This is the final post in a three-part series on my recent trip to Nepal. You can view more at the links below.
Part 1: Traveling around Nepal
Part 2: Food & Social Tours
Part 3: Lotus Children’s Home
August 2013: my life was changed. Through an organization called Photographers Without Borders, I traveled to Kathmandu, Nepal to document the lives of some very special children living at the Lotus Children’s Home Orphanage in the Balaju neighborhood. This is part of their story.
There are 12 children associated with the Lotus Children’s Home. They range in age from 5-17. 9 of them live there. 8 of them are orphans. 3 of them are the children of the family that runs the orphanage so they spend most of their time at the home.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect upon arrival. My husband and I are trying to adopt (you can read more about it HERE) and I’ve watched documentaries on orphanages in other countries. Most, if not all of them, painted a very grim picture of life for orphans. But, as you can tell in the photo above, that is not the case for these children. They don’t have much compared to American standards, but they are happy, well fed, and loved. They consider themselves a family; they even call Laxman and Laxmi (the husband and wife that run the orphange) “Mom” and “Dad”. Well, they say it in Nepali, not English. 🙂Orphans are considered very unlucky in Nepal. Government schools (public schools) offer a very poor education, and to be an orphan with a poor education is basically sentencing children to a lifetime of poverty. Yet the children at Lotus Children’s Home (LCH) go to private schools. Laxman and Laxmi put a huge priority on education and make so many sacrifices for their own family. They do without many luxuries so these children can get a decent education. One day Laxmi was painting my fingernails. 🙂 She told me how happy she was that her sister gave her some bottles of nail polish, because that was 50 rupees that would buy vegetables for the children. That simple statement spoke volumes about their sacrifices and love for these kids.Every morning the children wake up, wash their faces, hands, and feet. They work on their studies for an hour or two after a simple “breakfast” of tea and crackers. When it’s time to wrap up, they eat their first big meal of the day (dal bhat), put on their uniform and head to school for the day. After school, they come back to LCH, put on their regular clothes, study again until dinner (dal bhat again). Then they have a few hours to play before going to sleep.Children start learning English at around age 3. I was humbled to know that little Anuska, Laxman and Laxmi’s 5 year old daughter, could speak limited English with me. I only knew a few words and phrases in Nepali at the end of my three week stay with their family!There are several hours each day and night where the power is turned off. This is called “load shedding”. So I thought it was interesting that there was no refrigeration or running water in either the orphanage or the home I stayed at. Cooking is either done over a small gas cooktop or a wood fire. The only furniture in the whole place was beds which really isn’t that uncommon in many Nepali homes. Eating was done on small mats on the kitchen floor.
Water is obtained from the well outside the home for washing. Filtered water is purchased for drinking since all the water in Kathmandu is undrinkable. And the toilet is a traditional “squat toilet”, located in a shed outside. Basically it’s a hole in the concrete ground. A bucket of water is left inside to rinse out the hole. They have these all over Asia and the Middle East.Once a year they celebrate the birthdays of all of the children. This little handmade poster says, “Happy Birthday To Family” and it was displayed during my entire visit. I love this for two reasons:
- They consider themselves a family. And really, they seem more like a family than many American families I know. So that seems significant.
- Even though they have very little money, they find ways and reasons to celebrate these children. They don’t have to, but they do it. Did I mention their sacrifices to provide for the children? It’s humbling.
Pemba, below, is the oldest child at the orphanage. He’s 15.Below: Laxman and his wife, Laxmi, are the managers of the orphanage. They feel strongly about their work here because Laxmi is actually an orphan and they want to do good things with their lives. As a side note, Laxmi is only a few years older than me (I’m 31) and they have been married since she was 13. Their life has not been easy, at all, yet they find it in them to give most everything they have for the children. This family is amazing and works so hard.Washing up before school:Above: there is no shower here, nor indoor plumbing. So once a week they “bathe” “in the front yard near the well. Other children help by taking turns bringing up buckets of water.
Below: As I mentioned, they have the same meal twice a day. It’s a large plate of rice, a lentil soup, and a curried vegetable. It’s eaten with your hands, and I am amazed at how much food these kids can eat! Laxman and Laxmi’s oldest son, Alson, is 17 and in his second year of college. He speaks fluent English and is pretty awesome. The level of respect that Nepali teenagers have for their family is amazing.Alson took this next picture so I could be in a photo with the group. 🙂 Between Alson and Pemba (the 15 year old), they had a blast playing with my gear.
Lotus Children’s Home is a pretty special place. They are doing an amazing thing and changing the lives of these children, and my three short weeks as a visitor has changed my life, too. I think of them at the most odd times… when I’m brushing my teeth with tap water (and reveling that it’s safe to do that in America) or when I drive past some cows (which roam the streets in Nepal). If I am climbing up stone steps, I hear familiar little voices in my mind urging me to “Go SLOWLY, Rebecca Didi”. (Didi = older sister). They are in my heart, my mind, and my memories. I am so thankful to have had this experience.
Interested in an unforgettable experience of your own? Lotus Children’s Home loves volunteers. If you’d like to spend some time there, working with the children and exploring Nepal, please email Laxman at LCH at firstname.lastname@example.org (make sure to let him know you heard about the orphanage through me!) If you aren’t able to volunteer but would still like to help out Lotus Children’s Home with some of their day-to-day expenses including school supplies, tuition, uniforms, and food for their kids, you can send a Paypal donation to email@example.com. Any donation makes a huge difference for this small, privately run home. You can view their website here, hopefully with updated photos soon! 🙂 WEBSITE Normally I’d be leery of sending money overseas, but after seeing how they operate and how tight their budget is (they even grow some of their own vegetables to help make ends meet!), I have no hesitations donating to them.
My trip was arranged through Photographers Without Borders which is an organization based in Canada. Photographers, I highly recommend checking out their website to see upcoming projects.