What It Takes to Be Extraordinary
An inspirational documentary about how Nepal Orphans Home came to be
Nestled in the Kathmandu valley of Nepal, there is a very special place where children are free for the first time. Filmed over the course of seven years, What It Takes To Be Extraordinary shares the inspirational story of Michael Hess (Founder of Nepal Orphans Home), who is selflessly dedicating his life to educate, empower and care for impoverished children throughout Nepal, and the many stories of our extraordinary Nepal Orphans Home family.
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Established in 2005, Nepal Orphans Home (NOH) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization incorporated in North Carolina, with operations in Nepal. NOH operates a children’s home known as “Papa’s House” and the Chelsea Education and Community Center in the Kathmandu Valley. The children are orphans or have parents unable to provide for them. Most of the children in the homes are girls, since they are more likely to be subjected to abuse and deprivation in Nepal. More than half of our girls have been rescued from lives of bonded servitude. In addition, NOH Outreach provides assistance to other poor children in Nepal, supporting their education and other basic needs.
Michael Hess found the orphanage in March 2005. This is the story of his discovery.
One fateful day many months ago I walked over the crest of a hill that I had found myself gazing upon nightly from my balcony. The crest was only a mile away, a 20-minute uphill walk. With each step I was leaving the hustle and noise of Kathmandu farther behind and entering a world of relaxed harmony, a quiet and serene landscape of individual small homes with gardens, and more chickens and goats than pedestrians, on the rocky dirt road snaking towards the top. There was a powerful energy of goodwill emanating from the smiles of every person I would pass.
A friend of mine had found an orphanage another mile distant that she said needed some help, and she was anxious to take me there.
As we hiked I felt a tremendous sense of clarity, an awareness that I was in a moment of divine intervention; an unaccountable, quiet excitement started coursing through me that suggested something pretty remarkable was taking place in my life.
When we reached a miserable, abandoned-looking little house I couldn’t imagine anyone living there. “This is it,” my friend offered, and I was sure she was joking. It was still—not a sign of life in the midday heat—and so small. “Namaste!” my friend called out, and in moments we were engulfed by the kind and cheerful residents, some eager, some shy, as they poured out of the house led by “puppy,” the small house mascot and protector. The spirit that came like a cloud around us was thick with love.
It seemed like a reunion had taken place when several hours later I waved goodbye. I felt that all of my life's work was in preparing me for this moment, and I am ready.
The Chelsea Education and Community Center
The Chelsea Center offers academic enrichment classes and life skills workshops to Papa’s House children in the late afternoons after school, and literacy classes to local community women in the mornings.
The Chelsea Education and Community Center supports Papa’s House children in their transition to adulthood, empowering each individual to create and lead a uniquely meaningful and productive life. The Chelsea Center also promotes the empowerment, personal growth, and social connection of local Dhapasi women.
NOH started Volunteer Nepal (VN) in 2005 as a program to connect volunteers with talent and passion to serve the poor in need across Nepal, while by providing heartfelt and enlightening volunteer experiences for groups and individuals.
Volunteer Nepal offered two dozen placements throughout Nepal--from Kathmandu to remote villages. Options included volunteering in hospitals and medical clinics, schools, rehabilitation centers, ashrams, human rights NGOs, animal shelters, and village agriculture. In addition to individual volunteers, groups of students and professionals participated in the program.
After returning to their homes, volunteers often continued to support Nepal Orphans Home through raising funds, sometimes for specific projects or individuals in need, and spreading awareness of our work in Nepal. Some even started their own non-profits to support NOH and other organizations in Nepal. And a few later became members of the NOH Board of Advisers.
For the period from 2012-2015, VN averaged one hundred and twenty-five annual volunteers from eighteen different countries. Perhaps due to the negative publicity about volunteer tourism, there was a decline in the number of individuals volunteering over the next few years. From 2016-2018, the annual average was ninety-three volunteers from sixteen countries. In 2019, Volunteer Nepal hosted forty volunteers from eleven countries. In 2020, there were only a half-dozen volunteers, all early in the year before the worldwide COVID-19 lockdowns restricted international travel. In 2021 and 2022, there were no international volunteers.
At the end of 2022, Nepal Orphans Home reluctantly closed Volunteer Nepal, grateful for all the past volunteers, but no longer able to sustain a vibrant international volunteer program.