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!
Because I've been working with Sarada at the Annapurna Self-Sustaining Orphan Home, I had a basis for how orphan homes should be run. The Canadian and I first went to an elusive "bad" home we had heard rumors about from ex-volunteers.
We found through our investigation that the amount of money that the volunteers pay to work at the home doesn't match up to how much it costs to run a home. Either way, more investigation is needed.
And so, this is how I stumbled upon a local NGO who are dedicated to child protection through a process known internationally as "deinstitutionalisation". Their target group is orphaned, abandoned and at-risk Nepalese children and basically, they shut down these homes, and place the children in a foster-home setting. The organization teaches the children how to become adults, they give them skills, and opportunity past age 16, when most orphan children are thrown to the streets and expected to adjust to society. To date, through their deinstitutionalisation program, they have helped more than 80 vulnerable Nepalese children. We hope to work with this NGO and together determine what kind of self-sustainability can be accomplished for the families they support. Whether it's cows for milking (remember it's illegal to kill a cow in Nepal), a buffalo for eating, or chickens for eggs... this will something we can determine upon our initial visit.
Meanwhile, we didn't forget about the children at Annapurna Orphan Home. I had asked my friends and family back home to ship a box of clothes. This was a priory, as the children has holes in their shoes, holes in their trousers, and clothing so old, I thought they were originally black.
We found, to our disbelief, that shipping would cost $500 via UPS!! We scratched that idea, and some donors gave money instead to be used at the market for these purchases. At the moment, Annapurna Orphan Home is only 25% self-sustained and they do need donations to supplement the other costs of running a home.
Some things we have bought: