|December 21, 2005
On Saturday the 17th of December we had a program at the Home for 15 guests from Malaysia. Mai Lai, a Thai woman married to a Nepalese man and now living in Thailand, had found our website and contacted me almost two months ago to arrange a visit. The group that she brought came bearing many gifts for the children including two very nice guitars and an electric keyboard. They also brought small individual gifts for each child.
Our girls in traditional Nepalese dance clothing greeted them at our gate and later performed a number of cultural dances on our rooftop for the very patient guests. Due to a scheduling conflict arising from a political strike closing down the city the day before, Mai and her friends had little time to spare, but warmly received the girls after the dancing when they delivered lunch to each in our table-less dining hall.
After lunch and without touching two very large cakes that Mai brought, the guesst adjourned to the outside where they entertained the children with juggling and a martial arts performance.
Mai took the time to inquire about our various programs and paid particular attention to the Women's Center remarking that this was a cause near to her heart also and she might be able to arrange an outlet for the crafts that these women will be creating. Then all too soon they were aboard their bus and off to visit another children’s home. These really fine folks came all the way to Nepal to bring a little Christmas cheer to Nepal’s orphans. That certainly speaks well of these very fine Malaysian and Thai people, and we thank them very much.
Our new school and home saw some activity this week. Papers were signed on Sunday for a three year lease. Workers arrived Monday to finish the upper two floors, and then begin renovations on the lower two floors. I include a "before" picture that doesn’t show the 4th floor which sets back a little. In front of the 4th floor will be our outside, but covered, dining hall. The next picture shows the view from the dining hall. Work is scheduled to be completed by the end of February.
Our Volunteer Nepal site has had a great deal of activity in the past two weeks with about 10 applications arriving. Most all of the candidates sound quite promising for next year.
We had a few contributions also this week. The largest has requested anonymity which I reluctantly agreed to, but they know how deeply I am touched by it. Then very nice donations came in from an old friend and her husband, Stephen and Carola Drosdeck of Cleveland Ohio, with an enjoyable update of the past (many, many) years. Also from the classroom of my friend Lucy Smith we received a donation from Craig Albright and one from Kristi England. These are young children who are concerned about the welfare of children their own age on the other side of the planet and decided they wanted to do something about it. In addition, from Lucy’s classroom we have had three parents contribute. I discovered that Alex Sweeney is one of them. Last week I incorrectly thanked “Him” for a very generous contribution. Along with Her, Missy Herrero, and Barbara Csortan sent generous donations. Missy also wrote a great letter and offered some ideas that we will be incorporating on the site very soon. She is an old friend of mine also. Lucy writes often of what great parents she has this year and they have certainly proved that.
So thank you all very much for thinking of us and reaching out to help, especially now during the holidays.
|A Farewell to Liz
This week we said goodbye to Liz Mitchell of the UK. Liz very slyly chose to distract the children from her leaving by preparing a birthday party for Narayani, who was 17 on this day, Dec 7th. Liz prepared a cake of sand and had 17 children march into a room of celebrants one at a time and place a large lit candle in the cake and then take their place with the rest of the crowd gathered around Narayani. Each candle was sufficient to illuminate a darkened football field and Narayani was near fainting when she closed the last light.
We saw through Liz’s attempt and were prepared. Each of our staff, teachers, house parents and children brought a Pusa of flowers, fruit, or candies to a shy Liz.
While here, Liz found suppliers for all the cleaning supplies that we would need in the future and left me a list of names, places, and prices to secure them. She also left everyone marveling at her stamina, patience, and kindness. We hope to see her again one day, maybe with her social worker husband John.
This has been a great week for donations as well. From a contact made through Karen Billing of www.Buttermilkbarn.com came news that Himalayan Kingdom (www.himalayankingdoms.com) would be sending 50 euros. Himalayan Kingdom supports many causes in Nepal and will soon have one of its schools renamed to The Himalayan Kingdom School.
On Friday night, as I sat preparing a budget request from the government and wondering how I would pay for our many new ventures, I received notice of four donations. The first came through a lifelong friend of my son Aaron who is also named Aaron (Sherman). Aaron has a big heart; he is a hard working young man with many bills of his own, yet he has sent forth a very meaningful donation to help kids half a planet away. He continues to impress me with his compassion and kindness for others. He is also talking up our web site and had a friend of his, Jennifer Toledo, also send a great donation along with a nice note. In addition Christopher Hayden sent a very generous contribution, but without offering any information about himself, and likewise Alex Sweeney. Hopefully those who know these guys will read this and pass along proper credit. Please know that 100% of your donations go directly to the children. Thanks!
This week Harmony House found its future home. It is a very large half-completed structure with a commanding view of the valley. The lower two floors will be used for our school which will be officially recognized and opened for the new school year in April. Till then we continue to acquire students in our present facility. We have added one new teacher to our staff this past week. Speaking of our school, I wasn’t aware that she was doing this, but Liz was buying “Tiffen” for all the school children each day. Tiffen is lunch, usually consisting of dry packaged noodles and a drink. Just another example of her quiet good deeds. Thanks Liz, now I have to do it!!! (-:
The upper two floors, unfinished as of now, will be our children’s home. The rooms are large and sunny, the air clean, and the window view in each an enchanting place for the kids to sit. I will move my room and office to the top floor next to the kitchen and dining area. We will be signing a three year lease later this week. Work will be completed in two months. We have room for about 160 students, the size that I would like to cap for now so that we can have a very good teacher/student ratio.
Our present home will be freshened up and then opened as a refuge and training/teaching center for displaced women. Our newest staff member Chaudney will be in charge of this center as well as our adoption service. Chaudney will begin full time on December 17th.
That’s about it for now. I will close with a test to see if my young brother Bob Linscott of Boston Mass ever reads this site. Bob teaches Comparative Religion in Wellesley, Mass. He earned his Masters from Harvard. Bob, this is to let you know we have an opening in our school for you starting in April 2006. You will be paid in smiles, hugs, momos and the look of joy in the faces of students as they acquire new knowledge.
|Ann Gullen’s Gift
This week’s update has to begin with the early Christmas party. As I mentioned last week, Ann H. Gullen, Heather’s Mom, sent a $500 donation to my Paypal account. She gave no direction as to how she wanted to have the money spent, just that it should go for the good of the children. So I turned to Heather, who suggested an early Christmas party. Heather did all the work from making the list to locating many of the items. She ordered trunks for each of the children and had them delivered to my rooms. Then on Thursday night she came and started the laborious task of placing names on the boxes as well as stuffing each with carefully wrapped gifts. She went so far as to buy a large postcard for each child and then wrote a personal note to each on their card.
I helped to color the names but was kindly dismissed from active duty after that. I did however cook a fine New England boiled dinner (without the meat) in order to give the others the strength to carry on...
My neighbor Rupa and her cousin Sabana came and worked for many hours alongside of Heather. At about 10 o’clock I went to bed waking to scraping sounds at 4 in the morning. I thought perhaps the reindeer had landed on the roof, but it was only Heather still working. At 6 when I started my day she had just settled down for the night.
I returned at 10 with a truck to deliver and set up the home while the kids were in school.
Finally released from school, clothes changed and the bathing complete, the children were allowed to come to the roof and find their trunks.
Thank you’s were cast to the wind 37 times to Ann Gullen, mother of Heather who in New York maybe was slightly stirred in her early morning sleep by the pure energy of this heartfelt appreciation.
In other news, Heather left our home on Sunday after the kids went to school. She stood with me to load the ten who take the bus. The children were all wet-eyed when they hugged her and climbed aboard. We then finished getting the 22 smaller ones who attend school next door ready and, slightly ignorant of this last goodbye, they cheerfully waved and hollered “bye-bye sister” to her as I walked them out the gate.
When I returned there was a taxi waiting and Heather standing next to it. A moment later she was gone. She has left organization, love, and good ideas in her wake. Last night and today also I have been asked when she will return. This morning a general malaise had slowed down the process of getting the kids off to school. Her absence was felt by everyone. At 6:10 this morning a huge Thai airliner pulled itself loud and heavy into the sky over Kathmandu and our home. I waved to it from my porch and then continued to do my daily morning clothes washing in the cold morning air.
Rather than offer more updates I will give more space to pictures this week.
Karen Billing continues to work hard and alone in England and use the fruit of her labor to support many causes, our home among them. Please visit her web site www.buttermilkbarn.com to learn more about her.
I mentioned my sister-in-law Boo Hess last week and her extremely generous donation. This week I received a very nice donation from Ann H. Gullen. It arrived at my Paypal account without any note or other information about the sender. I later learned that Ann is the mother of Heather, our first volunteer. Next week I will have a column on what a great offering this was and what it is we have decided to do with it. We are really having fun with the planning, and the execution of the plan will be unforgettable.
Another volunteer who came to us just days after Heather arrived is Liz. She is from a small town some distance outside of London. Liz is raising the bar for all future volunteers. She is well organized, analytical, and quick to act. The germs that would naturally be a part of a household of 38 children have no idea what hit them. Liz purchased cleaning tools, wash basins, and powerful cleaning agents, then designed a schedule, rolled up her sleeves and attacked. The home has never looked more sparkling. In addition she organizes games and plays with the kids once they return home from school. In the cool fog of morning she is in the front line of dressing the children. Every citizen of Great Britian would be proud to call her one of their own.
When I speak of Heather and Liz as our first volunteers I have failed to clarify that they are the first that came by way of an organization that placed them in our home. Our very first volunteers came last summer. I was very proud to have Lucy Smith, my friend and partner for many years, and her daughter Natalie, whom I have always claimed as my daughter. We have been like father and daughter since she was six years old, and we will always be that way. Natalie is awaiting word now from the University of Florida Dental School. She has been an exceptional student throughout her academic career, as well as a perfect daughter. Lucy is one of Tomoka Elementary School's finest teachers, and this year she was named the Teacher of the Year. Everyone who knows Lucy knows kindness personified. She is so loved by every child that meets her as well as their parents. Last summer Lucy and Natalie came to Nepal for close to a month. They taught school in the mornings and toiled away at the orphanage in the afternoons. Always the teacher, Lucy made sure that we loaded up buses for trips to cultural places that most of the kids had never seen. They even took two teachers and six students on an airplane flight over Mount Everest, the first flight, and the first viewing of Everest for every one of them. Their time here is etched in the minds of everyone they encountered.
Many things are coming together at the home. I have hired a few new people to help in various aspects of our growing interest. Chandu is a young girl who has just finished her teacher's degree. She has been coming to the home early each morning for the past month to help the children with their school work. She is very unimposing and might be found ironing clothes once the children's homework has been checked. She never asked for any money. One day I talked to her about my desire to open a school. I felt that it was a ways off yet, but after we talked I had the courage and confidence to say let's go with it. We opened last week for the village children who could not afford to go to even the government school. We started without any equipment, just pencils, notebooks, and a ton of enthusiasm. Today was our fourth day, and we have 15 children. Tomorrow our books arrive. This week the tailor will come and measure the children for uniforms. As I guide our children from the home out the exit to school, Chandu is welcoming the village kids in from the other side. Each day has brought a new student. We are so excited about growing with the need. Mark this post, because one year from now I believe our school will have over 100 well-dressed students and six or more dedicated teachers like Chandu. We will have all the facilities needed and a reputation for excellence. Along with Chandu is a former student of mine Sarita Lama. She came to me to be our gardener, as vegetable growing is an art form for her; but when the school was started I lost our gardner each morning to a nobler cause.
An update from last week: Sapana and her brother went back to Lumjan with their mom. It was clear that this family should not be further divided so I gave the mother enough money to go and collect the other two and return to us. A much relieved Sapana, with new ribbons in her hair and a huge smile, hugged me goodbye. Her mom was visibly emotional when she said Namaste, and then the three of them, toting some of their meager belongings, bid us farewell in the early morning mist and started the journey back to Lumjan and the other two children. I hope they will make it back safely to us in another two or three weeks.
Much more for next week. It is an exciting time for us. But for now, Sunday night November 27th, that is all.
|Volunteers and Service
Today is Sunday, the 20th of November. A regular day in Nepal, school is in session and I will take advantage of a few hours' quiet to do this week's update.
About a week ago a young woman named Heather was dropped off at the home. She had volunteered through a Nepalese organization to come to Nepal and combine volunteering with trekking and had just finished the latter. This was a first for us and we could not have found a better person to begin the practice with. Heather hit the ground running and has brought added joy and laughter to the home.She has a keen eye for the smaller needs of the children insofar as routine and behavior modification and an admirable way of initiating it.She is self-motivated and has gone in search of things like tooth brush holders for each child and the nails with which to hang them, and has done so. We both have been so focused on the children that we really have not had a chance to relax and talk so I will postpone offering a biography of this wonderful person until next week. I do know that she has an extensive background working with children, and like me offers the children lots of hugs and warmth, something that most Nepalese adults shy away from, but the children all desire. She was to leave after three weeks and then had planned to bask in the Thai sun before returning to the cold of Colorado, but has extended her stay with us and shortened the basking. Just one of many examples of her selflessness.
I received notice this week that a donation had been made through the Paypal account. This was an overly generous donation made by my sister-in-law Boo Hess. Boo has been like a sister to me from the time I first met her at 18 or 19. She is the type of person who very quietly goes about doing the right thing, never seeking acknowledgement or praise. She is a model of what most women would want to be—smart, strong, funny, and always there to help others. A perfect mom and wife, she has been a great blessing to our family.
With Boo's donation I thought a lot about how to use it. We have many needs. With 38 children, I have been averaging $5000 a month in expenses. This amount will go down a little as that money also reflects one-time purchases that have a long life, but many things are needed again and again, like school uniforms and other clothes, shoes, and the frequent doctor and dental visits. My own savings will last us another few months only; then I would need to start selling stocks (my retirement) and they are mostly long-term investments.So with this in mind I was wondering how to make giving more enjoyable to others instead of simply trusting that your money would go to actually helping the children. So here is my suggestion. I will post new pictures of the kids along with their names. If you see a child that you would like to buy a blue party dress for (as an example), write to me and ask how much that would cost. I will e-mail you back the cost, in this case about $10.00. Then you can send the $10.00 through Paypal with the purpose in the comment line. I will take that child upon notice of receipt and buy her a blue party dress, take her picture and e-mail it to you or post it on our web site. This way you will see your money immediatly go to the child's benefit. I do not take a single penny for what I do. If you see a child that you might like to have go out for a pizza and ice cream one night, then tell me that, or if you want to help with the school cost or books for a certain child, that is also fine. Whatever you can think of doing to help I can do that and offer quick evidence that it has been done, and 100% of your donation did it.
The little girl with the pensive look has just been brought to me. After a few days she is now starting to smile. She lives with an aunt in the village, with her two brothers. Her parents have died, and her aunt is quite old and can't take care of the children. At this moment we haven't the space for them either so I have been helping the aunt keep them with her until we do.
Like with the above situation, this next woman and her daughter have a similar problem. The mom came with two of her children two weeks ago. They are from a Maoist-controlled area, where she has lost her husband. She has four children and no means of support. In a few days she will make the gut-wrenching trip back to her village, leaving behind Sapana and her little brother. She will try to continue to care for the other two. She lives in great danger every day, and unimaginable poverty. For the mothers who might be reading this, please consider for a moment saying goodbye to your young children for what might be the last time. At 4 in the morning Sapana woke the house with screaming and sobbing. She knows that her mom will be leaving, and her mom had left their bed for a moment. Sapana thought she was gone for good. Her mother was to leave that morning but could not after that. So she extended her stay a few more days. She is a kind and loving mother. If you want to help her stay together with the kids then I will use your contributions to find a room near the home for them. If there is enough money then I will get the kids uniforms and register them for school. This is just another way to personalize your gift of care.
Please think about it. I must rely upon those in western countries to send a little bit each to help. No one in Nepal, including the government can.
Thank You Sincerely,
|Nepalese Cultural Dance Troupe
I have many young friends who spend a good deal of their free time with me. Not a morning is had without one or more stopping in before they go to school for toast and jam and to chat for awhile. The evenings are the same, and my nightly coffee on my setting sunlit balcony is never without company.
When the children are not in school they will often go with me to the orphanage. They have been very helpful in many ways and have become like cousins to the children in the home. These too are special children who have shown me a great deal about finding joy in little things. They each have dreams of their own and a considerable amount of determination. A few of them begin school at 5:30 in the morning, and then will return home to a day's worth of tasks helping the family before starting their homework long after dark. None of them have single homes with indoor plumbing, but live in rooms with their families in communal buildings with a single water tap and one or two toilets for all to share.
The pictures that you see here are of a few of these fine kids. They dance. And when they dance their hearts soar, they move with grace and speed, lightly, almost floating across the floor. When they dance they are like uncaged birds.
I have decided to form what at the moment will be called the "Nepalese Cultural Dance Troupe." We had our first official meeting on Wednesday the 9th of November. I am shooting for the moon with this idea, but it is our hope that in 5 months time we will have arranged to come to America and perform in schools and churches on the East Coast. I know that the venues will be easy to arrange, and admission prices will cover the cost of travel in the US. But the trip to the US will be very expensive. I hope that each child in this group will find some sponsorship online through this web site. I will post pictures and biographies of each child, and the price of the visa and airfare. After reading about each child I hope that some will contribute. I will have a running tally listed next to each child, and also the contributor;s names if the contibutor has no objection.
There will be 11 girls in the troupe. One of the girls, Anjana, will be the spokesperson. She will narrate, explaining the dances, and also offering narration for a slideshow that will be presented about these girls' lives, and the life at Harmony House, our home. It is my hope that this very entertaining evening will promote a better understanding of life in Nepal and further my efforts to broadcast the need for a little support for the home.
Through family and friends in each planned venue I hope to arrange to have the girls stay with local families, 2 or 3 per family for the few days that we will be in each location. This way I feel the girls can really experience American life, and the host can see firsthand just what amazing young people these are.
I will be writing much more about this as time moves along. For now, please start to consider how you might want to help, and in so doing help the children in my home. We will travel with a poster of each child from Harmony House, and those posters will be around the stage; they are the foundation for this idea that I hope will yield many blessings for them as well as the girls in the Troupe.
That is it for this week, November 10th 2005.
It has been a good week. This evening as I write all is quiet in the street. Tihar is all but officially over. The Hindu festival, otherwise known as the Festival of Light, honors assorted Gods, and their animal incarnations as well as brothers and sisters. There is much in the way of good cheer, families uniting, sharing food and togetherness. Emphasis is put on traditional ceremonial practices, passed on from one generation to another for hundreds of years. Unlike our Christian celebrations, gifts are not exchanged; the only giving is that of love and repect.
For the past few weeks I have been taking the children to buy new clothes. We go in groups of 3 to buy for, and one of the older girls to help me. With the older children we walk; they enjoy getting away from the home and are in no hurry to return. It is mostly downhill to the store, no more that 4km from the home, with many colorful enchantments along the rocky dusty dirt road.
We have settled on a particular clothing store. The owner is a delightful woman whot runs it with a steady and good-natured hand, ably assisted by her two granddaughters. There is a lot of affection evident between the three of them, and they remain non-plussed as we come in and try several different sets of clothes before settling on one outfit. The counter is always piled high with the rejected wear. All three have warm smiles and indulge the children with infinite patience.
The grandmother has been increasing our discount steadily as each day brought three new and excited faces to her. Among the 38 children from the home I have prepared maybe 15 more village children for the winter at this store. I have never asked her for a discount, I felt that she was acting fairly from the beginning and her warmth and service meant a lot to me. But as of yesterday she had decreased her profit by 25% on our purchases.
I am no longer certain that she is making anything, but the look in her eye tells me she feels very rewarded. I have asked them if they ever go to a cyber cafe and use a computer. They don't. One day I hope to show them this update, which I am dedicating to them, with heartfelt thanks.
From the store we always go to a popular spot for an ice cream. My palate appreciates this as much as the children's, but the arteries to my heart are looking forward to the end of the clothes buying.
School begins Sunday. I think we all look forward to our routine again.
My thanks once again to Carol Miller for her continued support. Her check this week has meant a lot to the children and me.
|The Nature Club
I had found out about a place called the Nature Club. They have a large swimming pool, a manicured lawn, and facilities for weddings. They cater to the 5% of Nepal that has disposable income.
I arranged with the owner, a sympathetic and kind man, to allow our "family" to hire the club for an afternoon. The caste system is very evident in Nepal still, and being a business man he agreed to letting us use the fascilities on a mid week afternoon. He closed the gate behind us, and other than a cook and a young lifeguard, the owner himself worked to serve us and to make sure we had a good time.
We had one ill-fitting suit among us all so t-shirts and or panties, pajama bottoms, a pair of shorts, and in the case of the "didi", sister in Nepalese, who helps watch over the children, she wore the kolta salwa that she came in.
Style aside we were a very exuberant group, as the pictures will attest to. One little girl jumping high and into the water in her pajama bottoms sums it up. Her name is pronounced "someday" and I hope that portends the great future this charming and courageous little girl will have.
We again ordered chow mein; and the owner ensured large individual plates were served steaming hot. The pool water is a little cold, and so while eating the children spread their bathing wear out to dry. After the food and sun warmed them, they were quick to go back to the pool and there stayed until a long shadow from the surrounding building took the heartiest of the group out of the pool.
I admire and appreciate the owner of the Nature Club for allowing us this opportunity. His few deep pocketed customers would likely not be very enthusiastic should they know.
In closing, we are a happy family. But nothing can replace the fact that these kids have no parents. My father used to wear a New York Yankees baseball cap. The other day I was walking through the village of Dhapasi and coming towards me was an older Nepalese man walking slowly and wearing the same style blue New York Yankees baseball cap that my father wore. His eyes seemed much younger than his years and he placed his hands together in prayer position and said "Namaste" as he passed, our eyes holding one another in our approach. Suddenly as I walked on I felt the sting of tears and the involuntary quiver of my face as memories of my father came back to me. At 53 I still miss him very much. When these children are falling asleep at night, what are they thinking about? I try to bring enough pleasure and distraction into their lives in an effort that they don't think about their parents. But just as in my case, I see in their faraway looks at times that they have travelled back to a period of their lives that they have not and cannot completely share.
Adoption is not an easy process. But it can be done. Food for thought.
Thank you Carol Miller, mother of Karen Billing www.buttermilkbarn.com for sending another donation. I am using it to help pay for new clothes for the kids to wear for Tihar.
Till next week,
|Trip to the Zoo
Last Thursday, the 20th of October, we took a trip to the zoo. School had been closed for 32 of the children for about 9 days and a restlessness was setting in. Dashain, one of the holiest of the many Hindu festivals had just closed, bringing with it a return to school for the children that attend Minar school; but the Science Lab where the others go had elected to remain closed until after Tihar, the second holiest of events, which as I write is still 7 days away.
We discussed the trip for a week, affording the children a little joyful anticipation to fall back on when the days started to grind down to boredom.
October and November are my favorite months in Nepal. The weather is predictably good, the sun shines welcomingly warm after cool nights, and the air seems pure and charged. Sometime in the predawn hours of Thursday I woke to thunder claps and a steady percussion on the window. We were to leave at 10 so I felt that the cold front that brought this storm in would soon depart.It never did. We were teased with moments of blue sky during the descision making time as to go or not so we forged on.
The rented bus turned out to be a large van, despite my careful explanations that a potential 38 people would be aboard. It took a full five minutes of geometric analysis to execute entry into the van. it was a circus act of the highest caliber and we looked like a Gary Larsen drawing as we left the home in the steady rain.
Arriving at the zoo 40 minutes later we unwound our positions and entered a world devoid of people (who else would go to the zoo in a steady hard rain) but alive with scores of animals determined to make this day a memorable one. We watched a very animated and large elephant bathe in the lake, teasing his trainer with his independence. We saw a foursome of leopards that were not getting along, a couple of large lions dashing back and forth between two caves through a great deal of underbrush, a frentetic looking Himalayan sloth-toed bear pacing before us, like a preoccupied professor, occasionaly stopping and growling out a fine point in his frustrated delivery. All the animals performed well and perhaps the rain brought this about. We slogged on in the cool rain completing the circuit in about two hours. The end of the line had a canteen near a large gazebo. I saw the sparkle in the eye of the canteen owner as we approached and took command of every chair and table.
We ordered tea. The air was still, and so just being out of the rain afforded us a sense of warmth. The tea was good, and brought about a sense of comfort that one would not want to disturb, especaily with the rain falling around our shelter. So we ordered vegetable chow mein and sat basking in our little bit of Nirvana.
When the last fork clattered down to rest on an empty plate I saw the uneasy glances of the children suggesting that this moment shouldn't yet end, so we ordered Fruitys and kept it alive for a while longer.
Back through the rain and to the van, all a little larger now than before, we climbed into position a little less neatly. The rain beat down on the metal roof, the defroster hummed hot air in front, and after a few moments all the kids were sound asleep, a van full of intwined sprawling limbs, heads on shoulders, and peacefull looking faces.
That's it for now. October 23rd, 2005. I hope that any readers of this site (except for my benevolent family) will consider the lives of these children, the spirit that makes them so unique and help me to give them a better life, and hope for the future. My bank account is getting uncomfortably low.
October 14th, 2005
The concert was a mitigated success. Four of the six performers who promised to show up actually did. Those four sang with enthusiasm. The other two simply did not show, and the promised biggest name who was to be delivered by one of the board members never made it.
Fortunately, we sold very few tickets, so the number of dissapointed ticket holders I think all shared the same taxi home after it was over.
Two of our children recited poems that they had written themselves, and with a great deal of composure. Three other young female friends of the home did a Nepalese cultural dance, as well as a group of young people from the local high school. All the dancing was inspired, and the time spent on costumes and make up was extraordinary.
The same woman, the board member who had promised to deliver the surprise guest singer, was also responsible for selling the 1000rs tickets, but they also were a non event. This lady however did receive an honor for her contribution to the home before the event started. The others that did sell tickets were a little confused as to what they were supposed to do with the money and they simply never came around to turn it in.
The event in short was pretty much a good parable for doing business in Nepal.
The angst that I suffer from this event was ephemeral. The knowledge of how to effectively run an orphanage or conduct any other business in Nepal has come to me one piece at a time and this event delivered the final one. The culture is the way it is, and it is senseless and comical that I should try to change things, and now that I have come to terms with that I also have had that anxiety replaced with serenity.
We are celebrating the third day of Dashain today, Oct 14th. Dashain is a five-day holy festival; the air is charged with the same lightness as Christian countries are during Christmas. This combined with the October skies make this a banquet for the senses. I will have a few photos accompany this brief update as they speak much more eloquently than I.
Till next week, the best to you all.
This update is way past due. Today is September 28th. I returned from a very brief trip to America on September 14th. The purpose of the trip was to welcome my first granddchild into this troubled world. "Nora" with understandable hesitation did not make her debut until the 16th. I sadly missed her birth, but my children have kept me current with pictures of this beautiful child. I write letters to her now which she will receive one day later in her life.
While in America I gave a speech at a luncheon concerning Nepal Orphans Home. This was my first direct speaking engagement, and the first time I have stood before anyone and asked for help. Unfortunately the talk, though very inspired, failed to move anyone enough to donate anything. Other concerns more notable and happening in the US made our little life saving project in a Third World country on the other side of the planet of little concern. Everyone has their priorities, and most Americans are very generous when it comes to aiding those in the aftermath of a tragedy. In the absence of a cataclysmic event, the daily hunger, disease, and despair of much of the world is easy to ignore.
However, every story has its silver lining, and this one is sterling. Karen Billing of Homespun Americana LTD (www.buttermilkbarn.com) arrived on August 12th as promised. Karen is an American who moved to England many years ago, married and has two beautiful children, Emily and Christopher. With their support and that of her husband Stephen, this very hard working and dedicated human has turned thoughts of wanting to help into action. Please visit her web site. Karen is an artist and a business woman. She creates what she sells, working long, long hours in her home. She then donates her income from her sales to support schools and orphanages that exist 8000 miles away, because she recognizes that very few people feel comfortable donating to causes so far from home, and governments are not interested in helping the people of a non oil-producing country.
Karen contacted me after visiting my web site. We exchanged several e-mails prior to her visit. Her stay in Nepal would be a little brief and she already had her time committed to other schools and homes, but she promised me a day, and delivered.
Along with two of my children, I picked Karen up early at her hotel and brought her back to Harmony House where 38 anxious children were waiting for her. She came bearing gifts, and motherly hugs, and if a smile from a child is a reward then she has received the king's vault.
We set off from the home for our weekly hike. Our path was often only shoulder-width wide, sometimes just between rice fields; other times in the mountains with a sheer drop on one side or another. We would hike single file, I in the lead, but when I would look back upon the serpentine trail I would see a number of children all holding onto some part of Karen. She showed great dexterity.
Our destination was a hilltop field with supernatural shaped small pines, a steady breeze, and a "Sound of Music" style hillside below. We sat in the shade to relax among many cows, water buffalos, goats, seeking the same refuge from the midday heat. Though it was the monsoon season, the skies were clear this day. All the children circled her to hear her talk, and to cuddle close to this affectionate mother, and to have their photo taken with her.
It was a splendid time, along our trip back home, we stopped at the homes of a couple villagers where they too delighted in meeting Karen and having photos with her. All of us pretty exhausted, we made it back to the home in the late afternoon, and a few of us then took Karen back to her hotel. We only gave her a little over an hour to repair before collecting her for a dinner in her honor that the home had planned with glee for a few weeks.
On the rooftop of the home, Karen joined in with the traditional Nepalese dancing further delighting the children. Food, music, and dance gave way to quiet reflection as the evening grew late, and Karen sat surrounded with adoring and adorable children.
Many of the children have continued to write to Karen, as well as a few of the staff. She has left a great impression. Since her visit she has sent care packages of small stuffed animals, enough for all of the 38 children. She has also placed, without comment or fanfare, donations into our Paypal account on a regular basis.
I continue a steady exchange of e-mail with Karen. She has become a good friend, and a steady voice with wonderful advice when the frustrations inherent in this undertaking start to wear upon me.
So this update is dedicated to Karen Billing.
The past two months have seen a whirlwind of activity. We are well established in our new home now, personal space for all the kids has been claimed, and a nice routine has brought a calm platform from which individual and group inspirations find encouragment.
A brief updae: rewinding to my last post, when I took Bal Bahadur to the dentist for his root canal. we learned that his needs went well beyond that one procedure, and suspecting the same with all the children we hired the dentist and her staff to visit the house and examine everyone. Photos of their visit should be posted shortly. They extracted nine teeth on the spot, from 36 children seen, and they made appointments for 34 children with a variety of needs.
With heartwarming precision and the hiring of a very nice young unemployed dad to help walk all the kids to the dentist office, we managed to have all 34 treated in a little over ten days' time. We will have a revisit from the dentist in six months.
I was not terribly popular with some of the younger kids that week. They didn't quite grasp that the uncomfortable work being done in their mouths would benefit them later; they only new that it was no fun now, and I was the one responsible. Fortunately they are a kind-hearted group and let me off the hook soon.
We have been taking Saturday hikes down into the valley, armed with water and biscuits. Most of the kids eagerly join in and after a couple hours in one direction we will find a cool and breezy spot to have our biscuits and then lie back and watch the clouds float by. I have found that orphans are quite comfortable with themselves and can easily and enjoyably find their own quiet tranquility when the environment warrants, such as cloud watching. Other children that I have taken seem to feel a need to chatter constantly as if silence was something to ward away. Our children naturally slip into a group silence so that the stillness raises the volume of the birds,and the breeze in the trees. When the energy is restored, and ruminations thoughtfully examined, the smiling faces take one another in and we begin again. These are great days.
Our last hike was to a waterfall, about two and a half hours away through some of the most beautiful scenery on Earth. The rains came an hour into the hike, and in a group of 30 or so we had but a few umbrellas. But the rain was warm enough, and the smiles never left the children's faces as we slogged on. We made it to the falls, some of the kids danced under the cascading water enjoying the best shower of their lives, and then we began our journey back, met again by a compelling rain.
Home and dry, hot tea and dahl batt warming their stomachs, the kids rehashed the day with quick flashes of broad grins, like fireflies in the night, as talk gave way to dreams of the same.
We have celebrated a number of birthdays, the first fest was to honor two: Kalpana and Bishwas. With the help of Lucy and Natalie visiting from America, we had two very large cakes, presents, and an evening of dancing and music on the roof top in the glow of a multi-colored sunset. Natalie decided to teach the "Funky Chicken" to all the kids, further expanding their image of these interesting Americans. The "Funky Chicken" is a far cry from the graceful and poignant classical Nepalese dance that the kids are used to, but it was the one that had them all on their feet laughing and gyrating.
Another occasion had five celebrants; each had their own cake, each a different flavor. This night was a "moveable feast" as the rain came twice, but with an intermission of a sky lit in pink and orange. We finally capitulated and repaired to the common room for dancing and singing.
And on the third occasion, I and a young Nepalese friend took Binu and Chham to a restaraunt in the tourist section of Kathmandu. It was great fun to see them take in so many new wonders. Their eyes alive and glowing, quick and secret grins between them as they observed new things and tasted foods unknown to them. Even the taxi ride provided them a glimce of another life.
We also had another dermatologist come to the home, and just shy of a months passing, 95% of the kids have clear, disease-free skin again.
A new school accepted 32 of the children. We had new uniforms made and the kids look great in their crisp grey and white colors.The school is an English school but also teaches in both languages to make sure that the kids understand. Other schools, like Minar, where I teach, and where five others of the orphans go, will fine the kids for speaking in Nepalese. I do not believe that it is ever enforced, but the idea is present.
We attended a football game at the National Stadium a few weeks ago, it was "Orphans Day." It was a little sad to see half of the stadium full.
I am visiting a small village next week to see about bringing back three more children. Their mother has died, and their father has abandoned them. They are homeless and the village wants to send them to a home. Two brothers and a sister, aged 6-9. We are maxed out now with 37 children, but I have begun to turn the single beds into bunk beds so we will be able to free up a lot of space.
Our home is a happy one, clean, the kids in good health and great spirit. They attend school six days a week and study hard. They are very special, kind and resilient. I have never been so impressed by young people before. They share without urging, lend a hand to others quickly and without comment. Their eyes are deep, warm, chocolate pools of lives that most could never quite believe.
I have spent countless sunsets at the home, and the image of the setting sun in the eyes of one of these little 10 year old girls, her lips together in a slight smile, without words she gazes intently at me , silently passing on to me her life through her cinnamon colored eyes.I have been spared the expense of a musuem visit forever for I have seen the greatest masterpiece there could be.
We eagerly await a wonderful new friend from London who wants to try to help us. She will be here on the 12th Of August. Updates about her and her own web site as soon as I ask her permission.
Permission has been granted and I am thrilled to let any reader know about Karen Billing of Homespun Americana Ltd. Please visit Karen's web site http://www.buttermilkbarn.com. She is a supporter of many fine charities and has given most generously to our home.
That's it for now,
|Update on the Move
On June 1st the children of Harmony house returned from school to our new location in Dhapasi. We had completed all the new beds, one for each member of the house, and each had a new set of colorful sheets, a pillow, and a pillow case. When the children walked towards the home for their first time that evening and realized that this big old place was going to be their new home, the single file line of uniformed and back-packed kids broke out in a collective grin.
We have three floors of living space, the top of our home, like a typical Nepalese home, is flat with a short wall around it. From here one has a commanding view of the mountains beyond, and the village life about it.The second and third floors also have very large balconies on different sides of the house.
Water remains a problem; we have dug three wells in an effort to get some. The third and last met with mitigated success. Soon, once the monsoon comes, we should have plenty of good clean water. This will be pumped to the roof top where it will be filtered and stored in a 200-liter storage tank. In the interim, we have had a water tanker deliver and pump water into the underground storage tank, but it needs to be used judicially.
Curtains are being made and I have been assured that they will be delivered and hung by Saturday night, the 11th of June. Now without curtains' it benefits my photography interest with exquisite images of the sun pouring in and through the occupants as they sit on their beds studying, or in conversation with one another.
The other afternoon, late, I passed by one of the boy' rooms, and the only occupant at the time was a sweet guy of 10. He was lying on his bed, on his side, silently crying into his pillow. When I sat down to see what was the matter I found that he had what appeared to be an impacted and infected tooth at the rear of his mouth, and it was causing him great pain. I had some very strong Ibuprofen with me, and some amoxicillon and gave him both. Then I had him gargle with warm salt water for awhile. I sat with him for another twenty minutes and then went on to other chores. About 30 minutes later I looked out the window, and he was playing soccer in the yard, already feeling better. The next morning we took him to the dentist, where she prepared him for a root canal, which will be performed Sunday morning. At that time another little boy who has two teeth that grew in over his eye teeth will go with us to see what they can do about that. And then there are still a few kids suffering from skin problems that have not reacted favorably to the last doctor's visit, so we have hired a dermatologist to help us out and he will be coming Saturday morning the 11th.
Beyond this, there is a wonderful atmosphere to the house, a lot of smiling, and room to move. The children dance and sing together in the evenings, and run and play hard after school. The house is very clean; the outside has all been primed and awaits the second coat of paint. I hope soon to be able to afford to start buying separate wardrobes for the children to keep their school uniforms and other clothes in. We have come so far in a short amount of time, but we have so many more things that need to be done yet to make this a really great environment. ButI know that step by step we are building a strong foundation for all that we hope will come after.
Pictures of the changes will be forthcoming just as soon as I figure out how to upload them onto this site; this sort of thing remains a huge challenge to me.
That is it for now, but please check back in a week's time.