Nepal Orphans Home began in March of 2005 when a friend took Michael Hess to an ‘orphanage’ that needed help in Dhapasi, a village in the northern outskirts of Kathmandu district. He found a small, rundown house with two dozen destitute children. Malnourished, in poor health, and not attending school, the children were forced by the owners to beg on the streets. Michael assumed management of the home, renovated the building, and began Papa’s House to care for the children.
A carpenter from Florida, Michael had never traveled outside the United States until early 2004 when he volunteered with a nongovernmental organization in Nepal, restoring a school building outside of Kathmandu. Moved by the plight of the children, living in poverty, but rich in spirit, Michael vowed to return to help. Within six months Michael did return to Nepal, having sold his home and business in Florida. Coming across the children living in the dilapidated house that day in March transformed his life. And Michael (Papa) has since transformed the lives of hundreds of children in Nepal.
Nepal Orphans Home (NOH) attends to the welfare of children in Nepal who are orphaned, abandoned, or not supported by their parents. NOH provides for the children’s basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing, as well as schooling and health care, and administers to their emotional needs with love and compassion, allowing them to grow up in a nurturing environment. Our mission is not just to rescue children from abject poverty, but to enable the children to develop and realize their potentials.
Basic information about Nepal Orphans Home, a 501(c)(3) public charity incorporated in Davidson, North Carolina, can be found on the website, www.nepalorphanshome.org. Michael Hess, founder and director of operations emeritus of NOH, gives periodic updates His accounts of Papa’s House children best portray the implementation of our mission.
Nepal Orphans Home is listed on GuideStar, a leading source of information on U.S. non-profits. In 2021, for the second year in a row, Nepal Orphans Home earned the Platinum Seal of Transparency, the highest recognition, placing us in the top 0.5% of the over 2.7 million nonprofit organizations on GuideStar, demonstrating NOH’s strong commitment to transparency in its mission and operations. The NOH profile on GuideStar includes recent annual reports and 990 forms, available as public record. None of the members of the NOH Board of Directors receives compensation for their service.
NOH Guidestar Seal
Nepal Orphans Home funds and advises Papa’s House NGO, the operations in Nepal. There are four divisions of Papa’s House NGO: Papa’s House, Chelsea Education and Community Center, Volunteer Nepal, and NOH Outreach.
In 2022 Nepal Orphans Home begins its eighteenth year of operations, providing for thirty-two children in Papa’s House, as well as supporting eighteen adolescents from Papa’s House attending college preparatory classes and funding the higher education of twenty-five other young adults from Papa’s House in college and university.
The Chelsea Education and Community Center (CECC) opens its tenth year of academic enrichment and life skills training for the Papa’s House children and its eighth year of free literacy classes to local women in the community of Dhapasi. Volunteer Nepal (VN) is prepared to host international volunteers for service in Nepal and NOH Outreach is assisting the less fortunate throughout Nepal.
In 2022, Sunita Pandey entered her fifth year as Director of Operations of Papa’s House NGO. Educated in India and a teacher by profession, Sunita has been with NOH for over ten years, serving effectively in several capacities — initially home schooling our new girls, then as an administrator for Volunteer Nepal, followed by Director of NOH Outreach.
Sunita Pandey and Papa’s House children on the morning walk to Skylark School
Prashanna Bista begins his fifth year as the Director of the Chelsea Center. He previously earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and has a post-graduate diploma in counseling. His leadership has been both steadying and innovative.
Prashanna Bista leading a workshop on Wellbeing at the Chelsea Center
The founder of NOH, Michael Hess (Papa), is retired in North Carolina, but remains in regular contact with Sunita offering guidance. Moreover, he continues to be very involved in strategic planning, donor relations and fundraising for Nepal Orphans Home, as well as advising the NOH Board of Directors.
Michael administering tika at Papa’s House on his visit in the fall of 2021
Including the directors, there are twenty-nine employees at Papa’s House NGO. Half of the staff are former Papa’s House children, including seven who are instructors at the Chelsea Center, while also attending college and university; three assistants with NOH Outreach; the Papa’s House bookkeeper; the assistant manager of Papa’s Harmony House; the Papa’s House photographer; and the staff at Hope’s Cafe.
Papa’s House NGO employees believe in NOH’s mission and are committed to their work. Systematic assessments of employee performance, important for improving the quality and efficiency of operations, providing opportunities for the professional development of employees and relevant input when determining employee compensation increases, are undertaken. In follow-up conferences, each employee receives feedback, including recognition of their strengths and a discussion identifying areas for improvement. Goals with action plans are agreed upon for the next year.
Under the Papa’s House Human Resources Policy, employee benefits include medical insurance, a Dashain allowance, 14 paid holidays, 12 days of paid personal leave, 60 days of paid maternal leave, and 13 days of paid mourning leave. In addition, there are funds for personal and professional development and special circumstances support (including assistance with family responsibilities). Papa’s House Enrichment and Social Capital Fund can be drawn on by the directors to purchase items and pay for events that extend beyond normal programming and operating costs of the organization and provide enrichment, foster cooperation, extend mutual trust, and build morale. Moreover, Papa’s House NGO’s The Enhanced Savings Plan provides employees each year with three percent of final salaries as accumulated savings when the individuals leave Papa’s House NGO employment.
A Brief History
Over time, operations have expanded to help more children. In 2006, Papa’s Harmony House moved to a new, larger building to accommodate the growing family. NOH opened a school for the children, Papa’s Trinity Academy, enabling more than two hundred other children from the community to attend. In the first two years of operation, Nepal Orphans Home’s expenses exceeded income, largely from individual donations, and Michael financed operations out of his own savings.
In 2007, NOH was asked to take over a nearby orphanage with a dozen children. Another building was leased in Dhapasi for a second Papa’s House and additional staff were hired. The enrollment at Papa’s Trinity Academy grew to over three hundred children, most attending for free.
Early in 2008, NOH began collaboration with Society Welfare Action Nepal (SWAN), a Nepali nongovernmental organization operating in the Dang district to provide for Kamlari girls rescued from their indentured servitudes. NOH renovated two buildings in Narti and opened the Lawajuni (New Beginning) Home, providing shelter, food, clothing, and health care for the girls freed by SWAN. During the year more than sixty girls who had been sold into servitude came to the Lawajuni Home, gaining their freedoms, recovering their childhoods, and attending school. NOH was able to bring twelve of these girls to Dhapasi, raising the number of children provided for in Papa’s Houses to seventy.
Also, in 2008, concerns with the management and direction of Papa’s Trinity Academy compelled 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 also 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 one hundred children, most of whom were Dalits (untouchables).
In early 2009, NOH brought another twenty-six rescued Kamlari girls from Lawajuni to Dhapasi, where the education was significantly better, opening a third home, known as Papa’s Imagine House. The girls moved into the building formerly housing the boys, who relocated to a newly expanded and renovated home on the same grounds, Papa’s Possibilities House.
By 2013, NOH had grown to five Papa’s Houses with 135 children. In that year, the Chelsea Education Center opened, providing vocational training classes for the older children of Papa’s House. In 2014, NOH opened a transition house for our college girls to allow them to begin living independently as young adults.
A devastating earthquake outside the Kathmandu Valley shook the nation on April 25th, 2015, with the loss of thousands of lives and extensive damage, especially in remote villages. Fortunately, all of Papa’s House children, staff, and volunteers were safe. NOH quickly set up an earthquake relief fund and as donations from friends around the world poured in, NOH began rendering assistance. Volunteer Nepal sent out staff to villages where we had placements to assess the damage and to provide cash for food, as well as supplies (tents, tarps, and blankets). NOH also provided help to locals in Dhapasi, who lost family or suffered destruction of their homes or businesses.
In the summer of 2015, the Chelsea Center began to offer adult literacy classes to local women in the community of Dhapasi, becoming the Chelsea Education and Community Center (CECC). Nepal Orphans Home purchased a home for our Papa’s Possibilities House.
In early fall of 2015, Nepal Orphans Home received a grant from a Swiss foundation for a new building for the Chelsea Education and Community Center and began construction the following year on the grounds of Papa’s Possibilities House. The new Chelsea Center was dedicated in April 2017.
In the summer of 2017, following meetings in Dhapasi, the NOH Board of Directors approved the Strategic Vision of Nepal Orphans Home:
In the long run, Nepal Orphans Home would have one Papa’s House for 40 children and transition housing for our young adults in college or finishing up their advanced vocational training; a robust Chelsea Center, with vocational training, academic enhancement classes and life skills workshops for Papa’s House children, a business incubator program, and an adult literacy program for local community women; a vibrant Volunteer Nepal with annually up to 125 volunteers; and an active Outreach to provide assistance to the less fortunate in Nepal.
In the fall of 2017, the NOH Board of Directors officially approved that the in-country operations of Nepal Orphans Home in Nepal would be Papa’s House NGO, a Nongovernmental Organization, rather than an International Nongovernmental Organization (INGO).
In the spring of 2019, the NOH Board of Directors approved a transition plan whereby Nepal Orphans Home would evolve to a public charity with the primary purpose of advising and funding Papa’s House NGO (which includes Papa’s Houses, Chelsea Education and Community Center, Volunteer Nepal, and NOH Outreach) in Nepal. This would allow the Papa’s House NGO to operate more independently and efficiently in Nepal.
In late March of 2020, with just the first cases of COVID-19 reported, the government of Nepal imposed a strict lockdown on the population. For the most part, individuals were confined to their houses, with only limited opportunities in the mornings for going out to purchase food, medicines, and other essentials.
Shortly before the lockdown was announced, Papa’s House had sent most of the children back to their home villages where they would be safer than in the congregated living in Papa’s House in Dhapasi. Several children, however, without any family to return to, remained at Harmony House, under the care of the house manager.
NOH supported the children back in their villages with cash transfers and the young adults in college living independently in Dhapasi with stipends for room rent and food. Prashanna, Sunita, and Michael remained in contact with the Papa’s House children and young adults. Despite the COVID-19 restrictions and being out of school, the children made good use of their time, often pursuing creative art and photography projects, reading, and writing.
The fifth issue of Papa’s House Magazine, “Letters from the Lockdown” was published online in July of 2020. Essays, stories, photos and art from our older children and several staff members depicted what was happening and how their daily lives were affected.
Like primary schools and colleges, the Chelsea Center closed for on-site classes. With international volunteers unable to enter Nepal, Volunteer Nepal suspended operations. NOH Outreach, however, continued its financial support to Kanti Children’s Hospital, Bal Mandir infant orphanage, the Goldhunga Blind Children’s Home, and local families for food and medicines. Sunita Pandey, Director of Operations, carried on managing business throughout the lockdown.
In November, after the Tihar holiday, Sunita, in consultation with her staff, felt it was safe to bring the children back to Papa’s House. Six new girls were also welcomed at Papa’s House. The government of Nepal had loosened the lockdown in the Kathmandu Valley. Limited long-range public bus transportation, allowed to operate at 50% capacity, was subject to strict COVID mitigation measures. Masks were still required when outdoors, including while on public transport and in taxis.
Schools and colleges in the Kathmandu Valley resorted to on-line instruction and for the most part, did not resume with on-site classes for the rest of the year. In late December, however, Papa’s House children in grades 8-10 were able to attend classes in person at Skylark. Virtual classes for the younger grades continued online during the day.
Although the pandemic persisted through 2021, the children remained at Papa’s House. Periodic lockdowns prevented the children attending their schools and necessitated online classes. NOH continued to support the higher education of Papa’s House young adults.
Cover of Papa’s House Magazine
published during the lockdown
Arriving by bus back to Papa’s House on November 20, 2020
Papa’s Harmony House is well managed by Nepali staff. The home has a head manager and an assistant manager, a cook, who also serves as the house mother, and a housekeeper who helps with the cleaning and laundry. In addition to attending to the children, house managers also assist with buying supplies, accompanying children to medical appointments and other errands.
NOH provides transition housing for Papa’s House adolescents who are attending college preparatory classes (grade 11 and 12) and university. These students are responsible for taking care of themselves, living on a budget, and maintaining good grades in their studies. Other young adults in university programs, whose higher education NOH is funding, live independently in the community.
Papa’s Harmony House is within a ten-minute walk to the Skylark School, the English-medium school attended by Papa’s House children through grade 10. Papa’s Harmony House and the college transition Papa’s Sanctuary House, as well as the building for Volunteer Nepal (which also includes the Papa’s House NGO offices), are all leased.
When children arrive at Papa’s House, NOH commits to providing for their shelter, clothing, nutrition, education, and health care until they reach adulthood and are ready to live independently in Nepali society. To monitor the progress of the children, detailed files are kept, consisting of guardianship information from their villages and how the children came to Papa’s House, school and health records, the vocational training and life skills workshops completed, as well as anecdotal information. Moreover, each child has an electronic portfolio of photos depicting them over the years, providing a visual history of their lives from the time of their arrival at Papa’s House to the time of their final farewell.
Papa’s House young adults can expect support for the tuition and fees for their college and university studies, subject to satisfactory academic achievement. Young adults not on a university tract receive support for vocational training and internships. The Chelsea Center’s business incubator program provides loans to young entrepreneurs from Papa’s House who are starting their own business. Young adults choosing to work abroad with a secure job are supported with their international travel fees and initial living expenses.
Life at Papa’s House
Papa’s House children are very busy during the school year, six days a week attending Skylark School from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and then the Chelsea Center in the afternoons for academic enrichment sessions. Some of the children choose to practice basketball every day from 6:00–7:15 a.m. at Skylark School. Others opt to take Taekwondo classes in the early mornings.
Along with the house managers, there are Papa’s House young adults in university, living in the houses to help the children with their homework and studies.
The children enjoy their Saturdays off from school, breaks in the school year, and holidays, when they can relax and engage in fun activities at Papa’s House and the Chelsea Center, including book clubs and art classes. On Saturdays, all the children gather at Papa’s Harmony House for a common tiffin.
Above all, the health of the children in Papa’s House is safeguarded. Temperatures are regularly checked. Sanitary conditions are maintained with hand cleansers and masks. All of the Papa’s House young adults and staff have received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine In January 2022, when the government plans to provide the COVID vaccine to children from ages twelve to eighteen, most of our children living in Papa’s House will receive their first vaccine; only five girls will not be able receive it as they are under twelve.
During the year there are celebrations of birthdays and holidays, both Nepali (including Holi and Tihar) and American (including Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). Often these special days are funded by the generosity of NOH board members and friends.
In 2022, for the month of Dashain and Tihar, all but four of the children were able to return to their home villages. For Thanksgiving, Papa’s House young adults living nearby were able to join the children for a feast prepared by the house managers. And the highly anticipated Christmas was celebrated with carols and hot chocolate on Christmas eve and exchange of gifts before a community meal on Christmas day.
Papa’s House family gathered at Thanksgiving 2021
As Michael always says, “Papa’s House is a really big family, with each child’s joys and fears, smiles, accomplishments, setbacks, anxieties and laughter, future plans and work to achieve them deeply felt by all.”
Papa’s House children are encouraged and supported to continue their schooling for as long as they wish and are able to maintain satisfactory academic standing. In Nepal, upon completing grade 10, students take a Secondary Education Examination (SEE), and after passing it, they may enroll in college preparatory programs, known as Plus 2 (grades 11 and 12). After successfully finishing Plus 2, students may advance to undergraduate programs at the university level.
For the 2021-22 school year, there were thirty-two Papa’s House children enrolled at Skylark School, a local English medium school with over 600 children in grades Classes K-10. In addition, NOH Outreach provided scholarships for three-dozen other local children from poor families to attend primary school. These scholarships were funded by a generous donation to Nepal Orphans Home.
There were nineteen Papa’s House adolescents in Plus 2 studying at nearby colleges, with Humanities and Management the most popular programs. Another sixteen young adults from Papa’s House who had completed grade 12 were in bachelor’s programs at local universities and another eight were taking bridge courses to prepare for advanced study and work abroad in Australia, Germany, or Japan.
Several young adults were studying or working abroad. Bimal Shahi began his freshman year at Davidson College in North Carolina on a full scholarship as the prestigious Malu Alvarez Visual Art Scholar of the Class of 2025. Himal Shahi, Puja Bista, and Dhiraj Yadav were studying in universities in Australia, and Sabina Tamang and Kaushila Shrestha were working and studying in Germany. Ana Maya Gurung was working at a resort in Portugal.
Chelsea Education and Community Center
Under the direction Prashanna Bista, the Chelsea Center thrives, offering academic enrichment classes and life skills workshops to Papa’s House children in the late afternoons after school, and literacy classes to local community women in the mornings. The Center’s formal mission statement is:
The Chelsea Education and Community Center supports Papa’s House children in their transition to adulthood, empowering each individual to create and lead a uniquely meaningful and productive life. The Chelsea Center also promotes the empowerment, personal growth, and social connection of local Dhapasi women.
The campus, funded by the Swiss foundation grant in 2015 includes: the Chelsea Education and Community Center, a three-story building, with a spacious community room and library, five classrooms for computer labs, math and science classes, and a large balcony on the roof with ample space for workshops, gatherings, and exercise classes; the Chelsea Center Annex, also three stories, with a conference room, kitchen, and dining room, classrooms and residence rooms; and the Chelsea Center Office, a smaller two-story attached building for offices.
Programs for Papa’s House Children and Young Adults
Prashanna and the Chelsea Center staff continually assess the curricula and programs for effectiveness, reflected in adjustments in the schedule for after-school education, dynamic workshops, increased collaborations with Skylark School and the staff of Papa’s Houses, the hiring of new teachers, and the development of mentoring programs and vocational training opportunities. Student surveys are used to evaluate teachers and ascertain student interests and needs to improve our programs. During lockdowns with the pandemic, the classes have been online, with the children using the laptop computers in the Papa’s Houses.
Chelsea Center Campus: the new building with CECC Annex
in the back and Office at the front
Along the Carola Drosdeck Garden Path
of the Chelsea Center
Papa’s House children below grade 7 attend the Chelsea Center Sunday through Thursday from 3:40 to 5:35 p.m. taking math and computer classes, as well as receiving homework support from mentors. The students in grades 7 to 10 attend the Chelsea Center Sunday through Friday from for the same two hours each school week for math and computer classes.
Often on Fridays, the upper-level students are invited to the Chelsea Center for special life skills workshops on effective communication, public speaking, writing, personal health and self-awareness, intended to help their transitions to independence.
The Chelsea Center hosts Friday and Saturday afternoon or evening workshops for NOH young adults currently in their Plus Two schooling. These workshops and events include discussions about career paths and the challenges and opportunities of daily life. For the last two years, however, the pandemic has limited these workshops.
On Saturday mornings, the Chelsea Center is open to Papa’s House children for computer “free time” (e.g., typing practice, email, watching videos on YouTube and accessing other educational resources, including our website ‘whatcanilearntoday.org.’). Some children participate in book club sessions and others take art classes led by a local artist.
Information technology (IT) is a special focus of the Chelsea Center. In the IT Club, formed in 2019, the children learn and share skills in programming and coding. There are additional IT career workshops during the year.
|A presentation by the IT Club||Indra Khatri, professional artist and Saturday art tutor at the Chelsea Center|
Business Incubator Program
The Chelsea Center’s Business Incubator Program was initiated in 2017 through the generosity of Australian friends of NOH to support the vocational training, entrepreneurship, and business formation of Papa’s House young adults. One of the ventures promoted was the Brother’s Café, founded by one of the young men who came to Papa’s House as a child over a decade ago, which sold tiffin on the grounds of Skylark School.
In May of 2019, ten young adults from Papa’s House participated in the Empower Social Entrepreneurship Program, led by Karina Jensen, Professor of Global Innovation and Leadership at NEOMA Business School in Paris. The two-week intensive program provided a platform for our students to connect with participants from local business schools, work in teams, and learn from Nepali business leaders.
Making momos at the Brother’s Café
Prof. Jensen with student in social entrepreneurship program
The Chelsea Center is open Sunday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for adult education. Nearly two hundred women from the local community regularly attend English, Nepali, and basic math classes. Most of the women take more than one class each day. Lockdowns under the pandemic required classes to move online and many women, not having personal access to computers, were unable to attend.
On occasional Fridays, the Chelsea Center offers optional workshops and field trips. Special events are organized with the women such as International Women’s Day Celebration, Diversity Day, and Teej Celebration (one of the most important Hindu Festivals celebrated by Nepali women).
|Community women in class at the Chelsea Center||
Diversity Day celebration in the Boo Hess Community Room
Papa’s House Magazine and the Chelsea Center
In May of 2021, the sixth edition of Papa’s House Magazine, Opening Doors: Welcome to Chelsea was published online. Personal accounts from the Chelsea Center teachers and the community women attending the center were featured.
Kamal B.K. a Papa’s House young adult, who is an instructor in the community women’s literacy classes and also pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Southwestern State College, wrote:
No words can ever describe how joyful and thrilling it is to be a part of and be able to work in this organization. I have been working at the Chelsea Centre as a women’s educator since 2018. I work with a group of professional team members and learn a lot from them. I had the experience of teaching school students, but this is my first time working for women’s education. Educating hundreds of women and seeing them taking their stand in the society has given me a sense of achievement.
Further illustrating the impact of the Chelsea Center, one of the community women wrote:
My name is Nima Sherpa. I am a student of Chelsea. I am very thankful to this organization. This organization has helped a lot of illiterate people like me, who were not even able to hold a book in the correct manner and were unknown about alphabets. But now, with the help of Chelsea Center, I have gained a lot of knowledge and I am able to read alphabets, words, and basic sentences quite fluently, I am very much grateful to this school.
NOH started Volunteer Nepal (VN) in 2005 as a program to connect volunteers with talent and passion to serve the poor in need across Nepal. The VN mission statement concisely reflects this purpose:
Volunteer Nepal seeks to foster uplifting change in the lives of underserved people and communities in Nepal by providing heartfelt, profound, and enlightening volunteer experiences for groups and individuals.
Volunteer Nepal in action: lost in translation?
Sirkka, from Finland, has volunteered several times
Volunteer Nepal provides over two dozen placements throughout Nepal—from Kathmandu to remote villages. Options include volunteering in hospitals and medical clinics, schools, rehabilitation centers, ashrams, human rights NGOs, animal shelters, and village agriculture. As well as individual volunteers, there have been groups of students and professionals.
For the period from 2012–2015, VN averaged one hundred and twenty-five annual volunteers from eighteen different countries. Due perhaps, in part, to negative publicity about volunteer tourism, there has been a decline in the number of individuals volunteering over the past few years. From 2016–2018, the annual average was ninety-three volunteers from sixteen countries. In 2019, Volunteer Nepal hosted only forty volunteers from eleven countries. And, in 2020, there were only a half-dozen volunteers, all early in the year before the COVID-19 lockdown in Nepal and restricted international travel. In 2021, there were no international volunteers. As pandemic conditions improve, Volunteer Nepal hopes to again host individuals and groups for service in Nepal.
Volunteer Nepal not only provides valuable services to the poor in Nepal but engenders meaningful cultural exchange between the international volunteers and the Nepalese served. Volunteers have given life skills workshops to Papa’s House children and the local community women attending the Chelsea Center. Moreover, Volunteer Nepal generates income and employment in Nepal. The income from volunteer fees helps cover the operational expenses of Nepal Orphans Home.
Four French medical volunteers in 2019 with staff in front of a hospital in Pharping
After returning to their homes, volunteers often continue to support Nepal Orphans Home through raising funds, sometimes for specific projects or individuals in need, and spreading awareness of our work in Nepal. Some even start their own non-profits to support NOH and other organizations in Nepal. And some volunteers later became members of the NOH Board of Advisers.
The ninth edition of Lonely Planet: Nepal listed Volunteer Nepal (and Nepal Orphans Home) among its recommended volunteer organizations. Based on posted reviews, largely by earlier VN volunteers, on GuideStar’s website, NOH earned the GreatNonProfits Top-Rated NonProfit seal for the fifth year in a row in 2021.
Two of the volunteer reviews from 2019 capture the ethos of Volunteer Nepal:
My friend and I had an amazing time in Nepal thanks to this organization! We spent two weeks volunteering at the primary school in the remote village of Ghurjung (just past Ghandruk) after being led there by our wonderful Volunteer Nepal guide. We were able to help out very much at the school, and we had a great time doing it. I’m so glad I was able to come to Nepal and volunteer through this organization because it clearly has such a pure and honest mission. I felt that I was really making a difference, and that the money that I spent on the volunteer fees (which was very affordable for the care and guidance you are provided) were helping out a great cause. I would highly recommend this organization as the best nonprofit to volunteer with for any traveler looking to volunteer in Nepal!
— Jameson (June 2019)
Top-Rated in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021
I first visited NOH in 2010. It’s become an annual event. My three grown up children have accompanied at different times and this year my husband is joining me. I love to show them what an incredible organisation this is. To feel the love of the children, to meet volunteers from all over the world and be totally inspired by the outcomes and achievements of Michael Hess’s vision to help people in need. This commitment is overwhelming and with the NOH organisation so much good for so many people is brought about. Each time I visit I return inspired, filled with hope and a feeling of seeing the world in a whole new perspective. About to head off again and can’t wait to be immersed again in this fascinating part of the world.
— Lou (July 2019)
As part of its mission, Nepal Orphans Home has long supported other local charities. Much of our outreach is funded by donations from friends, former volunteers, and board members.
Earthquake Relief Fund
With the devastating earthquakes in 2015, Nepal Orphans Home set up the NOH Earthquake Relief Fund for both short-term humanitarian assistance and longer-run reconstruction and development. Donations to the NOH Earthquake Relief Fund quickly totaled nearly $142,000. In the aftermath of the earthquake, NOH spent almost $27,000 in relief. The remaining funds were designated to a restricted account for future relief and recovery assistance. From 2016-19, NOH spent over $90,000 from its Earthquake Relief Fund, most of these funds went towards the reconstruction of buildings destroyed by the earthquake.
NOH Outreach had supported the village school in Dumrikharka for years with annual donations for teacher salaries and supplies and for a hot lunch program at the Shree Sham Primary School. After the earthquake NOH contributed nearly $50,000 to build a new school, which was completed in the spring of 2017. Nepal Orphans Home also contributed funds for the construction of a new house and kitchen at Bigu Monastery, a popular Volunteer Nepal placement outside the Kathmandu Valley.
|New Shree Sham Primary School in Dumrikharka||New house and kitchen at Bigu Monastery|
In the interests of transparency, the NOH Earthquake Relief Fund Report 2020 was posted on the NOH website, on the fifth anniversary of the earthquake. In April 2020, the Nepal Orphans Home Board of Directors approved drawing on this fund for assistance and relief from the COVID-19 crisis.
In 2020, over $7,500 was provided in relief to others (including Kapan Childcare Home, Our Children Protection Foundation Nepal, and Mother Sister Nepal) still recovering from the earthquake. Over $5,200 was provided as COVID-19 relief, mainly support for Papa’s House children who had returned to their home villages and young adults living independently, as well as other families in the local community.
Entering 2022, almost $10,000 remained in the fund, as a contingency for assistence with future natural disasters and emergencies.
Over the year, Sunita Pandey, who also serves as Director of NOH Outreach, fields numerous requests for assistance, both from other non-profits and individuals. Assistance agreements between NOH Outreach and the recipients are signed with renewable and review dates pre-established. Progress toward self-sufficiency, where possible, is expected for the recipients.
With generous donations from the Healing Buddha Foundation, NOH supports terminally ill children in the cancer ward at Kanti Children’s Hospital in Kathmandu. Fresh fruit and food treats are supplied twice a week and birthdays of the children are celebrated, complete with birthday cake, candles, presents, balloons and sweets. Support, generally for pain medication, but also for food and shelter, is provided for poor families, usually from remote areas, with children at the hospital.
NOH also support the Goldhunga Blind Children’s Home in the Kathmandu Valley, paying the salaries of the staff and the expenses of school uniforms and shoes, as well as supplying laptop computers. A young adult from Papa’s House is the coordinator of this NOH Outreach program and visits the home on Tuesdays and Fridays, bringing milk and fruit for the children and helping them with their academics.
|Young patients at Kanti Children’s Hospital||Goldhunga Blind Children’s Home|
NOH Outreach also provides tuition for other children, mostly for attending Skylark School. In 2021, the primary education of three dozen local children was supported. NOH Outreach also offers temporary support to see local families through crises, and occasionally offers longer term assistance when needed.
At the end of 2021, NOH Outreach initiated support for an elementary school in a remote poor village in Humla, high in the mountains of Nepal. Bipin Singh, the elder brother of one of our Papa’s House girls, reported there were fifty children in this school, ranging from kindergarten to class five. The children had no socks or shoes, only their sandals. They lacked winter jackets, gloves, and stocking caps. Essentials for school, pencils, pens, paper, and erasers were in short supply. NOH Outreach funded the purchase and delivery of this clothing and school supplies.
NOH Outreach for the village children in Humla
Communications and Fundraising
Effective communications through the NOH website, social media, and public profiles have not only increased awareness of Nepal Orphans Home, but enhanced fundraising.
Throughout the year NOH Newsletters are regularly sent to over 2,900 subscribers. Many of the Newsletters feature Papa’s Updates, reflections by Michael Hess on the children and their lives at Papa’s House.
In the fall of 2016, Toni Thomson’s documentary film about Michael Hess and the children of Papa’s House, What It Takes to Be Extraordinary, was shown at three film festivals, including the LA Femme International Film Festival in Los Angeles, where Toni’s film received an award for the ‘Best Foreign Documentary.’ During the year, several members of the NOH boards screened the documentary in their communities, including Davidson, Cleveland, the Bay Area of California, and New South Wales, Australia. Also, the film was screened by friends of Nepal Orphans Home at fundraisers in London and Belgium.
The poster for Toni’s best foreign documentary
Nepal Orphans Home maintains an active presence on Facebook and Instagram, posting a message, on average, twice a week. Posts included numerous COVID-19 updates and general news of Papa’s House, Throwback Thursday photos, holidays throughout the year, magazine highlights, and winter holiday greetings with thanks to NOH supporters and friends. At the beginning of 2022, there were over 3,800 followers on the NOH Facebook page.
Nepal Orphans Home depends on donations. Over two hundred individuals around the world regularly donate to NOH. We have been inspired by the gifts of friends, who have seen or heard about our good work in Nepal. Moreover, many other individuals have supported NOH through the online fundraising platforms, including Network for Good, UniversalGiving, and AmazonSmile.
Other monetary gifts have been received through benefits and fundraisers. NOH also received support from civic organizations, including churches and schools, and businesses (with matching employee contributions).
Nepal Orphans Home is fortunate for the steadfast support of Toni Thomson’s Possible Worlds Foundation. Based in Canada, her foundation has been integral in raising awareness and generating funds for our mission over many years. In particular, PWF donations support the education and nutrition of Papa’s House children, the salary of the Papa’s House official photographer, and the Valentine’s Day celebration at Papa’s House.
During the year, Nepal Orphans Home also received grants from the Sanctuary for Kids Foundation, Hayworth Foundation, and Wilson Sexton Foundation. Since late 2017 the Healing Buddha Foundation of the United States has funded NOH‘s outreach to Kanti Children’s Hospital. Nepal Orphans Home is very grateful for the generosity of these foundations.
Perhaps no one epitomizes the mission of Nepal Orphans Home better than the young man, Chham Gurung. Michael in Papa’s House Update (June 2019) tells his story:
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 [in 2015] 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 owner of Four Brothers Trek (see www.fourbrotherstrek.com), a business he started three years ago including his three brothers, hardworking, honest Gurung men, who had earlier worked as porters. Chham has received his license from the government in high-altitude trekking...a major accomplishment. Chham has recently put money down on a jeep to take trekkers to remote areas.
Chham in early 2005, when Papa’s House began….and in 2019 in his ‘new’ 20-year-old jeep
Nepal Orphans Home is proud of every one of the children who’ve come to Papa’s House. The education and opportunities for our children are made possible by the generosity of our donors.
Nepal Orphans Home Board Members
Michael Hess, founder of Nepal Orphans Home and Director of Operations for NOH from 2005–2016 and Director of Children’s Affairs from 2017–2020, is retired in North Carolina. He is the proud father of two wonderful sons, grandfather to four precious grandchildren in the States, and Papa to over a hundred exceptional children in Nepal, helping them turn their hopes into reality.
Board of Directors
Hillary Bernhardt, a 2015 Davidson College graduate, lived in Nepal for nearly two years serving the children of Papa’s House and the local women of Dhapasi through her work as Director of the Chelsea Center. The experience of becoming embedded in the Dhapasi community has enriched her life immensely. Hillary completed her MBA at Yale School of Management in 2020 and now works at the intersection of higher education and the future of work.
Carola Drosdeck serves as vice president of NOH. She is a retired elementary teacher with most recent experience in the Shaker Heights (OH) City Schools. Previously, Carola was Assistant Director of Teacher Education Programs at John Carroll University. She volunteers at Nepal Orphans Home regularly and continues to be inspired by the resilience, curiosity, and spirit of NOH's children.
Laura Handy-Nimick began teaching in 2005 after obtaining a Master’s in Teaching degree from The Evergreen State College. She is passionate about teaching, equity in education, and supporting underprivileged children. She began volunteering for Nepal Orphans Home in 2009, which inspired her and her husband to co-found Life’s Handy Work, an organization committed to providing the children of NOH with funding for post-secondary education and training.
Peter Hess, a retired professor of economics at Davidson College, has served as the only president of the NOH Board of Directors. He and his wife, Boo, who was the NOH secretary/treasurer until 2017, have two grown sons, three young granddaughters and a grandson. They have volunteered at Papa's House a half-dozen times over the years. Their lives have been immeasurably enriched by Nepal Orphans Home and the amazing children of Papa's House.
Anne McCadden lives in Marin County, California with her husband, Dan, and two daughters. Since first volunteering at NOH in 2011, she has made annual trips to Nepal, becoming a dedicated advocate for the NOH cause. Anne and her family have rallied their local schools and community to support the mission of NOH through various fundraisers. Anne also helps oversee the accounting functions of NOH.
Ted Seymour first came to Nepal in 2014 where he met Papa and has returned annually in support of the efforts of NOH and the Chelsea Center. Based in Northern California, he received an MBA from UC Berkeley and successfully created a systems’ consulting firm before “retiring” in 2001. His passions include photography, writing, coaching high school tennis, music, and exploring the world. His “happy place” is working directly with the kids and young adults of NOH and he can often be found with a guitar on a rooftop in Kathmandu.
Board of Advisers
Suresh Acharya, an analytical professional and academic, lives in the Washington, DC area with his wife, Namita, and daughters, Shaily and Saurya. He was born and raised in Nepal and did his undergraduate work at Davidson College. Suresh and his family spent time at Papa’s House and the Chelsea Center in the summer of 2016 and are deeply appreciative of the great work Michael and the organization have done for the children of Nepal.
Elizabeth Dock Early lives in Madison, Connecticut and has three grown children and two grandchildren. She works for a local health department and is involved in many civic organizations. She is passionate about the mission of NOH. Liz serves as bookkeeper for NOH and is firmly committed to supporting the children of Papa’s House. She first volunteered at NOH in 2011 and makes annual visits.
Alyssa McCadden has organized fundraisers and raised awareness for Nepal Orphans Home with her friends and family since she was seven years old. She volunteered at NOH in 2018 and 2019 and has enjoyed getting to know the kids at NOH and its outreach programs and corresponding with them over the years. Alyssa is from Northern California and is currently studying at an international high school in Rome, Italy.
Tanya Nair served as the Director of Transition for the children of Papa’s House from 2019 to 2020. During her time at Papa’s House, she developed a wonderful relationship with the children. She firmly believes that education can empower and transform lives and has observed it first-hand through NOH’s work. She was born and raised in Mumbai, India and completed her undergraduate studies in Psychology from Davidson College.