|First sights of Nepal: children living in poverty|
Nepal was a place of many realisations for me. When I crossed the border and had to navigate my way to the airport alone, on the back of a cart amidst political crisis and angry villagers brandishing guns, although I was fearful of my own safety my prevailing thought was surprisingly one of gratitude. For the poverty that I witnessed as I took that terrifying drive to the airport was like nothing I had ever seen before. Despite my circumstances, I was able to be thankful even in that moment that I have grown up with food on the table, clothes on my back and wanting for nothing. I realised that all of my perceived problems were merely trifling and “first world”. And then as I trekked in the overwhelmingly beauty of the Nepali countryside I was struck not only by the simplicity of peoples lives but also by their incredible kindness. To quote Shantaram “there is no act of faith more beautiful than the generosity of the very poor”.
|Fun with a little ‘babu’ on Phewa Tal|
I love children and had many wonderful, life affirming and hilarious encounters with gorgeous Nepali village kids during my trek. This prompted me to ask my guide Prem if he knew of any orphanages in Pokhara and, as luck (or the universe) would have it, he told me that his friend Amrit owned an orphanage a ten minute scooter rider from the guest house where I was staying. No sooner had I got back from the trek than I went off with Prem to find out about Edventure Nepal.
|Edventure Nepal, based in Pokhara|
Edventure Nepal is a charity registered with the Government of Nepal (registered charity number 2631/32882) to carry out welfare activities for underprivileged children. It is also affiliated with the social welfare council, Nepal Government and the governing and monitoring body for all social organizations working in Nepal. Headquartered in Pokhara, Edventure Nepal aims to provide the basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, health and education to disadvantaged children who have become victims of social and political injustices, which is widespread in the Nepali society. Unfair social structures, traditional caste system, widespread illiteracy and the decade-long insurgency are mainly responsible for the abysmal condition of Nepali children. There are thousands of children in Nepal who are living in a very poor conditions. There are many others who are working as child labour in factories and as domestic helps in Nepalese households.
|The girls use stationery I bought for them in the orphanage|
On that first day I spent some time with the founder of Edventure Nepal, Amrit Tiwari, learning all about his journey. As a youngster Amrit had had to overcome difficulties faced by his own family, including sickness and a threat of debt. As a typical conscientious Nepali son, Amrit worked hard for many years to ensure that his family were provided for. Once the immediate problems faced by his family had been resolved, Amrit turned his thoughts to how he could help those who were in greater need than he.
|The girls before Amrit rescued them|
Amrit has a background teaching English in Kalika English Secondary School and due to his skills and dedication was promoted to the position of Vice Principal. Prior to starting the orphanage, he had had 1.5 years of experience of working in the tourism industry in a major travel agency in Kathmandu. Using his entrepreneurial skills and taking the consultancy of friends and contacts, Amrit set up Edventures Nepal in April 2011. It is a totally grass roots project set up and maintained by Amrit himself and it is still is in the early stages of growth. Amrit began by renting a large house in Pokhara in order to be able to provide accommodation for the orphans. He then took in a woman, Tulasi, who had worked with him previously at the school he had taught in. She had been stuck in an abusive relationship for years and had a spinal injury that made life very difficult and painful for her. Tulasi also had a daughter, Laxmi, to whom Amrit was also able to offer shelter.
Amrit brought in three girls, sisters, who were homeless, living on the streets and doing hard manual in order to survive. Tulasi is the eldest. She had severely cracked feet and hands from working 16+ hours per day in a guest house in exchange for just a small meal. Tulasi was provided for at the orphanage for a year – given food, schooling and accomodation and she has now been adopted back into the village by a local family. (Amrit aims to be able to keep the children until they are of an adult age, when they can enter society again in a useful role, preferable being able to offer help to the villages from where they came in their new professional capacity.)
Yemuna, the second eldest girl was seriously malnourished when Amrit found her, with veins protruding from her neck. Showing signs of emotional suffering, Yemuna very quiet and displayed little interest in what was happening around her. Ganga, the youngest of the three was also brought in and given food and shelter. Under Amrit’s paternal wing, the girls were all provided with education and now Ganga and Yemua attend the local English private school, eat three nourishing meals a day and their health problems are showing signs of abating. Amazingly, both little girls – entirely illiterate when Amrit found them – have, in the space of one year only, learned to read and write and can not only speak Nepali and some Hindi but can speak, read and write some English as well. The incredible progress of these two bright little sparks is a true testament to the dedication of Amrit (himself only 28) who continues to provide as much education for both girls as much as he can in and around their schooling. The girls receive the love of a mother from Tulasi and the guidance of a father from Amrit, who calls them his ‘family’.
|Me with the girls at the orphanage|
I was so impressed with the orphanage, as have many other volunteers who have been and worked at Edventures Nepal before me. The project is organically growing and previous visitors have provided practical help in the form of provision of internet services, a washing machine (so that the girls no longer have to wash their clothes in the river), a white board and a dining room table so that they can now sit at the table and eat rather than sitting on the floor.
|Taking everyone out for pizza!|
I spent a few days with the girls, playing with them and teaching them some English songs. I was struck by their intellect and eagerness to do their English homework (which they completely diligently and accurately) with me. At one point I asked them if we should colour in the beautiful pictures they had drawn, but I realised that they did not have any colour pencils. So I brought them some stationery, coloured pens, pencils, sharpeners, notebooks, activity books (which they seized on with great delight) and a Disney picture book. I also treated them, along with Amrit, Tulasi, Prem and his family and some other travellers to a pizza dinner in Lakeside. It was really fun to go on an outing with the children and to watch them as they devoured their pizza and ice cream – which makes a change for them from dahl baht! In addition I gave Amrit advice on marketing the charity including setting up an Edventure Nepal Twitter feed which can be followed online at @EdventureNepal. However, seeing the valuable work that Amrit does and continues to do on a daily basis, I desperately wanted to be able to contribute in a way that was more lasting.
|Mausam, the little boy we want to bring out of poverty|
As the economies of scale are now in place, Amrit would like to be able to offer a home and schooling for other children – and there are plenty in need for him to choose from. In particular need at the moment is a little boy known as Mausam Paudel, the son of Jagat Prasad. Mausam’s mother eloped with another man and left the village when her son was only 9 months old and she is now no longer in contact with the family. His father has poor eyesight and as a result, cannot work and cannot care for his son. Mausam’s father begs for food and his son is neglected. The child is forced to wander the streets and live off handouts from neighbours. When he was very young, other local families helped out and provided him with food, but now that he is growing older it has become difficult for the other people in the village (who are themselves very poor) to sustain him. The child is currently living on the streets, begging and does not attend school. A neighbour of Amrit’s in Pokhara, knowing of his work with the orphanagae, alerted him to the plight of the little boy who lives in the remote village of Nawaldada.
- Accommodation in a family environment
- Clean water
- Nutritious food three times per day
- Clothing including school uniforms
- Education at a private English school
- Additional tutoring mornings and evenings
- Educational materials
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