Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Namaste Pratima!

This afternoon, Dinesh and I took a taxi down the Baglung Highway toward Lakeside. We got out somewhere along the road; I don’t know where exactly. Dinesh had gotten directions from Shova, who herself was uncertain of the house we should be looking for. We wandered off the highway down some residential roads, heading up toward the foothills that lie on the western edge of Pokhara. They do not use addresses here in Pokhara nor do they feel that a grid is the best way to plan residential areas. Dinesh stopped a few times to ask directions from locals and they sent us twisting up and down different paths. Dinesh made a few calls to clarify the directions, but they did not help. We suddenly spotted a woman down the road waving at us to come.

And then we met Pratima Acharya. She will be the first child at Sam’s House.

The woman waving to us was a friend of Pratima’s mother. Quickly (hospitality first always) she brought two mudas (stools) outside for us to sit. Pratima’s mother, Man Maya, was seated on the grass; she called Pratima outside, who quickly ran up and snuggled in her lap, which she continued to do for the duration. Pratima was wearing school clothes that were extremely dingy, and I would guess may be one of two sets of clothes that she owns, if not the only set. (You frequently see that: schools require uniforms, so parents with meager means just buy the school clothes and make them the everyday clothes as well.)

For this process, Dinesh conducts an interview to determine the child’s situation and need, and to collect vital information about the child. When that’s completed Dinesh explains the procedure of admitting Pratima and the rules for visitation in the future. This is potentially the most difficult part because guardians and parents are not permitted to see their children very often, no more than a few times a year. And they cannot have them stay overnight even during the holidays. This is all for the child’s state of mind and creating stability.

Man Maya nodded immediately in response to every declaration, appearing to understand the conditions, asking very few questions.

I kept thinking about how courageous this woman was when you consider that she has no husband (he deserted) and barely any income (she works when able as a house servant). When you’re that poor and that uneducated the only thing you have is your children. Yet she still understood that giving up her only child was the best thing to do for Pratima. I could not imagine a more selfless and brave thing to do.

During the interview, Pratima clung to her mother's neck. Man Maya kept asking her to make a Namaste for us, but she was overwhelmed with shyness. I asked if I could take her picture. Reluctantly she posed with her mother but once I showed them the pictures in the viewer on the back of the camera, she agreed to have her picture taken alone.

We finished the interview and told Man Maya we would be back on Friday to pick them up. Man Maya will come with Acharya to Sam’s House, so that she can see where her daughter will be living: the open playground, the clean rooms, the comfortable beds and, the friendly didis.

We're getting closer. So, thank you, Sam’s House supporter. Thank you, thank you, thank you…

-----------------------

Tomorrow we're planning to go with Sushil from Namaste House to Lumle, a village about 1.5 hours from here. There's a young girl there who needs a home. Unfortunately there have been rumors of a bandh being called for tomorrow which means we might not be able to travel the roads outside Pokhara. Who knows?

4 comments:

Jells said...

Hey there. Wow, reading this you can't help but feel both happy and sad. I can't imagine having to make that decision as a parent. On the other hand, she's a lucky little girl to be the first resident of Sam's House.

Stay safe,

Jells

Kiran Chakravadhanula said...

Hi there,

Been reading your blog for quite sometime now. I must say this is a wonderful thing that you are doing.
Wishing you the very best on this project. A little about me, I am kiran from India, visited pokhara two years ago on a holiday, so i know a little about the conditions there.

Good luck jen and chris
-Kiran

Jen and Chris said...

Dear Kiran,

Thank you for your comment.

Please take a look at our website: www.sams-house.org

And feel free to e-mail us anytime at sams_house@hotmail.com

Jen and Chris said...

Dear Kiran,

Thank you for your comment.

Please take a look at our website: www.sams-house.org

And feel free to e-mail us anytime at sams_house@hotmail.com