That is what the children from the orphanage told us that NEPAL stood for. It feels very true. It is considered to be the birthplace of Sidhartha Gautama, or Buddha, “the enlightened one,” the founder of Buddhism. It is a country of acceptance (in 2008, Nepal became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage), and it is a country of open-mindedness (there is very little distinction in Nepal between Buddhism and Hinduism, the 2 main religions in the country). Nepal is also situated between two powerful countries of India and China. In a region of ever growing volatility, the existence of a peaceful country is vital.Nepal Fact: It is estimated that 12,000 children are trafficked every year from Nepal.
In addition, to the importance of supporting Nepal as a nation, support of children in an orphanage is also critical. As of August 2010, the status of adopting Nepali children has been halted. According to the US Citizen and Immigration Servies, “Because the Department of State has concluded that the documentation presented for children reported abandoned in Nepal is unreliable, … the U.S. Government can no longer reasonably determine whether a child documented as abandoned qualifies as an orphan. Without reliable documentation, it is not possible for the United States Government to process an orphan petition to completion.” This may change in the future, but currently, we must support the children that have been abandoned to the best of our knowledge and who must create a life for themselves in an orphanage.
The New Youth Development Society, the orphanage Kids of Kathmandu is founded for, is situated outside of Kathmandu in the hills of the Shivapuri National Park. (This is a new location as of the summer 2010) on government property. When we arrived, we walked in to the house (previously located closer to Kathmandu) where most of the 41 children were sitting together and for a moment time stopped. They looked at us. We looked at them. And within seconds, the barrier was broken. The kids introduced themselves one by one, telling us about what they liked to do and what their dreams for the future were. We took pictures. There were smiles, there were stories, there was a great road ahead of us that we knew would be both heartwarming and heartbreaking.
Shiva, the founder of the orphanage, grew up in an orphanage himself. The experience of an orphanage is very real to him and drives him to create a safe environment for the children. The children call him “father” and they call his wife “mother.” This seems very important to the children and gives them a great sense of family.
During our stay we spent a lot of important time with the kids, helping them to brush their teeth, get ready for school, do their homework, play outside, cook dinner, talk to them, and read bedtime stories. We got to know each and every child and came to understand early on that these children deserved a chance in life.Nepal Fact: Almost 25% of the women in Nepal have a body mass index below normal and the prevalence of anemia among pregnant women is about 36%. This leads to the birth of low birth weight babies, which in turn leads to stunted and malnurited children.
We bought new shoes for them while we were there. Although of course they never complained about the shoes they had, it was not hard to see they could benefit from new pairs. The look on their faces when we brought home shoes from the local market was amazing. Such joy, for so little.
The children were using candle stubs for light at night, balancing the candlesticks on the windowsills and bedframes as they would get ready for bed. We bought rechargeable flashlights, one for each room. Exhale.
The children ate in shifts. First the younger kids, and then the older kids. We thought they did this because they wanted to. We didn’t realize it was because the pot they had for cooking rice only held so much. When a larger rice cooker was purchased, everyone ate together. Amazing.
There are endless examples areas of their lives that can improve vastly with something small. Our goal is not to provide them with lavish clothes and piles of electronics. Our goal is to empower them and educate them. Our goal is to give them tools to make smart choices in life. Our goal is to improve their daily life so that they can improve their life for the future, and the lives of those around them.