Alecia and Vinod hold a special place in our hearts. We met them while volunteer for Volunteer Nepal and Nepal Orphans Home. Alecia made us laugh and taught us how to be “naturals” with NOH’s kids and Vinod took the stress out of Nepali travel and culture as us “newbies” adjusted. Alecia is responsible for helping my buy my first Kurta (Nepali dress) and Vinod tried to save me from witnessing my first goat beheading (yes, there were two!). Their perspectives on NOH, our kiddos there and the importance on college are insightful and we continue to appreciate them as LHW volunteers. Enjoy! Laura (and Justin)
In 2008 I had the opportunity to travel to Nepal to serve as a volunteer at Nepal Orphans Home. During this time I met Vinod – and our lives have not been the same since. Our relationship has always been intricately intertwined with the children at NOH, as Vinod was the Boys’ Hostel Manager when we met, and I we both feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to serve the children who will call our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.
Nepal Orphans Home is an organization committed to supporting Nepali children in need. Our children come from all walks of life yet every single one has an ultimate goal of obtaining higher education. Some want to be social workers, others doctors and teachers. As an organization, our ultimate goal is to ensure that every single child reaches college and university studies and is successful in obtaining their educational and professional goals. NOH’s largest proportion of children are reaching the high school age, with two transitioning into 11th grade or college in July.
I am excited and so pleased that Hikmat Adhikari, NOH’s first student to enroll in college, has finished 12th grade and plans to enroll in university this fall. It is because of our students like Hikmat, that Vinod and I continue to advocate for and support NOH in their efforts to ensure access to higher education for each and every student at NOH and in the Dhapasi community.
As our children mature, Vinod and I see a bright future for NOH and Nepal. Young men and women like Hikmat, Kabita and Sabin, three of our college-age students, are graduating and engaging in the world with a new perspective. Each has a desire to improve their communities and villages whether that be in health, education or social services. Donating to an organization like Life’s Handy Work is one way to ensure that more of our children are able to achieve higher education and that they are able to be the change that Nepal needs, both currently and in the future.
Alecia & Vinod Mahato with Hikmat in 2011 in Kathmandu, Nepal
Today I had the good fortune to be a guest speaker at Keithley Middle School in the Parkland area. I started the hour presenting to Mrs. Potis’ leadership class and then the kids read a few of the NOH children’s biographies and presented them to the whole class (they became the teachers). It was a productive and insightful hour and I walked away feeling a sense of affirmation in regards to my job as a teacher and how it pairs nicely with my passion for Nepal and our children there and Life’s Handy Work.
While I was driving back to my school, I was reflecting on my experience and a few thoughts consumed me:
1. The kids at Keithley were awesome. I was especially impressed with contributions by the boys in class. Even though we were talking primarily about girls being subjugated to abuse and neglect, they were equally, if not more engaged at time than the girls in class.
2. After the presentation a girl asked me if she could have her picture taken with me. What?! Without being egotistical - YES! I wish all kids had a real person who they could actually talk to in the flesh who can serve as a role model and an ambassador for community service and leadership. Super humbling and touching and definitely a bit shocking.
3. The idea behind We Day (a big push to involve kids in community service & provide them with a fitting reward, Google it!) is to connect kids to causes. If we, as adults, can connect every child to one cause they feel committed to, we truly have the ability to make the world tilt heavily in a positive direction.
The kids are meeting after school today to being the planning process for the project to benefit Life’s Handy Work. If the engagement and interest in our kids are anything like they were today, I have no doubt that they will plan and execute an amazing project.
I will keep you updated!
Last month I emailed Hikmat, one of our college students in Nepal, and asked him to respond to this question:
Why is the opportunity to attend college so important to you and for others in Nepal?
Hikmat was celebrating Dashain in a rural village in Nepal and was unable to respond until recently. We found his response genuine, touching and heartfelt. His response demonstrates why we are proud to serve Hikmat as he earns his college degree in science, along with our other students.
thank you very much for your wonderful letter .I was at home for Dashain
where there is no any facilities of internet and email so i could not express my felling with u. Any way its a very good question .
To be at papas house means to be in heaven.When i was little people used to say that lets go to temple ,and i used to ask them WHY? They used to reply to go to heaven after the death .And i used to ask them ,What heaven looks like and what are its positive thing? Then they used to reply me that there is all happiness ,And u will always be guided my a good person. That all thing i got here at papas house so, its heaven to me.
To be a college student in Nepal its really great. Most of the student in Nepal are not able to pass the SLC [the high school exit exam in Nepal that determines eligibility for college] which is known as iron gate of our life. And its very important to pass the iron gate. And it was no any problem to me to pass it.
So good to hear that you are going to explain about papas house to all the student. It will always be a dream for the student of Nepal to pass the iron gate. YA all the friends get apart from each other after SLC .How r u sis? miss u a lot and when r u coming back to Nepal.
Now when u come to Nepal YOu will be able to meet my brother Sabin too. We all are doing great here. Now our schools are reopen after a long vacation of Dashain our main festival.
All of us are really happy to be here.MISS U A LOT SIS. BE HAPPY AND KEEP SMILLING>
LOVE U THE MOST. Hikmat
Photo: Hikmat is on the far left, posing with family during Dashain. Nepal 2012.
Yesterday I had to opportunity to work with the AsPire Academy at Decatur High School. I spent my day teaching them about the Kamlari system, slavery, Nepal Orphans Home and Life’s Handy Work. These students are looking to create a local initiative to benefit a global cause and they picked us! We are SUPER excited to see how young energy and ideas can transform Life’s Handy Work this school year.
Last week as I was preparing lessons for my trip to Decatur I emailed a few of our college students. I knew I’d be lucky to get a response because Nepal is in the throws of Dashain right now and our students are all over the country celebrating with their families. Access to technology like email in rural villages is nil.
But, once again, Dawa came to my rescue. Dawa’s college tuition is funded by another organization, but he is friends with many of our children at NOH. We have forged a friendship through email and he is always on board to provide me with the information I need about college life. I want to share the email he wrote for the students at Decatur because I think it gives a strong glimpse into the life of a Nepalese College Student.
I am really sorry for the late reply. Dashain has just started here in Nepal. Dashain and Tihar is the biggest festival of Nepalese and so I was with my family to the relatives so could not message you earlier.
Glad to hear that you are working with 120 high school students next week.
Nepal is one of the beautiful country and famous for its natural beauties, cultures and its values. And to be the part of this country we Nepalese are really proud. We spent our childhood here and learned so many good things here in this motherland. Our life starts here and we always have positive impact towards our country and we always intend to create peace and harmony in the country.
But sometimes life in Nepal becomes difficult due to the lack of proper security and lack of government policies. Students are affected by the Bandas(Strike) and other obstacles created by the government leaders. So,nowadays most of the students apply for the abroad studies those who can afford the money but the poor students and people always have to live in the conflict.
Growing in Nepal and being the student of Nepal feels awesome. Learning good things in the school. Spending time in the school from 9 to 4 is really awesome. Teachers always motivate students and help them in their studies. Learning how to grab the aim of the life and new things
from the teachers. Learning 9 subjects each per day. Life in schools is really awesome and with lot of fun. We every time be with the friends and play together, learn together and spend time with the friends. Our school ends in Grade-10. And after completing Grade-10 we join college. Every students of Nepal becomes really happy when they complete Grade-10 and start with their college life. This is my own experience and I am sure that every students of Nepal have such feelings. After finishing with the schools we head to the college. In Nepal students have the concept that there will not be any mental tension of the studies like school because in college we have just 5 subjects. There is always an option for the studies. Students can take either science or non- science. So, students enjoy the college life here in Nepal. We call Grade-11 and Grade-12 as college and after we complete college we have to do bachelor studies for three years (i.e Grade-13,14 and 15). After the completion of the bachelor we head towards Master studies which is of four years. This is all about college life we have in Nepal. College life is the foundation for the students and they decide their aim and goal and study in the college taking the related subjects. If one students wants to be doctor, engineer etc then they take science and if any students wants to be business man, hotel manager etc then they take non- science (management) subjects. In schools all the subjects are compulsory with no option and in the college there is always option for the students. So, students in Nepal enjoy college life a lot.
Students who performs well in college have always better impact to their life. But nowadays due to the fail of the constitution and due to deteriorating condition of Nepal, students life is really difficult here in Nepal. And the problem of load-shedding and difficult transportation also affect the students directly.
Sister, I hope this brief message will help you a bit. Hoping to hear from you soon.
Best of luck for your upcoming days. Greetings and best wishes.
- 2009: Went to Nepal.
- 2010: Loved it so much Justin & I started Life’s Handy Work.
- 2011: We went back to Nepal and met Sam, another volunteer from Washington.
- 2012: Sam introduces us to Lauren, who is starting UNITA Gifts to help needy children.
One thing I have learned about the volunteer/small non-profit world is that people are good and good people will always lead you to more good people. Last spring our friend Sam asked me to talk to his friend Lauren about taking her ideas to help disadvantaged children and turning them into a non-profit. I was to be a sounding board for the mucky world of registrations, the IRS and rules & regulations. I was glad to pay-it-forward.
Since Lauren and I began talking, texting and emailing last spring we’ve developed a friendship based on all things non-profit-to-help-kids.
Today I opened the mail and there was a box filled with amazing, beautiful, earthy, and unique cocktail rings from Lauren and UNITA Gifts for our Orphaned 2 Educated Auction coming up in a few weeks. The beauty of these rings is reflected in UNITA Gifts mission. The idea is that every time you buy a piece of jewelry from UNITA Gifts, a bracelet is given to a child in need. The idea is that small gifts remind these children that they are thought of, loved and important.
I love what UNITA Gifts stands for because I’ve seen small gifts in action. Children who live a life of poverty in a third world country rarely receive gifts that convey a message of love and beauty outside of having their basics needs taken care of. Last summer when we gave each child at NOH a pair of earrings or a small toy, you would have thought we had given them riches. Their excitement and energy was indescribable.
I feel like the point of my post is getting lost in a sea of thoughts so I’ll spell it out: The world is a small place and it is amazing the circles we weave when we work towards a cause greater than ourselves. Lauren is just one example of the caliber of people I have “met along the way” since I first went to Nepal in 2009. Through the combined effort of everyone who spends their free time trying to do good, we might just change the world, piece by piece.
Visit UNITA Gifts online to read their story and see pictures of the children from Nepal Orphans Home wearing their bracelets. To get one of these amazing cocktail rings you can bid on them at our Orphaned 2 Educated Auction Online or the Kick-Off Party at Charlie’s in Puyallup on November 2, 2012. We’ll post the online auction link as soon as is up and running.
President Obama recently spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative about human trafficking, or in less politically correct terms, slavery. One of the more difficult questions people ask is why we have chosen to help children in Nepal, instead of focusing on children in “our own backyard.” I bobble over my words because I don’t know how to convey the level of poverty, discrimination, racism, and shame that people in third world countries, like Nepal, face. How do I convey the look of a nine year old child who has never held a pencil before and draws for the first time? How do I explain the necessity of a mother to sell her daughter as a servant or prostitute because that is one of two unthinkable options, the second being death by starvation? I could go on and on, but my point is that I can’t. I can’t convey any of those realities to people who have never seen them with their own eyes or worked with children who have the potential to change the world but who are, instead, enslaved against their will.
Regardless of my political views or which way I will vote this fall, I appreciated President Obama’s willingness to approach slavery (let’s call it what it is) as a global problem. While our political boundaries separate us from other countries, cultures and people, our ethics should be lacking these same boundaries. Our obligation to our fellow human beings should override our feelings of nationalism when it comes to basic needs, including freedom. When I first traveled to Nepal to teach in 2009 I came home with a tattoo. Normally my personality would leave me to think long and hard about permanently branding my body, but in this case there was nothing to think about. I had a very stark and clear realization when I was in the small, poverty stricken, rural village of Narti working with girls who had been rescued from slavery; the only thing separating their fate in life from mine was luck. I was born in a rich country to middle class parents whose vision for my life was college and a career and they were born in a third world country to poverty stricken parents who were at the mercy of a deeply embedded caste system. My tattoo reads “lucky” in Nepali.
The next time I am asked why we have chosen to help children in Nepal I will give my standard answers, but I will also steal a few words from our president. I will explain that it is simply the debasement of humanity, and therefore my obligation as a citizen of that humanity.
On that note, I will leave you with my favorite part, and the core, of President Obama’s speech.
"I want to discuss an issue that relates to each of these challenges. It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery." -President Obama, Clinton Global Initiative
With Love, Gratitude and Luck,
PS. You can find the full speech here.
Our friend Sam, who volunteered in Nepal much longer than we did, recently sent me this article about corruption in Nepal. It is no secret that Justin and I looked into adopting one of the children at Nepal Orphan’s Home during 2009. Two weeks after we started a very long and tedious adoption process, the U.S. closed adoption in Nepal due to corruption. We trudged forward hoping Nepal would reopen as we completed our U.S. paperwork with no luck. As I read this article about the depths of corruption in Nepal I was reminded how deeply it cuts and how it has managed to impact orphans in Nepal and prospective parents, like Justin and I, from around the world. We curb our frustration by working to provide the children with a better life from here.
"The practice of corruption is becoming a cancer without cure at all levels in Nepal. The ruthless exploitation of public property and money by politicians is becoming a common phenomenon. Such illicit behaviour of politicians and public officials hampers their development efforts and prolongs their stagnation. Pervasive corruption has polluted their system of governance, and, despite all the talk about its eradication, there has been no positive result to show. On the contrary, the practice spreads day by day, and it has infiltrated the entire political and administrative machinery of the nation…
"Many national and international reports on corruption and the abuse of power have shown that Nepal now has the dubious distinction of being one of the most corrupt countries in the world. What is so disconcerting is that people at all levels from lowly officials to powerful politicians are involved. After over twenty years of so-called democracy, people’s experiences can be said to be quite the opposite of what they expected at the outset. " -See link to read the rest of the article.
Over the past few months I’ve begun to converse with Dawa Sherpa, a young man in Nepal whom I met through the NOH’s boys home and the Skylark English School in Nepal. He is a bright young man with lots of ambition, lofty goals and some frustration with the difficulty of life in Nepal. He is attending grade 12 (college) this year and has agreed to allow me to share some of our emails on the blog. I have also invited him to guest write about Nepal anytime there is something he’d like to share with a broad audience. While I love to share my insights and experiences in Nepal, Dawa lives it everyday and he can specifically speak about college in Nepal, which is what Life’s Handy Work is most concerned with as students from NOH begin their college careers.
Here are a few emails from our conversation over the past few months. Cheers, Laura
Wed, May 23, 2012
Is everything fine with you? How is life going?
It feels good talking to you after a long back. I just finished my examination.My exam was good and now I have nearly 1 month holiday. After 1 month, I will be joining new session (Grade-12). So, I am on a holiday now, time for basketball and fun moment with friends.
Sister, do you know about the Strike (Nepal Bandh) here in Nepal.We often have to face problem of strike, mostly the students. Nepal often have strike due to political disorder and I suffered a lot this time due to strike.Although there was strike,the examination would run so I had to walk nearly 3 hours early in the morning to reach the college to attend the exam and come back walking on the foot. During strike, no vehicles run and all the shops get closed. I really feel very depressed hearing this sorts of condition of Nepal being a Nepali. So, it was very hard for me but even though I attended the exam.
And how is Justin doing? Give my love to him, your parents and sister. Have a great time, sister. Good luck.
May 29, 2012
I am so sorry to hear about how the Bundh impacted your exam! That is awful, but it shows that you are a very determined and strong man to walk all that way for the sake of your education. I was on a trip to Narti, in western Nepal, and I experienced a Bundh. Our bus was stopped on the road and searched by the Moaists. It was a little scary and very tiring. So yes, I understand the Bundh’s well.
I have three and a half weeks left to teach before we have a two month holiday for the summer. We only have one long holiday each year and this is it! I can’t wait to relax for a little while.
I’m glad your exams went well. I’m sure grade 12 will be a challenging year for you, but I am excited about your progress. Education is really one of the only things that can advance people in life and I think it is a worthwhile cause.
Please send my love your family as well!
:) Laura Sister
June 19, 2012
I hope you are fine.Thank you for your polite words. You know bundh’s that means you know how we Nepalese have to struggle here and live here. My college for Grade-12 just started from yesterday so I need to wake up early in the morning and I barely can.
I guess you have many plans for your summer holiday. Eat, relax, and have fun during those holidays.My best wishes to you.
Sister, I want to ask you something. Do you have any idea about doing foreign studies? What are the requirements for it? I want to know and if possible I want to do a foreign study after I complete Grade-12 if I get further support from my sponsors. Else I have to continue my study here in Nepal. I hope you would be happy to answer me!
My love to you and your family.
June 29, 2012
I am sorry it had taken so long to get back to you. I have been busy cleaning my house and wrapping up my work. I understand it being very difficult to wake up early. I always hear that it gets easier as you get older but I have to wake up early for my job and I still find it difficult even though I am 30!
I don’t know a ton about studying abroad, but I have included the US Government website for international students. This should give you some good information about how to study abroad in the US. It varies by country though and I have heard it is challenging to get a passport from Nepal, but it is possible. My friend Vinod is in the US now studying and he married one of my good friends. He was able to get his passport and a visa, but it did take over a year so you will want to start looking in to this right away. If you have questions for me about the US as you look over the website, email me and I will try to find the answers for you.
I think studying abroad is a very good options and would benefit you if you are able to get all of the paperwork you need and are able to get funding. I know the US is pretty expensive, but it may be less expensive for you because you are coming from a developing country. Take a peak at the site and email me back.
It’s great to hear from you!
July 3, 2012
Sorry, for my late reply to you.The new session has just started and I have to be regular to my college so I get busy most of my time with my studies. And even the problem of load-shedding( power cut-off). Thank you very much for your information on studying abroad. I had some idea of it by now. But, I think studying abroad is not possible for me because its pretty expensive in US and funding is not possible I guess. I just asked about studying in US with my sponsors but they replied me, they would only support education in Nepal and its quite expensive to do abroad study. And yes, its challenging to study in US though. I went through the site you have sent it to me and I have learned about education in US a lot. Thank you very very much for doing this to me.
And yes, I do know Vinod brother and his wife Alecia. We have played basketball matches many times together and he is a good player. I hope he is doing well in US.And I guess they are living a happy life together.
Me and my family are good and its very hot here in Nepal. Rain occurs frequently nowadays and the weather becomes pleasant. Hope you and your family are doing good. Lots of love. Best regard.
Our trip to Nepal last summer was sunny and humid with a few monsoon rains scattered throughout. We are missing the children and our NOH family more and more as our weather here reminds us of what we’re missing there.
I found this on the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting website. These women remind me a lot of our girls NOH. We want all of our girls, but especially those who have been rescued from slavery, to be empowered by education. It is encouraging to read about these women and imagine what opportunities will present themselves to our girls in the future.
It isn’t often that I find a good article on the the Kamlari (indentured servant) system in Nepal. The majority of the girls LHW supports at Nepal Orphan’s Home are Tharu (a native group in Nepal) and have been rescued from the Kamlari system. The article gives a brief, but clear, overview of the problem, however I strongly question the statement that there are only 1,000 Tharu girls in servitude today. Nepal Orphan’s Home can account for roughly 10% of this number living in their homes today and most of their girls have been rescued in recent years. It seems hard to believe that one small organization could house such a large percentage of girls in bondage.
Bill Gates posted this one minute video on his website about why India is worth our time, energy and travel plans. His sentiments about India are reflected in our views on Nepal. Unfortunately Nepal doesn’t have the commerce or governmental support like their sister country, India. Hopefully NGO’s can continue to fill the cracks that their government can’t seem to get a handle on.
Lake, Loop, Little Loop, Lake! The Driftwood Dash running team (OK, there were only two of us) ran a practice Dash tonight in the pouring rain. Our feet splashed through puddles, my ponytail was tied in knots, and our rain “resistant” coat allowed water to soak through two lower layers. With just over a week to go until the main event, my fingers and toes are crossed for sunshine, but I hope people decide to join us rain or shine. After all, what’s an hour in the rain to send some kind, spirited, loving, intelligent, orphaned Nepalese girls to college? Not much. Let’s do this!
PS. A soaking wet thank you to Trent, who delayed his dinner at 7:00 PM after a long day at work and humored my request to do the actual Driftwood Dash in the pouring rain!
Help send Kabita to college! We are preparing to kick-off our college sponsorship program next month and we wanted to share some words from Kabita about why she wants to attend college in Nepal.
"I want to join a college which have nice environment and which can provide me nice education. I want to do Management course and I want to join morning classes and in the day time I can help my sisters to do their homework. I want to join college for my further study. I want to experience how the college life feels and after that I want to get a good job. And also it doesn’t mean that if i will score a good marks in any other subject like science I have to choose science but I am interested in management and I want to know how it feels and sometime it is good to have changes. And I am really excited to join college. Thank you, Kabita"
We will let you know when her sponsorship page is up and running next month so you can help make her college dreams come true!