We've made some progress with the orphan fund. As I mentioned in the last blog, we have joined forces with a local NGO to make it possible. There are no government welfare programs of any kind here in Nepal, so help is 100% reliant on charities and donors. This is why there are so many street kids -- they have no where to go, or anyone willing to help. Or perhaps there are good-natured locals that want to offer assistance, but financially this is not possible.
We have been busy busy busy these past weeks. After my return from my Himalayan trek, I got back to work investigating area orphan homes in Pokhara. As our fund was originally designed for helping multiple homes in the area, I wanted to look around the area and see who else needed our help.
After speaking with several tourists around town, we found there to be many dishonest homes in Nepal. They rely on a relatively new phenomenon called "Voluntourism." This is where they recruit overseas volunteers to help at their orphanages, but ask them to pay a fee of around US$150-300 per week. They claim that these fees help pay the utility bills, will buy food for the children, and will help with rent.
I wanted to learn more about these common practices, so I busted out my detective kit and got to work. I recruited a French-Canadian man who was staying at my guesthouse to accompany me, and told him we were to visit five different homes in the area pretending to be prospective volunteers. It helped that he had a moped, and cut my investigation time down by half. It was actually quite fun!
Many things have been happening at Annapurna Self-Sustaining Orphan Home these past weeks! About a week ago, I had to leave Jesse back at the orphanage while I went on a pre-arranged trek through the Himalayas. Originally, I had wanted to do the trek at the end of our stay here in Nepal, but the mountain gods would have it none other way. With the monsoons arriving a month early, I took my que and advisement of the locals and went up before it was too late.
Meanwhile, Jesse took over the reigns and completed a good portion of the dire repairs the orphan home required. Before I left, we had roamed aimlessly around town and recruited several "handyman" to help with the tasks. I suppose it was quite serendipitous how it came about. After unsuccessfully asking 5-10 strong and well built men if they knew anything about construction, and receiving the same 'no' every time, we had wondered if there was anyone out there to actually help us.