Donating your time and volunteering with Our Sansar can be a really rewarding and perhaps even life changing experience for you! Please take a look here to find out more about our volunteer programmes and how you can share your skills!
Here’s a story which should give you a taste of what to expect, written by Kathy who volunteered in Nepal with Our Sansar in 2010.
Nepalese experience continued by Katerina Maltseva
I had many interesting business meetings here but the meeting that taught me the most was with a young Nepali girl I met on the bus. She introduced herself as Sweetie and said she had just graduated from school, which made her about 18 years old. We chatted about my trip and she told me the places I should visit in a nearby village I was travelling to. We said our goodbyes when we reached our destination and then she went home.
I went walking around the pretty little village that had beautiful temples and amazing mountain views. About 15 minutes later I saw Sweetie running towards me waving. I was pleasantly surprised because I was getting bored strolling everywhere alone. The poor thing was running to find me in the very hot sun. When I asked what was wrong she said that her mother sent her to accompany me and show me the most important temples in the village. I was really pleased as I didn’t know what I was looking at and the girl seemed like good company. We spent about 2 hours walking around and only at the end I understood why her mother sent her to me.
The girl’s father left them before she was born. Her mother was ill and had sent the girl to an orphanage in Kathmandu. The girl spent her whole life as an ‘orphan’ relying on the NGO funds for her shelter, food, and education. When she turned 18, the orphanage home told her to leave and because Sweetie was too young to make a living herself she returned to her mother’s village in Chitwan.
But the problem was that Sweetie had never lived with a family and now found it difficult to live with her mother. She didn't know how to make a living in Chitwan because she didn’t have any skills or qualifications and she didn’t know who to approach for help.
At the end of the tour she brought me to her home where Sweetie’s mother was waiting for me. The mother told Sweetie to make sure that I knew how difficult her life was and then told me that Sweetie and I should be sisters. She said Sweetie needed to go to college now and I should help with her schooling fees.
This day made me realise how much damage orphanage homes can do to an individual. Sweetie is a lovely girl and I know that she was just grabbing the opportunity as soon as it arose.
She was a stranger in her own town. She didn't’t know her family. She couldn’t find a job. She didn’t have any friends here.
So she will continue to ‘earn’ her living the only way she knows how to – she will try to get a foreign person to sponsor her and what is even worst - her mother will encourage her to ask strangers for money.
But then again – what choice does she have? She lives in a village where there is no employment, she has no connections and from what I understand - even with qualifications it is hard to find a job in Nepal, so what should she do?
There are thousands of ‘orphanage’ homes in Nepal that institutionalise children that have families. This created a market for ‘orphan’ homes: parents pay brokers a large sum of money to place their child in an orphanage (only that in some cases the kids don’t make it to the home but instead end up being sold as domestic slaves in India – this is in the good case scenario). But even when they make it to a nice home, what happens to them after they are chucked out at the age of 18? They don’t know how to live alone; find a job, pay for rent, cook their food, etc. They don’t know about family values; often they would marry young, have children and then separate shortly after because they don’t know how to deal with difficulties in relationships – they have no example to follow. So more kids are sent to ‘orphanage homes’ as a result.
So is another ‘orphanage’ home a solution for Chitwan? No! All my experiences here teach me that a permanent home on its own destroys children’s lives in the long term. What is required is a place where children have the opportunity to be re-united with their families, to learn practical job skills, learn how to make a living and then be placed into a job. A home is not enough for children with families – if we want to do it right, we need to help the children build their lives!