Monday, February 19, 2007

Where Are the Girls?

We had our admission committee meeting this morning. The admission committee consists of Dinesh, Bharat Malla (owner of Seven Peaks Travel: free plug: www.sevenpeakstravels.com) and Shova. We had a list of 12 children from the waiting list at Namaste House; unfortunately our criteria only permitted us to take five. Here's why...

We have some basic requirements for the children we accept: between 2-5 years of age, true orphan priority, and 3 to 2 girl to boy ratio.

Strangely, it was the 3 to 2 ratio that was giving us problems. I say strangely because in a host of reports from the United Nations to UNICEF, girls always exceed boys in the "at-risk" category due to social and cultural discrimination (the degree of difference in the level of "at-risk" has been debated by economists). And yet most of the children we had heard about or for whom we had received applications were boys.

Namaste House told Dinesh that they had also tried to maintain a 3/2 ratio for girls but later abandoned it because it was too difficult to maintain. Nonetheless, our board has decided that this is a core value for Sam's House. While we are willing to negotiate on other criteria, the help to girls we wish to have enforced through admissions. Fortunately, Dinesh, Rekha and the Nepali board agree with us.

In maintaining the ratio, Dinesh has asked that we proceed at 3/2 rather than taking in, say, six boys and then having to admit only girls for the next nine children. That would be extremely difficult for him.

While discussing this in the committee, Bharat noted "Maybe this is just the year for boys." I agree. One batch of children is hardly a statistically significant sample. It could be that we will have a preponderance of girls to admit in the future.

Still, the need overall is beyond debate. We drew up a list of 14 children who will come to live at Sam's House within the next couple of months. It was a thrilling thought. Dinesh is making calls as I type to start processing the files for children living in Pokhara. It is possible we might admit a child tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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Rekha observed yesterday that Tara seems much happier since she got the Sam's House job. She was a didi (domestic worker) for the Rajbhandaris, coming to help with Diksha and other household tasks. The R's hired her when they lived in a previous apartment. Tara and her husband and five-year old son lived in a small, single room behind their place. Tara's husband, for reasons unknown, does not speak to her though they live in the same home. She would move out but she has nowhere to go. So when Sam's House came about, the R's thought Tara would be great for the job, plus it would pay her more than they could and it promised long job security. So the R's sacrificed their didi for Sam's House (fortunately they found a new one yesterday) and Tara now has two friends to work with. I've actually heard her laugh which I couldn't say before. Rekha says Tara will keep this job for life.

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The house staff signed their contract agreements yesterday. They were quite pleased. Dinesh emphasized again the need for punctuality. One of the staff reported two hours late.

Dinesh and Rekha are part of a struggling minority in Nepal who abide by western standards of time and punctuality. While Nepal, like many developing nations, has embraced technological advances like the Internet and cell phone, the awareness of time and convenience that these technologies emphasize has not influenced the behavior. It's still agrarian based.

During my stay Shova admitted to Rekha that she is typically late but comes on "thik time" (right time) for meetings when I am present.

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A gentleman from the Child Welfare Council of Pokhara (not to be confused with the Social Welfare Council) called yesterday with a child referral. He mentioned to Dinesh that he had helped Sam's House process its application with the District Administration Office. This was not a casual boast but rather a reminder that we'll need to return some favors to this gentleman from time to time as long as Sam's House wants to operate free of hassle. At least this guy was requesting a favor of the humanitarian kind.

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After tennis yesterday, Ranjit and I took his cycle down to the stadium to watch the finish of the Pokhara marathon.

I was going to run the 10k, but Dinesh said only if I gave half my winnings to Sam's House, a stipulation I simply could not abide.

So I watched with Ranjit, my new sports partner. We can't speak much to each other but that's the great thing about sports--you don't need to talk a whole lot. Plus, he fails to get my references to former Browns' greats such as Jubilee Dunbar and Fair Hooker.

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Today Rekha began her child care orientation with the staff. When I left, they were in the study room. Rekha got up at 5am today to write her outline of six pages.

What would we do without Dinesh and Rekha?

1 comment:

Sheila said...

Do you think that you'll have to compromise your entrance standards from other SH's "supporters" in Nepal just to stay in their good graces, and hence accredited/official? Good luck with the painful process.