The Final Term of the 2014-2015 year at Skylark School saw us take the first position in 4 classes out of 10; 2nd position in 7 classes out of 10 and 3rd position in 3 classes out of 10. We believe that the children’s hard work, love of learning, and the existence of the Chelsea Education Center have all contributed to these excellent results.
|ASHMITA KUMAL||97.88%||RANKED 1ST||MATH||96%|
|TINA MAGAR||97.84%||RANKED 2ND||MATH||98.5%|
|PINKEY CHAUDHARY||98.44%||RANKED 1ST||MATH||98.77%|
|SALINA TAMANG||97.61%||RANKED 2ND||MATH||99.72%|
|SARASWATI THAPA||97.37%||RANKED 1ST||MATH||87.35%|
|GOMARTI MAGAR||97.3%||RANKED 2ND||MATH||91.25%|
|BHUMIKA RANA||97.01%||RANKED 3RD||MATH||95.7%|
|SANDHYA CHAND||96.33%||RANKED 2ND||MATH||91.45%|
|JUNA PARIYAR||94.81%||RANKED 3RD||MATH||92.15%|
|SRIJANA KC||96.32%||RANKED 1ST||MATH||93.75%|
|KHUSBOO KADAYAT||95.69%||RANKED 2ND||MATH||95.25%|
|ANUPA GURUNG||92.58%||RANKED 3RD||MATH||94.45%|
|RUPA CHAUDHARY||87.67%||RANKED 2ND||MATH||71.3%|
|ISHWOR SHRESTHA||81.25%||RANKED 2ND||MATH||88.5%|
|Ranked second in their respective classes||Ranked third|
Ranked first in their classes
Laurie Levine of the NOH Board arrived from Sydney, bringing her abundant love for the children. Laurie manages at least one trip each year. Laurie is a teacher, speaker and author of books meant to help us to live a better and more purposeful life through spiritual affirmation. She has delighted in watching the children grow into such radiant and accomplished young people.
|Samjhana, Laurie and Junu||Laurie with Priya after Yoga and Meditation|
|Laurie with a few Harmony House girls||Laurie brought 10 reconditioned laptops with her|
Returning volunteers, accompanied by their children this time, were inspired originally by Laurie. Our friends, Fuchsia and her very special sons Noah left and Ridley, and Misty and her precious daughter Charli brought a lot of insight, love and joy to our children.
And Hope found a big friend in Misty’s partner Clint who offered her endless entertainment.
Three wonderful young women (Linn on left from Sweden, Mariana from Brazil and Erika also from Sweden, but only here meeting Linn) who met as volunteers two years before and stayed in touch, reunited again at Volunteer Nepal and among many projects for the kids found time to decorate the café.
Also returning for their third or fourth time my beautiful cousins Anne and Liz, their close friend Cici and bringing with them for the first time my Aunt Judy, her niece Meghan and friend Kelly. This group had been planning their trip for quite a while and wasted no time in bringing books, art and dance to the children’s days.
Anne and her two daughters had been a part of the Billion Rising Dance phenomenon and decided that we should hold one in Dhapasi, so they managed to get the others trained in the dance and upon arrival began preparations for it.
My Aunt Judy (left), cousin Liz and friend Meghan
They made posters expressing their personal reasons for why they wished to be heard
And walked the streets of Dhapasi posting flyers for the Billion Rising Flash Dance
And taught a select group of Captains how to do the “Break the Chain” dance
The morning came in brilliantly clear blue skies
Guest speakers included the Skylark Principal Sangita Rai and Cici
The (not lame) balloon man came to inflate hundreds
The air was charged with a collective passion for doing something so right together
And finally a radar filling release of balloons rising along with the consciousness of each attendee watching with eyes shielded against the sun until the balloons left our sight. We then turned our attention to bonding over more grounded joys: strawberry, pistachio, chocolate and vanilla ice cream.
The boys' house interior and our Dhapasi neighborhood
Moments after the first quake, after being sure that the children and staff at the house where I was were safely together in our open ground, I raced on the scooter for Hope. The road was littered with debris, people dazed and bewildered, wide eyed and incredulous; dust filled the air where buildings moments before sat purposefully, it seemed so random. In those moments, not knowing what I would find reduced my life to one simple knowledge: love is all there is. I prayed so hard to a God I hardly know, “Let them be okay.” When I found the house still standing I came through the gate and in a distant corner of the yard Anita was holding Hope who was crying, surrounded by the children who were all terrified. I ran to Hope and when I took her into my arms she hugged me so hard and stopped crying and just held on. Then she wanted to tell me what happened and did so by holding her fist in the air and shaking her body as if suddenly possessed by St. Vita’s Dance. I had to laugh and then she did also, and I knew we were going to be okay.
Thirty minutes later I had been able to go to each of our houses and make sure everyone was okay and then guide them back through streets filled with broken glass and rubble to be together on our main ground. All the security walls that surround every house were gone and our main ground, large as it is, was filled with people huddled together. When all the children and staff were together we were okay. We sat in a tight circle and ate the lunch I had earlier prepared with 2/3rds of it surviving and rode out several very powerful aftershocks; there was strength and comfort and even some private humor among the children and staff that helped them get to a point where, with gratitude for our good fortune, we were ready to move on.
An hour after the earthquake I asked the children to circle around and as they did I took some photos. Each of these children felt attacked by the earth; the floors they were on buckled and rolled, leaped and lurched sideways, violently throwing them to the ground. These small people felt they were going to die.
The night of April 25 was perhaps the longest night any of us had ever experienced. I had convinced all the children that they were safe and that nothing so strong was to come again, there would be aftershocks but not enough to do further damage. There wasn’t a soul in all of Nepal I think sleeping indoors that night and as we saw, it took 6 weeks to get people who had homes back inside.
Sleeping outside was not safe for all our children and the children trusted me when I said we would be fine. In each house the children slept in a single room together near the front door.
Several times in the night a sound like a barrel of rocks rolling out of control down a metal gangplank would pierce the night, the floor would shake us like a pebble in a miner’s sifter. Outside the community would wail as if the end had come.
There wasn’t any electricity, so water which comes from a well by pump was nonexistent. But the underground tank in my house is kept full, so we spent a couple of hours in a bucket brigade bringing water to the main house. Midafternoon on the 25th, Sam, Anita and I bought as much gas, dhal, rice, and biscuits as we could and got those distributed among the homes. We bought lots of medicines in anticipation of the suggestion that Kathmandu might become a breeding ground for disease, and we had earlier purchased masks. Then the shops closed their shutters and remained closed for some time.
We divided the girls of our Sanctuary house into two groups and had them sleep at the other two girls' houses. The boys split their time between the ground floor kitchen and outside under a tarp they had set up.
We began clean up on the second day. Neighbors under their tarps watched listlessly, their faces drained. The confusion of the neighborhood was keen, everyone grim. The rain would come and go and the certainty that another massive quake was soon upon us was all they spoke of. When an aftershock would come you could hear voices rising together in panic, moaning until it subsided.
But with each passing day we grew stronger and accepting that whatever will be we are together and will not dwell on it. We stayed busy. Nights were long; all the children huddled together in a communal area near the door, but gallows humor prevailed. Loud aftershocks in the night were the worst and we welcomed early morning. Each day at five am, like before, we would go for a walk together, visiting the other houses and greeting neighbors in passing, spreading as best we could a sense of good cheer and lack of worry.
Hope’s Birthday! We decided to celebrate it well.
For a few hours all was forgotten, the kids talked, danced, had ice cream and cake, took lots of photos and laughed. During these times when we all get together we find parting at the end difficult. With the frequency and strength of aftershocks and continued talk of odds favoring a massive earthquake coming at any time, things grow quiet as we part company. Many of us try to keep the atmosphere easy, but I see the children searching the eyes of their brothers and sisters as they shake hands and say something light that betrays their concern.
Today we welcomed into our family a brother and sister who had been orphaned a few months previous. They had been taken in by a woman and her two sons temporarily while searching for a home that would accept them. None would. They were at our gate last Saturday at exactly the moment the earth started punching and kicking up through the surface, and sat with us for a few hours before walking back to their own home which was now a pile of debris. Today, at the same hour as a week before they again were at the place where our gate once hung and walked in to see the ground filled with happy children.
Samita, 8 and Sanjiv, 6
|Sandip and Sanjiv||Samita in our fashion show|
Nepal Orphans Home May Flowers Fashion Show
On the previous Sunday as we sat around talking after our early morning walk, we decided to have a fashion show to be held on the following Saturday. All were invited to participate in an age-divided event that included Best Dress, Best Hair, Best Make-Up, Best Catwalk, Most Original and Most Transformed.
Dhiraj, our resident tech wiz, handled the music while Kausila and Bumikha were our MC’s.
The skies were clear, the children in the audience very supportive and fun, the participants showing off some truly unique ideas were gorgeous; 21 children were awarded prizes, and we had another opportunity to forget what lived underneath us.
A second earthquake came and finished off buildings previously damaged. These pictures were taken from the yard of Papa’s House. Everywhere one looks this is what they see, reminders of the moment are the children’s new landscape. It had been over two weeks, aftershocks come loud and quick so many times in the day and night and everyone, including scientists, maintain that they would not be surprised to see a magnitude 9 anytime. It is a huge setback emotionally that after a couple of weeks when you have accepted aftershocks as something to live with, another earthquake hits. This one made buildings sway to a point you feel you must be imagining it, and then again aftershocks which make you wonder how much more our houses can stand.
Despite the new earthquake we forge ahead with plans. We are together and after lunch we gather the children around to award the prizes for our latest writing contest “My life in Five Years” We enjoy having writing contests; all the children enter them and we save their entry and put them into their permanent file to read over and share with their own children one day.
First Place in Imagine House went to Gita, Sapana and Srijana
Possibilities House Tilak, Sujan, Himal, Nargese, and Sanctuary House Asha, Elena and Mary
I will share excerpts of the top three:
“I have become manager of Heaven House, our home for babies. I give them all my love and I will help with their education. I am sitting with Papa and helping him with his work. I am happy because my dream has been fulfilled.” – Gita
“Today is the happiest day of my life; I have become the youngest professor in the history of Tribhuvan University. I have published a book about Papa’s House that is widely acclaimed. Papa is the one who gave light to my life.” – Srijana
“I am peeking out my kitchen window, I am watching my husband work in the garden, he sees me and says let’s go shopping. On the way we meet Anita Mahato who is with her husband and own children, we talk and then we walk on and find Papa who has a stick in one hand and Hope Angel holding his other hand. One day I will be an old woman eating ice cream with my children, wearing glasses and sharing with them my life at Papa’s House.” – Sapana
We rented buses to take us to The National Botanical Gardens. The ride there pierced through the widespread destruction of the quakes, but the last 5km was on a narrow road under a canopy of trees where the sun comes in sprinkles through the bus windows and everyone feels as if they are entering an enchanted forest.
We found the parking lot empty and the small staff of the gardens surprised by our presence. We had the place to ourselves and took full advantage of it.
It is my dream to be playing in a tidal pool in Maine with Hope. It will be early fall and bursting with color; sea smells and a warm sun like a loved one’s hand on our back.
The Gardens is a beautifully manicured and thoughtfully designed 100 acres or more with a stream meandering through it. The water runs cold and shallow over small rocks and in some places collects in quiet swirling pools. Hope and I stopped by one and there we felt stones and watched our hands glide along the rocky bottom. A pleasant prelude to my dream.
We walked the length and breadth of the gardens and strolled through the greenhouses; we placed no demands on the children, but they all stayed close, perfectly happy to follow along and be together. We found a good spot for our picnic and everyone pitched in to make a light task of it. After eating we lingered, quietly soaking in the warmth and sounds of nature. After some time we fought our inclination to sit forever and rose to the uninspired business of heading back to the buses. We arrived at the gates to some panicked employees asking us to go and sit a spell longer because an earthquake would be here soon. This is the world we live in; people exercise such a willing departure from reasonable thinking. We convinced the jittery staff that we would take our chances and asked them to open the gates. We boarded the busses and drove silently back home, everyone deep in their own thoughts.
I decided to try and find a safer place for as many children as possible. Yesterday was spent calling relatives of our children who live in areas that have not been affected by the earthquakes. This constituted about 80 children. We hired the same bus which took us to the gardens and had it come this morning. We loaded up 50 of our girls whose villages are in Dang where not a hint of trouble has come and, with Papa’s House manager Anita Chaudhary, sent them back until things settle down. By nightfall we had said goodbye to another 30 children.
After the second earthquake, the little bit of ease that had crept back into people’s feeling of security was replaced with a fresh new wound. Plans to reopen school were scuttled across Nepal’s affected districts. We had a paint crew inside the Sanctuary girls' old house and they quit work saying they did not want to be inside the house at this time. It took three weeks to get them back to work.
Our remaining 55 or so children combined into two homes and we had fun. Our days were busy with work on the new Sanctuary House, or in the gardens, or in removing our old wooden beds and carrying them to the carpenter who had bought them and then carrying the new metal beds to each house and getting them set up with the new mattresses. We cleaned every room thoroughly when replacing the beds, played games, took long walks at sunrise and ate well.
Kathmandu is growing deserted and, with few willing to work, supplies are getting short.
We arranged for a bus to drop us off at a place in Thamel called “The Garden of Dreams,” two acres of high-walled compound filled with coy ponds and Roman-influenced gazebos, meditation areas and places that invite one to lie down and sleep. Sadly we found all the architecture roped off due to severe damage, but the grassy areas were green, the fish swimming happily and the sleeping areas welcoming. These are gardens designed to induce quieting the soul, to speak softly and to generate smiles from the heart. We brought along all the day staff and their children as well.
After our spirits were refreshed, we walked across the street to “Fire and Ice,” a legendary tourist pizza palace. We had earlier made arrangements and gave a preorder of 61 pizzas; we were treating ourselves to an extravagance that was to please all our senses.
One thing about an environment of pervasive concern: it helps you to let go just a little and enjoy some simple pleasures today, not tomorrow. Once we are comfortable with the knowledge that there are many tomorrows yet to come, we can make up for these unordinary indulgences.
All of our children are back and we have enjoyed our Saturday tiffin together. The returning children had to get reacquainted with the daily aftershocks while those who had remained felt like old veterans who could offer a sense of calm and sage advice.
School began again on Sunday the 31st, the largest classroom building at Skylark which has three floors was deemed unsafe and so temporary classrooms were cobbled together. Teachers drifted back in from their villages and bit by bit we are getting to where a full complement of them are where they should be most of the time.
Winners of the writing contest “Me and My Earthquake”
June seemed to have swept through as uninterrupted as tumbleweed across the desert. We had the winners of the “Me and My Earthquake” writing contest receive the admiration of their peers and their prizes one Saturday, another Saturday we had a celebration of June Birthdays. Saturday lunches were different and fun, mostly tasty ones of assorted color, my trademark.
We welcomed back many far cast members of the family. Our former Volunteer Nepal Director Michael Triozzi came from a break in his graduate studies in Italy to manage the boys' house while Sam was in America; he also stepped in to manage the Volunteer department while Eileen is back in New Zealand for a spell. Michael is still here and more narrowly focused on Smiley the dog and the Volunteer department followng Sam’s return.
Vinod and Alecia have returned after three years spent in college in North Carolina. They will be here for six weeks and both are working hard to help with the children.
Emma McDonald is an editor and writer from Australia who was here last year and worked with the children’s reading program. She sought and received some time off recently to return and be with her NOH family during this time. The most common comment about her from the kids is “Emma is always so funny.”
Emma and friends
Sam generously offered to be our host for some of our Saturday visitors
Michael Triozzi guarding his biscuits from Marian, Eileen's twin
|Alecia and her sister Abbie||Vinod and his adoring Mom|
|Girls learning about Islam||Sujan looking cool|
Chham was invited to accompany the internationally recognized photo journalist Rui Pires and learn how to be an assistant during a three-week trip by train to a few cities across India. Rui is a good friend to NOH and in a previous trip got to know Chham well. This was a wonderful opportunity for Chham to travel and learn about the different cultures of India as well as developing a keen eye and passion for beauty and how to capture it on film.
The following photos are all taken by Rui and kindly shared by him with us here.
Rui Pires has for two years in a row won the International Humanitarian Photographer of The Year award; we are humbled to call him our friend.
One of our newest sons Bimal is not only exceedingly kind and polite but he possesses an array of creative talents. After the earthquake I encouraged the kids to express their feelings and Bimal did so both in writing and in a painting shown here. I was so impressed by it that I shared it with friends online. One thing led to another culminating in someone wishing to purchase the painting for $500 and wanting to see more of his work. They had a friend traveling in Nepal at the time and he was supposed to come by to pick up the painting, but never did. Bimal was not the least bothered by that, he paints he says because he likes to.
|The painting||The artist, who is a young man (at the fashion show)|
This has been a long update, the last 10 weeks running between uncommon and surreal. To live on top of a rumbling earth that pierces up anywhere at any time it pleases has a way of changing one's perspectives on life and maybe that is its silver lining. The aftershocks continue. We partially rate our days by the Richter scale; the children have become adept at accurately sizing up each aftershock and becoming knowledgeable in suggesting our distance from the epicenter and depth of each. Morning greetings usually include “Did you feel last night's?” Many are now sleeping through them.
We have managed to keep to as normal a schedule as possible throughout this time; in reflection it has been good. As soon as the Chelsea Education Center teachers were able to return they did and so we continued with our afternoon classes.
Ted Seymour, who spent about 6 weeks with us from January and who is the person responsible for bringing the Khan Academy online math program to our children, returned in June to further work with our children.
We are at this time developing an adult education program at the Chelsea Center which will teach math and English to local women. The response to our flyer indicates great interest. We hope to have the program commence in the third week of July. Our 2nd year college student son Ashok will be the teacher. His college classes run from 6-10am each day and the Adult Ed classes will go 10:30 to 12:30pm.
Ted Seymour and Purna
We had seven girls who this year formed a tailoring group. They are doing really well and make all our uniforms and kurta sulwars. Amrita, who had received the most training, was asked by our tailoring teacher to manage her new shop and has thus hired her away. During the day if any of the remaining six girls have a question, they either go to Amrita’s shop or our teacher Goma’s shop for help.
Our daughter Amrita and the tailoring shop she manages near our Chelsea Education Center
Hope has grown a lot; she is getting tall and speaks in semi-complete sentences. She loves everything and everybody. She works hard to make sure all the children are polite; when I go to her house at suppertime she usually greets me outside and when we walk into the dining room if the girls in chorus have not yet said “Hi Papa,” she asks them, “Where is Hi Papa!”
She has wanted to attend nursery school so we take her for 30 minutes when school starts and again at lunch time. She is a quiet observer of the rules and behavior and when some kids get a little rough, she has learned how to find safe territory. When we walk in the door she usually asks me to sit near it while she ventures deep into the classroom.
|Hope at tiffin time in the nursery.||The Principal loves Hope, even when she is eating a mango on her lap; here Hope is wearing a dress that Mrs. Rai bought for her.|
On the Principal's birthday she was giving a talk up on the stage at the morning assembly. Hope had a gift for her and was patiently waiting for her to finish so that she could give it. The Mam was a little upset over the behavior of some Class 10 students and was sternly reprimanding them. After a few minutes while it appeared the Mam was just finding the groove of her speech, steam building, Hope called out really loud, “Mam!” The principal stopped and looked at Hope, and Hope said, “Happy Birthday, Mam” and waved the gift at her. The Mam noticeably deflated a bit and came over to Hope while remarking, “You all should be very thankful to Hope for bringing my talk to an end. I can’t stay angry when Hope is around,” and received the gift while the 600 student body clapped and called out “Happy Birthday, Mam.”
And with that I wish you all the best.
|Anita and Hope||Hope and her Papa|