I am often asked what I do in Kathmandu when the sponsor travel group leaves. So here is just one jam packed day. First I met with the children who have graduated or will graduate soon from Mitrata Nepal Foundation for Children and are on their way to independence.
We are starting an alumni program and they had lots of good ideas including mentoring young children in our programs and doing special programs for them using their talents and expertise. They all agreed that being a role model was important.
The Dashain Festival in Nepal is about to start. It lasts for two weeks but our kids have a month long holiday. So many of them go back to their villages to visit their families. Puja has not been in two years so she is excited. We had a special Dashain Festival dinner at the Cake Bakery, a Nepal chain restaurant that hires deaf and disabled staff and has great food, for the kids who live at the group home located on the first floor of the BSF office in the Sukedhara neighborhood. We then went shopping at Bhat Bhetani market. It is a long ride back by bus and you can’t go home without gifts of chocolates!
Every year I visit with our children who are living in boarding schools. I meet with school principals and teachers. We have two main schools right now for our elementary school age kids who board, Reliance Residential and Childrens Model Secondary School (CMS).
My wonderful group of sponsors left for the USA and I am now staying in the office at Sukedhara, a suburb of Kathmandu. I am greeted by three older kids, Pasang, Puja and Bijaya who stay in the apartment downstairs with housemom Sarita.
And I get a special greeting from Kalu the puppy we rescued last year. He is no longer a puppy but sweet and a good watchdog too.
While most of the group wandered off to Thamel to finish their shopping expeditions, Child sponsors Arlene and Steve took off with BSF Program Coordinator, Aleesh to spend time with our oldest teenagers, college students and staff at the BSF office in Sukedhara. Arlene and Steve presented an “inspiring or very inspiring” (the kid’s words!) training on risk taking, awareness, addiction and grounding. The young adults appeared truly interested, attentive and appreciative. Hewie’s beautiful daylily pictures served as a symbolic representation of the varying effects of the marijuana plant. Many plants can be manipulated by growers and not all plants can be safe for consumption. The group was particularly moved by Steve’s story of addiction and recovery and they gobbled up his books on the 12 Step process. We appreciate the hard work of the BSF staff for arranging and attending this training....thanks for the tea and cookies too.
My experiences in Kathmandu have been wonderful, but none more wonderful than my time spent with the children. The driving concept behind all decisions made by Mitrata and it’s partner organization BSF is Child First. With this in mind, I attended the graduation ceremony for four remarkable young adults who have gone through the program and have now graduated into the real world. They are living evidence of the power of the concept of child first, and are thriving thanks to the dedication of the staff, the enduring force of human nature and the desire hidden within even the most severely underprivileged children to excel in life, and to give back to the community that helped them achieve their dreams. All have completed advanced education, and are working in restaurant management, as a chef, and as a businessperson. One young woman completed an on-line MBA from the prestigious Wharton School of Business. Sponsors, thank you for making all of this possible.
Our trip to Chitwan with a small group of fellow Mitrata travelers (while others were in Pokhara) was the heart and soul of our (Bonnie and Gordon’s) journey to Nepal. For more than 13 years we have supported Sudan Adhikari who is beginning his fourth year at Chitwan Medical College, studying to be a doctor. This was our first meeting. We arrived at the teaching hospital and as our group waited someone said, “there’s Sudan”. We saw a serious young man, a medical student, approaching and recognized the boy we first met as a photograph 13 years ago. The meeting was a bit awkward but filled with emotion. We felt pride in his accomplishments but it was somewhat like we were meeting a member of the family after a long separation. As we found our way into conversation the awkwardness left and was replaced by warmth and smiles.
After hectic but joyful days in Kathmandu, we endured a ten hour drive to Pokara that cannot be described on a public blog except to note it should have taken six hours and we learned a lot about Nepali road repair and driving habits! After a quick overnight at the Lakeside Retreat, we were back in the van for another hour to Kande. I was beginning to lose my sense of balance. A walk in nature was just what I needed.
Once again we were treated to the contrast that Nepal offers. Skies were blue as we met the younger children at the pungent Kathmandu Zoo. They were dressed in their holiday best as they collected to sing for us and then take us by the hand, bounced around happily, and used English names for their favorite animals. Some of them met the elephant up close, and the hippo was a big favorite. It showed off its enormous mouth and tongue for everyone before its carrot lunch arrived, and many of the children stood by fascinated while it ate a big bag of carrots. Then we all feasted together on human food of mo-mos and pizza. It is so heart-warming to share their joy and their appetites, knowing they are being cared for and fed and loved by the wonderful staff at the Contact Center.
Armed with an extensive shopping list and a strong sense of style, brave shoppers Mamta (a former Mitrata sponsee) and Stephanie (Mamta’s sponsor from 2002-2013) had a marathon (9 hours!) shopping session. Slaphappiness set in after 7 hours. Exhaustion hit soon after. They bought so much that kind Prakash, a wholesale shop owner, had to load his motorcycle with all of the goods and make two deliveries to the hotel.