Last month, my camera and I spent two weeks at the Sherpa Outdoor Orphan Home in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was my second visit in just over a year. This time, though, I had an opportunity join the household as a sort of grandfather-with-a-camera — sharing mealtimes, interacting with the children, and following their daily routine. I was impressed at what I found.
Sherpa Outdoor Orphan Home
Sherpa Outdoor is a Swiss sporting goods chain, with manufacture of Sherpa-branded hiking boots, clothing and other goods providing employment for workers in Nepal. The orphanage in Kathmandu was founded in 2004, when Sherpa Outdoor management realized how many orphans there were in Kathmandu , and wanted to make a further contribution to Nepali society, as well as to the economy.
The home currently houses sixteen children, and is sponsored by the Sherpa Outdoor Foundation. Sixteen is a very small number when you think of the many children in Nepal not able to have nutritious food, a supportive home life, or an education (in Nepal, public school is not free, and the poorest families simply cannot send their kids to school). Support from Sherpa Outdoor gives these children a chance at a better life. Without the Orphan Home they would be living on the street.
A joint family in action
The work and school week in Nepal is Sunday through Friday with Saturday the day off. School starts at 10:00 for most of the children and goes until 4:00 pm. That does not leave a lot of time to play but the children make up for it on Saturdays. They played badminton one day, and it was fun to watch the intensity of some and the trial of learning for others.
Children here, as in any home environment, learn by doing, and all share responsibilities for daily chores. If I was upstairs at dinnertime, one of the children would come to tell me it was time to eat. Everyone took care of his or her own cleanup, without being asked. It was an impressive show of teamwork.
Learning to learn
When I was in school, my parents had to constantly force me to do my homework. At the Sherpa Outdoor Orphan Home, the children all tackle their homework without being pressured. I was amazed to find them studying both before breakfast and after school.
An uncertain future
The future of Nepal rests upon well-adjusted, educated citizens, and it seems that the children of Sherpa Outdoor Orphan Home are well on their way. Still to be determined: what opportunities will these healthy and motivated youngsters have, after compulsory education is complete? Their future will surely be brighter for the many efforts they–and their care-givers and sponsors–are making.
Living in the extended family of the Sherpa Outdoor Orphan Home for two weeks, I was able to gain some understanding of the children’s lives and home life. Yes, these are children, and there were disagreements from time to time, but they were quickly resolved. Overall, I was impressed with the children’s good habits, studying and cooperation with each other. I was also very impressed by the caring staff, who take the time to help and correct them. Sherpa Outdoor Orphan Home is very much a real home.
There has been recent publicity of orphanages and travel organizers, ensnaring well-meaning volunteers into child trafficking. Thankfully, for the Sherpa Outdoor Orphan Home, fully funded through the Swiss retailer, and meeting all government requirements, this is not an issue.
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