Papa’s House News & Updates: 2007

Monday, December 3rd

A week after the close of Dashain comes Tihar, yet another week of low grade blessings. On the first day birds, crows in particular, are honored by leaving sweets and other foods a crow might crave out where crows gather. The second day, a personal favorite, honors dogs. It is the one day in the year a dog might feel safe in Nepal and celebrated to boot. At sunrise garlands of orange flowers are placed around the neck of dogs, red tikas are smeared on their foreheads; a few prayers are dropped over them along with a dusting of chopped flowers. The dogs tend to congregate after that, consoling each other with how ridiculous they look and feel. One of my children and I were walking along the road on this day behind a dog that looked like it had just landed in Hawaii. A cow was on the side of the road and seemed to be studying the dog’s appearance when my child said to the cow, “Don’t worry, cow, tomorrow you will get yours.” And, she did. On the fifth day boys are honored; it is called Bia Tika. We first celebrated Bia Tika at our home with all the girls preparing and performing the rituals for the boys. From our home we all walked down the street to our new home and repeated the process.

A blessed cow

Boys receiving puja

Our new home has settled into a great routine now. We have added two more boys there; one is Roshen, the little brother of Depa and Cila. Their father had asked me for a little over a year to please accept Roshen and the time finally came. Their ather is in his late 80’s and told me after this that he was now ready to rest knowing his three children were together in Papa’s House. He asked me to please accept them as my own and always care for them; it is a joy and honor to have them, and like all our children I know we will have a very long life together.

At the New Home we have Vinod in charge of the children. He is a remarkable young man who is nothing short of adored by the children. With him is MaryKate Catandella, an exceptional young volunteer who has given her whole being to these neat and loving children. MaryKate signed on for five months, but I cannot imagine her ever being able to leave so much of her heart behind. We have Rupa from our home teaching the children during the day before returning home to us after school to help our children with their homework; and finally Shoba, a delightful and sweet young woman as a fourth teacher.

Papa's House 2

Staff & volunteers at the new home

These four set up a school at the home, we bought all the books necessary, and it is structured just like our school, which they will attend in April, the start of the new school year. With such close attention I have marveled at the speed at which the children have picked up English.

MaryKate bought Halloween costumes for all the children before she left Connecticut. Two other volunteers, Stephanie French from Australia and Kathleen Hepburn from Canada, worked with MaryKate to put on a very memorable Halloween party on the top of our house. They did a fabulous job and the children had a wonderful time. We drew quite a lot of curious stares from our neighbors who wondered what in the world had possessed our children to look as they did, and bob for apples among other inexplicable activities.

Sunita and Anita


The Dawn Kumari Cooking chool graduated its last pair, Depa and Sarita. The children, as intended but never requested, made their own rotations after that, and each night two of them are cooking along with Dawn Kumari, and serving the others, followed by cleaning everything prior to eating their own dinner. Good kids. I continue to buy vegetables fresh each day, Anita continues to send me on vegetable treasure hunts on her cooking days, and life moves along. We now have two dining rooms in order to seat everyone comfortably.

Depa, Dawn Kumari, and Sarita

Another volunteer, Sara Winterrowd, started teaching in Gundu, one of my favorite villages, on her fourth day here. Gundu is a very quiet village, almost completely pedestrian. They have a great little school there which accepted her to teach environmental science, which is what she majors in. We have a permanent room rented in the house of the principal that is on a sunny corner with terrific views. We hope to get some volunteers with months to spend over there in the future. Gundu offers a lot of land at very reasonable prices and I hope to talk to our Board of Directors and Advisors about considering purchasing some for a future Campus Home and School for Papa’s House.


We have recently hired a man to take over the running of Volunteer Nepal. His name is Prakash Poudel and can be seen in the staff and children photo as well as in the Manthali photo. Prakash is a gentle man, but with a commanding presence that works exceptionally well in dealing with officials in the remote districts where we are established. He knows Nepal and its people thoroughly, has his Masters degree in English and has translated several books from Nepalese to English. Recently I sent him to Manthali, the district seat of Ramechhap district, to bring back our newest two children. Bipana and Ishawa came to our attention by a small newspaper story about Bipana. Their village is quite remote and has no school. The nearest is a three-hour difficult walk one way. Bipana on her own volition has made that walk everyday for five years. She receives no encouragement as her absence means that her mother must work a little harder, but Bipana as a compromise starts her day at 4 a.m., doing chores until 7 when she leaves for school. School is from 10 a.m. till 4 p.m., and then she starts home again, arriving well after dark at 7 p.m., eating, doing a few more chores, and then doing her homework. No other children, even those living near the school, had her attendance record. I asked Prakash to get in touch with the reporter from Ramechhap and learn more, which made offering her a new home all the more compelling. We were asked if we could help one more child, Ishawa. He is a very quiet young boy with a quick smile and deep, kind but hurt-filled eyes. His mother died and his stepmother beats and berates him daily. This is the way it is in Nepal. The reporter said that the family is well below impoverished, which is evident by Ishawa's skeletal frame.

Manthali, the district seat. Prakash in white cap,
Bipana and Ishawa on right

Outside of Manthali

Prakash, Stephanie, and Kathleen boarded a 7 a.m. bus and arrived in Manthali after dark. The chief district officer, the head of the police, the reporter, Ishawa's father, met them and took them to an office where Prakash was interrogated for three hours. They were concerned that we were going to sell the children. Prakash had been sent with documents and many photos, and the reporter had made inquiries about us before we set out. I was glad to see such concern, but very surprised as well. Manthali had been under a curfew just before our arrival by Maoist edict. This had been settled by this same group just minutes before meeting with our gang. Things were still a little tentative with the Maoists and so it was advised that our group, Bipana, and Ishawa leave on the 7 a.m. bus the next morning to return, so unfortunately the hike to the children’s village as planned for the next day would not take place. The first morning after their return I took Bipana and Ishawa for new clothes. Ishawa has joined the family at Papa’s House too; we turned the boy’s room into more of a dorm style by making the beds into bunk beds. He has quickly found friends and at the school is showing a keen sense of understanding. Bipana has roomed in our house with Cila and Kabita Karki (we have three Kabitas) in a new room that once was a volunteer’s room. The three of them have gone to bed in their own beds each night but when I wake them in the morning they are sharing one and laughingly telling me about a ghostly visit. Bipana only speaks Nepali and so we have her at the new home's school for now, but I am sure by April she will be speaking great English. Any young person as dedicated to educating themselves as she has a very real plan in mind, and thanks to our donors she will be receiving a little support for that plan.

I close with a photo of Sunita skipping rope with little Anita. This is quite a little girl. Already she has a limited but precise English vocabulary. She is fearless and adventurous. The weather is really getting cold and each afternoon there is a short line to be shampooed in our ongoing battle against lice. On her bathing day there are five others dancing around, teeth chattering, and muttering about freezing under the cold water while Anita stands stock still and silent just simply getting it done.

Sunita and little Anita

The children are eagerly talking about Christmas, and I asked them to write letters to Santa explaining what they would like to receive. These are precious letters, painstakingly written in their best English. Their wants are small, and so innocent. This is going to be a very fun month, Christmas and five children’s birthdays all squeezed in.

Thanks to you all for your continued support.


Monday, October 22

Today is the second day of Dashain, but the 12th day of our school vacation. Dashain is the holiest of the Hindu yearly festivals, celebrating the God Durga winning a battle of good over evil. But let me back up almost three weeks to start this update.

We have two new children, sisters named Anu and Anita. Anu is a student of ours, Anita not yet ready for nursery class. However, she is now wearing our uniform and walking at the head of our line to and from school each day. Their mother died recently and their father’s spirit with her. He asked us to please take his daughters. There are no other relatives and the father lacked even the low cost of a funeral pyre. Neighbors all passed the hat to perform the last rites. Like all of our children, these two are bright, exceptional little beings. Anita is quiet and wears either a puzzled or amused little grin on her face. The older girls have had a mothering urge awakened in them; at nighttime I am never quite sure where to find Anita, as they all want her to sleep in their bed. Anu had her ninth birthday just a few days after arriving. I could not detect a single note’s difference in the celebration for her among our children; she is one of the family now.

Anita and Anu
Anu's cake
Anita and Anu
Anu's cake
Anu in her Birthday clothes
Anu in her birthday clothes

Papa’s House was also called upon to visit another orphanage where the messenger felt things were not right. I found twelve children who were neglected and malnourished, lacking a change of clothes, medicines for many skin and other ailments; without beds, blankets, and not going to school. This is unfortunately quite typical. I asked permission to have a trusted friend stay at the house during the day and teach the children. Vinod gained the trust of the children and reported back to me heartbreaking details of abuse. The children, in their young minds had developed a plan to run away as a group. Instead, we were able to oust the people in charge and take over the home. It hasn’t taken long to assure them that their nightmare is over. They have healed physically, and laugh and play with gusto.

Children of the new Home
Children of the new Home

We conduct school at the home with two teachers, one of whom is MaryKate Catandella, our newest volunteer. Our newly formed Board of Directors authorized me to find a new home in which we will move them before the months end. The very expensive setup of the new home is now under way. Additional staff has been hired as well. More on all of this in my next update.

Our sewing class is a great hit. The children love it; we have six at the moment with many more waiting for an opening. We purchased our third sewing machine, this one several steps up from the others in its many abilities. Reading about this program inspired Stephen and Martha Porter to send us a check to cover the three machines. They are the parents of Tom Gilbert, who, along with his wife Fiona, is on our Board of Directors.

Sewing class
Sewing room, 3 machines
Sewing class
Sewing room, 3 machines

The children in the class have all made clothes for the younger children in our home, this after only about one month. In the new home that we are setting up we need sheets, pillow cases and curtains, and the children have said to buy the cloth and they will knock it out for us. As mentioned earlier, this is going to save Papa’s House a great deal of money in uniform cost, and the mending, linens, pillow cases, etc. that we continually need. In addition our children now have skills to give them independence. A few of our children have also been interested in fashion design, and that is something we will encourage them to do. Fiona Gilbert has a friend who is a photographer for Vogue, and he has promised to do a story and photos about our children if they start some design work, and have it published in Vogue. So, from the generosity and compassion of Steve and Martha Porter, a seed has taken strong hold and quickly captured the attention of a leading world publication. You never know, good deeds develop a life of their own.

Saroj and Chham were just shy of their 14 days in Dawn Kumari’s cooking class when the Dashain vacation began. They have not soloed yet, but after a days refresher will be doing so upon their return. Depa and Sarita are next in line.

Saroj, Dawn Kumari, Chham cooking
Saroj, Dawn Kumari, Chham cooking

Dashain compels all Nepalese to return to their birth village. Most of our children have done so as well. It was sad to say goodbye to the kids; many were starting very long and arduous walks of three or four days. Like all the children, Anu Maya, pictured here looking fresh and ready when met by an aunt who had come to claim her, gave every one of her brothers and sisters a hug before letting the gate close behind her. You could sense her thinking about the day she walks back through the gate into the welcoming embrace of our family.

Anu Maya ready to go
Anu Maya ready to go

We have seven girls and three boys who were unable to leave. Two of our three didis also left us for their village. Unlike last year, Dawn Kumari stayed behind, so this year I have very welcomed help in taking care of things. I am so proud of the older girls who stayed, as they have assisted me and Dawn Kumari in every aspect of running the home without being asked. It also has been nice to all eat together. When all 34 children and three didis are present , she and her helpers must serve others and eat after.

I have tried to keep the children busy with things not so easily done when all are here. The girls, MaryKate, and I jumped on a bus one day and went to Pashumpati, the ghatts, and spent a pleasant afternoon. Another day we rented a micro bus and driver, locked up the house and went to the zoo. In the evenings we sometimes watch a movie; I have read stories to the five younger girls at bedtime and been able to allow them greater freedom in extending lights out. Meals have been a little more experimental and relaxed, and fruits have been in abundance. They are really too expensive to be able to serve often when all the family are here.

Trip to the zoo
At the zoo's one ride
Trip to the zoo
At the zoo's one ride

Yesterday I was asked to give Tika to the assembled children and Dawn Kumari. I mixed red pigment, rice, and my own special touch, flour, with water in a small bowl and went down to the garden where they waited. I had no instruction manual for any of this. It is my good fortune that the Nepalese are a very forgiving and patient people, as at bedtime the children were concerned that their big lumps of tikis were not coming off. They asked me what I had put in the mix; their howls of protest I interpreted to suggest flour wasn’t a good idea. Dawn Kumari had cut fruit slices, and lit incense. Sunita and Depa had gathered and shredded flowers that were to be sprinkled upon the receivers bowed heads. Starting with Dawn Kumari I was to apply a goober of Tika to each forehead while blessing them and including a personal blessing for each. Trying not to be redundant with my limited Nepali, by the time I reached young Kancha I was asking that his future wife not be to fat and yet very fertile.

Kids ready to receive my blessing
Anita and Depa
Kids ready to receive my blessing
Anita and Depa

His crooked smile up at me after was priceless.

This is such a good life.



Marcie's Story

In August, Marcie Westphalen of Raleigh, North Carolina volunteered at Papa's House. Below, she talks about what it was like for her to visit us.

Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you are alive, it isn't.
— Richard Bach

September 15, 2007

Dear Friends and Family,

It has been several weeks since my return from Nepal and Papa’s House. I wanted to share with you the profoundness of my journey and time spent with these amazing children.

First, let me say that the money you so freely gave to me to share with Nepal Orphan’s Home or Papa’s House is going to such a wonderful cause. You could not have done a better thing with your dollars. What I witnessed while there were many happy children being well fed, clothed, educated, but most of all loved and respected. It was a joy to see the love shared amongst the children, but the real joy came in seeing the love shared between Michael Hess and each and every child. The efforts he goes through to touch base with each child on a daily basis are beyond commendable. Imagine tucking 32 children in each night!

I also wanted to make you aware that with your help I raised $7000 for Papa’s House! What a testament to the friends, family and community I am blessed to be a part of. Thank you so very much for believing in my passion enough to share your hard earned dollars with Papa’s House, so that Michael may continue his work saving these children from things you can not even imagine.

My time at the hostel was spent being “Mom,” as the children called me, from the time I arrived. I knew that my time there would pass quickly and there was no time to waste…just dive in and begin caring for and loving these children! My first morning I awoke to the sounds of children practicing Karate outside my window. I quickly dressed and was ready for tea at 6:30 am. The kids were excited to see that I wanted to sit and eat with them in their dining room; typically the adults are served in the kitchen. There was no way I was going to miss out on my time to get to know them! I was immediately greeted with hugs from many and “Good morning, Mom!” from all. After this it was time to get ready for school. Children dressing in uniforms, polishing shoes, tidying rooms and hair being braided. I was amazed to see Michael’s skill at hair braiding and ribbon tying. He is constantly aware of who is waiting for hair oil or braiding, what shoes need to be tied and cuffs need to be rolled. It is an amazing symphony that occurs 6 days a week. His calm and gentle manner, interspersed with humor and smiles is the overriding energy of the hostel. I immediately felt at home on the other side of the earth.

The walks to school were remarkable to experience as well: led by Papa, in single file for the youngest children, with the 5 or 6 oldest children closest to the sporadic passing of a microbus or motorcycle, all the while making sure that the "youngers" were safe and their shoes stayed tied. It too was an event to partake in. I was truly proud to be a part of this family walking to school. At school there were days that I helped out in the nursery and observed in the older classes. I really felt like Mom to the Papa’s House children when they realized I had been in one of their “siblings'” classes and not in theirs. From then on I had to make my rounds to each class only to observe that the children of Papa’s House shined academically and socially among the 365 at Papa’s Trinity Academy. Again I felt like a proud member of the family called Papa’s House.

Bedtime at Papa’s House had to be my favorite part of my time there. It was there that I felt I was giving what I knew best to give: motherly hugs and bedtime chats. Each night I made the rounds to each room. Hugging every child, sharing stories of our lives and families, and even falling asleep with arms wrapped around each other during a power outage. It was then that I knew I was giving what the children needed most: a Mom. Many nights I would have different children come to me and ask for me to come to their room last. They had figured out that I stayed the longest in the last room I visited. These are the memories that will last a lifetime.

My stories and experiences go on and on. My heart holds so many memories near and dear that it would take me a book to share it all. I hope that you understand the idea of what I hope to have expressed to you. This place called Papa’s House, founded by this man named Michael Hess, filled with these children who call me Mom is most amazing and worthy of all you have given and prayed for. I am blessed to have had the experience and overjoyed with the idea of hopefully bringing Alecia next summer to meet her Nepali “brothers and sisters.” You have all done a marvelous thing in giving and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Please watch for an invitation to a “Gathering in Gratitude” this fall.

Blessings and Thanks to All,

For more photos visit my Flickr page at


Thursday, September 27

We have been under siege by a lazy rain for three days now, the warmer air has been washed away. Last night flannel pajamas and blankets came out of storage, a few stocking caps and many shawls could be seen at the candle lit dinner table; the combination of darkness and steady rain has quieted everyone down, the kids wondering how to study for the next day's exams when we have no lights. Winter is indeed coming too quick and my thoughts of last December, that I would never be warm again, seem still fresh in mind. Bathing after school yesterday took admirable determination as the water had been chilling all day in the tank, but the small children still managed humor and twinkling-eyed smiles.

On the 20th of this month Saroj turned 14. We had his celebration in the dark as usual. I am thinking of having the parties after school in the future so we can get some decent photos. Saroj has always been popular; he is very kind to all the little children and spends hours playing with them, and his humor and politeness are a hit with the older girls. Saroj asked if he could have something other than clothes this year and presented, upon request, a small list of possibilities. I chose to buy him a hand-held CD player with a set of speakers so that he could also share the music, and a CD he had specified was surprisingly found. Saroj is a very capable artist who spends an hour or more daily drawing, his hand steady and sure.

Saroj's birthday
Saroj's birthday

On the 21st it was Kancha's turn; he became 5 on this day. Kancha and Bipen get a lot of hugs in our home. Kancha is always smiling a broad closed-mouth smile, his eyes suggesting a savant's wisdom. He is a little mischievous, but with his smile he seems to get nods of approval instead of reprimands. Kancha received a stuffed animal to sleep with and a small toy truck that he has road tested through his dinner rice and mud puddles alike.

Kancha's birthday
Kancha's birthday
Kancha's birthday
Kancha's birthday

Anita and I found a free afternoon and went back to the sewing machine store in the heart of Kathmandu. We made a selection pretty quickly and then asked Saraswoti to retrieve them the next morning after looking them over and making sure they were appropriate. She returned with both, one new and one used, and the same afternoon started lessons. I am very impressed with her ability to keep four children busy at the same time on two machines. We have 11 children all wanting lessons and so I am considering adding one more machine. The ideas floated by some of our readers on how to utilize the machines from making thank you gifts for our donations to embroidering t-shirts for sale are all exciting. In addition, somewhat serendipitously, I just met a small group of disabled women who would like to learn to sew, and I have offered our sewing room and Saraswoti as a teacher for use during the day. We hope this will begin shortly.

Sangita and Saraswoti
Binu and Saraswoti
Sangita and Saraswoti
Binu and Saraswoti

The cooking classes have stayed a hit; Anita and Sunita were the last to finish two weeks with Dawn Kumari. They embraced the challenge with great energy, devising a new twist on the rather staid rice and vegetables. They are from the Terai region where most of Nepal's vegetables are grown and learned a taste for the exotic ones that don’t reach our area in any abundance. They also introduced other foods that we have never eaten before. Nirmala and Samjhana are now in the kitchen and I bless their return to simple vegetables that keep me in the area in each day’s vegetable procurement. Anita however will still send me on a search for some questionable-looking food every so often and then use my kitchen to prepare it for the kids as a dinner side dish. She has won the stomachs of them all.

Sunita cutting vegetables
Anita, Sunita, and Dawn Kumari
Sunita cutting vegetables
Anita, Sunita, and Dawn Kumari

Teej was recently celebrated. It is actually a three day event with women only as participants. Early in the morning you will see women dressed in red saris on their way to temples to give Puja to the idols there. Women will fast during this period and when possible stay only in the company of other women. To varying degrees most of our girls celebrated for at least one of the three days. I accompanied some of our girls early one morning to a nearby temple and watched the very orchestrated procedure that followed. A mother and her grown daughter caught my eye as they were going through the ritual; I was struck by their gentle humor and obvious closeness as they performed the time-tested rites. Mothers and daughters are universally similar; people are people the world over in their love and need of family.

Teej offering
Kabita at an idol
Teej offering
Kabita at an idol
Mother and daughter
Mom and daughter

It is about time for me to walk to school and retrieve our kids. I leave you with two pictures of Puja and Kabita who played dress up last Saturday. In one Puja has humored Kabita with one of her hilarious observations delivered with a straight face; also a picture of Mary and her sister Rasmita. On Friday night Mary asked me if she could sleep in a different room. Rasmita, her bed companion looked at me with bug eyes waiting to hear my answer. I said yes. Later after making my rounds I went back to Rasmita’s bed where I found her quietly crying. She said she was a little afraid to sleep alone. I surrounded her with all her dolls and reminded her that she was only alone in bed, four other girls were in the room, but she was only slightly consoled. I turned out their light and after 20 minutes checked on her. She was fast asleep hugging her large soft doll. The next night as they were getting ready for bed she told Mary that she could go sleep in the other room again. I asked Rasmita why she felt that way and she said “last night I have learned to sleep alone.” Mary smiled up at me and Rasmita didn’t protest when she slipped into bed next to her.

Mary and Rasmita
Photo session
Mary and Rasmita
Mary and Rasmita


Tuesday, September 4th

Today is Puja’s 10th birthday. She has been doing a countdown for the past 48 days, each morning on our walk to school asking, “Papa, how many days until my birthday?” Coincidentally it is the Hindu God Krishna’s birthday as well and Nepal has closed to celebrate. I had Puja convinced that the country had closed in her honor until others set her straight. I have promised Puja that the two of us would take a walk into Chakrapath after tiffin (lunch) and get an ice cream. The ice cream shop is also the bakery, where yesterday I ordered a cake in the likeness of Cinderella; and at a nearby shop a new linga (traditional semi formal wear for girls). The linga needed some alterations and will also be ready to collect today. I am hoping both of these places will be open for us to do so.

Puja's birthday
Puja ready for shopping

Last week we celebrated Bipen's 5th birthday in the customary darkness of load shedding. Bipen has grown in the past two years into a very observant little guy of few words. His conversation, when it comes, is always punctuated with bursts of excitement and laughter, questions or statements without a conversationally traceable path, and an impish grin. Watching him from a distance is pure entertainment.

Bipen's birthday
Bipen's birthday

Our children have been passing conjunctivitis around for the past two weeks, which is now pretty much over. Some of them suffered worse than others, but all looked ghoulish with their blood-red, seeping, infected eyes. I had the proper medicine to treat them, three times a day, each staying home during their bouts. The eye drops sting quite a bit at first, slowly giving way to relief. My sympathetic pain was eased a bit by the humor some of them showed when I would go bed to bed giving the eye drops, the recipient rigid, boldly using self restraint while the others would giggle with nervous empathy awaiting their turn.  I was most impressed by the muscle power in the eyelids of 8 year olds.

Last Tuesday was one of the days in which Hindus honor cows, Gai Jantra. It luckily occurred on a rare sunny day during monsoon. Sangita, Samjhana, Anita, and Nirmala had asked the day before if I would buy and mix mindi for them to apply to their hair. In addition to making their hair very silky it also highlights it in auburn, when the sun strikes it. It takes about an hour to apply and then four hours to dry. It was a relaxing day in which a lot of free-wheeling conversation took place about their future, and their hair turned out beautifully.

Mindi in girls' hair

Just back from our trip to town — everything was open. Unfortunately when the counter man was slipping the beautiful Cinderella cake into a large box he lost control and Cinderella did a nose dive onto the floor. Puja was at the table eating her ice cream oblivious. When I informed Puja of the event she smiled a little and said “it is okay.” We took a standard chocolate cake in its place, Cinderella’s inglorious end awaiting clean-up.

Puja put on a new Kolta Sulwar for the day, one that was made for Depa but turned out too small, and so I have had it in storage. It is a lovely mixed shade of purple. I braided her hair and gave her a tika, an orange shawl, and some purple earrings to wear to town. At a store that sells dolls Puja was vibrating with happiness looking over the vast selection. It takes so little to please these children. Going shopping is a pretty rare and special thing; this will be a day not soon forgotten.

Our morning running group has expanded. Chham, Saroj and I race the clock each day with five different routes to choose from. The routes are all very hilly and often, along footpaths, muddy and slippery from the rains. Many mornings we run in the rain; there is something intuitively primitive in running hills and valleys in the rain, and we have been setting personal bests on those days. In the past few weeks the older girls have joined and we started doing village runs of between 1½ to 3 miles with them. In this past week Kabita Mahato and Kabita Basnet have joined as well. They are both 13, both in the same class, where they tied for first place academically. They enjoy good-natured competition against one another all day in anything that might be put before them, and these runs are no exception. Kabita Mahato has been leading Kabita Basnet by 100 yards each time; in the Terai she was a goat herder and was running hills daily keeping her flock together. They are both extraordinary little girls. On Sunday we started off together for our long run in the village. It is a circular route that has a gentle downhill for the first 2½ km; the backside of the course drops very low and makes a series of sharp inclines, and brief plateaus back up to the elevation of our Home. I make the most of the downhill to gain some ground that my poor old legs give back in the uphill sections. Just starting the uphill half I was surprised to find Depa matching me stride for stride with a smooth and graceful gait, her long hair flowing, her face serene. Chham caught us midway up the first hill, smiling broadly as he seemed to accelerate past, Saroj tagging us at the top of that same hill. However at the end the four of us were within 15 seconds of one another. Depa remained at my side, though I think she could have outpaced me in the end. I have been a runner since my teen years and have watched elite runners with fascination for decades. Depa has the makings of a world-class runner if she wants to stay with it. She has the mental stamina to match her runner's body type, and fluid style.

The two Kabitas

The boys and I have one run we do on Saturday mornings that covers running through rice paddies, a serpentine dirt road in a long uphill, a nicely paved road running along the spine of a hilltop before descending wildly for a half mile and then starting up an equal elevation in half the distance, at least a 35 degree incline. We start by going in separate directions and we add a little cross country sprint to a small temple to apply a quick Tika as proof we have followed the chartered course. I relish the first sighting of the boys running towards me on the backside of this course; they both smile broadly enough to illuminate a stormy night.

Two weeks ago Sangita and Binu started helping Dawn Kumari with the evening meal. This is something that I should have started long before. They are 16 years old and neither knew very much at all about cooking. Last night they graduated from the Dawn Kumari Cooking School by preparing the evening meal alone and allowing Dawn Kumari to sit and enjoy their effort with the rest of the children and staff. Sangita and Binu did a great job in every respect, including keeping a clean kitchen while cooking and doing all the washing after. Tonight Anita and Sunita begin. Each of our older girls will get this training, and then one night each week they will assist Dawn Kumari, freeing Bina and Gita, our other two didis, for other things. I recently learned that our method of vegetable procurement left a lot to be desired and so I volunteered to buy fresh vegetables each day. A delicious aroma now curls up to the rooms from the kitchen and the children are excited by the meals. The meal time has become a relaxed affair taking 20 or 30 minutes as the children savor the taste and smell, and they stagger with intoxicated smiles of blissful fullness away from the dining room.

Sangita, Binu, and Dawn Kumari

A lot of changes are taking place now, with a focused eye on training the children for their future. I have been able to schedule some computer time for a few of the children. At a picnic one day I was sitting with Nirmala. I asked her if she would like to use my camera, and after simple instructions let her go. She took about 150 photos. I showed her how to put them on the computer and work with them, and how to print them, which she did, one of every child in the house. I was very impressed by the fact that her subjects were mostly our children and she captured so much of their character in each. I was also pleased to see how fascinated she was by her newfound ability to express herself.

Nirmala at the computer
Anita e-mailing

In addition we have become a little more serious in our search for a sewing machine. Anita and Sunita both have had quite a few hours on them assisting a brother in law in their home village. Anita feels qualified to do Kurta Sulwars, the everyday wear, and not far from shirt making. I would have someone come into the home and train both of them who in turn would train the others. We spend a lot of money each year in having school uniforms and kurta sulwars made, and this might be a way our children could start a small business making the same for others in the village. This would save our Home money, give the children marketable skills, allow them the experience of running a business, and allow them to earn money for themselves.

Our children love to do hair braiding, and I marvel at the quality of their work. I recognize that some of them simply are not college material, and even if they were, the opportunities in Nepal to use your college education are very remote. So, another idea is to get some Saturday training in hair styling and then, when ready, open a little beauty parlor on Saturdays in our home. We would do modern styles for other young girls in the village and charge only a little bit until we saw the demand increase.

I started bringing fashion magazines home last year for the girls to look at. We also attended a fashion show last fall in which famous designers from India showcased their work. Our older girls have said they would like to open a clothing store one day that would be really “hip.” This idea seems to dovetail very well with the above. If I could bring in someone to teach them how to be buyers of fashion, then on a very limited basis we could have them buy fashions they think would sell, and open a Saturday shop in conjunction with the beauty shop and see what happens. Maybe our girls with their sewing expertise could develop their own fashions to sell.

These are all ideas that are geared towards being soundly proactive in the self support of our home as well as teaching our children skills that would allow them independence. If you have some ideas and or would like to support the implementation of an idea we would really love to talk with you about it.

Sita and Anu
Anita and Depa

My brother Peter and his wife Boo have been a constant source of encouragement and support over the last three years. Though very busy with their lives they have made two trips to Nepal to be with us. After the last they said they would gladly take over the administrative duties of Nepal Orphans Home and help us to get to the next level. They have spent a large part of their summer going over my records and organizing paperwork in preparation for filing for 501(c)3 status with the federal government. They have succeeded in moving Nepal Orphans Home Inc from Florida with its non-profit status to North Carolina and achieving the same. They have formatted daily logs into concise annual reports, written financial statements, formed a Board of Directors and a Board of Advisors, and started contacting international NGOs like UniversalGiving that serve as intermediary to bring donors and projects together. I have always felt that even after my money has run out Nepal Orphans Home and our school would continue to serve the needs of so many children living in dire political and economical situations; I was not sure how, but now with the effort of Peter and Barbara Hess I have overwhelming confidence that they will find the way. The hundreds of families that we are currently helping with our school, and the 32 children in our home, are forever grateful to them and to the handful of constant monthly donors, and the many occasional contributors who selflessly give so that these children can better enjoy this thing called life.

In closing, Sita, our newest child, is doing very well. I have found that she is quite a ham; she cracks herself and others up with her humor, which is easy to miss if you're not watching her. She is quiet and does not draw attention to herself, but is busy thinking and sees humor in ordinary things. With the conjunctivitis I was carrying a lot of cotton around. In Sita’s room she, Puja, and Apsara all had it. One night when the electricity was out I was trying to do eye drops using a small flashlight. Holding the light, holding eye lids open, and dispensing drops is a challenge. I had finished the other two and Sita had the bed cover pulled over her head. When I pulled it back she had flattened cotton balls over her eyes and had been laying there with a big grin for I don’t know how long. In the limited light it was pretty amusing, especially to see her laughing quietly under the covers. I felt then as I have many times — that the humor which is in abundance in our home exists because the children now have a wonderful, secure, and happy family life. In the past Sita would have not been in a bed, would not have covers, and would not be getting medicine; and I know she would not have been giggling alone as she was. Our home is a blessing to everyone that comes in contact with it. Thank you for keeping it so.



Sunday, August 12th

This is a long overdue update. The past month has sped by, yet upon reflection, so much has taken place. It has been a time of many blessings in our Home against a backdrop of gathering clouds, metaphorically and literally.

To begin with the blessings, the latest is the arrival of Sita on this past Wednesday the 8th.


She and all her paperwork were dropped off at our school early in the morning, culminating a week's worth of legal necessities. Her head shaven in an affordable method against lice, she sat small and quiet in the jovial racket of bustling students entering our school. She joined our single-file procession home after school, taking in new sites and capturing snippets of talk in the line from her new sisters and brothers. Her life started again, at 10, completely in the company of strangers. This might be a traumatic time for most, but our calm, humorous, and compassionate children ward that off. After bathing and slipping into nice new clothes she returned to the room she will share with Kabita and Apsara, both staying close to her. With each passing hour she gently opens up like a tightly closed morning flower, displaying her beauty drawn by the warmth of her family.

We have had three remarkable volunteers with us since my last update. Upasana Khatri spent a month living in our home and teaching in our school. Upasana is a Nepali girl who has been attending school in America most of her life. She is currently a student at Davidson College along with her older sister Utsha. Many of you will recall the fundraiser that Utsha chaired for the benefit of Papa’s House last winter. This is one very admirable family; I have had the good fortune to meet the girls' father and many of their uncles and aunts. They are a family dedicated to doing good work for their community at all times. The children have been inspired to take volunteering as an integral part of life, every day, not just as an occasional whim. Upasana is a quiet girl with a lot of energy and ideas constantly percolating, awaiting the right moment. Shyly reticent, she would not let that keep her from taking charge of a classroom. She was the best thing to happen to each of eight classes each day that she entered, from the kindergarten to our students in class 7. She joined our walk to and from school each day; before school she would help the children to get ready, and after school she continued to instruct in our homework period. That finished, she left her door open so children could visit with her until their bedtime. All three of the Khatri girls will be very successful one day in their chosen professions; and our own girls were very much inspired by Upasana.

Toni Thomson,, first wrote to me several months ago wondering if I would be interested in having her film our home and chool and using that to help us spread the word and hopefully receive some new funding and donations.

Her letter was so kind and comfortable that I did not think she was a serious filmmaker, just someone who wanted to use their video cam while on a visit with us as a way to help.

It wasn’t until around her third day with us that I gathered just how dedicated, serious, and compassionate this unique human being is. Toni had invested a very large sum of her own money to come to Nepal and film a serious documentary that would be submitted to one of the major film festivals this spring. Her approach is well mannered and easy; she draws you into wanting to talk, and soon you start to yield everything you may have been feeling for a very long time. Her unobtrusive nature is mesmerizing to the point that you have completely forgotten her camera, whether hand-held or set up on its tripod. She is a friend first. I have more anxiety about having a photo taken of me than anyone I have ever known; yet soon I was wired and being filmed throughout the day in all the roles I play without a second thought to her recording. Toni did not want to miss anything and would rise early with us each day, yet she is very sensitive to moments that might be too private, even though they may have enhanced the film's emotional edge. She spent her evenings in her room, door open, with her computer, working on the editing. She had a steady stream of children fascinated in seeing the day's shoot. Saroj and a few of our older children were taught how to make their own short film complete with music. They also added a soundtrack to the claymation film that Laura Grieg had produced with the boys. Toni spent around two weeks with us, and somehow without my knowing it she produced a short film including each member of my family, and our Principal Milan, expressing their feelings for Papa’s House and me in particular; then in a surprise one evening she gathered all the children in the TV room and called me in to see this, at times very comical, and emotional outpouring of love.

Toni and Sangita
Toni and the family (most)
Toni and Sangita
Toni and the family (most)
Toni filming
Toni filming

Toni is back at work now in Toronto. She is in constant touch with ideas from fundraising to securing visas for one or two of our children to come to Toronto for the premier, and even offering to allow them to stay and attend school while living with her. Her letters have been supportive and inspiring, with no lessening of her dedication and enthusiasm to our success; Toni has in a short time become a very valued and appreciated friend to me. I will offer updates on the progress of the film as they become known.

When a volunteer leaves I am always caught up in the void of their wake. I wonder how can this person really be as great a human as I have just experienced. I suppose first it takes a special person to volunteer anywhere and for anything. Then, raise that to the person willing to travel across the world to help children who have experienced too little pleasure in their lives; then again raise the stakes to the person willing to part with thousands of dollars for airfare and placement fees that help support the Home and School. This person must go through many inoculations and spend time in a developing country where disease and poverty are rampant, where drinking the water could be very painful and with long lasting troubles, where they are willing to eat the local food and suffer the constant low grade unease or nausea associated with it, to endure cold water showers in an unconditioned home with air and water temperatures hovering above freezing, or nights so hot you sleep in sweat, and with a political climate challenging on any given day their ability to leave the country. So of course the person who says yes to all the above is going to be extraordinary.

Marcie Westphalen of Raleigh, North Carolina is no exception. This wonderful mother of three neat young daughters started writing to me many months before she actually came to us. Marcie loves children; she wants to protect children and fill them with joy and confidence, she wants to instill in them that they are very special and that they can achieve whatever it is they pursue as long as it is done with heartfelt intent.

Marcie had never traveled much, had never moved outside her comfort zone before, but she knew this was something she wanted to do. With the overwhelming support of her family she started researching Nepal, meeting with people in her area who had connections to Nepal, and doing her own due diligence on us to make sure that we really were as represented here on our website. Then she started finding ways to raise funds for us; she worked tirelessly for months talking about our efforts, creating awareness that there is a lot of need and good deeds being done all over the world at all times and that these efforts need to be a part of the consciousness of everyday people caught up in their own struggles. I have received touching letters and donations from 30 or more people Marcie knows, all expressing their joy in giving, and some at a time when their own world has been shattered by great sorrow. Each letter is a tribute not only to Marcie, but to the inherent goodness of some humans.

Marcie became “Mom” immediately. Watching her made me realize the importance of a mom to our children. The children have often said to others that I am their mother and father, but I saw with Marcie where that is only half true. Every one of our children felt she was spending more time just with them than with the others. Every one of our children confided in her, shared her warm embrace, and made her laugh. Each morning Marcie would have a pre-selected room come to my kitchen where she would make them an American breakfast of pancakes, French toast, etc. These times were highly anticipated by the children and much discussed both before and after.

On many occasions our nighttime process of putting the kids to bed was cast in darkness because of load shedding. After about 90 minutes I would complete the rounds of joking, medicines, talk, and kisses goodnight to all the children and not know where Marcie was. Then, back tracking, I would usually find her in one dark room or another with children peacefully sleeping against her. She would have talked them into sleep, with stories of her own family, or from children’s books she remembered.

Marcie brought with her suitcases full of school supplies and fun things for the children. We visited a very poor school one day where about 60 pounds of school supplies collected by friends in Raleigh were given to the lady who runs the school. She and her daughter were quickly touched by Marcie’s warmth and sincerity.

Marcie and Depa
Marcie and Depa

Everyone in the house quietly dreaded the approach of Marcie’s last day. On that day, photos were taken with each child and put into their albums. Marcie grew very close to many of our children; the boys were in heaven and stayed up late most nights when Marcie would come to say goodnight to them last and sit patiently while they talked about their lives, sharing things they had never before told others.

I think that Marcie identified with the spirit of Anita, one of our 17-year-old girls. Anita has some health problems and suffers with periodic acute pain. She is not always so good about eating correctly and taking her medicines; she is independent and strong willed and attempts to will her chronic problem away; but alas, she gets beat down. She has a great sense of humor and always has a twinkle in her eye when she rails against the unfairness of her suffering or my forcing medicines upon her. Anita and Marcie became quite close and the picture you see here with their goodbye causes my chin to tremble every time I look at it.

A difficult goodbye
Marcie's new friends
A difficult goodbye
Marcie's new friends

Each of these three people brought our children the greatest gift ever: themselves. They will never be forgotten and their gift will continue to give to the hearts and minds of our children forever.

I will end on that note. Please check some of the other sections on the web site, as updates are slowly starting to get completed.


Tuesday, July 3rd

Yesterday was a day that would make any papa proud. The results from the first term unit test were compiled, and an afternoon assembly was called for the honors.

This, our third year of having a school, is the first year that we had a large enrollment of students who are better off and had always attended private schools. Our Papa’s House children have come from remote villages where schools were often closed by the Maoists or were poorly funded and staffed, should there be a government school.

I know how hard our children work; on their own they are always in their books, as they know how much they have to learn to catch up with their more privileged peers. I think in addition they feel that by doing well they are giving me, as well as themselves, a gift.

Our Principal Milan Godar started the results with class one. He asked the students who they thought had the top test score and the name they hollered out was indeed correct: Kabita Mahato, our newest child from the very desolate Terai. This was again repeated through all seven of our classes, with the exception of class four. Our children took the top spot, walking humbly to the front when their names were called amid thunderous applause by all the students in our school, privileged and scholarship alike. In most cases our children all ranked in the top five in every class.

Kabita Mahato
Lila Khadka
Susila Khadka
Depa Regmi
Rojena Khadka
Mary Rai
Samjhana Khadka
Cila Regmi

It should also be mentioned that of the original 10 students that we opened our first school with, children who did not attend school because schools in this area would not help them, three scored in the top five in each class. One little boy in class four, one of our original students, is a child easily overlooked by both adults and children. He is beyond poor, his ears are at right angles to his head, and he has the pallor of someone constantly a bit unclean, mostly due to not having water in his dirt-floored home. But from the time we took him into our first school his eyes have been alive and clear, and he smiles a lot. When he speaks he does so too quickly, as if he is used to his audience being a moving target. As long as I have known him he has walked with an amusing little preoccupied swagger; not meant for the sake of others so much as for himself, as his eyes usually don’t meet others. Well yesterday, when Milan called out to the assembly, “Who do you think took first in class four?” they were all wrong, and my little friend, Chaplin-like, swaggered forward, to the sound of my thunderous applause.

That’s it for now. The education section will be updated within a week and our Papa’s House gallery of children in a few days.



Special Update: Thoughts on Our Second Visit to Papa’s House
by Peter Hess

Almost a year had passed since my wife, Boo, and I had visited Papa’s House. Back in Davidson, our thoughts often turned to Dhapasi, Nepal, where my brother, Michael (Papa), is providing a haven for more than thirty children. We anxiously awaited emails from Michael and updates on the web site. And, upon returning this past month, we found the children just as we remembered: happy, supportive, affectionate, and exceptionally well-behaved. Moreover, Papa’s Trinity Academy, the affiliated school, run by Milan, the dedicated and most able principal, is thriving, with 340 students ranging from preschool to seventh grade. All of this is happening in a country barely functioning, torn by political turmoil and pervasive corruption.

My brother, Michael, is a hero. Who among us would have the compassion, will, and ability to turn a destitute orphanage into a loving home, where children now have a chance to grow and develop and realize their potentials? Who would sell all of their property in their home country to help children halfway around the world? Who could endure the uncertain environment of stifling bureaucracy, demoralizing corruption, and the virtual absence of rule of law? Who could live simply, with regular power outages, no hot water, no refrigerator, in a modest room on the fourth floor of a children’s home? Who could devote each day of the year to supporting over thirty children, ranging in ages from 4 to 17, not just providing for their basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter, but ensuring their schooling and health—and doing it all with affection and love, making each child feel special? And, it is not just the children of Papa’s House whose lives have been immeasurably improved, but numerous other children have been helped, including the 310 village children going to school at Papa’s Trinity Academy. Further, Papa’s House and Papa’s Trinity Academy have provided meaningful employment for five didis and sixteen teachers. I have never met a more compassionate and generous human being than my brother. As he reads this, Michael, modest to a fault, would downplay what he has done. And, he would quickly tell you that what he has given pales in comparison to the love he feels each day from the children.

If you could only witness this miracle of Papa’s House...this large, loving family of brothers and sisters at the home. How could children born into poverty, with little hope for the future, be so good, so compassionate, and so considerate?  With no parents, or with parents unable to provide for them, the children could rightly feel abandoned—but they don’t. With memories of exploitation or violence, the children should be fearful—but they aren’t. We can scarcely imagine what some of these children have been through. Mikel Dunham, author and photojournalist, working on a documentary for the History Channel, interviewed some of the children at Papa’s House in the spring of this year. One boy vividly recounts his abduction by the Maoists. For this account please see

And, you might recall last year the old man who brought his two daughters, Shila and Dipa, to Papa’s house, seeking refuge. The man’s wife had been abducted by the Maoists and his home had been burned. Shila (11) and Dipa (13) are faring well among the children at Papa’s House. Indeed, their father, who lives in a hostel for the destitute elderly, occasionally is able to visit them at Papa’s House, after walking barefoot and with a cane for miles to do so. While Shila and Dipa will probably never again see their mother, they are growing up with promise for a better future.

So many abiding memories will sustain us until the next visit. Here are some of them:

  • Anu Maya (11), Puja (11), Mary (10), and other young girls playing card games on the balcony outside Michael’s room, making up their own rules. Friends from Davidson had donated the card games and books, which the children relish and take great care in handling.
  • Rasmita (8), Mary’s younger sister, jumping rope, counting up to thirty in quick succession. Bhumika (8) was also showing me her prowess at skipping rope, when a third child, Aspara (9), came up and wanted to try. For a brief moment there was a conflict (rare at Papa’s House, since the children share so well the limited supply of games and equipment). I was watching, but didn’t intervene. Well, before I knew it, Bhumika and Aspara were skipping rope together, easily resolving the shortage of jumping ropes. If only adults could learn from these children.
  • The birthday party for Kabita (13), with all the children gathered after supper one night in the study room in candlelight (due to another power outage) to help her celebrate. For each child’s birthday, Michael buys a cake and picks out a present (usually clothes). The birthday song is followed by blowing out the candles. Then the birthday child cuts the cake into three dozen or so pieces, which she passes out to all the children, Papa, and the didis. In truth, that night, we didn’t really need much candle power since Kabita’s face lit up the room.
  • Playing baseball with the children. We had brought a new supply of wiffle balls and bats. The boys and girls love to hit, and to see the grins on their faces as they made contact was as satisfying a baseball experience as I’ve ever had. Two of the older boys, Chham (13) and Saroj (14), have become quite the ballplayers, smacking the ball with authority and diving for catches.
  • Chham, one of the original children in the orphanage Michael rehabilitated, is an amazing young man. He is unfailingly polite, soft-spoken and kind, and responsible beyond his years. On some days I would be painting the halls of the home when Chham would return from school. After doing his homework, he would ask to help. With a trowel and wet rag he would set about scraping up the paint spills, diligently working until the job was finished.
  • Helping Anita (17) with her math. One of the older girls who attends ninth grade at another school, Anita was preparing for an upcoming math test. The level of the math she was studying was impressive. (I'm not sure I actually helped her, though.)
  • The memorial soccer games we had on the last day of our visit. A family in Minnesota had donated money to purchase soccer balls for the home in memory of a cousin, a youth soccer coach. Michael purchased the balls and we decided to hold a soccer match in the coach’s memory on the last Saturday we were there. (Saturday is the day off in the school week.) The games had to be postponed, however, due to the monsoon rains. A couple of days later, a bundh was called by the Maoists (a nation-wide strike with no work or school), and we took the opportunity to play soccer. Three successive games were held in the yard of the home, with plastic buckets marking the goals. The first match pitted the older children against the volunteers to Papa’s House (a college student from USC, a graduate student at Berkeley, and a young woman from New Zealand) and the three didis (the female staff of Papa’s House). With inspired play by all, especially from the didis, the children carried the day, winning 5-0. The second game involved the children between the ages of 9 and 12; and the third contest matched the youngest children (a game best described in youth soccer as ‘ants following a sugar cube’). Despite an occasional soccer ball flying over the wall into the street or neighboring corn patch, the warm weather, and the absence of real goals and out of bounds lines, the competition was lively and fun.
  • I’ll always be able to picture the children gathered together, from the youngest to the teenagers, whether crowded into a room to watch a video, sitting on benches for a simple supper of rice and vegetables, or lined up to march off to school. The affection and respect they show for each other are genuine and heartwarming.

Perhaps what we’ll cherish the most, however, will be the warm greetings in the morning and hugs at the end of the day from the children. Leaving Papa’s House to return to the U.S. is very difficult. The children, on their own, made cards for us. One amazing young woman, Binu (16), knitted beautiful scarves for Boo and me. Some of the older children wrote us letters. We will always treasure these gifts. One letter eloquently captures the inherent goodness and compassion of these children. Saroj wrote:

Bye, Bye, and have a nice day for all day with lots of smile. Also you always be happy never try to be sad. If you two will be sad any time than I will come to make you two happy in a dream.

Much has been accomplished in the last year. The 31 children of Papa’s House continue to be happy and healthy, growing up in a nurturing environment and going to school. Papa’s Trinity Academy has an excellent reputation, having grown from 66 children and 3 teachers in the first year, to 13 teachers and 240 children last year, and to 16 teachers and 340 children this year, housed in a new leased four-story building about a fifteen minute walk from Papa’s House. Tuition is now being charged to those families who can afford to pay (although collecting the fees is often difficult), with one-third of the children attending for free. Many friends and family members have generously contributed to Papa’s House. International students at Davidson College and Salem College in North Carolina held benefit dinners in the fall for Papa’s House. The excellent web site for Nepal Orphans Home has attracted support from all parts of the world. Volunteers have come to help throughout the year. In fact, four volunteers were at Papa’s House during the time Boo and I visited.

With our track record of three years, and welcome advice from a professional fundraiser from Chicago, we have begun to apply for the outside funding from foundations and philanthropic intermediaries (e.g., UniversalGiving) needed to sustain Nepal Orphans Home. Papa’s House and Papa’s Trinity Academy are listed with, an international search engine that donates a penny for every internet search when we are designated as the beneficiary. The road ahead, however, will be challenging. The need is so great and Michael’s personal funds are running down. The political situation in Nepal is uncertain. So many innocent people are caught in the cross-fires of corruption and exploitation. Nevertheless, I believe Papa’s House and Papa’s Trinity Academy will prevail. Children are being rescued from deprivation and despair and given the chance for better lives. The word is spreading about the miracles in Dhapasi of Papa’s House and Papa’s Trinity Academy.

Peter Hess
June 2007

Sunday, June 17th

We have had a very busy last month in Dhapasi. June opened with some long-arranged visits from family, and new friends of Papa’s House.

Dr. Jennifer Rothchild and her assistant Priti Shrestha spent seven days with us while doing research on Nepalese children living in a group dynamic. The children, especially the older ones, took to them immediately. During their stay we spent a morning at the swimming pool when a sudden bundh closed down normal routines, went on a picnic during yet another bundh, and celebrated birthdays.

Jennifer at the picnic
 Priti and Saroj
Picnic card game
Kabita's 13th birthday
Offering cake to Peter

My brother Peter and sister-in-law Boo arrived a few days into Jennifer and Priti’s stay, and suddenly my life became open with play time as my usual chores were taken over. Boo, Jennifer, and Priti were neck deep in soap suds shampooing all our younger children on rotating afternoons.

With Peter and Boo present the children were for the first time looking forward to bundhs. Each day after school Peter would divide his time between helping with homework and playing baseball and other games on the playground. Boo would be organizing toenail polishing, educational games, drawing groups, card games, and just hanging out, talking and laughing with the children up on the balcony.

I received a very touching letter from Jodi Melsness, who lives in Minnesota. Along with a very generous contribution she wrote that she was sending this in honor of her cousin Tom, who was a very well-liked soccer coach. Tom unfortunately passed away, and Jodi asked if we could use some of the money to buy soccer balls for the home and school as a way to honor Tom. When I shared this with my family and volunteers it was decided that we should have a soccer game and picnic in his honor. We chose Saturday for the game, but early morning brought an intense rain that lasted most of the day. Sunday it was back to school, and with Peter and Boo leaving late Tuesday things were looking dim. But, on Tuesday morning a bundh was called and the sun was shining. The game was on! Peter organized a volunteer and didis match against the older children, then a middle children against middle children game, followed by the smaller ones. We had a great and enthusiastic time playing, and Tom must have heard the laughter and shouts of glee floating skyward from this small corner of Nepal, as a tribute to a man who gave so much to little children in his own home town. I have just learned that I mistakenly used Jodi’s married name for Tom; she has assured me that Tom Boxell is chuckling in heaven over this. My apologies to all concerned.

Some of the group before the soccer game
Didis saw lots of action
Smaller kids' turn

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and sad farewells were part of this week. Peter and Boo headed back to Davidson, NC. They had brought with them three suitcases of games, stuffed animals, books and educational materials donated by their many friends in Davidson, as well as Boo’s three sisters. They returned home with three years' worth of records that Boo is putting in good order, and a commitment to better organize and define the future of Papa’s House and Papa’s Trinity Academy with an eye towards securing grants and other funding to continue and expand upon what we have accomplished over three years with our readers' help.

Boo and Sangita
Peter and Boo's last day
Bhumika racing for an afterschool hug

We also had to say so long to John Cordel and Keri Wingate. John had spent five months in Nepal and found from his first day a deepening love for it. Already a practicing Buddhist, John gained spiritual insight and compassion well beyond any expectations he had. His sense of humor will be greatly missed. Keri showed so much passion for the people of Nepal; she traveled everywhere with one of our staff, touching poor people at every stop. She settled in the Terai, where the civil war has starting to bubble over, and brought smiles and knowledge to an overcrowded and pathetically poor and ill-equipped school. We are determined to carry on what she has begun. Both of these really admirable people have made commitments to return, and we eagerly await that day.

With that I close.


Thursday, May 24th

My nephew Jamie, always alert to ways that he might help Papa’s House, has registered us with GoodSearch. GoodSearch is a search engine that donates all their proceeds to the charities listed with them. Jamie has listed Papa’s House and Papa’s Trinity Academy; if you go to you will see the search engine where you will enter your quest. Just below that is a box that you enter the name of your charity in. This must be done first, then enter your search. My understanding is that each time our home or school is entered before a search, a few cents will be credited to us, and once a year it is dispersed. Please tag GoodSearch as a favorite and use it for all your search quests; all charities benefit from this unique idea.

We are entering our second week of having all schools in the country closed by the Maoists; we hope for some resolution soon as talks are scheduled with the government.

Most children in Nepal love school and are very discouraged when events like this take place. This is particularly true with ours, and so I have been trying to spend this time with some different activities to help divert their attention. On Friday I asked Sangita, Nirmala, and Samjhana to go into town and buy swimsuits for all the children. Somehow, after three different shops, 31 bathing suits were purchased, and not only were no two alike, but they all fit! The kids, shyly eager, quickly tried them on and came up to show me where I assembled them for photos. The next day we walked to a club where you can buy swimming time. We left home early. Our single-file line, well known in these parts, stretched long along the dusty road. There was a crystal clear, cloudless sky, and we had about three hours of swimming before others started to appear. We packed it in, arriving at home worn and famished just in time for tiffin.

The girls' new suits

Yesterday we went for a picnic in Tohka, a very sparsely populated and beautiful area a 40-minute walk away through rice paddies. We set up on a grassy hill near a Hindu temple, where we played games as a family before small groups started breaking off to be together. When tiffin time came everyone congregated and ate their packed lunches in slow, quiet harmony, under a large tree making lace-like patterns across our family.

Rasmita, Apsara, and Kabita
Lila playing cards
Chham and Puja
Samjhana and Nirmal
Hindu temple

In spite of the closings, Dhapasi maintains its own unique rhythm, life goes on, people smile a lot and dismiss politics with a gentle smile and a shake of the head.

That’s it for today.



Sunday, May 6th

Our newest child has joined us from the Terai, the area presently suffering from great political upheaval. Kabita Mahato was found by one of our volunteers, Keri Wingate, while she was researching a school in that area at which to teach. Keri had been on a three-week trek over much of Nepal, from the mountains to the lowlands, in an effort to find the place she felt most needed a volunteer teacher. She started in the mountains and would report back that the people in the remote area are very poor, but they have fertile ground, water is plentiful, the air is pure and cool, and they seem quite content with life. When Keri reached the Terai she called to say she had found where she needs to be. The people of the Terai have long been ignored by the politicians in Kathmandu; it is a very low desolate area where crops grow in dust. The sun is bright and close, wrinkling plants and skin alike. Schools receive little or no government support, and have no facilities; toilets do not exist. The people look bereft of hope, shuffling about, watchful to avoid the attention of the Maoists. Keri’s guide is a friend of Papa’s House and is from this region. Soon after settling they learned about Kabita, a shy, quiet little girl that worked from before the sun rose till long after it set, both in the fields and helping in people's houses. She went to school when she could. This is an area of very dark skinned folks, but Keri learned that the villagers stated Kabita would never be able to marry as she is “too black.” This was particularly sad to hear, and I knew when Keri told me about her that we were going to give Kabita a good life. She is a very beautiful little girl. Kabita has joined me in what had been my solitary yoga and meditation sessions at sunrise each morning. She quietly imitates my every move, occasionally flashing me a brilliant white smile spun from her heart and out her eyes. When she arrived she spoke neither Nepali or English, but has since progressed very well. She is sharp and works at cultivating her mind as she once did the fields—tirelessly and determined.

Our new Kabita

Dr. Carolyn Cheong and her husband arrived from Australia a couple weeks back. Carolyn had discovered our website and started a correspondence. They would be coming to Nepal on their annual vacation and would be doing the Annapurna Trek, but they also wanted to volunteer wherever I felt they could be helpful.

There is a lovely area about an hour's hike up into the hills from Bhaktapur, an area where tigers are still spotted, and their paw prints were seen in the dirt trails we walked. Gundu has a small clinic but no doctor. The villagers had built the clinic and a semi-trained nurse/midwife is the practitioner. I spoke to the mayor, Mr. Mahesh Basnet, about having Dr. Cheong and her husband stay there, and he was quite excited.

Gundu covers a large area going way up into the hills, a several-hour hike where the people are of the Tamang race.


Dr. Carolyn Cheong in white cap

On Saturday I accompanied The Cheongs, an interpreter, and one of our children on a door-to-door visit in the upper hills. It was a beautiful day in which many were seeing a doctor for the first time. Dr. Cheong had received great support from her circle of friends and colleagues with donations of medicines and supplies. In Carolyn’s first two days at the clinic she saw over 50 people, and those who could were coming down from the hills after that to see her. My child Anita and I left the Cheongs and Pabitra, the "interpreter of maladies," in the early afternoon as they left one house and were going to continue their skyward climb in search of others. We had to start our journey back to Papa’s House.

Two Gundu residents collecting water
Watching the passing of time

Gundu is a serene and splendid village that has asked if I could arrange for a teacher, so if anyone is interested, please contact me.

Our school is almost finished. In the picture you can still see missing windows near the top. The building owner and his son have been very helpful in many matters and are apologetic concerning the unfinished work. They are fine people who have shown great pride in what is taking place in their building. Children are still finding their way to our door and it looks like we will settle at around 350 students. We are negotiating for more rooms from a building next to ours, as we will run out of space if we want to keep the classes small. We will be starting our adult education classes in another week; this is a free service open to anyone, but in particular we are targeting the parents of our school children so that they can help their children with homework. The response has been encouraging. We have a good number of new teachers and I will try to post all the school staff’s photos soon.


Our almost finished school
Our principal Milan Godar
Scholarship student, class 6

Mikel Dunham ( is a filmmaker and author who had met my brother Peter at Davidson college last year when he was giving a lecture on Nepal.

Mikel was here recently working on his new film, a documentary on the effects of the Maoists. Most of our children are here because of the Maoists; each has a personal loss at their hands. Mikel wanted to interview a few of the children; I know their history, but the children have never talked about their past. One or two have alluded to it in unspecific terms at times, but for the most part it is all kept inside, and I have chosen to wait for them to decide if they want to talk about it or not. I asked a few children if they would like to talk on camera about why they are living in Papa’s House and they said yes. Under the comforting and gentle voice of Govinda Rijal, Mikel's assistant, the interviews began.

The children sat on a bench with a breathtaking view of peace and beauty behind them, birds sang, and a gentle breeze kept the girls replacing floating hair behind their ears. One by one they told their stories and the sound and fury of events more fitting hardened soldiers darkened the skies of their memories. It was tough to watch; these are children I have easily come to love talking of pain inflicted on them by an illiterate band of adult and child soldiers, carried out at the bequest of a twisted, misinformed philosophy called Maoism as interpreted by a few dangerous thugs requesting to be called comrades, though they are marionettes exercising their own delusions on a weak and innocent people. When it was over the children went off to play, leaving these memories as a thickened air behind them, soon to be carried off by the breeze. I believe that our children are secure enough now that their past will not haunt them or interfere in any way their ability to live decent lives, joyful and loving.

On this same morning our dentist and her staff had set up shop in the dining room for their six-month visit. I was happy to learn that outside of needing cleanings and a few minor things the children who had been through at least two visits to the dentist required nothing more. Those children who are newer need a fair amount of chair time. We started the following Monday, taking a few children each day to the dentist's office, and will have it wrapped up in about two weeks.

I want to thank Marcie Westphalen of Raliegh, North Carolina for her faithful efforts to spread the word about Papa’s House. She will be volunteering here this summer but is already working hard in our behalf, resulting in donations from six of her associates and friends. Also, Trina Tamraker of Salem Woman’s College recently gave an update on Papa’s House based on her visit. Trina is a member of The International Club of Salem and they had made us a beneficiary of their annual supper last year. From her update we received a very generous check from Dr. Richard E. Johe, a professor in the Business and Economics department at Salem. Our sincere thanks to them both.

That is it for this week.




Saturday, April 21st

Joanna Popescu and Janelle Olson are starting their last week in our home. They arrived seven weeks ago and have made an indelible impression on all the children, teachers, guardians, and our staff of Didis. They have taught in our school each day, wearing the same uniform as the other teachers, and by their presence have contributed greatly to the enrollment for the new school year just starting. When our school took recess between the end and start of the year they traveled to the village of some of the children for a week, and also visited Chitwan, the jungle region of Nepal, where they rode and washed elephants in the game preserve. They have never stopped smiling, and gamely ate the dal bhat twice a day everyday, though my kitchen was always open to them. Last week they spent evenings after the children went to bed making preparations for a treasure hunt and Easter celebration. Saturday morning they gathered the children and explained a little bit about Easter and how we celebrate it. These are two very fine and accomplished young women with a history of volunteering while in school. Their bedroom in our home was always full of children of all ages wanting to be near them. We are all better off for our time with them, and they will be missed by everyone who has met them in Nepal.


Janelle and Joanne preparing the room
The kids looking over treasure hunt rules
Kanca a little confused by the rules
Joanna helping with a clue
Susila racing to the next clue
Sangita and Binu reading the next clue
One team dividing their spoils
Decorating eggs

Tuesday, April 10th

We have had some visitors over the past couple weeks that deserve a little recognition.

Karen, Emily, and Kanca with his new finger puppet

First is my friend Karen Billings and her daughter Emily. Karen had taken an interest in our web site quite some time before, and during a trip to Nepal and India about 18 months ago she stopped to see us. She endured a very long evening as guest of honor at our original home with 34 of our children entertaining. We had been on a hike with the children that day as well. Karen and I stayed in touch via e-mail during this time. She works very hard in a business run out of her home, Please check it out. Karen is an angel on earth; it's in her eyes and her deeds. She donates the proceeds of her business in support of two small schools, one in India and I believe one in Nepal, though it had been closed by the Maoists at one time. She has been a faithful friend and contributor from her first visit. She distributed finger puppets and love, an ear and a lap, and lasting memories for the children.

Karen has instilled a sense of compassion in her children for those less fortunate. Her daughter Emily has had a keen interest in her mother's work on behalf of the children in India and Nepal and asked what she could do. In addition to helping her Mom she started having bake sales at her school, and just before leaving our home, Emily, like her Mother, presented me with a card and all the proceeds from her efforts. It is a lot of money that she raised and freely gave. Any teenager would have visions of all that this money could buy for

themselves, but Emily saw what it could provide for others. It is young people like this who give us some hope for a future of peace among men.

Sue and Rupa

Sue Cooper started writing several months ago after finding our web site. The time has come in her life when she is considering a change of venue for herself and her son Matthew, and the idea of helping in a developing country appeals to her sense of purpose in life. She had asked if she might come for a fact-finding visit in order to help decide if teaching in Nepal might be right for them. She is trained in the principles of Montessori and came loaded with books and teaching aids. Sue is very gregarious and makes friends quickly, and had our didis in stitches each night in the kitchen after the children had been put to bed. One day she went out and came back loaded with sports equipment, another day loaded with new Nepalese contacts that may be most helpful to us in the future. She covered more ground and met more people in a few days than I had in my first year. When Sue left, she left the children with the ability to see things in a new way, and gifts like that are priceless. Her mind has not yet been made up, but whatever school gets to have Sue Cooper as a teacher will be very blessed.

Scott and Anu Maya

Scott Purdie also surprised me with a letter not long ago. He stated that he has been following our web site for about a year. He is member of the SAG, and works at the Griffith Observatory on Los Angeles. But what he is goes well beyond that. Scott sees the play of the cosmos on all our lives in the most inspiring way. He is a very cheerful human, charismatic, and with a gravity that leaves many smiling people in his wake.

Scott arrived one evening with a huge red duffle bag full of art supplies, blowing bubbles, chocolates, and a very nice telescope. Unfortunately on this night not the first star could be seen. Scott left that same evening and traveled far and wide, visiting remote schools, orphanages, and medical clinics. At each he set up the telescope and offered a close look at the magic of the universe. Scott had only two weeks in which to bring wonder, hope, and laughter to many, and he met with unmitigated success. He arrived at our home late on the evening before his morning flight to present us with the telescope. He was still covered in the smeared tika from his last village stop, and his grin was broader than ever.

Our sincerest appreciation to you all.


Friday, April 6, 2007

Final exams were yesterday; the results will be forthcoming on the 12th of April, and the new school year will be starting a few days after that.

We are in our new building, though it is still unfinished. Many windows and doors remain missing, the painting only starting to approach completion. We hope that in the next 10 days they will pull a hat trick and finally finish.

It is hard to believe that another school year has come to a close. We are excited by the early registrations flowing into the office. Our principal, Milan Godar, has done a wonderful job this year, his first as a principal. The parents are enchanted by his smiling enthusiasm and care for their children. It is entirely possible that we will have over three hundred children in attendance when we open. I think that two hundred of them will be paying students, while 100 students remain entirely dependent upon us for their education. If I can just break even this year it will be everything that I could ask for. In years to come, if a profit can be had, then part of my Home cost can be met by the school.

Before moving on to easier thoughts, I want to express my sincere gratitude to our few regular donors. Their donations range from $10 to $200 and arrive each month through Paypal. It really makes a difference. My expenditures to date are just under $200,000. This is for the home, school, foster parents, and occasional individual aid given to people in need, and covers a period of almost three years. This money came from the sale of my property, and the bank account is almost finished. I have nothing more to sell. I have a stock portfolio from a small inheritance, that, if it were to be sold today, would suffer a 40% loss, but would cover about 16 more months expenses here if the school carries itself. I have just subscribed to a listing of foundations and corporations that offer grants, but as of yet nothing concerning orphanages or schools in Nepal has been found. I am ready to start writing letters for grants once I have a list of potential sources. If anyone reading this has any insight into grant writing, please contact me. I will be forever grateful.

I know of many orphanages in the Kathmandu area that receive foreign aid, and yet they are in despicable condition. The children are under- and malnourished, dirty, and crowded.

On the other hand, our home is very nice, the kids clean, well fed, well loved, educated and full of joy. We occasionally get potential donors stopping by who remark what a beautiful job we are doing and then decide to give their money to the grim asylums that aren’t doing a “beautiful job.” In their thinking, I suppose, where they can’t see something that needs fixing then we must be all right. I hope that evidence of need like that will never be the case with us.

Anu Maya's Birthday

We have had a lot of birthdays recently. Anu Maya turned 11 on the 25th of March; Anita and Sunita turned 17 on the 2nd of April; and Ragina 9 on the 4th of April.

About three weeks ago we had a visit from a lady who runs a refugee camp. She asked if we would be able take on two more children, sisters. We agreed, and the next day Kabita, 12 years old, came with her and into our home. Three days later Apsara was brought to us. Apsara, who is 9, was very sick upon her arrival. It took several days of bedside care to get her to the point of eating with the others, or even talking. She is still not 100% but has joined the others in all that makes life in our home special. They are both neat little girls. The other night when I went in to say goodnight, Kabita had Apsara and the other three girls in her room all sitting in full lotus position and meditating. They were all still and serene.

Kabita and Apsara

We recently learned of a village not far away that had close to 100 students that could only attend school from 7 until 9 each morning, as they had to work in the fields. The government school was allowing them use of a couple classrooms before the other students arrived each day. One local lady has been their teacher for the past two years; she does it for free but has not been able to buy pencils, copies, or any books from which to teach the children. She told me that the families are so poor that the children are  barefoot year round. She writes lessons on the board but the work is all oral for lack of paper. She asked if we could help, but at this point all we could do was bring notebooks, pencils, erasures, and sharpeners to her. When the new school year starts I will try to get more to them. I am hoping that a future volunteer would like to live and teach there. It is very beautiful, quiet, and the people smile all the time.

Students at the poor village

I went to Pashumpati, the ghatts, the other day and visited the elderly home where I know one of the gentleman living there. Many of the residents were sitting around reading or knitting, playing cards, or looking at old photos. I was pleased to see that they all were wearing the very large reading glasses that were donated to us through Tara Cannon in Japan. This thoughtful gift has renewed life for so many at a time when without these simple joys their light would quickly fade for good.

That’s it for now.


Saturday, March 3, 2007

I am a little late on this update. We have a number of things to report that I have been waiting for some conclusion on, but they are as yet still unresolved. It would have been nice to report that we moved into our new school, but the second date proposed for doing so came to pass yesterday, and the school remains weeks from completion. Three or four weeks ago 100 Maoists decided to move into the school; they found it roomy enough to invite another 150 of their friends. The work on the building had to be halted during that time so that we didn’t disturb them. They finally left about a week ago, but due to a continued transportation bundh established by a breakaway Maoist group, we are unable to get any of the necessary materials required to complete the building. It is anybody’s guess now if and when the building will be complete. You must adopt certain Zen-like qualities to maintain your equilibrium in this country. After three years and one month I am still learning.

Four months have passed since we started karate lessons. The instructor had requested that I buy uniforms for the children at the beginning, but I said that we would have to work it into the budget. I told the children that whoever remained faithful when the time came for their first belt test would receive a uniform. Twenty started, but after four months of getting up in the cold and dark of morning and going through rigorous exercise with daybreak coming at the end of the hour-long class, fourteen were left standing. Not one of these ever missed classes, was late, or muttered while standing shivering in the dark waiting for the instructor to arrive. That was I muttering, as if repeating how cold it is would offer any relief.

Our 14 children in their new karate uniforms

Yesterday was Bhumika’s 9th birthday. When she arrived just a few months ago she was so thin her skeleton showed. She and two other girls had hiked four days along with a guide to reach us. Bhumika was sick upon arriving and had to be kept in bed. She felt horrible and could not speak a word of English, and my accent left her guessing about my Nepalese; yet she would lock eyes and the warmest smile would shiver forth onto her pale face. After a few days she was up. She has put on weight and no longer looks so fragile. She has been a pure joy to have and now commands a small English vocabulary with her thin wispy voice.

Bhumika's 9th birthday

Today is Holi. This is an annual festival to celebrate the Lord Krishna’s triumph over an evil being that wreaked havoc on the lives of children. Red pigment and colored water in balloons are used to re-enact the games children played with the blood of their slain nemesis. From every rooftop family armies launch colored water balloons upon anyone within their reach, and those brave enough to be on the ground will smear pigment upon those near to them. The children have a wonderful time, as the following pictures will attest.

Janelle receiving Tika from a neighbor

We now have four volunteers staying with us, much to the pure pleasure of all the children and staff. Sarah was introduced before. She now has a uniform and has been a full-time teacher to the upper level children. Gabrielle Elliot arrived two weeks ago from the UK.

Gabrielle has a stellar academic background and has volunteered for many years, most recently in Ghana. She has joined a Human Rights chapter just getting organized in Kathmandu. She will continue to reside with us but leaves early each morning and arrives back home each evening from her office in Thamel. Janelle Olson and Joanne Popescu arrived late last Thursday night from Saskatchewan, Canada. They both also have a history of volunteer service and academic excellence, though each is only 21 years old. Like Sarah and Gabrielle these girls smile constantly and never tire of being with the children, playing, teaching, talking, or just resting. They will be teaching in our primary school. We exercise a lot of discretion in whom we accept as volunteers; maybe one out of 10 are chosen. We feel that we have hit the jackpot with this present group. All of our children’s English has started to really blossom, having tuned their ears to the different accents represented by our volunteers. The following pictures are but a moment of the day-long energy these girls put into playing Holi with our children and about 20 of the neighbors' children inside of our compound, against all our neighbors from their own rooftops and those brave enough to rush our gate and walls. A very wet, colorful, and memorable day for all.

Sarah and Sangita



Monday, February 5, 2007

It is very cold today, the sky thick in dull grayness, the wind blowing in fits and spurts.

It is tiffin (lunch) time and we have maybe 60 cold-immune children running around on the playground below in stocking caps and sweaters. I am looking out and I see the mother of one child walking unobserved by the children, including hers, on the dirt road that passes by our playground wall. The wall is high from the road side. She is wearing the large porter's basket strapped across her forehead, the load pressing her bent back low.

How different things are around the world, and yet how similar people everywhere are. She is likely the sole breadwinner in the family; doing man's work, bending her skeleton, wearing her body out, though she is maybe only 30. As I type she has passed by again and I wonder about her thoughts. Her daughter is in class now, out of the elements, doing her job; getting an education, learning a little more than the next child in hope that she will one day be the source of her worn mother's comfort.

The odds are good that if our school did not exist her daughter would be beside her, in rags, carrying her own load under the peels of laughter and freedom of the children in another school's playground.

Her mother cares, like mothers everywhere, about her daughter. And she toils in the cold under back-breaking loads for ten hours without complaint, only with the desire that her efforts enable her daughter not to have to do the same. In other countries schools are free, food is provided to the poor, money to the unemployed. Here, a person has no lifeline; they live and die by their luck and wits alone.

Our new school building is only five days away from completion. Amrit Sharma, our vice principal and science teacher, has had others take his classes so that he can insure the progress of the work. Amrit is himself now a fixture at the site, coordinating efforts of the various trades while also representing the school to the many parents in the area considering sending their children. The playground equipment will tomorrow be moved to the new location, and new benches will soon arrive. We will move the school during a three-day religious holiday coming in two weeks.

Sarah's family
Our new school two weeks ago

We welcomed Sarah Redford to our home and school on the afternoon of February 1st.

Sarah has come to us from Ratclif, Arkansas, leaving the embrace of her large and loving family and coming into the arms of our equally loving children. Sarah will be teaching and  serving as big sister to our children. As I write, Sarah and another volunteer are out exploring a little on their own, both seeming very pleased to have someone their own age to be in this situation with.

We still have two of our girls unable to make it back to us. They had gone back to their village in eastern Nepal during our winter break. Just after arriving the area erupted into violent protest against the interim government. The people of that area amount to over 40% of the population of Nepal but were ignored in the representation in parliament and so have taken to the streets. There are curfews and a complete "bundh," or closing. In this case all vehicles are torched if found operating. Nepal relies upon this area, which borders India, for all our supplies: gas, food, raw materials, etc., so even in Kathmandu business has been crippled, and shortages have driven prices way up. The good thing is it has also limited the amount of transportation, so things are much quieter and the air much cleaner. I have spoken to Anita and she said they are OK but scared. The situation isn’t good, as houses are being invaded and then torched by the mobs as well as by the "security forces." We pray for a resolve soon.


Puja and Anu Maya having breakfast with me
Sarah and Samjhana

We are under a load shedding program that currently shuts power down three hours a day. On the 13th they have stated it will increase to 7 hours per day. The other evening, I was talking to Puja and Anu Maya, roommates in the first room of my rounds each night. They share their large room with Anita and Sunita, the sisters still in the Terai. I was holding a small flashlight that illuminated the two girls sitting together on the top bunk. Puja was suggesting that they sleep with some other girls that night.

I asked why and she said, "Because Paaapppa, last night a ghost came to our room."

"Are you sure?" I asked, and she said, "Yes, and he spoke to me."

"What did he say, Puja?"

"Well, he said" -- she lowered her little girl's voice into a growling baritone -- "WHO ARE YOU?"

"And then what happened?"

"Well I said my name is Puja and he said WHO IS THAT NEXT TO YOU? And when Anu didn’t answer the ghost did this” and with that Puja grabbed Anu’s pony tail and yanked it back. Poor Anu maybe hearing this account for the first time was already a little wide eyed, and then to hear Puja in her ghost voice and snatching her pony tail started the climb down the ladder with her doll and pillow in hand on her way to another girl's bed, a big girl too. Puja remained for a moment, her eyes twinkling mischievously.

And that’s another day in the life at Papa’s House.. .



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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Puja and Papa

Our school has been closed for a week now for the winter vacation. I miss the energy and warmth that all our students bring each day and look forward to their return. Some of our children have remnants of family scattered about, and if they had a desire to go back to their villages for a visit, we arranged it. Our Home feels empty and restless with their absence, or maybe that is just my heart.

Puja and I have a very strong bond; she is the only child clever, or maybe confident enough to imitate me when I am trying to get a point across to the others. There was a time when I was expressing a little displeasure about some event now long forgotten. In trying to show emphasis on not repeating what the children had done I looked like an umpire calling a runner safe at base. Three times I crossed my extended arms, waving them back and forth and said “never, ever, ever” to the silent, large-eyed crowd. I caught Puja out of the corner of my eye with an amused little smile. About a week later I was walking down the hall when I could hear Puja behind a partially closed door instructing a small crowd to “never, ever, ever” do something, complete with the hand gestures. When she saw me peeking in the door her eyes were as big as her toothless grin. She has gone to see her grandmother, her first time away; I miss her so much!

We have started an e-mail exchange with a school in New Smryna Beach Florida, thanks to Pam Nichols, a very dedicated 6th grade teacher there. About 50 students in our school now have friends in America. I scan their letters and send them to Pam, Pam in turn types out each of her children’s letters before sending them back. Nothing reveals a child’s nature more than a letter to a new friend. I am very touched and impressed by each. Puja’s letters in particular are so enchanting, funny, and full of 9-year-old wisdom.

I mentioned in the last update that we were awaiting a surprise visit from Nikhil, Nepal’s best liked film star. Unfortunately, an hour before his arrival he called to say that he had just been informed that his father had been kidnapped by the Maoists and he was leaving immediately for his village. It shows what a gentleman he is to take a moment in his crisis to call us. After almost a week’s time his father was released, details unknown. Nirmala has gone to her own village so we will try to reschedule after her return. It will no longer be a surprise as I went to her room after his call to tell her about it. She could not believe that this very special man was willing to pay her a visit and then retreated into her own smiling, silent thoughts. She never quits smiling, and will probably remain so when she returns.

A couple of days ago some of the children remaining in the home and Dawn Kumari, our cook, accompanied me to Pashumpati, the Ghatts. We had a very nice time and the children were able to enter the many large temples that dot the huge area. During a snack break Bhumika had a monkey run quick and snatch away the tiffin from her hand, she was shocked and then fell into laughter with the others. Below are some photos from that day.

Pashumpati (the Ghatts)
A wandering sadhu at Pashumpati
A wandering sadhu at Pashumpati
Yuka, a volunteer teacher and her class


Our new school under construction

I include a picture of our new school building. It has progressed considerably since this was taken. We will be moving in March and hold the last two or three weeks of this year's session there. The next school year starts in April, we will be teaching through class 8. I am putting a call out for teachers. If any teacher reading this is interested please e-mail me. We have 14 wonderful Nepalese teachers, but I want to introduce more international exposure to the children. We are an English medium school, so language is not a barrier. I am only looking for four teachers for this year, preferably on a 1-year contract, but I will also accept volunteer teachers on a 1-month minimum basis. The pay will be the same as what our Nepalese teachers receive, on average $71.00 per month, which is above the standard. For further inducement I can offer room and board. We eat rice and vegetables twice a day, we have no heat, and the water is always cold. Our water comes from a well, and one must remain vigilant in their fight against skin infections. The power goes out frequently, the nation is trying to form a new government and meanwhile we cope with protests, closures, transportation strikes, and shortages on a daily basis. However, if you ever wanted to do something in your life that may allow you to discover the meaning of love, then you should contact me.

That’s it for now.




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New Year's Day 2007

It has been a very busy last 10 days. Christmas was wonderful, the children full of surprise and joy. I think of them all as very accomplished little Zen Buddhist, completely accepting, always smiling, full of grace, and appreciative.

We will be celebrating the fifth in a series of birthdays tonight. Sangita turned 16 today. Sandesh led off the series on the 24th of December, followed by Samjhana on the 25th, Hikmat on the 27th, and Lila on the 30th. Tonight is our night to lose power and so it will be a celebration by candle.

Puja and Bhumika at Sandesh's Xmas Eve Birthday party
Homemade decorations

In addition to Sangita’s birthday tonight another exciting event is going to be taking place. Nirmala, a shy 15 year old, was discovered keeping a photo of one of Nepal’s most popular film actors under her pillow. We have been teasing her for a couple of months about this; so, to take things one step further I made an effort to contact “Nikhil” about a month ago and ask if he could pay a surprise visit to our home. It has taken this much time and many phone calls between a friend of mine and Nikhil to arrange a visit, but last night I learned that he will be coming tonight shortly after our power goes out (this occurs every Monday night as part of a rotation in Kathmandu). I have a plan in which I will take him by candlelight to Nirmala, Samjhana, and Sangita’s room and surprise Nirmala. We will then surprise our other gathered children for photos. He hasn’t long to visit as he has left a film set in Pokhara to come today. I will post photos of the fainted Nirmala, and others soon.

On Christmas Eve we watched a documentary called Baraka. The hoped-for Christmas video could not be found. We had a tree lit in the family room, and we bundled together in the cold, ate candy, and had a visual treat as the film explored the world and its many ancient religions and customs.

After the film I discussed the magic of the evening yet to be while putting the children to bed. I suggested that they lie quietly and fight against sleep so that they are able to hear Santa and his sleigh when they land. We had put cookies and milk out for him, and a carrot for Rudolph under the tree. They had many logistical questions concerning the gifts but seemed okay with the mystery.

Around 10 p.m., after the last child was snug in bed, I returned to my room where the older girls had spent the day wrapping about 100 gifts in newspaper and ribbon. I drank some hot chocolate while waiting for the sound of snoring and then took the first of many trips down past the girls’ floor to the family room. Along the stairs on my first trip a large truck that was delivering rocks nearby started unloading them in a sound nearly the same as my description of hooves on the roof. I stopped in my tracks knowing lights were about to flood the night and all children would race out and into my startled frozen movement.

But, the rock noise went unanswered and a dozen trips later, each with less concern for noise, the room was ready, and I went to bed.

The pictures tell the rest, and I will have more to add in another day. As a footnote, Bhumika, Rasmita, and Kausila are new and were not here in time to get fitted for Kolta Sulwas, but theirs are coming.

Bipen and Mary
Bhumika, Gita, and our cook Didi, Dawn Kumari
The girls in their new Kolta Sulwas
Christmas morning in cold fog

More soon.




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