1st week in the orphanage, Part 1

Monday 3rd September 2007
Well, to answer the burning question, I did try a bit of goat in the end, as no-one else would, and that seemed like a real waste!
It was ok, but not brilliant.
This email is soooo long I’m going to split it into parts.
I arrived in the orphanage on Saturday afternoon, (25th August) and was welcomed with open arms.
Nirmaya, the house mother (who insists I call her Aamaa, which means mum) is a lovely, large, cuddly lady of about 50, who sold her land two years ago to set up this orphanage. She had found 4 kids on the streets and taken them to a government orphanage, but the conditions were awful and shortly afterwards the owner died, and the kids were scattered. She took the four kids back to her house to care for them, and then thought, if I can look after 4, why not 40?

Sabina, Amaa, and Prita

Her oldest daughter, Priya (27) lives with her father and husband at their family home (Aamaa lives at the orphanage, but her husband doesn’t – something about men not being as loving with children!), but she comes in most days to help.

Her second daughter, Sunita is 25, and lives in Hong Kong with her husband. She is able to send home enough money each month to cover the orphanage rent.
The youngest, Anil, is 21, and he often stays the night here. He’s rather juvenile for his age, (as the only boy, and the youngest I think he’s been a bit spoilt by his parents) and although he’s great at playing with the kids, doesn’t seem to do an awful lot else to help out around the house.

Priya and Jake

There’s a German family who donate rice every month (25 sacks), and they are also paid rent for volunteers like me by the Nepali organisation I’m with (RCDP).
Sabina is a lovely woman (24) who lives here most of the time and does a huge amount of work, washing, cleaning, dressing etc. Sita and Prita are two ‘maids’ who come and clean and wash up during the day (I don’t know if they’re paid or not).
There are tons of uncles and aunts and family friends constantly popping round to chat and bring food/money and love.
It really doesn’t feel at all like an institution, more like a big happy family. I’ve not seen any other orphanages here yet, but it’s hard to imagine many are as nice as this one.
The children are WONDERFUL! Never have I met such polite, caring, helpful and smiley kids, and they welcomed me instantly with smiles and cuddles.
There are 34 orphans, the youngest, Parna, is a girl of 22 months (almost exactly the same as my nephew, Jack) and the oldest three, Jake, Jeetu and Mina are 13.

Parna, the youngest child at the orphanage

They aren’t all orphans in the traditional sense, and each has their own story. I’ll tell you more about each of them as time goes on, but the rough breakdown is this:
Some are real orphans, many of whom lost their fathers in Maoist skirmishes, and their mothers in childbirth (like Parna, the youngest).
Some have parents who are unable to care for them, like Sajani (almost 3), who’s father is in prison on a drugs charge and her mother is a prostitute. Her mother and grandmother come and take her out for the odd weekend, but she screams the whole time and shouts that she’s being kidnapped. Yoann and Brent are brothers who’s father beats them, and when their mother had to have serious heart surgery they were brought here. That was a year ago, but I don’t know if/when they’ll be going back.
Then there are the lost boys, who are possibly the saddest of all.
Little Rajesh (about 4 or 5 we think) was found sleeping in a rickshaw. The police made a record of it, and brought him here, because obviously he’s too young to know where he lives (assuming he had a home in the first place). Sadly, the police don’t have a centralised, electronic system here, so even though there’s a paper record of him at one police station, there isn’t anywhere else. So parents with lost children have to go to every police station in the city looking for their kids. After 3 months, a notice goes in the paper, and after 2 years they are declared abandoned.
There is some hope – Priya said last year they were able to restore 18 kids back to their families (one boy had been here 6 months and then suddenly remembered the name of the suburb he lived in! The police took him there and they walked around asking people until they found his house). However a lot of children have, for example, lost their mother and when the father re-marries the step-mum may decide she doesn’t want baggage so the kids get shipped off to orphanages. Some kids have dads who visit them from time to time, but it’s clearly a traumatic experience for them, and it seems to be accepted that fathers don’t have to be as responsible for their kids as mothers do.
One can’t help but wonder how some of these kids got ‘lost’ in the first place, as one boy who was returned to his family was greeted with a very icy stare from his step-mum.
Very Grimm (pardon the pun!).
However, overall the kids here are happy and very much loved and looked after.
I’ll send this now before it gets too long or the power cuts out,
get ready for part 2!
love Maya
(I forgot to mention that I’ve been re-named, as there’s already a Sita here (the Nepali name I was given at the hostel). Aamaa named me Maya, which means love, and I really like it actually).
N.B. This is when I was first given the name Maya, even though I have been using it throughout this blog. I still love the name Maya, and it’s meaning.

Amaa playing with the kids

The kids playing in the garden

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