An accidental trip turned life-changing experience: this is the story of my school friend Sarah, and the lives of Nepal’s orphans that she’s changing for good.
All words and photographs are Sarah’s
This whole trip happened by complete accident. I got a part-time nanny job in London while I was doing a course in World Religions. After a couple of weeks the family announced that the Dad, a BBC journalist, was applying for a job in India. They asked me if I would come along. I found out I could pay a fee to sit my exam at an international venue, so thought ‘Why not? What could possibly go wrong?’ Well…
I’d been enjoying India so much I decided to extend my six-month visa by taking a cheeky two-week trip to Nepal and re-entering the country. A friend of a friend of a friend I met at a party put me in touch with Khokana Children’s Home, where I spent two weeks playing games, changing nappies, and picking out head-lice with my fingers. The kids completely captured my heart and forced me to reassess my whole existence.
When I returned to Delhi, the family was in London so I had this enormous mansion all to myself. I started to get really lonely and depressed, and I realised how much more fulfilling human contact and human love is than having nice things.
I wrote in my journal one night, ‘I have everything, but I have nothing’.
I miss my little munchkins at the orphanage terribly, especially Yash who I formed a very strong bond with. I think about him every day. I’m running out of time and money so I won’t be able to see him again, but I can at least improve his life through fundraising. It’s the best I can do for him right now.
Khokana Children’s Home has directly helped a total of 43 children orphaned by the 2015 earthquake, and many of them are likely to stay at the home until they turn 18. The Nepalese government has outlawed international adoption, putting a huge strain on limited resources. The home is in desperate need of new clothes for the kids, nappies for the babies, as well as money for medicine, staff salaries, food and books.
Please help spread the word and support this worthy cause. Click here.
These five precious lives have changed Sarah’s, and Sarah is changing theirs
The sweetest little boy on this planet. Samiran was brought to the children’s home as a newborn baby by a mother that could not keep him. At the age of 45, she decided to move to Iran in search for work, and found a job in a wealthy home as a domestic servant. The man of the house is now in jail, as he was found guilty of raping his staff. Samiran is the product of one such rape.
He is kind and outgoing. On my arrival he decided we would be best friends, and we have since spent hours and hours playing hide and seek together. The language barrier became evident during my failed attempts to teach him that he was supposed to hide in a different place each time, and that giggling hysterically when the seeker walks in the room defeats the game’s purpose. Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun together, and I will never forget his contagious smile.
I don’t know the details relating to Kajal’s parents. All I know is she was orphaned as a very young girl. Until recently, she was raised in an orphanage south of Kathmandu, but it collapsed during the first quakes in April 2015. She was lucky to survive, and was transferred to Khokana Children’s Home along with 21 other children three months ago.
Despite being a tough kid, she was too shy to talk to me at first and would stand about two metres away, watching me interact with the other children. She managed to warm up to me after a week, and eventually spent many hours braiding, unbraiding, and re-braiding my hair. She keeps to herself most of the time, and prefers the company of her younger peers. She’s not passive though. She is more than happy to beat up a boy much bigger than her if he pinches her, or torments one of her younger friends.
It is unlikely that Yash will ever find out who his parents are, as he was taken straight to the children’s home after birth. The other kids tell me he was abandoned by his mother, but this is just a rumour. It is more probable that she died in labour, which is fairly common in these rural areas.
Writing about Yash is the most difficult for me, as I find it impossible to adequately describe the amount of sheer joy he brought to me while I was there. His smile and his laugh are unbelievably heartwarming. My entire stay consisted of carrying him around on my hip, so saying goodbye was very painful for both of us.
Yash is more than just smart – he’s resourceful. I’ve seen him outsmart kids that are three times his size, and I’ve seen him use his brain to get out of doing things he doesn’t like, rather than crying like the others do. He’s a kind boy, but I can tell he will one day be a ruthless businessman if he is ever presented with the right opportunities. He’s cheeky though – changing his nappy is first and foremost a chasing game. His “mama” at the home had to literally tie him to his cot so that he wouldn’t climb out during nap time to run and find me. I nicknamed him “Baby Hanuman” after the Hindu monkey-god, because he literally climbs everything.
Kalpana was taken to Khokana Children’s Home as a newborn baby by her 13-year-old mother. She is now two, and, as international adoption is illegal in Nepal, it is highly likely she will stay there until she is 18.
For the entire fortnight I was there, I never heard her utter a word. This is a stark contrast to her best friend Yash who is also two and never shuts up. Kalpana is very introverted, and although she seems to like the company of the other toddlers, she always needs a bit of persuasion before joining in any games. She is a deep thinker, I could tell straight away. A future philosopher, perhaps.
Anisha was the first child I met when I arrived because the other children were at school and the babies were having their midday nap. As a result she got a bit possessive over me and got terribly upset when the other children tried hold my hands. She was orphaned by the earthquake only a few months ago, making her the newest arrival to the home. I could instantly tell she was struggling to settle in.
As the presence of adults is fairly limited, the children have formed some clever alliances among each other in order to survive in such a tough environment. Every child seems to have one or two bigger kids to watch his or her back, and equally, everyone also seems to have a couple of younger kids that they look out for. Anisha doesn’t have anyone.
Unlike her peers, Anisha knows what it’s like to have a family. She remembers the love, devotion and attention of her parents. She knows what she’s missing. So, when someone half her age comes up to her and pinches her arm severely, she doesn’t know what to do with herself. Her first instinct is to go and find an adult, but the staff usually shrug it off and tell her to fight back. Naturally, this has resulted in quite a bit of bullying, which is not easy to cope with when she’s still overcoming recent traumas.
“Don’t give up.
I believe in you all.
A person’s a person
No matter how small.” – Dr Seuss