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Needy Children in Nepal

Following is an essay written by one of our volunteers after visiting the family of a student who is receiving a scholarship from NCEF. The essay highlights the economic and social realities that are keeping Nepalese children from going to school.

Contrary to her brittle fingers and the pronounced veins on her temples, she was actually only 28. 'Namaste.'

She offered a famished yet cautiously warm smile. Her life, it seems, had taught her not to expect much even from certain promises.

She came to Kathmandu with her husband, hopefully at work as we spoke but she wasn't sure. The first few years after their move had been good, better, at least, than the last few. When they arrived in the heart of Nepal, jobs promised to be abundant, and they were. But after two kids and multiple jobs, things had changed significantly. Her husband had become addicted to drugs, bringing with his new habit a descent into destitute poverty.

Syringes, lying around the small, rodent infested, fifty square foot room, from which they were forcibly evicted by the landlord and in which they now secretly lived, were abundant and became the secret playthings of her young children.. Mysterious tablets heralded in nights of obscenities, beatings, mania, and days of his complete disregard for the kids. He spent even his time on drugs, leaving nothing for the kids. In a voice still shaky with confusion, she confirmed that it was through this horrendously destructive transformation that their two children became her sole responsibility.

Betrayed by a light rustle, a mouse began its afternoon excursion among the pieces of newspaper under the kerosene stove, causing a momentary distraction. My eyes wandered from the mud floor on which the stove sat, to the corner not far away. A nanglo (a pan-like basket) sat on a short wooden stool, protecting from our adventurous friend a handful of tomatoes, and a small, sickly looking head of cauliflower: the rations for the next few days. She worked odd housekeeping jobs, as much her health allowed, earning a few hundred rupees a week, which was just enough to keep herself and the two kids alive. She wanted NCEF's help because she was unable to educate her youngest son.

"Why do you want to send him to school?" Anita asked, her manner suggesting that she wanted to show me something essential that she had seen many times before.

"Because I don't want them to be like their father." was the reply.

"How much schooling have you had?"

"I have never gone to school. But I want them [my kids] to have a better life, to learn to read and write."

Of course, she couldn't send her elder son to school either. But, given the choice, she reckoned, he had gone to school for a few years already, and it mattered less that he continue than his younger brother begin.

We walked back through the low, traditionally wooden archways, across surprisingly musty and narrowly sunlit concrete courtyards, eventually emerging onto a familiarly bright and bustling street in the heart of Kathmandu. We followed the fragile figure of our host to another alley, unspectacular in its appearance, under a peeling hand-painted sign that seemed to have originally had the name of a school written on it. And in a few moments, after some hustle and bustle, abundant shouts, a few slaps here and there, and the rattling of a folding mesh gate being pushed aside unevenly, we met her youngest son.

The rigid stance and low hanging head, raised only once or twice to look at the face of his interrogator, unequivocally announced his nervousness throughout our short conversation, if you could call it that. But I could feel, in the bowed head, oiled hair, splayed shoes, and tattered, three year old uniform, why his mother wanted so desperately to help her son go to school. Part of it, I am sure, was a love that only a mother can have for her child, and the other part, was a conviction that the only hope for her son was to go to scool. He smiled when I asked him if he liked going to school. But I wonder if he would have said, "No" had he the courage.

This was my first home visit. It was an introduction to the hope that people's generosity, even if they themselves are on the other side of the globe, can provide to a disadvantaged child. I think it is important to remember, although it may be difficult to believe, that this opportunity and hence this hope cost NCEF donors 70 dollars and the time required to write and mail a check. My selfish tendencies will undoubtedly tell me, irrespective of how callous it might sound, that I shouldn't be donating money, that if the parents cannot take care of their children, then that is not my problem. But by the same token, the satisfaction of having helped a child, changed his life, is undoubtedly great. In fact, I would venture to say, it would be tremendously difficult to put a monetary value on the positive changes that this child will go through now that he can attend school. It would also be difficult indeed to assail the generosity and foresight of the donors who allowed this child to study. NCEF is simply the medium connecting the two.

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