Sunday, December 23, 2007

And Sandeep Makes 20!

Dinesh and I met Sandeep earlier this year when he was living in a tailor's shop with a woman and her four daughters. The woman had been asked by Sandeep's grandmother to look after him and try to find him a home in Pokhara because his parents had passed away.

When we met Sandeep he was still an infant and would've required a didi's full attention, which was something that we could not afford. As a compromise, Dinesh brought money to the woman to pay for Sandeep's share of food until he became more independent, walking, toilet-trained, etc.

Well, yesterday was the big day, and Sandeep's grandmother came from her village with some neighbors to escort Sandeep to Sam's House.

He already has charmed the staff by saluting Dinesh every time he walks by. And according to Dinesh, Sandeep's has taken a special liking to Tara and follows her around the house. He is still developing his language but he seems to understand when being spoken to. I imagine Rina will enjoy having a playmate for when the other children go to school.


Sandeep and his grandmother.


Sandeep with his grandmother and women from his neighborhood.


Sandeep with Tara.

Sandeep makes twenty children in the house which means full capacity at the inn. It will be difficult to maintain this number, but we haven't extra beds and the social welfare council has told Dinesh we cannot take more than twenty, even if we could afford it.

So this means we might start looking to find a larger domicile or trying to find creative ways to expand.

Thank you for all your support. Because of your generosity we surpassed our initial plan to have fifteen children this year. And because of you, we were able to support twenty without any sacrifice of care and provisions to the children.

Two days before Christmas, this seems a fitting way to mark the holiday--with a home full of smiling, healthy children, safe and secure and having fun, being loved, and having a chance to grow and thrive.

On behalf of Dinesh, the staff and all the Sam's House children, all our love to you.

Merry Christmas everyone!!!!

CB

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Holiday Greetings from Sam's House

When 2007 began we hoped we had set reasonable goals. We wanted to find a suitable house with a good school nearby, to hire and train children’s home staff, and to open Sam’s House with 15 children by the year’s end. We had saved up three years of funding.

In March 2007 Sam’s House opened its doors with two young girls—one whose parents had passed away; the other whose mother was unable to care for her any longer. Today we have nineteen children (twelve girls and seven boys) who are flourishing, gaining weight, going to school, and growing with the strength and security that comes from having a loving family around you.

The children live in a beautiful two-story home in a quiet neighborhood, just five minutes from Gorkha English Boarding School where they attend classes. They sleep in clean, comfortable beds, and have two homework sessions a day. They eat healthy meals in the dining room, and play with toys and read books in the evening time.

We hired four women to raise the children. They prepare meals, clean, and attend to the children’s needs with care and affection and love. Each of these women had been unable to find work before coming to Sam’s House. Today they feel a sense connection with society again, caring for young children and providing for their future. And for this we will always take care of them.

In 2007, we met and surpassed all our expectations—because of you.

On behalf of all the children and our staff, thank you for making 2007 a year we will never forget. The future will have its challenges—we plan to grow—but today we give thanks to you a look back at how you have changed 19 lives for the better.

video

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tihar

A week ago they celebrated the festival of Tihar ("The Festival of Lights") at Sam's House.

The fifth and final day of the festival is called "Bhai Tihar," which involves sisters giving tika to their brothers and brothers giving presents to their sisters--a most appropriate holiday for Sam's House.

They celebrated in healthy fashion, thanks to you--our kind donors.


The goddess Laxmi.

The third day of Tihar is "Laxmi puja." Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, is symbolized by the cow, so you will see cows walking the streets covered in garlands and tikas.

Here the table is set with sweets that will be given out during the "bhai puja" ceremony.


Brothers at the start of the ceremony. The morning of Tihar is an immense amount of work, like preparing a Thanksgiving dinner.

The didis and sisters set up all the arrangements: flowers, plates of sweets, incense, garlands, and colored dye on the floor in symbolic patterns.


Sister making a celebratory walk around their brothers.


Maya giving tika to Babit.


Mina giving tika to Sharan.


Pratima offering a plate of sweet to Suraj and Sharan.


Sarita feeding Suraj some dahi (yogurt).


Rina giving tika to Sharan.


After the puja and the exchange of presents.


Amrit giving tika to Manju.


The sisters wreath garland around their brothers.


Enjoying sweets after the blessings (puja).


After the celebration.

Yoga

As Desain and Tihar form the holiday season in Nepal, it's also a nice break for the children from school. Having the time off, Dinesh wants to make sure they have plenty to do.

We recently had a volunteer from Holland, who came by way of India where she had been studying yoga and meditation. She been teaching some positions and breathing work to the children, notably, the older ones. I'm not sure Bishal and Rina are yoga material yet.


Getting comfortable and relaxed. It appears to be the boys bedroom serving as the makeshift ashram.


I'm not sure, but it looks quite fun.


Learning the lotus position.


Maya in lotus.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Tennis Anyone?

Our landlord Ranjit Gurung is a retired Gurkha Army officer and a tennis pro. (You may recall in an older post that he took me to his "club" for routine thrashings.) Since he and his wife agreed to rent to Sam's House, he has been planning to teach tennis to the children.

Over the summer he started collecting smaller racquets, from where I don't know, and waiting until he had enough to give lessons to the whole bunch.

Lessons are underway...



Thursday, November 08, 2007

Coats for Kids

As the winter season draws nigh, the temperatures in Pokhara--yes, Pokhara, land of muggy, sweat-just-standing-around summers--get sort of cool too, especially at night.

Two friends of Sam's House recently donated some money for cold weather jackets. Dinesh, freshly returned, though possibly not refreshed, from his US tour and Kathmandu holiday extravaganza, went shopping for winter gear.

Nothing but trouble: Pratima, Rina and Kiran (who appears to be fitting in nicely with her new siblings).

Maya and Mina, developing their adolescent independence through fashion, opted for jazzy cardies.

Babit, Dhiraj and Amrit.

The guys. Check out the flashy jeans.

The girls.

Monday, November 05, 2007

More Girls Than Boys

One of our core values at Sam's House is keeping a 2 to 1 ratio of girls to boys. As we've written in this space before, girls have a more difficult time in Nepal, and frequently have their life opportunities taken away in order to serve male siblings. If you can only afford to send one child to school, if your girl will later go to her husband's family, it makes sense to pour your resources on boys.

However, it now appears that girls are falling from the equations altogether...

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More boys born than girls in Vietnam and Nepal : UNFPA

By Grant McCool

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam and Nepal are the latest Asian countries to show a trend toward fewer newborn girls than boys because deeply rooted cultural traditions lead to a misuse of medical technology, a U.N. agency study found.

Asians, particularly in India and China, have long been known to practice pre-natal son selection by using ultrasound and amniocentesis and then aborting unwanted female fetuses, the United Nations Population Fund said.

"I don't think we are damning the technology and one shouldn't. But unfortunately the technology is being abused," UNFPA deputy executive director Purnima Mane said in an interview on a weekend visit to Vietnam.

Ultrasounds and amniocentesis help doctors detect birth defects and the health and development of a fetus.

Many Vietnamese want to have a son as their first child, part of a tradition to continue family lineage, for ancestor worship and security in old age for parents.

For Vietnam, which has a population of 85 million, "sex ratio at birth is not a significant problem now but could be within a decade" the researchers said.

In Nepal, which has a population of about 30 million, researchers said women living near the border with India could go to clinics in India that flout prohibition on sex selection.

"It is not a major concern now; however, it is likely that demand could increase in future," said the UNFPA study presented at last week's Asia-Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health in Hyderbad, India.

Mane said that in these predominantly rural societies, an increase in trafficking of women and domestic violence were possible consequences of gender imbalance.

"The entire devaluation of the girl child is much more relevant and the status of girls is much more linked with the fact of trafficking and domestic violence increasing," she said.

"We want girls to be valued as much as boys."

UNFPA said Vietnam, where abortion is legal, was recording about 110 boy births for every 100 girls. The natural ratio of boys to girls is about 105 to 100.

It said in 2005 unbalanced sex ratios in China had risen to 120 males for every 100 females born. According to India's 2001 census, it was 108 males to 100 females.

On paper, Communist Party-ruled Vietnam respects gender equality.

It is written into the constitution and the National Assembly, or parliament, passed a Gender Equality Law last year and is on its way to approving a Domestic Violence Prevention Law by the end of this month.

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I like to think Sam's House provides families with another option for all children, but girls in particular.

Educate a boy and help a family. Educate a girl and help a whole country.

CB

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dasain

It is the holiday season in Nepal right now, analogous to our Christmas season. The festivals of Dasain and Tihar take place from mid to late October.

A few of the Sam's House children visited relatives (if it was possible) for a day of celebration. All the others went to Dinesh and Rekha's house for a day of ceremony, treats, and play. Typically gifts are given--sweets and sometimes toys or clothes. By all reports everyone had a fantastic time.


Mamata receiving tika from Dinesh.


Dinesh giving tika to Banita.


Rekha giving tika to Sarita.


Pratima and Kiran.


The whole gang after blessings.


And the best part... celebrating with a meal prepared by Rekha. That's didis Tara and Asuna in the background.

Maya's Birthday

A few quick photos of Maya's birthday party, her ninth birthday. We may have to add a budget line next year just for birthday celebrations--20 plus staff. It must seem like a TGIF there! Well, at least without the amphetamined wait staff.




Laxmi cutting the cake.


Maya with Mina, Pooja, Rina and Santosh. Check out the new dresses for the girls. Very cute. See the bangles on Maya's wrist--likely a birthday present.

Pooja and Kiran

In the last month, two more children have arrived at Sam's House.

Pooja came via the United Nations Human Rights Commission from the Terai region in southern Nepal. She lived in a village that for a time was a Maoist stronghold; they occupied the city. Pooja's father cooked for the Maoists, or more likely, was forced to. When the Maoists left the village after the ceasefire, some villagers labeled her father a sympathizer and murdered him. The UNHRC feared for Pooja and her siblings so they helped relocate them to children's homes in Pokhara.

Pooja's case also illustrates the kind of challenges that Dinesh faces from time to time. The UNHRC called him and said they were bringing Pooja and her siblings. Dinesh told their representative that we only had room for one child, which was true, and because he thought they wouldn't want to separate the siblings. The rep replied that they would bring Pooja only tomorrow. Dinesh asked them to wait because he wanted to consult with his board about the admissions process in accordance with the by-laws. The UNHRC showed up the next day with Pooja. Dinesh couldn't say no.


Pooja

And that's something that's difficult to explain. Of course on humanitarian level we wouldn't say no to any child. But right now we're at capacity in our home and we hadn't planned to be until next year. And while we like to abide our rules and regulations for admitting children (orphans, 2-to-1 girls/boys, etc.) sometimes Dinesh is put in politically sensitive positions that require his cooperation. Good ole' Dineshji.

Being from the Terai, Pooja did not speak Nepali as her primary language, instead using a dialect indigenous to her village. For the first few days at Sam's House she was pretty spooked. But lately she's been coming out of her shell as her new sisters play with her and make her feel welcome. She also had not been to school, so she'll take an aptitude test to make sure she gets placed in the proper grade at Gorkha English Boarding School.

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Two years ago, Kiran was a street child in Pokhara with no known parents. Local police placed her in a children's home that has recently run out of funding. So this group has been reaching out to other homes to place their children. Dinesh used our final spot for Kiran (there is a 20th spot but it's already been promised to Sandeep Pariyar, who will arrive shortly). Kiran is now four years old and she will likely attend nursery school at GEBS.


Kiran

So now we're at capacity at Sam's House--20 lovely children. Everyone going to school, eating warm meals, wearing clean clothes and playing with toys. There's more we can do and more we will do but I guess it's time to start thinking about finding land, or at least a new place to rent.

Please go to the official website when you have time. We've added short bios of the children.

CB

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Board Meeting

The Sam's House board held its first in-person meeting this weekend in New York City, graciously hosted by Delta and Brad Schonhoft. Our special guest of honor was The Director, Dinesh Rajbhandari, in the flesh, all the way from Pokhara.

The Director brought everyone up to date on the progress at Sam's House, including his plans and budget for the coming year. We reviewed those and discussed our fundraising goals for next year.

Despite the frivolity of these pictures, it was a very productive and fruitful weekend. Topics we had scheduled for an hour's conversation, tracked into two and three hours--but in a good way. We're all very excited for the future of Sam's House.


The night before the meeting, the binders still needed some assembly thanks to yours truly. We got the job done.


In the morning, before the meeting. Jeff, Delta, Brad and Dinesh.


The board at work. Around from the left that's Jen, Delta (hidden), Brad, Katie, Dinesh and Jeff.


After a long day of meeting and discussion, we treated ourselves to a Nepali dinner. In other words, we violated the customs of Nepalese hospitality and asked Dinesh cook for us yet again. Thanks, Dineshji.


After much prodding and pleading with her, Katie performed some flamenco after dinner.


We ended our productive weekend with a windy lunch on the beach. That's teamwork keeping that blanket down.


This man would like you to donate to Sam's House. Won't you please oblige him?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Marathon Redux

Team Sam's House took to the streets of Akron, Ohio this past weekend to raise money for its namesake. We fielded three marathon runners and a relay team.

The weather and scenery were beautiful, but the streets kind of hilly making for an interesting four hours. Pledges are still coming in but we have already raised more than $2,000 for Sam's House, a month of operating expenses, a month of food, clothes, school and love for 17 children.

Special thanks to the following donors, helpers or just generally great people:

Matthew and Addie Bender
John and Carole Butler
Michael Carey
Mark Cerame
Jennifer Clunk
Ron Copora
Darla Dackiewicz
Lisa Dauderman
Corie Dimagard
Lynne Duchon
Pat & Susan Ertle
Dan Fauver
Jennifer Forshey
Jack Goldsmith
Chuck Hurley
Stephanie Landes
Matthew and Patricia Lansell
Bill and Pat Lundin (as ever)
Sarah Melamed
Dave Prusak
Rick Riley
Bill Roddy
Irwin and Ruth Rothchild
Anna Mae and John Searfoss
John Straneiro
David Tracy
Michael and Darlene Williams


Relay team captain, John Lundin, preparing race bags the night before.


Warming up in the pre-dawn hours.


Entering Canal Park Stadium in Akron. I just wanted to show how the logo looks in (slow) motion.


The whole team, post-race. From left to right: Tom Lundin, Julie Lundin, John Butler, Paddlefoot, Kyle Holler, Justin Stieglitz, Rob Gress and John Lundin.

We're always looking for new runners to join Team Sam's House. Talent optional. But you must own your own shoes.


Smiling on the outside, crying on the inside. After the marathon, sights set on the Twin Cities marathon in 2008.