The story of the orphanage
My final day of visiting people affected by the April 25th earthquake made for an uneasy embrace of what it means to be denied a Western middle class upbringing. I had one, these delightful children have an upbringing only in the sense that they are not living on the street.
On my visit, there were exactly 52 kids there. I know the number because we took four packets of toblerones, 14 in a pack, we handed them out and had 4 left over, although one little girl accidentally grabbed two of them from me. She snuck me a quick look, as if to apologise, one of those impish swishes of innocence that should never be worn down. I smiled at her, raised my hand, I’m sure she envisaged my making her put one of them back into the bag but I had a back up plan, I had spares. I motioned to her that it was alright, she could have two but not to tell anyone. I was outclassed and I knew it. Her smile was more powerful than anything I could summon.
The conditions that these children live in are appalling, not the type of appalling that we Westerners might ascribe to the term, such as “this food is appalling” or “the state of this kitchen is appalling”, in that we have food in abundance and we have kitchens in which to cook.
Whilst well meaning Westerners must work hard to understand that the people of Nepal do not wish, necessarily, to live like us, it is sufficient to say that not having clean toilets, a kitchen, that’s right, no kitchen to prepare food for over 50 hungry kids, having to sleep on the floor, having eleven girls to one room, there is no heating and Winter is coming, the beds are old dirty mattresses, the water supply sometimes works. This is appalling.
And yet they the children endure because children are more resilient than adults, who become weak and comfortable after a time, and long for the comforts. They laugh these children, trying to make the most of what they have. Yes, another well meaning Westerner who thinks he can make a difference to these kids lives but to be sure, children anywhere deserve better than this.
I found myself discussing, along with my companions for the day, the idea of buying some land so that we can then build at least a liveable, bearable “home” for these kids. For us, we’d want the comforts that we believe we’ve earned but these kids? They put up with it, why? because kids endure and don’t complain, other than for a bit of food, or a proper pair of pants, or shoes.
Eleven young girls living in a single room is not acceptable, but at least they have a roof. Decide for yourself.
Since my visit there some of the people who help keep this orphanage going have constructed a front gate, to keep the dogs and the unsavoury elements of any big city away. If you could do one thing in your life and you chose to provide for these kids would you have considered your life a worthwhile one?
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It needs to be pointed out, before the story of Giftland, Lokta paper and the generosity of my Nepali hosts is mentioned, that some things are done differently in Nepal. We in the West could learn a thing or two from them.
The village of Barabesie, in the region of Sindapowlchuk, north east of the capital Kathmandu, was at the epicentre of the April 2015 earthquake. The village was flattened, almost destroyed. It’s people are resilient, they are rebuilding.
Kailash is an artist. When you are introduced to him he will say “hello, my name is Kailash, I am an artist.” You are left in no doubt. An artist he most certainly is, in demeanour, in the passion with which he talks about teaching others, creating works that speak to people and about letting the world know that Art can help change it.
A medievil village popular with tourists flattened by the April 2015 earthquake.
The first thing that springs to mind when one sees devastation like this is how hopeless the task of rebuilding appears to be. It’s not just the homes and the temples, it’s the lives, particularly in light of the knowledge that there is no one to help, no insurance and a mere token of government assistance. It’s left to those around you, your neighbours, your relatives, your village folk. In other words, your community.
Jay Nepal, which means “Victory Nepal”, is a motley arrangement of Nepalis and foreign backpackers who have banded together to help rebuild, or more correctly, in the first instance anyway, demolish Nepal.