Saturday, March 29, 2014

Second Term Results

The Sam's House gang just finished their end-of-year exams, so I am very late in reporting their success on the second term tests, roughly two months ago.  Please excuse my delinquent work.

As usual, the children performed extremely well. More than 85% of the children placed in the top 10 of their classes.  And several children took top honors.

Maya -- first in class 8
Amrit -- second in class 7
Sabita -- third in class 7
Bishal -- second in class 5
Sharmila -- first in class 4
Dipa -- second in class 4
Pratima -- third in class 4 (these three girls have ranked 1-2-3 every term going back to last year)
Bibek -- third is class 2
Parwati -- first in class 1
Dipika -- third in class 1
Samjhana -- first in lower kindergarten
Ambika -- first in nursery

We hope you take pride in all the Sam's House children who work hard every day to make the most of the opportunities you have provided.  Special recognition again to Shiva, the house tutor, as well as house manager Ramila, and resident tutor Sangita, who guide the children every day through their homework and lessons.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Child Trafficking

This is a very difficult blog post to write because it deals with matters that we at Sam’s House take with the utmost seriousness.


In the last few years there has been a necessary and welcome upsurge in the awareness about and work against child trafficking. For years, child trafficking seemed to operate beyond the scope of possible law enforcement, affecting populations that are most vulnerable to this type of crime. At Sam’s House we feel we serve an ancillary role against child trafficking by providing another option for orphaned or at-risk children.

Anyhow, I thought it would be a proper moment to share some thoughts on child trafficking because you may have questions about how we deal with this issue—and other forms of child welfare malfeasance—at Sam’s House.

1) At Sam’s House we investigate the background of each and every child we admit. We meet with local government officials who testify to a child’s situation.  We interview neighbors and make sure that stories about the children are consistent and straight-forward. The people we interview sign papers as witnesses and we don’t admit a child unless this process is intact.

Our Nepali board has a subcommittee of three people who are specifically responsible for admissions. They share a fervent desire to serve needy children, but also to expose and/or resist potential trafficking cases.

This is more difficult to do than you might expect. Barely a week goes by when we don’t hear an appeal from someone wanting us to accept a child.  I’ve personally watched our director turn away weeping men and women because either we were full or because their case didn’t match our admission standards, or we felt there might be something unscrupulous at hand.  Of course it’s the right thing to do, but it’s very difficult in that place and time.

2) Orphanage is shorthand for a children’s home.  It does not mean that all the children are technically orphans.  But the term orphanage persists and some groups have seized upon this to imply that some children’s homes are fraudulent.

Several children at Sam’s House are what we term “at-risk,” meaning they live in dangerous situations, either with the potential to be trafficked or living in abusive situations (e.g., as domestic servants). As an example, one of the children at Sam’s House was living only with her mother who suffers terrible epilepsy, enduring multiple disabling seizures per day. This little girl was forced to cut grass, haul rocks, and perform other menial labor just to earn food for day to day survival. Now she lives at Sam’s House, thrives at school, and hopes to become a social worker because of her life experience.  At Deshain and other holidays, she visits her Mom, and will keep that contact.  We feel that your support is appropriate to support this girl.

This being said, children’s homes (or orphanages) have turned into a small cottage business here in Nepal and these institutions do seize upon well-meaning tourists for donations and support that are not spent on the children as they should be.  But this is an issue best addressed by the Nepali government and by tourists becoming more aware.

3) We comply with each and every regulation required by the Nepalese government. Not all children’s homes do this and they complain that the laws are unnecessary or that the bureaucracy makes it impossible to abide. There is little enforcement of these laws, true, but we feel it’s the best policy to dot every “i” and cross every “t.”

If you get involved with a children’s home that is not Sam’s House, ask to see the books (ours available here). Ask to know their admissions procedure.  Ask to see their certificates and government registration.  This is the best way to insure that a house is legitimate.

4) Finally--and this is less related to child trafficking issues--the home should be run by Nepalis. In my opinion, one of the secondary goals of working with an INGO should be providing training and work to Nepali people. As long as foreigners remain involved administratively in that country, these opportunities are diminished. Our American board provides input to Sam's House regarding policy and operations, but ultimately this is only advisement. In collaboration with the Nepali board, we put checks and balances in place to make sure that money is properly handled and we evaluate children annually for educational, social and physical progress. Regardless of our passion for the house, it is best run by Nepali people who can act with the proper cultural and experiential insight.

All of the children at Sam’s House are truly deserving of your generous support. Your donations are spent with exceptional care. And, above all, we take every measure possible to insure that the focus of Sam’s House remain squarely on the child’s welfare.  You are changing lives.