Saturday 3rd November 2007
Ok, now I’ve outlined for you all the basic situation, and while it may continue to change every day (I will keep you posted on any new developments), I wanted to just finish off this 3-part monster of an email by telling you all a few of my thoughts on the whole thing.
Everything that has gone on has really made me think hard and re-evaluate what exactly I’m doing here and what good volunteering can do.
I’ve been well aware for a long time that my orphanage is a very special place indeed. There is so much love and affection between the children themselves as well as with Aamaa, Priya, and all the caring friends and family who constantly visit. I’ve already told you that it’s more like a very big family than an orphanage.
There are lots of willing, helping hands that make it all seem to run smoothly.
A few weeks ago I was starting to think that maybe my placement was a bit too luxurious, especially compared to Alan’s placement. I came out to Nepal prepared for squalid and difficult conditions, and yet I’m living in a lovely home with fantastic food and lots of support.
I feel a bit surplus sometimes, as I know full well that even though they let me cook etc, they can cope just fine without me.
I sometimes wished I was in a harder, more remote placement where my presence would REALLY make a difference and I could have a real impact.
However, I have come to realise some very important things.
Firstly, even if I was in the most remote and depressingly squalid orphanage in Nepal, there is actually very little that I, as one person, could realistically do to change their lives.
Yes, I could provide food and warm clothes for them, but raising children is so much more than just that.
Now that may seem like a very obvious thing to say, but in places like this food and clothing are generally the first priority, and once that’s covered, everything else becomes secondary and less important.
Yes I could cuddle the kids and love them to pieces, but I’ll be leaving one day and warm clothes and food won’t change that.
My point is that all children need not just the basic physical things like food and clothes, and not just to be loved even, but to be in a safe and stable environment that they BELONG to.
A sense of belonging for these children is vitally important, in a place where your parents may or may not come back for you, and volunteers come and go every two weeks.
The feeling of being a part of a family, and really belonging to it, is a very rare commodity here, and I realised that this orphanage, MY orphanage, provides exactly that, which is what makes it so special.
Furthermore, I’m making more of a difference by helping to keep this amazing place up and running, even as a small cog in a giant family machine, than I ever could do single-handedly in a place that has nothing to start with.
This is the kind of orphanage that needs to be kept open and going to show other orphanages what to aim for, and to continue to provide a safe stable environment for the kids that live here.
It took me a while to notice a first, but walking around the local area, most of the local kids who have parents look filthy and ragged and neglected compared to our kids.
Dom told me it was the same in his placement in Dang, and that the standard of living at the orphanage there was higher than anywhere else locally. In other words, people actually aspire to reach the quality of life that can be found in a truly good orphanage here, of which thankfully there’s more than one.
Obviously there are far too many orphanages here that are badly run, and where money and aid doesn’t trickle down far enough to reach the kids and meet their needs. There are far too many people who view the whole orphanage “industry” as a way to make cash through volunteers without caring too much about the kids themselves, much like Ram.
However, luckily there are good places, like my placement, and the Umbrella Foundation, who currently have about 5 orphanages that are fantastically well run and funded (the one I visited had an actual sick bay on the premises and a washing machine too!).
It’s thanks to these kind of places that there’s hope for Nepal yet, although unfortunately the balance is still tipped too far the wrong way. After 10 years of civil war and uprising, there are more orphans than ever, and more homeless and displaced people who need help, but not enough places for them to go despite lots of international aid coming in (as I say, it doesn’t often trickle down the system far enough to make a difference).
However, while this may seem like an enormous rant against social injustice in general, there is still a glimmer of hope for everyone. There are places like my orphanage, that are well run and have a large support network, and thanks to what we will hopefully achieve in the next few weeks with Daniel, we can ensure that 11 children will be relocated to a place where they will be loved and properly cared for, where they can truly belong and know that they will never be abused again.
And that, my friends, is an awe-inspiring thing.
In a place where someone can beat a two-year old senseless, we can all help to change that, and put that child in a safe stable environment for the rest of his childhood.
It’s such an amazing and intense experience, being here and being a part of it all, being both instrumental and insignificant at the same time, (as we all are in the greater scheme of things – what a very Buddhist concept!).
I still feel like I need to sit down and think about it properly. …Maybe I should go and meditate on it for a bit to get some practice in now?
Anyway, that’s more than enough deeply profound thoughts from me for one day, (and I’ve been in this internet cafe for almost four hours typing all this out for you!)
tons of love to you all,
(small cog in a very wonderful machine)
ps – For those of you wondering what I’ll be doing when I get back the UK I am currently planning to fight social injustice on a global scale and spend my time rescuing children and small dogs etc.
Does anyone know where I can get a good cape from?