Nepalese orphans dare to dream

Rosemarie Briggs Special to the News Lumbini, Nepal Have you ever noticed how helpful strangers can be when something fantastic is happening?

Lumbini, Nepal

Have you ever noticed how helpful strangers can be when something fantastic is happening? It’s as if somehow they know your secret.

So, today was my birthday and I was going to be lucky enough to buy all 17 orphans an outfit. Wow.

Spring in Lumbini, Nepal, is gorgeous. Trees festoon themselves with blossoms while their perfume floats on the air to mingle with frying samosas and clouds of dust. Birds of every size call out to one another and fields stretch on forever, dazzling the eyes with large swaths of fluorescent yellow mustard flowers.

After walking half an hour, my feet met the dusty strip of road that would carry me to the orphanage my mother, Liesel, and I had been working with for years. Our little non-profit, Hands of Hope, provides books and basics for kids in India and Nepal.

Here, it has put window glass in rooms, bought blankets, bought food and done all manner of other things. They call mom “grandmother” and me “sister.”

Money being the first necessity of any shopping trip, I’d entered the shiny bank, juxtaposed so strangely with the dusty strip of road. There I met a taxi driver who insisted on driving me to the orphanage, for free.

Life isn’t easy for Nepalese taxi drivers, and they often circle unsuspecting patrons like sharks. But here was this guy, spontaneously generous – just because.

He smiled and repeated the offer. So off we went, bumping along the road in his taxi. He explained he was also going to Bhairawa and would be happy to wait at the orphanage while I gathered the house – mother and girls who would help with our shopping.

Some days are just perfect, and then they get better.

Walking along the street in Bhairawa, Nipa, one of the orphans we’ve helped, turned to me, eyes full of wonder.

“Didi (sister), do you know what day it is tomorrow?”

“No.”

“Tomorrow we graduate: Didi, me, Rohit and Meena. Last night I felt so sad that I have to wear old clothes. I asked myself why my life is so hard, and why I even have to wear old clothes to graduate. But then this morning you phoned.”

We found new jeans and shirts for each of the boys, and new outfits for all the girls. Nipa, Meena, and Rohit’s outfits were a little fancier but would also work for everyday clothing after graduation. Some kids also needed shoes.

Piled high with clothing, and bags of fruit and candies, we finally boarded the last bus and made it back to the orphanage just after nightfall. We were exhausted, and it was too late for me to return home, so I lay down on a bed at the orphanage and dropped into sleep.

But the day wasn’t over yet. With up to 80 hours a week of power outages, life is sometimes arranged around electricity availability.

Nipa is a talented singer and had been selected to sing at the graduation ceremony. When the power came on at midnight, up we jumped. The karaoke song was cranked and Nipa sang her heart out until she was confident she was ready for the big day.

Graduation was a terrific success, but, for the orphans, it was also a frightening time. Grade 10 signifies the end of high school. Kids are not yet skilled to enter the work place professionally, but are no longer permitted to stay at the orphanage.

Will they have to work at some task that won’t even pay enough for food and rent? Will they have to sleep on the street or beg? How will they survive? How will they stay safe? These are big questions for a 15- or 16-year-old, but that is reality.

Nipa, Meena, Rohit and Rohit’s older brother Busha all have dreams. This is exciting.

Once Nipa informed me that it’s better for kids just to do what needs to be done and not to dream. Dreams are problematic, for who can hope to strive for one’s dreams?

Unfortunately, she is right. Too often, there simply are no options in Nepal. Finances and the hardships of life don’t allow it. In the West, most of us have choices.

There are organizations and there is even financing that will help us make choices and meet dreams. How are we so fortunate?

My mother and I encouraged these four orphans to start dreaming. And they have.

Nipa wants to sing and be a nurse. She has already sung on Nepali television. Meena also wants to be a nurse.

Rohit loves numbers and hopes to win scholarships to study science and math. Busha reads voraciously about current events and also wants to study science and math.

Hands of Hope is supporting these four in their post-secondary studies so that they can keep dreaming and realize their goals.

There will be more orphans graduating this year and subsequent years, but we don’t yet know if we will be able to help them dream.

Before we left Nepal this year, Busha made a special request: “Grandmother (Liesel) and Didi, will you please buy me two science textbooks and write in them for me?”

His face was radiant when we passed him the texts with our messages carefully scribed inside. I flashed back to Canada.

My face never glowed when I received a university text-book and I never wanted one signed so I could always remember who gave it to me. No, I took education for granted and sighed deeply that I was in for another year of hard work.

I guess I lacked some perspective. And I couldn’t imagine what it was like not to dream….

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited internet options beginning Dec. 1. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet for some available Dec. 1

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited… Continue reading

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read