Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Medical Care

Recently Sabita and Parbati were held home from school. Sabita had contracted something flu-like while Parbati needed to have a cavity filled. I tagged along with those two and Tara for a trip to Manipal Teaching Hospital in Pokhara. Link
First, there's a very warm bus ride.

Walking to the lobby area. Manipal is Indian-owned and most of the doctors hail from there.

In the waiting area.

When all was said and done, Sabita got some flu medicine and Parbati had her tooth fixed without the aid of novocaine. I looked into the dental lab (you can do that here), and she was laying still as a doll while the dentist worked the drill. Tough little Muppet.

But the larger point of showing you these pictures is this kind of medical care was not possible for these children before you decided to support Sam's House. Now all our children have excellent care available every day. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Short Holiday

I'm at Sam's House this week. Been here since last Wednesday, the day of Teej. The children also had Thursday and Friday off from school which made for an especially nice visit (for me) because there was little else to do but play all day around the house. We went to a movie on Friday afternoon. Made a music video on Saturday and took new annual photos of everyone. There was also ice cream and football and dancing and lots of general goofing around.

Dance class on Saturday afternoon with Shiva (the dance teacher, not our tutor).

Amrit and Sharmila prepping for morning dal bhaat.

Dipa, Sharmila and Parbati.

Ritika organizing the stuffed animal closet during Saturday's cleaning session.

Saturday is shower day. Greeted mostly cheerfully by the little ones. The older children now bathe on their own schedules.

Will you look at this face? Dipika. What a killer! Sweet as sweet can be.

Was walking downstairs in the house the other day thinking about how far Bishal had come in terms of behavior. When he first arrived at the house four years ago, he was, by all accounts, a terror. Poor language, tantrums, combative, etc. Today he is just the sweetest boy with an artist's heart. However, he does lapse on occasion. When I got to the bottom of the stairs Bishal was sitting on the wall, crying, not talking to anyone. He showed me a large bump on the side of his head. The didis informed me that he had rapped Suroj and was running from retaliation when he tripped and knocked his head on a step. The time out would last the rest of the afternoon. Prema doesn't suffer fools gladly.

You may have noticed that we've been referring to Kiran as Sharmila on this blog (and it will be soon changed on the official website). As you may or may not know, "Kiran" was the name given to her by the director of her first children's home, which later closed down due to lack of funding. A couple months ago, Kiran told the didis that she didn't like her name and never had liked it. It's commonly used as a boy's name, for one. At any rate, after consulting with Dinesh and our house psychologist, they agreed it would be okay for Kiran to become Sharmila, which she chose on her own. Here's the other part... you might think, "How can you just change your name one day?" Sharmila was a street child with few papers and even today is not formally recognized as a Nepali citizen (getting her citizenship will become an issue someday). In other words, Sharmila doesn't not formally exist in Nepal, so changing her name is really not a big deal because it will not foul up any sort of records. When she does finally get her citizenship, she will be, officially, Sharmila.

For those of you who have been following the blog for a while... isn't it remarkable how Rina has changed. Still cute as ever, but not the baby of the house at all.

The older boys: Dhiraj, Babit, Bishal and Amrit (getting older now; hard to coax a smile out of these guys).

The younger boys: (back) Suroj, Saran and Santosh, (front) Sandeep and Bibek.

The little ones: (back) Rina, Dipa and Chija, (front) Parbati, Dipika, Jamuna, and Ganga.

The fully "teen" older girls: Mina, Sarita, Sabita and Maya. They are inseparable and in many ways no different than teenage girls anywhere.

The middle girls: (back) Mamata, Manju and Pushpa, (front) Sharmila, Pratima, and Ritika.

The didis: Ramila, Asuna (front), Tara, Prema and Pramila. They are the proverbial five-headed monster... one house mother with five arms. It's amazing how smoothly they run a 27-child house. And each didi has her own personality and strength that they contribute to the whole. Remarkable women.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Sam's Birthday

On September 1 each year, Sam's House celebrates the birthday of its inspirational founder--Sam Rothchild--and the birthdays of the 27 children. In our first year, we celebrated everyone's birthday on the proper date, with a cake and presents... there were only 15 children at that time. Then Dinesh wisely suggested one large blowout on 9/1 and then smaller, token celebrations for the children on the proper dates during the year. It has been a rousing, and economical, success.

I was pleased to be at Sam's House for the annual birthday this year. We gathered in the social room where Parbati, being the youngest, cut the cake. Tara passed out candy, and Prema gave tika to everyone. Then Ramila and Shiva distributed presents. This year, everyone received a new pair of nice jeans. We went to the roof for some photos. The children are getting new shirts at Deshain in October to go with the jeans. Shhhh. It's a secret.

It is you, dear supporter, who makes these celebrations possible. Once the children could not have imagined celebrating their birthdays, and a few of our children likely didn't know on which day their birthday fell. But thanks to your generosity, they celebrate the passing year with high times and fun. Thank you, thank you, thank you...

Parbati cuts the cake with some assistance from Ramila.

Prema gives tika to Rina.

Tara didi passing out candy.

Chija with Ganga and Jamuna, modeling their new jeans.

Dhiraj and Suroj.

Maya and Sarita... every bit the self-conscious teens now, though they did allow for this photo to be taken.

Rina and Dipa.


Hindus (particularly Brahmins and Chhetris in Nepal) recently celebrated Teej, an annual festival to celebrate when, in Hindu lore, the Goddess Parbati fasted and prayed fervently for the great Lord Shiva to become her spouse. Touched by her devotion, Shiva took her for his wife. Goddess Parbati, in gratitude sent an emissary to preach this religious fasting among mortal women, promising prosperity with their family So, on the ground, Teej is festival for women when they are free to dance and rest and have temporary relief from domestic duties.

On Teej, women typically dress in red, if they are married, and put kohl around their eyes.

When I arrived in Pokhara, several of the didis and a line of younger children were headed to a Teej festival. I tagged along and we hopped a bus to Lamachaur. The older children, it should be noted, have entered true teendom and did not deem the festival interesting enough for their attendance!

Then, after the festival, we had our own dance circle at Sam's House, initiated by the women, per tradition, and later a free-for-all where even your author contributed some spastic moves.

A few photos below....

First, there was a crowded bus ride to Lamachaur. Parbati sits in Manju's lap.

Asuna and Dipika.

Me and Dipa.

Arriving at the festival grounds.

In one corner of the festival tent, a group of older girls were organizing games, including musical chairs. Sharmila made the first cut.

Mina safely in an unoccupied chair.

Santosh would finish third in musical chairs.

A large dance circle.

Walking from our first festival to a second.

Parbati, who looks, adorably, like a Muppet.

Mamata, Sabita, Pushpa and Sarita.

Mina and the didis dance.

First Term Marks of 2064 Year

As you know, education is heavily stressed at Sam's House. The children do a compulsory two hours of homework every night with the help of a tutor, and another hour and a half in the morning, also with a tutor. Given the children's backgrounds and lack of traditional family ties (the usual way of finding employment in Nepal), education will be extremely important to their future success.

They took first term exams in July (the school year in Nepal starts in April) and Ramila, the house manager, shared their results. Her e-mail is below...

Respected sir,

I hope all is going well with you and your family and here is also well . We miss you and your family. When are you coming to KCH? I am very happy to share this good news with you that our children did excellent in their 1st term exams. Many of them placed in the top three of their class.

Class - 5
Amrit: 90.25 -2nd position
Sabita: 86.45 -3rd position

Class - 2
Kiran: 93.90 - 2nd position
Pratima: 93.20 -3rd position

Class -1
Dipa: 99.11 -1st position
Ritika: 96.06 -2nd position

Lower Kindergarten :
Jamuna: 99.67 -3rd position

Parwati: 99.58 - 1st position

I hope you will be happy to hear this good news .

Ramila Shrestha

6th Annual Fab Friday

Once again our Cleveland family topped itself with an outstanding Fab Friday Picnic at the Bay Village Community House. On a warm and sunny August evening there were arts and crafts, tattoos, corn hole games, delicious burgers and hot dogs, and, most impressively, incredible balloon animals from Ronnie the Flower Clown. Best of all, we raised just over $22,000 for Sam's House, which nearly accounts for a half-year's budget. That's love and education and brothers and sisters and clothes and games and medicine and security for six months to 27 children.

Especial heartfelt thanks to our Sam's House angel Jennifer Forshey and her legion of friends, family and colleagues who made it such a wonderful event.

We hear the word freedom often these days, but there seems to be a lot of disagreement about what freedom actually entails. Here's my favorite definition (paraphrased) from the Nobel economist Amartya Sen: freedom is the opportunity to have a life worth living.

That's what our Sam's House supporters provide to the children: freedom... the opportunity to have a life worth living, free from fear, free from hunger and oppression, free to learn and make a contribution to this world.

From the bottom of my heart and theirs, thank you, thank you, thank you...

The Bay Community House was a new setting for this year's Fab Friday.

Fearless leader Jennifer Forshey penning a direction sign in the hours before the event.

Hannah Smith helps decorate the Community House.

Ronnie the Flower Clown valiantly kept the children entranced for three hours with his magical creations. Seriously, if you're looking for incredible children's entertainment, this is your guy.

Mike Kraft (coming to a movie theater near you soon in the "The Double") ponders his chances in the annual cornhole tournament.

Sam's House director Dinesh Rajbhandari was a special guest this year, all the way from Pokhara. He made a short speech of thanks and then drew winning lottery tickets with event organizer Jennifer Forshey.