Yukon News

Helping children help themselves

Liesel Briggs Friday March 18, 2011

Rosemarie Briggs/Yukon News

NEPAL

The orphans at the Children's Group Home in Kathmandu. The home lost a large amount of funding when a benefactor left the country after allegations of sexual misconduct.

LUMBINI, NEPAL

The dilapidated and dented bus roared up spewing fumes and spilling out a conductor who called Parsa, Lumbini.

Immediately a throng pushed for entry - door, windows, or ladder to the rooftop. Busha, elbows out, jumped up, then wiggled through a window, and saved me a seat so I wouldn’t have to stand jammed in tight for a one-hour bone-jarring trip. The 7 p.m. - last bus of the day - was stuffed in seconds.

Some kids, just like some people, get under your skin - in a pleasant way.

Busha is one of those kids.

When we were both at the children’s home near Lumbini, Busha was known for helping. If he wasn’t making my life easier, he’d be off on his bicycle shopping in the market for the kids in the children’s home. He protected the little girls like Binu or Janaki from older, more aggressive school kids and of course he worried and fretted about his sibling orphan - Rohit.

Now Busha is in his last year of college at the Whitehouse International College in Kathmandu. He has felt some pressure to complete his goal as a math or science teacher. The goal seemed so far away, but with financial support from Yukon donors the approximate $1,500 a year for fees, books and living expenses has taken off the main pressure. $1,500 is an incredibly huge sum in a country where many people survive on less than $1 a day and wages are often less than $4 a day.

Busha has a 66 per cent average in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Nepali and English.

In September 2010, he had emailed to say he was at the end of his funds and his family could not afford to help him. He hoped that “Grandma” could help him finish his last year.

After a transcript of marks from the college, and an assurance that education would continue, we sent a first installment via Western Union. More money is sent as required.

Four other orphans, from the Children’s Home in Nepal, need educational and living expense help beginning in March 2011. They are:

Nipa (17) and Nikhil (15). They are a brother and sister whose parents cannot support them.

Mina (17). Mina has no parents. Her guardians live in the vicinity but cannot provide support.

Rohit (16). Rohit is Busha’s brother. He has an over 80 per cent average in all classes and it would be sad if he could not continue his education.

These children would attend Sunshine English Boarding High Secondary School.

It is about 30 kilometres from where they are presently living. At this time Rosemarie and I hope people will step forward with any amount of money so these four children can stay in school.

We seek $6,000 for four kids for one year of education. Without support they will have to leave the children’s home as they are getting too old.

Without training they will be on the street and probably begging for food.

Meanwhile, the entire children’s home has been in recovery mode for just over one year.

It is no longer a place the children want to be. They stay there as it is their only home.

Some 15 months ago, I received an email from an individual who was doing some volunteer work for me there. This person was teaching computer skills, some reading and also art. Some of the oldest children came to her one evening and asked if she would please email me.

The elder girls, Neepa and Mina, were crying. With trembling voices and obviously terrified they asked my volunteer to contact me. The girls stated that the founder of the orphanage and the main fundraiser, was asking both girls and boys to give him massages at night while he was mostly naked. He preferred girls, and so they had to do longer massages than the boys. This happened daily.

The girls and boys were terrified, and didn’t know what to do. They were afraid to say no because he hit them and sometimes took away food.

My daughter, Rosemarie - who is the other half of Hands of Hope - was in Nepal. We investigated - I from here and Rosemarie in Nepal and India.

As the man was not from Nepal, there were additional sources to look into. We knew the person had philanthropically set up a children’s home and helped other schools.

We also knew he had been in a horrific vehicle accident prior to our knowledge of the sexual misconduct that had taken place. Did losing his hands in the accident create such trauma? Why did a person, supposedly respected for helping so many children and adults too, have a passion for abusing kids?

We verified what this older man was doing. He was confronted by the children’s home committee and told his behaviour was not acceptable. He was told to stop. This man left Nepal in anger, pocketing much of the home’s funding and taking or redistributing some physical items. Police were not notified.

Why, you ask?

Please do not forget. Nepal has had 10 years of civil war and additionally more than four years of civil unrest. In a country where about 20,000 insurgent troops are in “compounds” supposedly with armaments looked after by the UN, where any distrust and upset is set off with burning tires and marches, strikes, even hunger strikes and where there are shootings and deaths that cannot be traced, it is best to not involve authorities.

As the Nepali saying is “When two bulls are fighting it is best to not get in between”.

Meanwhile the kids did do some begging when they were low on funds, and raised chickens and did what they could to feed 17 kids (about $500 a month).

That issue is mostly cleared up as Rosemarie has found some Nepali donors, but the original fear has not left. An unsavoury individual wanted to stay at the children’s home and provide support, but changed his mind and made threatening noises. We forget here the ever present real danger of kids being stolen for the sex market.

One must be careful.

Obviously, we haven’t run out of things to do. The children need support. That is a given. All money from Yukon supporters was and is safe. The man had no access to the money we sent as it was sent for specific items - clothes, food, school fees - to a specific person. At other times we carried funds with us and bought what was needed. In November 2010, Rosemarie purchased food, clothing, hair cuts and other basic necessities for the kids - such as underwear and personal hygiene cloths for the girls (disposable items are out of the question cost wise).

School expenses (including back charges) are paid. We also added to the library in the adjacent school. Seventeen orphans attend school and look to 2011 as a year of change.

As for Busha, he emailed me this week, with more receipts for his school purchases, assuring me he was spending everything responsibly, “Grandma.”

He wrote that there are almost 18 hours a day of “load shedding” or power cuts. This makes studying, email, business and life in general a continuing challenge in a country beset with unrest. After innumerable elections the good news is that Nepal finally has a Prime Minister with Maoist support. The bad news is that already there are rumours afoot that rightists will try to topple this government.

However, Nepali people are amazing in their patience and fortitude. Busha studies, as do the other 17 orphans. They all dream of a better life, but realize grimly that their options are limited.

If you would like further information please contact us through: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 668-7082. We do pay all our expenses.

Hands of Hope is holding a fundraising event Saturday April 9th at the Yukon College cafeteria.

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