December 3, 2017
2017 has been a good year at NOH. All the children, from our youngest Hope Angel at four years and eight months, to those now hitting twenty-five and older, have had personal breakthrough moments, epiphanies of both mind and soul, catalyzed by situations good or challenging, as they continue to develop character and skills ahead of their ages. Profound moments of realization for the individual and joyful moments for the rest of us to share with them.
Five of our boys won scholarships to a college noted for its basketball program. Bimal has turned his year’s worth of Saturday morning art instruction by a kind College of Fine Arts instructor, into some captivating and technically advanced paintings in his own style, which he has been selling to very appreciative viewers.
The Artist, Bimal, in a thoughtful moment.
Urmila won a full scholarship and placed first out of hundreds taking an admission test to Kantipur Dental College; four of our nine advanced Taekwondo students tested and won their Black Belts; the others have not yet tested due to time conflicts but will soon.
Sujan, Ram Saran, Sumitra, and Lalita
In less obvious fronts we have witnessed the graceful transition of those leaving their teen years and displaying the best of adultness in how they balance college, work, friends, group living, independence and inter-dependence, maintaining their individuality, and growing even more confident in themselves and their choices for a future.
And then we have lots of children not yet teens who are in the early throngs of maturing, laying claim to an identity they now recognize and nurture.
My camera is always ready and one morning at school I asked these six to stop after they came in the gate so I could take their picture; what was not posed was how they walked away afterwards in such a show of camaraderie.
There are few rewards as fulfilling as sharing the evolution of your children from bundles of energy living in the moment, whose attention span is as brief as a butterfly, to young adults full of quiet conviction and a desire to return to you their thanks for always being there for them.
It has been five weeks since the NOH Business Incubator program helped Ashok and Dhiraj open the “Brothers’ Café” on the grounds of Skylark School. With a student body of over 500 non-NOH students, half of which have the means to buy a good lunch, and over thirty teachers wishing for a variety to choose from for their mid-day meal, we felt this to be a perfectly positioned location for the Brothers to begin their dream.
The boys have done well; they have assembled a staff consisting mostly of our college students who are available after 10am to help. They are working hard in cultivating a following and developing additional opportunities to serve groups remaining on the school grounds after the regular school day has ended. We have every reason to believe that they will be successful in overcoming the natural impediments any business incurs, and we are impressed by the lack of tension and the jovial environment they have created.
Day one at Brothers’ Café, making Momos
A full house at lunchtime
Sharing a laugh with Anita Mahato
Ashok, on the left, finished three years of college, has taught the adult women at our Chelsea Center for two years, and is a member of the Papa’s House Board of Directors. He recently received a scholarship at Thames College to study IT and has begun a three-year program.
Dhiraj, on the right, has always excelled academically and has helped to develop some of the computer programs taught at the Chelsea Center. He has finished two years of college in Science and is taking a year off to contemplate his future while getting his TOFEL certificate, and exploring opportunities in Medicine, or IT.
The boys are part of the twelve children we rescued from an abusive orphanage ten years ago, and they are incredibly good kids. They have received this money as a zero-interest two-year loan payable monthly. The repayment allows the fund to help other students with their own business plans.
The NOH Business Incubator Initiative received a very generous contribution from Gary and Stonie Jefferies who have been donors for several years from their Australian home. They teach ballroom dancing and a few years back completed construction of their dream facility. Once a year they hold a gala event with NOH being the beneficiary of it. Their past support has been with our Kanti Children’s Hospital program for the terminally ill and for the soon to be launched care of the baby facility at another orphanage. Gary and Stonnie are the brother and sister-in-law of Deb and Alan Norton who spent a year in Nepal--Alan working for the Australian Embassy and Deb reviving and managing our NOH Book Clubs. They are also very generous donors for our educational programs.
In addition, Kathleen Hayes has been a wonderful supporter with encouragement, business planning, and donations, her latest for the Incubator Program. Kathleen was a member of our “Yoga for Freedom” yoga trek 11 years ago in which each participant’s fees allowed us to support a girl formerly in indentured servitude and bring her into the family. Over twenty girls as a result were brought to Dhapasi and Kathleen has been helping us ever since.
While mentioning the support for the Business Incubator Program I would like to mention a few more programs that have received the support needed to either launch them or expand in a considerable way the program itself. I believe that all our donors know the depth of appreciation NOH has for their support, I find as meaningful the donor who can give $5 as those who manage to raise or simply donate much larger amounts, and my letters to you all are sincere attempts at ensuring your understanding of the benefit the donation has to our work in Nepal. We make sure that our Nepalese staff receives a salary that is generous by community standards, but further they feel like family and have benefits in education, health care, compassionate understanding of personal situations and more. We feel that our staff is with us because they share the common desire to help others and to put that before more tangible goals in life. This is part of what makes our work so enjoyable. We all wish for the best for others, and from this we reap benefits that feed the heart, and keep us happy.
We have in the past month had the pleasure of donor visits, donors who have come here, seen firsthand the work we do, considered the programs we are running, and made choices as to what would be meaningful for them to support.
I would like to mention them here as a further recognition in how they have actively become a part of NOH.
Cath and Rick Maddox have spent time with us twice and have held very successful fundraisers on three occasions; they exemplify the type of donor mentioned above. Recently they held a fundraiser in their Saudi Aramco home where Rick, a very accomplished and passionate jazz musician plays for the guests and Cath, an extraordinary chef, prepares a meal never forgotten. Their interest in supporting us is twofold: our funding of a facility that houses abandoned babies found in Kathmandu and our work helping the terminally ill at the children’s hospital, the latter ongoing for four years, the former to begin in January. The support of Cath and Rick and their visits make so much happen.
Rick and Cath visit Dhapasi in November
The Donation Table and The Groaning Board
Rick and a mesmerizing young talent from Turkey who sings the blues
Last week we said goodbye to our friends Eswar and Sugantha Sundar and their beautiful son Sri. Both husband and wife are Medical Doctors and Professors of Medicine in Boston.
While here they spent time at the Kanti Children’s Oncology Program and are considering how they might be able to help from Boston. According to Eswar, most of these children have blood cancers and are dying from them, yet most leukemias should not be fatal. Eswar and Sugantha also went to the baby orphanage and left very hopeful that we will soon be able to help there. They identified one little girl who should be seen by a Pediatric Cardiologist and Neurologist, and we arranged that the following day. The Sundars also very generously contributed to these two programs. While here they spent a lot of time talking with the kids and provided both older children and our Chelsea women courses in basic Life Support, practicing on a reactive dummy named Annie. Sugantha also saved the menu on Thanksgiving by cooking a delicious squash, Indian style, for our 170-strong family and guests.
Sri, Anita, Sugantha, and Eswar
And while speaking of Thanksgiving, one of our most enjoyable celebrations of the year, Laurie Levine was here as she has been for years. Laurie has been in the family for about seven years now, and has served on the NOH board of advisors. Laurie had a very successful fundraiser before coming which she donated towards the enrollment of eight of our college children into an onsite Hotel Management program. Laurie brought with her two wonderful friends, Michael and Veronica who provided a lot of fun, humor, as well as hard work in many aspects of the children’s lives. On Thanksgiving, Laurie, Veronica and Michael cut up 24 pies and cakes, 70 loaves of banana bread, set up all the tables and benches, helped in the kitchen, and kept everyone busy and laughing while waiting for dinner.
Laurie at her fundraiser in Sydney
Yoga with Laurie and Veronica
Michael quizzically looking at his meal
Sugantha on the right serving
NOH wishes to recognize and thank Jonathan Paluga who lives in San Francisco. Jonathan visited us on Thanksgiving Day in 2014 in the company of Hope’s Godmother Kathy Procanik. When he returned home he surprised us with a donation to cover the cost of the Thanksgiving menu. He has kept that up, always surpassing the actual cost. Last year we ordered thirty apple pies and 80 small loaves of banana bread to ensure a tasty and happily remembered meal, and Jon was there again. This year, at Jon’s urging, we spared no expense and once again had an incredible vegetarian Thanksgiving that was enthusiastically eaten, with leftovers for the children’s evening meal as well.
The balance of Jon’s largess has gone to provide something special to some of the poorer people in our village that we help. Thank you, Jon!
Recently one of the top resorts in Nepal developed an onsite training program for college students taking Hotel Management. The new Director of this program, Madan Khanal is a friend of our NOH Board Member Tamara Chant who urged us to consider this. We did and were very impressed by the offering. The program works around the student’s college schedule and provides them 5 hours per day of real life experience in their resort. The students choose their area of interest, from Food and Beverage production to Serving, Front Desk, Concierge, and Management.
In the latter months of the course they place the students in top restaurants and hotels in Kathmandu to get further experience beyond that of the Academy’s hotel. Upon graduation they assist with securing jobs both in Kathmandu and currently in the Middle East, but with South East Asian countries in the works.
I accompanied our eight children on their first day and was moved by the photos I was able to capture as they put on their uniforms and awaited the arrival of the resort’s General Manager to welcome them.
The Park Village Resort
Pramila, Lalita, Anu Maya, Sandesh, and Ramesh, the first to emerge in uniform
Anu Maya full of nervous happiness at this threshold to a new world
Lalita helping Bishnu with his bow tie
After a welcoming by the General Manager the kids are led to the hotel to begin training
Madan Khanal flanked by our first group of students in his program
A little over five years ago Linda Mackey of Scotland spent many months with NOH in our Volunteer Nepal program. She connected with one of our young daughters, Saraswati and they remained in touch ever since.
This past fall Linda returned as she had promised she would and spent the Dashain holiday with us, helping in numerous ways, bonding with many of the children who have come since she had left and renewing bonds with many of the older children who she knew before, chief among them Saraswati, who reveled in Linda’s return.
Linda was here to participate in the many “pujas” that mark the Dashain calendar, including “Bhai Tika” where Ram was applying her Tika.
Also in attendance for Bhai Tika, as he has been every year for the past 5 anyway, was Arjun Chaudhary, younger brother to Sarita and Sapana, and elder brother to Gita.
Sapana, Gita, Arjun, and Sarita
I wish to keep this update a little short. In January we will have a look back over the year’s events shaping the children and NOH in general.
I leave you with another short story about the life of one of our girls before she came into our home.
We are deep into our preparations for Christmas, there are several surprises in store for the kids that should make it one of the most memorable yet.
My deepest gratitude to all those who support us financially, spiritually, actively, and sharing with others about us. These kids, and the hundreds of people whose lives we help make easier and more understandable, and the happiness of our staff, have you to thank for our wonderful lives.
The Little Girl on the Bus
“Who is that little girl, with the big, round, brown eyes, so clear and hopeful looking, sitting in the 8th row?” I asked one of the girls near me as I called out names of the girls I knew should be on the bus. There was a woman in the 4th row clutching goods wrapped in a shawl, avoiding my eyes, sitting next to two small kids, obediently quiet; they were seeking a ride to Bhutwal, three hours distant. “Perhaps she is with her,” the girl replied. I satisfied myself with this, and signaled for the door to close and we began our twelve-hour mountain precipice journey back to Kathmandu.
When we reached Bhutwal we all got off the bus to stretch for a minute. The girls walked about, excited, happy with the adventure they were experiencing, seeing sights not seen before, and anticipating their new life in Kathmandu only another 9 hours away.
The woman moved off from our congregation, a thin, evaporating presence wrapped in a red woolen shawl, her two children beside and behind her glancing back. They disappeared into the chaos of the bus park crowd. I looked for the little girl but did not see her.
“Jani, Jani, Jani” yelled the young conductor as the driver started the engine which sounded remarkably fit for such a dilapidated, rattling old bus. The girls glided up the steps and filled the seats; after two minutes when no more came the conductor slid the bi-fold door shut and secured it with a metal pin.
As we were leaving the bus park I walked down the aisle to be sure all were on board; at the back of the bus was a small girl covered in a shawl, her head leaned against the shoulder of an older one, her eyes closed as in sleep. The older one looked at me and shook her head softly when she saw I was about to question the little one. I nodded and walked to my seat; when I glanced back before sitting I saw the little one look up at the older one, her large brown eyes sparkling, they smiled at each other, an innocent, refreshing, excited, and certain smile of success.
That was almost seven years ago, her name is Ashmita.
Ashmita remembers being wrapped against her mother’s back in a shawl while her mother worked in a field with many other women. They lived in India, her mother, young and beautiful.
A year before this they were in Nepal, her father was far away at work and her mother, her three-year-old brother and she at home. Two men came, the mother knew one of them; they said they had brought them some food, and asked if they might enter. Poor as they were the mother accepted. They put a drug into her mother’s drink and transported her and the children across the border to India where the mother was sold to an Indian man who allowed her to care for her babies while she was to be one of his wives and workers.
When Ashmita was three, her mother, she, and her five-year-old brother escaped back to Nepal. There they learned that Ashmita’s father had died in a monsoon flood shortly after their disappearance while he was searching for them.
The mother took them to her parents’ house. The three stayed with them, along with an uncle, for the better part of a year, then suddenly, and without explanation the mother and her brother returned to India, to her husband.
For the next three years Ashmita lived with her grandparents and uncle, she attended public school, and she remembers being happy, but when asking about her mother she never received any answer.
One day when Ashmita was seven her mother appeared, but without her brother. She was taken from the grandparents’ house to live with an aunt that she did not know. Her mother stayed with her for three days and then returned to India.
When she turned eight she learned that her brother lived on the streets. He had come to the aunt’s house and stolen a bicycle, was caught, and then disappeared. Ashmita’s aunt then took her to Lawajuni, a home for rescued Kamlari (indentured servants) begun by Nepal Orphans Home.
Ashmita lived happily at Lawajuni for a couple of months, attended the government school with the rest of the girls and began to depend upon herself. The two homes at Lawajuni were very crowded; around 70 girls lived in what was designed for fifty. Ashmita learned that “Papa” the founder of Nepal Orphans Home was coming in a few days to take a bus load of girls to live in the homes of NOH in Kathmandu. The list of girls had been established long before and she was not on it, though she longed to go. After hearing the other girls talk about the opportunities in Kathmandu she knew this was what she wanted. So she asked a couple of older girls to help her and they devised this shaky plan, and that is how Ashmita became “The Little Girl on the Bus.”
Ashmita now. She wins awards for academic performance each term. She walks with me at 4:30 every morning without fail; she is sweet, kind, and determined. She has two dreams she recently told me: one is to live forever with us, and the other is to find her mother, just to see her. The latter dream we tried to make happen this last Dashain, when a woman who might be her mother had been tracked down to a remote village quite far away, near India. Arrangements were made for Ashmita to travel with people we know and trust, to see if this is true. Sadly, it wasn’t. Ashmita returned to Dhapasi with the same effervescent smile as always; I told her that I was sorry that she did not find her mother. “That’s okay,” she said, smiling. “It wasn’t my first dream, and I know that dream will come true.”