesses unique and beautiful qualities that all thoughtful people recognize and yearn for. These are natural in them, uncultivated, and offer good reason for those introspective among us to continue our contemplation of the soul’s evolution. Meanwhile, I simply thank what ever brought her to me, out of the swirling winds and tides of cosmic events.

Help Expand Our Support

NOH continually helps those in need. However, it is never a question of simply providing money; along with that comes our understanding and involvement in the situation, to work with the person or people and move towards the solution as a team. I wish to share two new situations, one instigated by us, and the other in response to a request for help.

The first is a truly remarkable situation, an illustration of the immense power of love. It is a very rare example of goodness and determination, one which continues to unfold and thus limits my telling until I further plumb its depths.

This takes place in a small home in a remote mountain village, where school is an arduous two-hour walk, where jungles teem with predators, and where poverty never eases. Here, a father exudes virtues that humble the best among us.

The father is a math teacher. He has five daughters and a wife who has, for as long as the lives of the two youngest of the daughters know, suffered from depression, severe sleep apnea, as well as thyroid and blood pressure problems. Medicine, instead of a book or photo, covers her bedside table.

The father has raised his daughters, cared for his wife, and been a consistently compassionate and inspiring teacher, on a dismal salary for the past 24 years. He teaches in the government school, tutors after school for a little extra income, and spends his evenings gently urging his five daughters to read well-chosen books, to exercise their minds, to dream, and to make sure they never have to marry young, like most of the village girls do. Their house is a sanctuary, a gentle place imbued with scholarly thoughts. The girls have been made to believe that they will enjoy great success one day, to believe in themselves, and to see the future as rewarding as their imaginations allow.

They sustain themselves as much on knowledge as they do on food. There is little ever to eat; they save meager amounts of money only to have a new medical emergency, or to have the earthquake of 2015 destroy their tiny house. And each time, the father’s determination and positive attitude brushes them all off, helps them to stand tall, and keep going.

I have spent time with the five girls; any words I might search for to describe them would be insufficient. Alina (13), Yamuna (17), Namuna (18), Kriti (21), and Shruti (23), are rare gems.


Kriti, Namuna, Yamuna, Alina, and Shruti

Presently they live together in Kathmandu in a single room. They must depend upon themselves. Shruti has managed to get her bachelor’s in electrical engineering, she would like to study for her Master’s, however the system they use to help each other doesn’t allow for that right now. The older girls work to allow the others to attend school. Alina attends all the time, but once she is ready for college then she too will be part of the rotation. Eventually, they all will have completed their degrees. Meanwhile, they also help attend to the expensive care of their mother, and each of the girls has had, at one time or another, a medical issue of their own, some resulting in surgeries to pay for and recover from. The spirit and humor of these five girls, the love they feel for each other, for their parents, and for life itself, is intoxicating.

We have a plan to help them. A physician gave a dire prognosis to their mother. For years, her severe sleep apnea has been contributing to her overall decline in health. A prescribed machine to help her breathe and sleep at night costs the equivalent of their father’s total salary for five months. We bought the machine, and the mother now sleeps through the night and has energy during the day. Her disposition has remarkably improved.

Next, we will have her examined by both a good internist and a psychiatrist at an excellent hospital with internationally trained staff. Then, after helping the mother be in the best health possible and allieviating the daughters and their father of this anxiety, we would like to find a way to simultaneously support the education of the girls.

Each of them possess a sharp, creative, inquisitive mind that will likely contribute to their chosen careers one day. Shruti has taken a teaching position at her college, where she teaches electrical systems design, but unfortunately, the job does not pay much. Kriti also works full time now, and Namuna works part time as she is still in school.

I will try to go to their village with them sometime soon to meet their father and mother. Their father is the antithesis of how most men here conduct themselves. His belief in his daughters, his love and loyalty to his wife, as well as his daughters' remarkable minds and spirits is a story that must be told. I am convinced that we can eliminate many of the burdens weighing upon this family, weight that would have broken most people. They have never asked for help, we were informed about them and took the initiative to learn more. 
 

*******

The second situation involves a 12-year-old boy names Ustav. Last year, when flying a kite, Ustav was electrocuted. He lost his right arm above the elbow as well as nine toes. He spent 90 days in the hospital. NOH helped with his medical expenses. His parents are poor sustenance farmers who live in a village, Ustav lives near Dhapasi with his aunt. We help him to attend Skylark School.

I have observed Ustav’s demeanor for quite a while. He is always smiling. He is gentle and kind, quiet, but well liked. He loves art and has been learning to do everything with his left hand. I asked if he would like a prosthetic arm and he was speechless, searching my eyes and smiling, not sure what to say. I then researched the Jaipur Clinic in India which has garnered worldwide attention for the work they do. I wrote about Ustav and received a pleasant letter back, one full of compassion, from the “Founder and Chief Patron” a Mr. D.R.Mehta. He advised that work in affiliation with Stanford, and other Universities' Bio-Engineering departments, is in development of a functional arm for above elbow amputees, but it is perhaps a year away from being ready for recipients.

However, he said they would be able to outfit Ustav with a very real looking, nonfunctional arm and I conveyed this to Ustav. He had his heart set on being able to hold a pencil and better help himself, but his smile never diminished, and he said he would love to have this. So we are eagerly waiting for word back from the Jaipur Clinic with an appointment date.


Ustav at Skylark, taken on May 15th

 

*******

If anyone wishes to donate to either of these causes, please click here and indicate which cause in the comment section of the PayPal form. Or if you are donating by check, please write in the memo space.

NOH uses a long ago established fund, first created by donations for Hope Angel, to support many of our outreach projects. Any surplus money from any specific cause goes to “Hope’s Fund" on which our outreach programs' daily operation depends.

There will be updates on both of these initiatives on a regular basis. Please have a look at the second issue of the children’s magazine below for some delightful and informative reading.

Thank you very much! 

All my best,
Michael Hess (Papa)

Papa's House Magazine Issue #2 Is Out!

Twenty-threechildren and young adults at Papa's House contributed to our second issue of the Papa's House Magazine, which features stories they pitched, researched, edited, and wrote themselves. Many of them interviewed staff members, volunteers and others working at various placement organizations. They also took photos to accompany their articles. We hope you enjoy their labor of love!

Please click here or on the image below to start reading.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this new format. Please share your feedback on our Facebook page here. 

Introducing the Papa's House News Magazine

Dear All,

Earlier this month I discussed with a number of our children the idea of creating an online and printed News Magazine. This met with enthusiasm and I now submit to you the children’s efforts. They are the reporters, and journalists. I have been very light in my editing in order to preserve their individual voices. The layout is random with photos added from my stock in most cases and with help from Sam with the great basketball ones. This issue and future issues will be posted on the Magazine page of our site.

We hope that The Papa’s House News Magazine will do a better job of informing our supporters and perhaps having them better get to know the individuals they have cared for. 

I, personally, am so impressed by the children’s efforts, and very excited to get the second edition started. Based upon the children’s illustrated commitment, and ideas, we will greatly broaden their reporting and journalism. Already we have a number of interviews lined up that are sure to please.

I have ended this magazine with one story in my continued series of our children. Each of our children has a unique story to tell about their lives prior to coming to NOH. In today’s edition I present “Mary’s Story.”

Thank you and enjoy.

Papa

Click the cover to read the magazine

 

January 2018

I seem to smile a lot, to myself or in response to someone calling my name. These are rather benign smiles quietly reflecting my happiness. But lately I have made a conscious effort to smile and meet the eyes of those passing by, and not a single one failed to quickly smile in return, smiles that light up the eyes, and make their step a bit jauntier. What I have gathered is that a smile is a sure way in which we can all change our environment, our inner peace and that of those we share them with. Smiles rest the soul and stimulate the body’s healing process.

Life becomes increasingly complex, but it needn’t be; so many answers are simple, but lay under mounds of clutter. I have read, “Change your thinking and you have changed your world.”  I might suggest smiling changes both yours and the recipient’s world as well.

Friday, December 22nd

With the children in school and the help of Urmila, one of our college girls, I put up a tree on the grounds where we would celebrate Christmas. Finishing touches were completed with Hope’s help after lunch; the tree was beautiful, and imaginations stirred. When the children of Harmony House walked through the gate after school they knew Christmas was near.


Hope heavily decorating the lower third of the tree


Then when her mom came it was time to share her interpretation of how Santa might act.

     
Before heading off to the Chelsea Center for her afternoon studies, Sarita sat for a photo

Saturday, December 23rd

A few weeks back our dear friends Rupa and Santosh asked if they could have a little party for our kids after lunch on the 23rd of December. Rupa and Santosh are highly educated motivational speakers, counselors, educators, and much more.  They live their lives in service to others, having spent many years living in Kolkata rescuing Nepali girls from Indian brothels. They have been sharing their experiences, thoughts, and love with our children in 90-minute sessions after lunch every Saturday for several years now.

Along with their own children, they brought several older children and young adults remarkable in their talents and personal stories. They had asked me for a list of our children and their ages and said they wished to buy a small gift for each for Christmas, and chose very warm bedroom slippers for them all.


The guitarist played

Our kids swooned

A spirited medley of Christmas tunes

Santosh and Rupa

Rupa handing out the individually named gifts

Gita, Priya, and Sarita danced

Sunita and Kamali sang

Sita, one of several giving impromptu speeches

In addition to some accomplished musicians coming, our younger children performed a traditional dance, our older children sang, and several of our children were inspired to speak from the heart about anything they felt, all sweet sounds to the ears of our NOH family.

The afternoon embraced great entertainment and feelings of love, happiness, and belonging.

Sunday, December 24th

A regular school day here in Nepal, but the kids full of giddiness. After getting the kids to school Anita Mahato, Anita Chaudhary and Kamali Chaudhary, our incredible house managers met at the Papa’s House grounds to put sand and candles into hundreds of cups to light the grounds, and other candles placed through slits in two hundred more cups for the children to hold. They had spent much of December buying the stocking gifts and at my house wrapping and filling stockings. Hillary Bernhardt (our Chelsea Education and Community Center director) and some of our college boys were busy setting up speakers, projectors and a computer filled with Christmas music, and a Christmas film for the night’s celebration, while in the kitchen a few of our children in the Culinary Arts Academy were making hundreds of handmade chocolates for their brothers and sisters.

The kids returned home from school at 3:30, and their dinner was served at 4:30. At 5:30 everyone began to arrive and helped light the perimeter candles and then their own.

Pictures were taken by the tree in the waning moments of the setting sun.


Ranjana’s first Christmas with us

Darkness was complete by 5:45. And candles lit the way.


Asha and her sister Gita

Darkness slowly falling, anticipation rising

A cauldron of hot chocolate was brought outside and served over mini marshmallows as the children mixed, Christmas Carols played over the speakers, and photos were taken in front of the tree, when suddenly, high above it all, standing precariously on a small gable roof came a booming HOHOHO! All eyes went up to see a huge figure four stories above, stars twinkling behind him; silence fell across the ground when straining eyes made certain of what they saw: it was indeed Santa Claus! At once sounds of astonishment and glee filled the grounds, small children backed wide-eyed into the comfort of their big brothers and sisters; I was holding Hope who seemed startled and uncertain by the presence of this massive Santa that appeared out of the night sky … this mythical being, could it really be him?

Santa then stepped back into total darkness, but reappeared among us all, a large red bag slung over one shoulder, and walked among the children to the chair we had set out for his rest after his expected arrival in the wee hours. He sat with a jolly chuckle and with both his white gloved hands beckoned the children near. The younger ones timidly approached, maintaining a couple of yards separation. “This is my favorite night of the year, a busy one, but I wanted to take the time to see my favorite children. Come please and sit with Santa for a moment.” The kids looked at one another, so silent everyone had become, then the bravest of them all, Kajul walked breathlessly up to the little table next to Santa. After giving her name and answering that she had tried to be good this year, she was handed a large chocolate bar from his bag, the sight of which vanquished the children’s reservation and they lined up to meet Santa, ending with Anita at the generous urging of us all.


Kajul leading the way to everyone having their own moment with Santa

We wish to thank the Consular section of the US Embassy for their kindness in helping to find Santa, who in the other 364 days of the year is Marine Corporal Robert Fitzgerald III, a really big guy, with a beautiful deep voice, and twinkling eyes. I was amused to learn that word spread quickly in early December by villagers who saw me wrestling the steering of my scooter with Robert on the back, his knees rising high from his seat, on our way to survey Papa’s House.

Robert concludes his e-mails with a Mark Twain quote which informed my first impression of him.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”  – Mark Twain

This reminded me of my Thanksgiving request of the children to silently contemplate “why they exist.”

Robert has joined the family and proudly wears our new Papa’s House sweatshirt.

Thank you, Robert!

After Santa waved goodbye we sat down on the grass to watch a Christmas movie projected onto the side of the house. We snuggled close against the cold night air. Anita Chaudhary had made popcorn for everyone which she then distributed in large plastic bags while Ramesh and friends handed out their home-made chocolates, in the figures of ducks, penguins, or squares all cast in rubber molds that we had brought back from Boston. They were delicious. The film touching and funny, we did not feel the cold being together on this Christmas Eve.

Monday, December 25th

At 4:30 in the morning I met three of our older girls and we transported all the Christmas gifts to Papa’s house from my house and stacked them under the tree. We finished in an hour and while it was still dark and no curtain had been seen parting, we picked up the hundreds of plastic cups with sand and burnt candles, and made the walls and grounds evidence free of our Christmas Eve.

The House managers had taken all the stockings to their homes and hid them well on Sunday, to place them for awakening children to find.

We agreed to arrive at Papa’s House at 6:30 which seemed an agonizingly long time for me to wait. I returned early, standing on the grounds, and imagined the children’s arrival at the gate, or peering down from their windows, and I thought of the previous 12 or 13 Christmas mornings, and the people who have come and gone in our lives, and my own answer to “why do I exist” and feeling a fortunate kinship with Mark Twain’s quote, and many blessings from the Universe.

And then they came to the gate, excited eyes taking in the Christmas tree sitting deep in gifts.

Anita brought her house first, led by Hope, the children carrying gifts they had made for their Secret Santa names.

Every child received the same gift, a hooded sweatshirt, in an array of colors, very well made, thick and warm with “Papa’s House” written on the front and “Try Kindness” across the back. They each had a Christmas card attached with 1000rs ($10) inside and a letter I had written to them.

We began with the Secret Santa exchange, forming a large circle and calling out a name, that child would go to the middle and call for their Secret Santa to come and receive their gift. The circle always remains intact until the very last name is called.


Sanjeep, thinking after every name called his will be next


These smiles never fade

And then it was time to open their gifts, and read their letter.


Names were called to receive their gift

Muskan wishing to read her letter first


Asha, Kusboo, and Alecia as well


And their new sweatshirts, we live the motto

Then it was time to eat. Our Christmas dinner had been prepared by the college students in the Culinary Arts training program. It was a spectacular exhibition of what they have learned in two months’ time. Our further investment in them is paying big dividends.




                  Sandesh, Ramesh, and Ram Saran, three of the Culinary Arts Students 

Sunday, December 31st

Asha has been helping me cook dinners for the last year when I have the different groups of kids come over. She has also been the main cook at the Brother’s Café since it began. Like the others, Asha is a student in Hotel Management at Herald. She asked me before Christmas if she could attend the Culinary Arts Academy in baking. This is an intensive six-month course. She began on New Year’s Eve. All the students attending the Academy are offered well-paying jobs in top restaurants and hotels in Kathmandu, or in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Malaysia. We were told that in the next two-year period 40,000 beds will be added in Nepal by International Hotels; seems a great time for our children who have the interest to be in this course.

*****

Watching Our Children Grow

The first time that your daughter stops you on the way to her classroom, and tells you, “I want to walk alone from here,” you are not expecting this; you search her slightly serious face, a new face for her that she has put on to show you that she is “a big girl now,” she has been thinking about this for a while you can tell, and that too is a surprise. So you say ok, smile, kiss her goodbye, and watch her walk away, while your eyes well, and your heart calls out, “Turn around and see me waving goodbye to you, my precious, wonderful, young daughter.” The courage she has mustered, so little, so young, to walk away. She is walking into her space now, a place she now wishes to call her own, where rest assured, you will get an invitation, when the time is right, from her to share with you her new world.

Monday, January 1st, 2018

The New Year begins. The photo above is of Mrs. Sunita Pandey, our new Director of Nepal Orphans Home. Sunita has been with us for about seven years. She has served in several capacities — in the beginning she taught a group of children we had just taken in, they had attended little or no school, and spoke primarily their mother tongue. It was her job to teach them Nepali, then English, and through these languages all other courses taught at Skylark School to prepare them for entrance the following year. This was a formidable job, but for Sunita, educated in India and a teacher by profession, a job she embraced with passion and creativity. Some of her children from that year are our best students today. Sunita has since served as Director of Volunteer Nepal, and Director of our Outreach Programs. Whenever she leaves one post for another she does so by title only, she continues to watch over the position she has left to be sure the new Directors are properly trained, and all is going well.

So with Sanjeev Dahal’s anticipated return to America for his PhD in Social Work, we felt Sunita Pandey was the only person we could ever wish to take over. In the past year she has managed most of the operations for NOH and is more than ready.

Sunita is a wife and mother of two, very hard working, dedicated, and loyal. She knows our children very well, and everyone in the community. She has compassion as well as a savvy instinct for people not being completely straight with her. She is calm, easy going, forgiving, and has a great sense of humor. NOH is very lucky to have Sunita at the helm, and I have every reason to believe she will outlast my 13 years as Director. 

On January 1st, 2017 I was supposed to retire, but that did not quite work out. However, this January 1st I am retired. I have faith in Mrs. Pandey and our excellent staff to carry on. While I remain in Nepal, it will be as Papa only to the children. There are most assuredly regrets for programs I was unable to accomplish, especially in educating the remote areas through a teacher training program, and closer to home, to take over and completely manage the care of abandoned babies that are presently at another facility and improperly cared for. This program was set back a year and has only now just begun, but it will evolve under Mrs. Pandey’s capable guidance.

In my dedication to my NOH children I will attempt to write the stories of each, for they all have remarkable stories to tell. These children have taught me the most important lessons that a long and inquisitive life could hope to learn. I have been blessed.

Nepal Orphans Home is many things to many people, but it is one thing to all people, a lifeline extended by a warm smile, a friend in need, without politics, without judgment, simply compassion.

Thanks given to our widespread donor base consisting of good people working for a living and giving what they can afford, and sometimes really cant afford, we manage to be the person an abandoned baby sees and feels holding her, feeding her, smiling down at her; the family with a medical calamity without cash in a country without insurance and on a pay for cure basis; the remote village that drought has claimed the last of their food and has a runner enter their village and say that there is a truck load of rice and other staples waiting for them where the road ends and to come and get it.

NOH is the provider of an education for 260 women in our own village, free of cost, paid handsomely in return by their smiles, confidence, laughter, and the overall wellbeing of our village.

NOH is the buyer of chemo and pain meds for terminally ill children whose families cannot afford it, but more importantly we are the smiling presence in the ward granting last wishes and creating a celebratory environment for one birthday or another.

NOH is the daily hot and nutritious lunch given to children in an untouchables village if they attend the school that we built taught by teachers whose salaries we help support.

NOH was the first face that many of our remote friends saw coming to their rescue days after the earthquake.

NOH is the loving embrace and good cheer welcoming children to our family where we refresh daily for them our support of their dreams, this given to so many children who for numerous reasons have found themselves without anyone.

NOH is the organization who provided shelter to hundreds of Kamlari (indentured servants) once rescued, and then brought those who wished to come to our Kathmandu homes to pursue their regained childhood in a loving and secure environment, to be a part of a family where every member supports the goals of each other and together we achieve them.

NOH is this and so much more administered by a Board of professionals dedicated to helping those in need with their expertise, compassion and often their bank account.

It will not be easy to lay down my tools and walk away from this.

And finally, in finishing this update I will share my Christmas letter to the children.

TO ALL MY CHILDREN THIS 2017 CHRISTMAS, AND AS WELL TO OUR STAFF

TO SAY THAT YOU HAVE GIVEN ME THE JOY IN MY LIFE IS NOT ENOUGH. TO SAY THAT YOU ARE THE PURPOSE IN MY LIFE FALLS SHORT OF THE TRUTH. TO SAY THAT I THINK ABOUT EACH ONE OF YOU OFTEN, AND WONDER IF I HAVE REACHED YOUR HEART AND MIND, IF I HAVE REALLY MADE A DIFFERENCE, DOES NOT BEGIN TO STATE THE FACTS.  TO SAY THAT PREPARING YOU FOR A LIFE IN WHICH YOU WILL GO CONFIDENTLY AND ABLY, AND HAVE LEARNED HOW TO FIND PLEASURE, AND TO NOT SUFFER FEAR OR UNCERTAINTY, HAS BEEN MY GREATEST CHALLENGE AND WORRY BETRAYS MY DESIRE TO LET YOU KNOW HOW COMPLETELY ENTWINED YOUR BEING IS IN MINE. PLEASE, WITH THESE WORDS, REMEMBER ME.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

PAPA

My very deep gratitude to all those who have supported my time, my dreams, my purpose, to help others in their time of need, and please rest assured NOH continues the course.

My very best to you all,

Michael Hess

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