To have an understanding of the orphanage I have found that having an understanding of the state of Nepal is helpful. So I will provide a bit of back ground in regards to this country. Nepal is a country with a great deal of potential that will never be realized. The politics have caused a great deal of hardship for the majority of the people. In 1996 the Maoists declared a People's War after the failure of democracy to deliver improvements to the people. This resulted in the various parties in power at any given time fighting against one another. Fighting for control the Maoist finally became successful in ruling the country. This came at a high cost as both sides were involved in horrific human rights abuses including executions, abductions, torture and child conscription. The rural areas suffered greatly as the civil war raged in these areas as it was easier for the Maoist to gain control of the country bit by bit. The other result was that much needed government funding for health, education and increased standard of living went into fighting the Maoist. Life in the rural areas became increasingly difficult and many left the country side to come to Kathmandu or India.
With the Maoist in power things have deteriorated even further. The energy crisis has been a major factor as the government has put tight controls over this resource. Some of the people think the government sold power to India for a quick dollar while others think that Nepal has always bought power from India - I am unsure what is and isn't in that regard. All I know is that the energy crisis not only impacts day to day living but industry as well. One of the largest tax paying companies and the biggest exporter in Nepal shut it's plant down last week. The Maoist demanded another 10% as a bonus for their government. The Dabur Company has responded that it will move the Nepal plant back to India. This was the only big business left in Nepal. Industry has left Nepal due to political unrest and more recently due to the governments lack of support to keep them in the country. Industry has not been given any special treatment in regards to energy - they would suffer the same plight as the rest of the country. Energy would be limited making it impossible for most industries to function fully. Add the high taxes to this and Industry has moved out and more then likely to India.
Nepal currently does not have any major industry which has caused an increase in unemployment and poverty. Combined with world food shortages/cost and gas prices it has become a desperate country. Rice the main staple and gas have increased 2 -3 times over in the last 18 months. This has caused a new level of the "poor class". Non-rice eating families are increasing and this is very concerning.
Many young people are leaving Nepal for India with the promise of a better live and work. Due to the number of young people leaving Nepal a shift has occurred in this culture. The young people have always looked after their elderly parents and now that so many have left the country concern is growing for the elderly. This is an area where the government has actually shown forward thinking by developing a home for the aged. However in saying that this issue and concern is growing quickly so the government will need to move quickly. Moving quickly does not appear to be something that happens in Nepal in many different areas so I do believe the next few years they will see many elderly people on the streets or starving.
The other group that is impacted by the government, world food and gas prices are the children. I should also explain that the word 'Orphanage' is not the same as ours in the Western world. Orphanage is a home for children who have been removed from their parent/s home due to extreme poverty, politically suppressed situations and abandonment. If these children did not end up at various orphanages they would more then likely end up being trafficked to India for labour or for other abuses. Children are placed in the Orphanage by government social workers however the orphanage does not get any funding of any kind from government - they are government approved. It is currently funded by about 3 or 4 people - and certainly it is in a situation of hand to mouth on any given day. Conditions at the orphanage has improved greatly in the past 7 months due to these people. The question always is that it is just the very basics being provided now - if one person decides to no longer provide funding - I am unsure how this orphanage would make it.
At the orphanage I am staying at there are 28 children - it is really hard to determine age as they are underdeveloped so I am guessing the range would be from 4 to 20 years of age. The orphanage is divided into two houses that are side by side - the boys side which houses 17 boys and the girls side which houses 11 girls and the family that oversees their care.
The children get up between 5:30 - 6:00 a.m. - they all have a chore of some kind and quickly get to it. After they finish all the girls end up on the boys side on the open second story and either study or help with preparing the food. The food is cooked over a wood clay oven. They get two meals a day - one at 9:00 a.m. and the other at 7:00 p.m. - it is always the same - rice with some type of veg that is over cooked as it is cooked with the rice. They get a snack after school which is bread that is stale or fresh depending on the piece they get. These children do not eat any fresh fruit or veg, milk products or eggs/cheese/meat. The lack of a balanced diet really shows in their development - you have a 10 year old that looks like a 6 year old. There is no fridge or stove. Besides the clay stove the family uses a hot plate powered by gas to cook on.
The wood that is used for the clay stove is hauled and chopped by the children. One evening all the children were hauling big pieces of bamboo for about 3 hours. The interesting part is they did it happily while singing songs and everyone helped even the little ones.
After they have their breakfast the children change into their school uniform if they have school that day and are off by 10:00 a.m. I should mention the children change their clothes once per week and do sleep in them. Their school uniforms are washed every couple of weeks or so.
After school or if they do not have school the children are free to do what ever except if they have chores. Chores here range from washing the families clothes, looking for veg in the field, cleaning the rice, sweeping, doing dishes, chopping wood, etc. However washing clothes is one of the worse - on Saturday is the big wash day and everyone gets clean clothes. They have soap to wash the clothes but no soap or anything else to clean themselves with except for cold water. The older children try hard to keep themselves clean and tidy but it can be difficult at times. There are also no paper products like toilet paper, kleenex, etc.
I should mention that washing dishes is just rinsing them under cold water - no soap and left in a pile to dry. I bought dishsoap to make more bubbles with the other day. Well this turned into a 1 hour discussion on dishsoap. One of the questions was do we use dishsoap in Canada - I said yes and was going to say we also have dishwashers but quickly decided no that would be even harder to explain.
The children sleep two to a bed - usually it is an older child with a younger child. Some of the that sleep on the top bunk have their own bed The beds are very old steel framed bunk beds with a sheet of something like plywood with a very thin mattress (about 1/2 inch thick or less) covered by a thin sheet, a blanket and pillow. If you share a bed you get two blankets. All the girls sleep in one room - the boys are divided into two rooms. I have been here for nearly a month and none of their blankets or sheets washed. It is very difficult to have the children talk about such things as they fear they will get into trouble.
There are no toys, art supplies nor books. It is interesting to see what children will play with - rocks, twigs whatever they think of something. The art supplies and games that I brought with me have provided lots of enjoyment. Some of the children are very good artist and very creative. As well to balance all the craft things I bought a ball for the boys - they have been pretty excited about that one.
One of the most difficult things for me has been to watch these children go without an adult's touch - a hug, a pat on the back, a kiss on the forehead for days or a word of praise. One of the little ones - 4 years old was ill and she sat by herself for hours - the older children would check on her but basically she was by herself crying her little tears. At the end I scooped her up and rocked her - at first she was fighting me to break away but after a few mins she calmed down and actually fell asleep. Now she comes to me and wraps herself around me - big hugs !!!
I try to give a hug to most of the children every day or to a least praise them in someway. This has resulted in being surrounded by children wanting hugs, holding my hand, etc. It has also resulted in the boys saying after they finish a drawing or something - "this is very, very good, yes"
The other thing this has resulted in is not so nice - that would be lice. Anyway today everyone gets a treatment. What usally happens is the hair is shaved - the older girls with longer hair do not want their heads shave. They are always picking lice or as they call it louse from each others hair. So last night they asked me which is pretty big for them for Louse shampoo - so I said not a problem but then I thought maybe they should check my head as it is itchy but I was thinking cold water wash the shampoo stays in, etc. Well that wasn't it. Oh well - that and bedbugs - what the heck. This actually will be a prefect time to talk about washing their bedding and airing out their pillows and mattress. So it is all good.
The school system here is divided into either government or private. From what I can figure out the government school does not teach English. A few of the older boys attend the government school. The rest of the children attend the school across from the house. I have pictures - it is pretty sad. At this school there is not enough teachers - the children are often learning on their own. The classrooms are very small with little wooden tables and benches - very few. It is void of any type of anything that would make one think this was a classroom. The walls have some green slimely stuff on it - it is not good. But at this time that is all the orphanage can afford - the other the school they were attending - which I visited looked wonderful compared to this school - not to a western standard - but pretty good for this part of the world.
Education does not play a high role here. Most days there are some children at home - why they are at home it is hard to figure out sometimes. They do go to school 6 days a week and have the month of August off. I should say they have a lot of holy days, etc.
These children have so little so anything that happens is big. This past weekend we went on a major outing - we were going to leave at 7:30 a.m. - the children were up by 4:00 a.m. - already excited and ready to go. Of course we didn't leave until about 9:00 a.m.
I will be leaving here in a few days and I can't help but feel that these children have become a part of me and are in my heart.