Curry Without Worry

When I was in Kathmandu last summer, I received a call from a Nepali friend late one afternoon, asking if I would be interested in joining him in Durbar Square, where he would be volunteering with a local NGO. I had never heard of Curry Without Worry, but I quickly said “Yes!” to Dorji’s invitation to head for the heart of old town of Kathmandu and an evening of serving a Tuesday evening meal to some 350 of the city’s homeless.

I checked my camera gear, hailed a peddle taxi, and was off to Durbar Square. Kathmandu is a maze of narrow winding streets full of all sorts of traffic, everyone competing for space. As my driver peddled along, we narrowly missed colliding with several cars and pedestrians, in an adrenaline-filled journey across town.

In Durbar Square

The taxi dropped me off in the midst of temples, shrines, vendors selling butter lamps, candles flowers and other offerings. It was a photographer’s dream. I was tempted to linger and photograph all of this, but there wasn’t time. My destination–an open-air soup kitchen in the middle of this ancient square–was already being set up.

Curry Without WorryNepali “soul food”

Curry Without Worry in Kathmandu is an extension of a charity in San Francisco with the same name, founded in 2006. Shrawan Nepali, an immigrant to the United States, who spent his childhood in an orphanage in Kathmandu, sold a successful restaurant to finance an organization to feed the hungry in San Francisco. Mr. Nepali opened the Kathmandu operation in 2010. The food is prepared by volunteers and paid for mostly by local families.

As with Classrooms in the Clouds and the Sky Memorial Foundation, two other NGOs I worked with last year, Curry Without Worry is by and for Nepalis. I find this quite admirable, because these donors and volunteers are taking responsibility for the well-being of their countrymen.

Curry Without Worry
The money to pay for 350 meals each week is donated by a family, often in memory of a departed loved one.

Dinnertime at Durbar Square

Curry Without Worry

The truck bringing food from the preparation kitchen was delayed in traffic, which allowed me some time among the guests. As everyone waited patiently for their meal, they willingly let me take their portraits. I began with the women and children at the front of the serving line, and very soon, realized how many unaccompanied children were among the crowd. Then it was time to photograph the men, and I wondered what their stories were.

When the truck arrived, volunteers hurried to set large pots of rice and vegetable curry, stacks of flat bread and bowls of spicy chutney. By the time guests were filing past to have their disposable plate (it was made of a pressed banana leaf) filled, the atmosphere was somewhat like that of my school cafeteria in small-town Minnesota. There were differences, though: this meal was served outside, and without silverware. In Nepal, as in many Asian countries, eating with your hands is common. One of the volunteers filled several plates for guests who were unable to walk and carry their own.

If I was surprised at the number of unattended children the dinner of Kathmandu’s Curry Without Worry, I was equally impressed at the turnout of local volunteers for the regular Tuesday offering of food for the homeless.

Here is a short video from my evening with Curry Without Worry (Facebook). If you are in Kathmandu and want to donate, or volunteer to help prepare and serve a Tuesday night meal at Durbar Square, call 9841344067.

Cooking for a crowd can be quite a production. This video from Volunteer Nepal (5:53) shows us how it’s done.

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I was in Nepal for two months in 2013. In addition to my time with Curry Without Worry, Classrooms in the Clouds and the Sky Memorial Foundation, I had the opportunity to support the work of Sherpa Outdoor Orphanage Home and Restoration Works International.

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  1. Hey Tom, I finally got around to watching this! The post and video are great, very informative and Curry Without Worry looks like a good cause. The community and the founder deserve a pat on the back for doing what they can.

    • Thank you peter, glad you liked it. Yes Peter, they are doing a great job. The Curry Without Worry work in Kathmandu is all done by volunteers, all of the donations go for the food.

  2. And I got around to it even later, having tidied up my inbox yesterday, found this unopened and read it this morning. It is, of course, a wonderful cause, and you have captured the atmosphere marvelously. I love the emphasis you put on the people helping each other. Not to say outside aid is bad, but this is always a good thing, isn’t it, so for instance they build on the sense of community, and are also less dependent on outsiders,who may have less to give than in the past, owing to the ongoing awful economic climate -although this makes me realize how paltry my problems are in comparison!

    I looked at the other oganizations you mention at the end too. It’s good to have a reference like this, because one hears such appalling stories of scams in the “charity” field these days too.

    • Linda, thank you for your comment. I know how an inbox can be.

      I had a good opportunity to look closely at how Curry Without Worry, Sky Memorial Foundation and Classrooms In the Clouds works and all three have a local presence and guidance, which I feel makes them more efficient and better able to focus on the real needs of their beneficiaries. You could check out a friend’s blog (she is now in Nepal)

  3. Hi Tom
    Nice video – when will be seeing you again?
    If anyone is interested in donating to Curry Without Worry (CWOW) Kathmandu please get in touch via the FaceBook page –

    Dinner for one Tuesday costs around 20,000 NRS or (just over US$200 at today’s rate)
    CWOW can receive money transfers from Western Union or other transfer agencies.
    Just tell us who your donation is from or on behalf of and we will post the weeks photos as always on the FaceBook page.
    Happy Tuesday and happy Dasain!

    • Thank you, glad you liked the video.

      Hopefully some of our readers will recognize the good work Curry Without Worry in Kathmandu is doing and donate.


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