In the past I have been accused of writing really long blogs and this blog post is probably no different.  But this is an important post and so I will include a brief summary at the start if you don’t have the time to read it all.

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I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Happy Home Nepal orphanage in Kathmandu, Nepal this past August and September.  There are almost twenty children in the orphanage and they are from various villages and cities of Nepal and their ages range from 3-12.  Although I have since left Nepal, I want to continue helping Happy Home by raising awareness of this charity to friends and family in the hopes that more than a few of you donate to this wonderful charity. You can read more about Happy Home on their website http://www.happyhomenepal.org where you can also make a donation.  Nepal is one of the poorest countries per capita on the planet so even a little money goes a very long way.

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Happy Home Nepal was started in 2006 by a young Nepalese couple, Bishwa and Puja. They began with contributing financially to poor families to help their children be able to go to school. They soon found that there were children who were in need of much more than this and shortly thereafter they began bringing children into their home to live with them.

Fast forward three years later and they now have 18 children living in their orphanage which is also their home, and they have recently rented another home that will house 15 street children, exclusively girls, of which they have already identified and rescued 4. In addition to the orphanages they support 10 single mothers living with their 35 children in a rented house in Kathmandu and they continue assisting children in villages throughout Nepal by contributing to the children’s school fees. Government and private schools both cost money in Nepal and whenever possible Happy Home tries to enroll children into private schools. The quality of education is much higher and the classes are all taught in English which is a very important language to know in Nepal as a large part of the country’s business is based in tourism.

Pema in her former work and home, and now in Happy Home

Pema in her former work and home, and now in Happy Home

A lot of what I did while I was at Happy Home was helping the children with their homework and finding ways to keep them busy in creative ways which is not always easy.  But they made it easy as they were always up for trying something new. And in the evenings we would all settle in for the nightly ‘movie night’ where we’d all crowd around my laptop and watch any of a number of Disney and Pixar cartoons. We must have gone through at least 20 movies while I was there, of which the top favorites were “Snow White”, “Sleeping Beauty” and “Ice Age”. Any movie with a detestable bad person or a newborn baby was an automatic crowd pleaser.

The 18 children in the Happy Home orphanage range in age from 3 to 12 with 6 boys and 12 girls. Before being rescued by Happy Home, several of the children worked as child laborers in the fields in the surrounding mountain villages or at construction sites and with no future to look forward to as they were not attending school. A couple of the children spent an extended period of time in the hospital to get unhooked from their glue sniffing habit before they were able to live in the orphanage. Several were street children as their families simply abandoned them and they had nowhere else to go.

Sushil and his sister Sunita; pre-meal prayers; Sushila's chalk art on the roof

Sushil and his sister Sunita; pre-meal prayers; Sushila's chalk art on the roof

Despite this gloomy background the environment in Happy Home is anything but that. When I first arrived I was greeted by 3 year old Bishant who stretched out his pudgy arms in an offer to be carried. I noticed the little stream of snot running out of his nose but even so it was an offer I could not refuse. It was little things like this that made my original plan to visit for just half a day extend into a several week stay. Many of the children were quick to open up while others took some time before they got comfortable. The profiles of all the children are on the website and you can read more about their backgrounds there.
The children are enrolled in a nearby private school and every morning I would walk them to school and each afternoon at 3 p.m. I would walk them back. While they were in school I got a chance to go back to my technology roots and began revamping their website http://www.happyhomenepal.org. There is now a way to donate through the website as well as a new volunteer application form. The first day we went live with those we not only got a donation but also a volunteer from Ireland. Yeah!

Pasang in her former home; punching the camera; getting a haircut

Pasang in her former home; punching the camera; getting a haircut

There are two live in helpers, Devi and Asmita, who do a yeoman’s job of cleaning and cooking the best daal bhat, a traditional Nepali meal of rice, lentils and vegetables, and insisting you take second and third helpings.
Bishwa and Puja have very big aspirations for Happy Home which includes rescuing every last child off the streets of Kathmandu. This is a lofty goal given the poverty levels in Nepal but as Bishwa told me, the only thing stopping him from doing it is not having enough resources. He has many friends who have joined him in his efforts and he is backed by a small army of volunteers, donors and supporters from across Europe and the States.

Please consider helping Happy Home with a financial donation (through the Donate button on the website), or a donation of clothes or books or other things that your children have outgrown and are just taking up space in your garage. And if you know anyone who will be traveling through Nepal, be sure to let them know about Happy Home. They can stop by to visit and teach for the day. But they should be warned; they may end up staying for much longer than that.

Bisant; movie time!; in their schoolday best

Bisant; movie time!; in their schoolday best

If you are a teacher and you are interested in doing a Pen Pal program with the children of Happy Home, let me know. It would be great for them to start meeting children from around the world. Or if you have any other ideas for establishing some dialogue between the children, please let me know.
Even if you decide you cannot donate to Happy Home right now, I strongly urge you if you do not already have one to find a cause or two that you believe in and help them out. There are many causes and charities that need help and the value of the Dollar and the Euro goes a long way in developing countries so even a small contribution can make a big difference.
I will leave you with some pictures of the Happy Home children:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/emileb/sets/72157622317455086/

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