So we’ve lived in the Himalayan Foundation Nepal kids home for a week now. It’s a large rented house that by European standards is terribly run down, however compared to the life of the average Nepali it’s pretty good and unless you know better it can be quite shocking. A Danish guy will arrive today and it will be interesting to have an objective view of how he responds to his accommodation and the experience here. It will probably be more interesting to see how the kids respond to another outsider coming into their home to ‘help’ them. Getting your head round how things work here is quite a job in its self. Many of kids here are more grown-up and prepared for life than most 20 year old Europeans that I know. Their lives are full and regimented with an intense program; up at 5:30, devotions lead by the kids start with singing at 5:45 and last about half an hour. Next up are the chores, cooking, sweeping, washing, tidying up; each child has their chore and once they are completed and the child has washed they drink tea then do homework till 9am when they eat the first of their two meals a day – Dal Bhat which is rice with lentil soup and a small portion of curry which is generally vegetarian except for one day a week when may be there will be some goat, chicken or buffalo meat. School starts at 10 and finishes between 4 and 6pm depending on your age. Most European people I know would be ready for bed by now but the evening program is just going start. Having walked home from school the kids do homework till 7:30 when the half hour evening devotions start again lead by the children themselves. This is followed by a second meal of Dal Bhat. After food if the homework is finished then there’s some play time before bed at 9:30. Nepal has a one day weekend on Saturdays so this program happens six days a week and then on Saturday there’s Church in the kids home.
So what will a volunteer help with? The kids are so self sufficient, so schooled in their devotions, (how much is personal faith and how much is habitual religion I guess only exposure to the big wide world will tell) and they have so little time for fun it’s sometimes hard to know what to do. The reality is that they don’t really need volunteers to help them practically what they do need is money and volunteers bring in money as they pay to live here. If you stay here you end up loving the kids too so you end up spending more money seeking to ‘improve’ their lives or spoiling them.
It’s really difficult to understand that sending stuff from Europe to Nepal (and probably most often third world) is actually not going to be very helpful unless you bring it in your suitcase. In Nepal to receive any shipped goods the recipient has to pay 25% of the Nepalese value of the goods to customs. Imagine receiving a parcel of second hand clothes that don’t fit your kids and having to pay for them when what you really need to do is pay the rent and put food on the table. Money unfortunately is what people need to live. Fortunately the kids do have needs that a volunteer can help with other than simply being a means to fund the home. All kids need love, role models, life skills, broader horizons and helping discover all they can be. So whilst teaching them to crochet Eva has been hard at work identifying the kids who need extra love and care and inputting them and I have been teaching haircutting and taken a couple of lads with me to pray with a youth fellowship in the mountains. All good fun and tiring at the same time.