Sandip during 2010 Bhai Tika celebration and earlier that same year
Sandip and his flatmates and Sandip mentoring three of his little sisters at the Chelsea Center
This morning I received a letter from one of our young boys, 14 years old now, with eloquent thoughts if not perfect grammar, reflecting his feelings of our time together.
6:40 AM (6 hours ago)
thank you for lifting me in your strong arms and enveloping me in the tightest hug possible. It gave that 1 year old me the confidence that there will always be one man. like i don't know what to say you have inspired me so much with your love and care.
your photography skills you captured beautiful childhood memories of mine in those cameras of yours. i want you to know how I feel so blessed to have you as my father.
I have no words to describe the warmth and affection I get from you.
It lifted me high and wrapped me in a tight hug
what i am today is all because of your motivation all through my school.
I am glad I walked on the path you have shown me.
from dropping me off to school. your smiles and cheerful taught a 5-year-old teary eyed me to walk ahead towards new beginnings without wavering
love you and i give you lots of hugs
This young man has had a pretty good life. I know that all of us at Papa’s House have had better lives because of him. Sandip has lived with us since he was a baby. He was incredibly cute, and always has been. Sandip as a baby lived in one of the girl’s homes where he received the best care, he was most comfortable there and so we had him live there for his first six or seven years. The girls loved him and provided him with a wonderful education in being sensitive to his surroundings and with an eye, and ear, for beautiful things. I used to go to all the houses and braid the girls’ hair for school each morning. When I arrived at Sandip’s house he would always come out with the girls and intently watch the braiding. Some of the girls would let him learn on them before their turn with me. He always brought added pleasure to these mornings.
Once a year we used to hold a fashion contest, a highly anticipated event for many of our 120+ children of all ages. The kids would spend a few weeks preparing their cobbled together wardrobes and practicing their models’ walks. I will never forget the year that Sandip pranced out on stage in girl’s clothes, a wig, and wonderful make-up. Typical of our children, the applause was sincere and very rewarding. He won in his age group. At fourteen everyone is his friend, as it has always been. He understands the feelings of young people, and I credit that to the care and grooming particularly during his first 8 years and to the maturity and empathy of our boys from then on. If happiness and care for others are the currency of the day, then Sandip, like all our children is a wealthy young man.
I am personally going to try to be financially responsible for a couple of our older children to come to America for college this year. I look forward to the year when Sandip is ready to apply, for I would love to bring him here as well.
From the Archived Updates: 2007
To begin with the blessings, the latest is the arrival of Sita on this past Wednesday August 8th, 2007
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 by a lazy person’s affordable method of lice control, 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 the sites and capturing snippets of talk in the line from her new sisters and brothers. Her life has started again at 9, completely in the company of strangers. This could 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 as a tightly closed flower does with the morning sun, displaying her beautiful smile, drawn out by the warmth of her new family.
Sita T. has just been accepted into the Srijana School of Fine Arts, something that brought happy tears to the eyes of many in the NOH family. It has been a dream of hers. Sita has always loved art, but thanks to her diligence and Indra Khatri, our incredible art teacher, her ability has evolved into a serious talent. Nepal is a land of many gifted artists, so the competition is great, and recognition isn’t easy to come by.
Apsara and Sita when they were young
Sita’s artistic eye was curious to explore photography
Sita by an in-house display by the art students
Sharing some of her Plein Air paintings
After completing her Skylark education Sita, now 24, joined Herald College and completed a two-year course in Business Management. During this time, she received teacher training at our Chelsea Education and Community Center and worked as a teacher in the adult education department. But art has always been her true passion. Sita has never had an abundance of confidence in her talent, however with the urging of Indra and her brothers and sisters of Papa’s House, she applied to art school, and now she begins her validated journey as an artist.
And honors also go to one of our other gifted college children, Meena has been accepted into a coveted position at Saint Xavier’s College to do her bachelor’s in social work. She joins Sumitra who began there last year. Three other children are applying to university in Australia, and two to American colleges.
June 11th, 2006
On Wednesday an 80-year-old man came to see me with two young girls whom he referred to as daughters. I was not here at the time, and he explained his story to our school principal, Milan, and Binod, the young man who has become my right arm in managing everything. The Maoist burned down his house and all their possessions; they then kidnapped his wife, who he fears is dead by now. He hasn’t any money or means of support for himself or his daughters.
He insisted that he talk with me and scheduled to come back in a day. I was very moved by this man's story the next day when he came alone to see me. They presently are sleeping outside in Pashumpatinath, a Hindu holy site, and begging for food. With all that he has been through he still carried himself proudly and with a look of determination in his twinkling eyes. Though I had promised our staff before that we would have a moratorium on more children, and we have been finding alternatives to the others who have come, this man could not be denied, and his daughters now stay with us. They are a wonderful addition to our family.
After meeting them and learning of their story I wrote the following in a 2006 update on our NOH website.
“Kul Bahadur, worn thin, tired, and hobbled by malnutrition and worry that has removed muscle from his frame, heard them come again. The Maoists have come so many times in the past years he knows some of their names. The young, strong men of the village have all fled or been conscripted by the rebels over the years.
Two young girls in neatly worn jungle fatigues enter the house, while the other soldiers wait outside. The girls, with their long black hair tied back, bodies quick and strong, eyes fierce with determination, grab the rice sack and demand any money be handed over. Kul’s wife stands shielding her daughters, 9 and 11 years old, Kul can only watch helpless, his soft gentle voice simply says “please”. The room is small, and the search is quickly over. They grab Kul’s wife and lead her to the door, her daughters scream clutching their mother, the soldiers scream louder at them, and they let go.
Outside the mother is forced into the back of a truck, Kul and his daughters are pushed away from the house as a rebel douses it in gasoline. Kul’s watery eyes reflect the orange flames of his home as they watch the truck taking his wife, drive away.”
And months later I wrote:
Deepa is the fastest runner in our home. Each morning we run. I see in her effortless stride the speed, power, and grace of an elite runner, though she is only 12. She is a quiet girl with a soft smile, and the protective big sister to Cila, two years younger. Their father’s name is Kul, their mother is missing. I used to always lead the run, Deepa now charges past me, silent and focused. I know for her that this is not mere running, it is a daily catharsis. There is a truck, invisible to the rest of us, that she is chasing. Both girls have small scars here and there that are “nothing” when I inquire. In the months since their arrival, they have blended well with all our children, laughing, working hard in their studies, and slowly allowing childhood to return. They ask for nothing and like all our children they are full of compassion and comfort to those around them.
Deepa today is studying for her master’s degree in Social Work in the UK. Cila lives in Australia after a distinguished high school/college career playing basketball in Kathmandu.
Papa and Deepa, Nepal 2020
One of a million memories, this one written in 2006...
Our days are routinely busy managing our homes and the lives of our children. It is a joyful life, and the constant interaction with the kids is the best of times. They grow a little bit each day, finding new strengths and improving weaknesses. Mary and Rasmita, sisters, see each other develop as they deal with their own separate thoughts. I will remember one night watching a little of that, as I wrote,
“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 not alone, that four other girls were in their beds in the same room, but she was only slightly consoled. I turned out the light and after twenty minutes returned to check on her. She was fast asleep tightly 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.”
Sisters Mary and Rasmita
NOH has taken in many sisters over the years, usually two, but sometimes three and four sisters together. We opened two homes in the Dang district, about 12 hours by bus from Dhapasi, in 2006. Dang was the epicenter of the Kamalari practice; this is where daughters are sold as indentured servants at the age of 7 during the January festival called Maghi.
In speaking with other INGOs and NGOs working to eradicate the Kamalari and other slavery and trafficking practices in Nepal, we found that none of them offered to provide a home, care, and education to the girls they were helping. Thus, with Kamalari, the recidivism rate was high; the methods used, by anecdotal evidence, seemed to perpetuate the practice.
So, NOH partnered with a local Nepalese NGO (Society Welfare Action Nepal) that tracked the girls sold, and we leased and renovated two buildings to become group residences on the expansive grounds of a public school in Narti. Our homes there filled quickly with young and older girls freed from bondage. We named our homes Lawajuni, which means New Beginnings.
In the photos below, taken at Lawajuni, Kamana is carrying her little sister, Juna, on the left, and they are posing with Gita, another member of a set of three sisters we took in. The bonds of sisters facing parental abandonment, poverty, hunger, war, at such a young age weld them together for life. I was always struck by how an eight-year-old girl had the capacity to know how to protect and care for, advise, nurture, and comfort a little brother or sister, but I saw this was the way of life for the hundred plus girls who came to Lawajuni. Lawajuni served to allow us to remove some of the younger sisters of girls who were rescued, before they too became Kamalari, such as Juna and Gita.
Kamana carrying Juna
Gita, Juna, and Kamana
Kamala photographed for our records
Juna on left, Kamana on the right at the only Mexican restaurant in Kathmandu, maybe in Nepal. The Mexican family that opened the establishment visited Papa’s House and gave a wonderful cultural program.
One day, before Covid changed our lives, I took Juna to lunch where her sister Kamana worked as a waitress. Both of these girls are excellent students and very hard working. Today Kamana has completed an undergraduate degree in Business Administration and is enrolled in the German program and hopes to leave soon for Germany as an au pair for a year, and then to enter college there. Meanwhile Juna is working on her undergrad degree in Computer Science.
Over the years NOH, better known in Nepal as Papa’s House, has attracted interesting attention. In the earliest years when the Maoist insurgency was a real concern, we became a refuge for a few families who smuggled their children to us for safe keeping. At the time in the western reaches of Nepal, the Maoists were conscripting children to be fighters. One family had heard about us and under cover of darkness over a couple of nights travel, brought three boys and two girls, offspring of two brothers, both teachers, to us. These kids grew up and attended college in Papa’s House before returning to their villages as young adults. One single mother sent her four daughters to us, they lived in a remote jungle area where many Maoists insisted on staying in the homes of people, unwelcomed. They caused food and safety insecurities upon people by demanding this support. These four girls also grew up with us, and eventually completed college. Three are now married.
The four sisters on the day of their arrival
A year or so after their arrival I took them back to their mountain home to see their mother. It was a quick overnight visit.
And curiously, a Maoist general heard about us through Dhapasi Maoist, and brought his very young daughter, who had cerebral palsy, to live with us. He was a widowed father who loved his daughter and trusted no one else to care for her while he was fighting in the jungle. Though I did not agree with his politics, I admired his commitment to his daughter. Bumikha stayed with us for around seven years and when the Maoists had become part of mainstream politics, her father came one day to collect his daughter and return to his village life.
And Bhumika who led our procession to school each day for many years.
Sisters Seema and Anisha, joined the family in 2007
As we enter 2022, NOH has a staff of 15 for operating Papa’s House and another 15 working in the Chelsea Education and Community Center. Of these 30 staff members, a total of 8 who work for Papa’s House and 8 work for the CECC are our older children who have, through training and education, earned these positions which include our outreach programs, accounting, childcare, and teaching.
As 2022 begins our official 18th year as a 501(c)3, (we actually started in 2004 but without yet being a 501(c)3), I would like to share the following bullet points.
- We have 32 of our young adults now living independently across four continents. The pandemic has kept eight more from joining work/study programs in Germany and Japan, they have learned the language, and most are awaiting visas whose issuance keeps getting delayed because of Covid.
- Of the32 children, some are working post college while others combine college and work.
- We have 10 children in Kathmandu completing their bachelors’ programs, their pace also affected (slowed) by the pandemic.
- In April we will have a total of 39 children in college, pre-bachelors’ level, and living under our support.
- In April we will have 25 children at the Skylark English school in class one through class ten.
- At this time, we additionally have 23 of our daughters, and 2 sons that have married and started their own families.
Many other children are scattered across the hinterlands of Nepal and stay in touch with their NOH family by phone or the use of social networks. One thing remains: we are a family, and each child feels the love and support of this family for life.
NOH had its first two volunteers in the winter of 2004. After that time, we established Volunteer Nepal as an organization to match compassionate volunteers with skill and heart with villages across Nepal who would benefit from these services. We averaged over 100 volunteers a year mostly for teaching at remote schools, helping villages with engineering, health and environmental issues that better their lifestyle and longevity. We also brought doctors and nurses and established medical camps in areas where properly trained doctors or nurses were not to be found. In all aspects of village life, we connected interested volunteers, and we also specialized in designing specific interests of the volunteer, be it working as a journalist embedded with local journalists, teaching in a Buddhist Monastery, staying in a remote village to study under the Shaman and learn medicine and healing, to name a few.
Over the years through our volunteer program, NOH began to offer village support for education, food, housing, and health. Our NOH Outreach program was born through this. Our outreach program has remodeled and built new schools, provided educational costs for operating schools, free lunch programs, and uniforms, books, and teachers’ salaries to a number of villages. We have supported other orphanages, and we have provided medicines, birthday parties, and last wishes to children with cancer and helped support the on-ground housing and food for their parents. For the past eight years we have supported the children and educational costs of a home for the blind. The children and staff there have flourished, and many are approaching the ability to work and live independently after their college is complete.
After the earthquake in 2015, the staff of Volunteer Nepal reached all our placements with money, blankets, and tents. We paid for the transport and housing for over a hundred child nuns from their monastery back to Kathmandu where they stayed over the following year while the rebuilding of their Bigu Monastery was undertaken. For the next few years NOH’s outreach program was a source of financial support for the rebuilding of many small communities.
Then Covid came and our volunteer program had to cease. This year we are hoping to be able to rebuild it. We recognize this is an optimistic punt into the still active covid situation, but we are ready to bring this incredible program back into action. Please go to our website www.volunteernepal.com to learn more about the programs and to sign up for more information. Skills are great, but often the best gift is simply the connections made with people who have never ventured beyond their often-isolated villages. The best attribute among volunteers, young and old, is simply love and compassion for those less fortunate and a desire to help change lives, theirs and your own.
Transportation to and from some villages
Teaching in the Tarai
An advertisement to inform villagers of an upcoming health camp
Teaching at Bigu Monastery
Hosting a weeklong environmental workshop
Journalist teaching, living with and writing about Bigu
Cultural exchange in Ramechhap
Teaching in Dolpa
Med student from Vanderbilt helping a village doctor with his practice
One of many retired volunteers
There are a thousand stories that were born from our volunteers' service that live on in the hearts and minds of all involved, and through our volunteers, relationships were developed that continue to be vital to this day.
This concludes the NOH update for February 2022. Thank you to all our donors and to our compassionate and hard-working members of the NOH Board and our Papa’s House staff.