JESSE + PHIL'S NEPAL STORY
15 years ago I embarked on an adventure that would forever change me in many ways.
I left Canada by myself and travelled to Kathmandu, Nepal to volunteer at an orphanage with an amazing organization, Child Haven International. I spent 5 months helping out around the orphanage where needed, but I mainly just spent time with the kids. Child Haven International is an AMAZING charity that is run out of a big old rambling farmhouse in Maxville, Ontario. I could go on and on about them, but I encourage you to read about them on your own time--trust me, you'll be amazed! Quite simply, they operate orphanages in India, Nepal, Tibet and Bangladesh. They adhere to Gandhi's ideals meaning they promote simple living, vegetarianism, non violence, equality of the sexes, respect cultural and religious backgrounds and no recognition of caste. On this first visit to Nepal I had time to explore on my own and I was able to make a few local friends.
My sister and I returned 6 months later for a shorter visit, but we spent time at Child Haven, delivered supplies and a cash donation we raised through fundraising and visited with my friends.
3 years later I brought my new husband Phil to Nepal for our honeymoon! We spent over a month in Nepal, trekking to Everest Base Camp (very luxurious honeymoon!). We also visited the Child Haven home with lots of supplies and met up with old friends. I had raised cash donations intended for Child Haven but in the end, I confidently put the money towards another cause.
While I am confident that Child Haven International is a worthy and exceptionally proactive organization, on this trip I felt that the money could be put to another very vital cause. We had met up with my local friend Nita who introduced us to two neighbourhood children, Barman and Kabita. Her family helps the children and their parents with financial assistance and donations of food and clothing when needed. Nita's family have known this family for 8 years and have helped them out tremendously over the years. The children's parents have suffered hard times and are unable to provide sufficiently for their family. Phil and I visited their home and witnessed first hand their very simple life and lack of basics. The father has suffered a stroke and is paralyzed on half his body. He is a carpenter by trade but does not make an adequate living for his family.
My friend Nita lives nearby with her extended family. While they help the family out on a regular basis with food and rent money, and clothing and other necessities when needed, they are in no great financial position themselves. I was amazed that even though Nita and her family live crammed in a two bedroom house (there are 8 of them!) with no running water, they are happy to help their neighbours and have the two children over regularly after school to play and eat meals with them.
The first time we visited the home, the mother was in bed ill. Not only were we shocked at the condition of the very tiny windowless, LOW ceiling room which is their home, but the lack of proper bedding on the wooden bed which sleeps all four of the family. There was no mattress and only very thin blankets. We decided then and there that some of our raised money would go towards buying a mattress and blankets. We also found out that the family was a few months behind in their rent (about $10/month). We decided to pay the rent owing plus a few months in advance. There were a few other things around the home that we wanted to use the money for: they were out of kerosene cooking fuel, so they were burning sticks to make a cooking fire in the home with no chimney for the smoke to escape--very dangerous. We noticed a few other kitchen items that would make their lives easier and of course the Nepali staples such as lentils, rice, vegetables, tea and sugar.
We left my friend Nita with some money to give to the family and she explained to them what we intended the money to be spent on. A few days later we visited the home again and the whole family was together to meet us. They were SO pleased and excited with their new purchases. The children were showing us all the new things they bought. On this visit we discussed (through Nita translating), the possibility of paying for the children's tuition at a local private school. Then we visited the local school and spoke with the principal. It all seemed like the right thing to do, so we committed there and then to pay for the children's education until they graduated (this is an 11 year commitment).
Phil and I decided that committing to paying for the children's education would be the most valuable thing we could contribute to the children's future. The children were already attending the free government school, but we felt (and it was suggested to us), that they would benefit further from attending a more reputable private school. My friend Nita's niece attends this school too (a relative who works in Athens, Greece sends money home for this purpose), so the three children all go to school together which is located within walking distance from their home.
We had one final visit with the family before we left. Phil and I had taken a few family portraits which we framed for them. They were so thrilled and excited. The parents were so grateful to us and kept thanking us. We felt uncomfortable because we felt as though what we were doing was so little. Although the children will receive a good education and we know that that will change the outcome of their lives and break the pattern of poverty in the family, we could see that the family will continue to live with great hardship in this small, windowless room with only minimal food and no extras.
We left Nita with the remaining money that we had raised. She rationed it out until it ran out and spent it on food for the family and other things that they needed. It's been 6 years since we first met the family. Since then our focus is paying for the children's tuition that is due in May/June. It costs $1500/year for both children to attend school. This includes their text books and uniforms.
On that note we are seeking contributions towards this goal. We have decided that we would also like to continue to support Child Haven International, so once we raise the school tuition, we will split the remaining money evenly between Child Haven and the children's tuition fund for future years.
If you feel as though you are in a position to help us we'd very much appreciate it. If you are not able to help us this year, but perhaps you will in the future, let us know and we'll keep you posted.