Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Orphanage Life

Namaste is an organization in Nepal that is trying to save the world. They run an orphanage that takes care of 75 kids. They run a facility that houses single mothers and their children. They pay for over 100 underpriveleged kids in Nepal to go to school since the government does not provide free education after 5th grade. I am fortunate enough to be a volunteer in this wonderful organization.

I live at the Namaste Handicraft Center. This used to be a guest house, but it has been converted to housing for some single mothers and their families. The mothers cook for their families and for the volunteers living there (7 of us right now), clean the common areas, and make handicrafts during the day. Namaste sells these handicrafts and puts all of the money back into the organization. There are several Nepali mothers that cook dinner for me every night, and even though there is a pretty big language barrier, I have no problem understanding that they want to feed me rice and lentil soup until I explode. The mothers are disappointed if we miss one of their dinners.

A lot of people have been wondering about the food. Every morning for breakfast I have a lot of rice, some lentil soup (dal-bat) on top, and an extremely small serving of curry with no meat. For lunch we eat some sort of a flat rice, noodles, or crispy rice (kind of like rice crispies), and dinner is the same as breakfast. So rice 3 meals a day, and we get a small serving of meat once a week. Vegetables are also scarce. Most Nepalis cannot afford much else, and rice is very cheap. Also, Nepalis don't use utensils, so I have learned to eat rice, curry, and dal bat with my right hand.

I volunteer at the orphanage six days a week. All I do is give the kids personal attention. I play with them, hug them, hold their hands, and love them. The youngest group is 3 to 6 years old, and I bounce these kids on my legs, pick them up and spin them around, hold their hands and walk them to school, and act like a little kid and play extremely simple games. The other kids range from 7 to 16, and even these kids want to be hugged and touched. We draw together, play catch, practice karate moves, sing songs, violently play on the see saw, and play any game that I teach them for hours on end.

For example, I taught them a game involving 2 people where you stand facing each other, arms length apart, and try to get the other person to move their feet by pushing on their hands. We played for 2 hours nonstop when they first learned, and every day since then I have played for at least a half hour.

I also taught them trust falls, which is where one person stands with their back to another person and falls. The other person is supposed to catch them before they hit the ground. They line up and push and shove so they can fall backwards for me to catch them.

I have never met young kids that are so independent. They are tough and fight each other, but at the same time they are extremely well behaved. Most of the time they don't have anyone to punish them, but they also don't need it. It is very hard for me to explain how these kids live, but it is really a system where everyone listens and respects people that are older than them. The older kids really do supervise and look after the younger ones. If a little kid is crying, an older kid (sometimes only 13) picks him or her up and comforts her.

Compared to the childhood that I had, these kids really have it bad. Compared to a lot of the kids that I see on the streets, these orphans are the lucky ones.

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