In 2009, local philanthropist Neel Thakuri had the idea of starting an orphanage. We encouraged him and helped him renovate a traditional farmhouse in his childhood village, 3 hours outside of Kathmandu. After 3 years, he’s proven its success, both to the local community and to donors. The children attend a nearby school Neel helped to build. It has some of the best test scores in the region and has become entirely independent and self-sustaining. With 2 house mothers and a tutor, the children have made dramatic changes, both academically and socially.
The farmhouse is surrounded by cash crops that contribute to the children’s diet and are also sold to generate extra income for the home. Neel’s goal is to support these children in a family-style environment through their basic education and to help transition them into productive lives and jobs as adults. He visits the home regularly, bringing gifts of fruit or school pens, and personally teaches the kids to wash their faces, do their homework, and be industrious and kind.
Our orphanage has given 13 children (and 2 women) a new start. Children who had insufficient food, no parents or abusive family situations, and little education now form a family, have regular meals, learn responsibility, have good health care, and have regular school attendance and achievement. The home has self-sufficient components to cover some of its needs, and we provide additional support for food, scholarships, uniforms, and books.
We are currently in a rented farmhouse, so the next step is to build a permanent home, with nicer facilities, a large organic garden, and the ability to accommodate 15 children in a concrete (not mud) home.
Setting An Example
Our children’s home strives to be self-sustaining in various ways and to act as a model in the community. A few examples…
We brought the first-ever dairy cow to this village area. The morning milk is sold in the community, producing a monthly income that nearly covers the cost of the cow’s food. Our children therefore drink their evening milk for free. The community has shown a fair amount of curiosity about the cow and the milk money it’s generating. A dairy cow gives more milk, gives milk for more months than a traditional buffalo, and requires less fodder—making it an excellent choice for home or business!
We pay our staff a fair wage, providing them with a reasonable income so that they do not have to ask for help from foreign visitors nor seek outside work which takes them away from the children—both of which are common in other homes.
We require bills for all purchases. In Nepal, shop owners typically mark down your purchase and then you can pay later. If a bill is not given at the purchase time, however, it is easy for shopkeepers to overbill customers later—especially customers without record-keeping skills. By requiring bills for all purchases, we not only ensure that our staff are treated fairly, but we set an example that other villagers can follow to protect themselves from corruption.
We grow most of our own vegetables, ensuring nutritious organic meals.
We’re in the banana business. The children ate over 600 bananas this season (from the trees on property) and sold another 550 at the local market.
While some of these may sound like small concerns–they have a big impact on how the project is viewed in the community and on how the children participate in the success of the home.
Becoming A Family
When we first started the home, the new children had a lot of problems. They stole food from trees in the neighbors’ gardens, they ran off without telling anyone, they sometimes tried to get on a bus to Kathmandu, they generally didn’t follow any rules, and they were often fighting with each other.
Within 3 months, they were no longer stealing food, they started staying close to the house and grounds, and they started helping each other. Five of the children became well-behaved and followed the rules about 90% of the time. Two of the children were still acting out and behaving well only about 50% of the time. One child was still very quiet and a little withdrawn. However, given that we have seen children who have been in homes for 6+ years and whose behavior problems have never resolved, we were convinced that our kids were on the right track and making great progress. They had begun helping with food preparation and making tea. The oldest child even instituted a rotation system where they all work out whose turn it is to help that day.
In subsequent months our quiet boy began to open up and shine, and all of the kids are doing well. We have brought in a tutor, and all the children passed their school exams, some with high marks!