“You must read this book,” my daughter Kelsey insisted, thrusting Little Princes into my hands. She was right, I immediately fell in love with the children of Nepal and their stories. My personal journey began the minute I put the book down. This was December 2010. Both Kelsey and I wanted to go to Nepal and lucky for us, we both have husbands who were supportive of our plan.
Before I share my story here are some facts about Nepal…
The ten-year civil war in Nepal started in 1996 between the Maoist Rebels and the Nepalese Government. The Maoists’ goal was to overthrow the Nepalese monarchy and establish a People's Republic. Sadly the children of Nepal have paid the highest price as child trafficking skyrocketed during this time. Children became a commodity for traffickers to abuse, sell and abandon in the streets.
- Over 41% of Nepal’s population are children under 16 years of age.
- Over 5000 of these amazing children live in the streets of Nepal. All of these children have escaped human traffickers, corrupt children’s homes or abusive families.
- 95% of street kids are addicted to glue.
- More than 50,000 children die annually in Nepal with malnutrition being the underlying cause of more than 60% of these deaths.
The planning began right away, our first stop was the travel clinic where we had numerous vaccinations, from there our criminal record checks were done and our flights were booked. Then with the help of friends and family, we not only raised money for the children but we also filled two huge hockey bags with clothes, toys and school supplies. In February 2011, the real journey began! After 36 hours of travelling we arrived in Kathmandu, excited, exhausted and ready to begin our three-month volunteer positions with the Umbrella Foundation.
I was placed in Gauri Shankar house while Kelsey was placed in the Sol Himal Girls home. Each home had over thirty girls, ranging in age between 7 and 16. Altogether there are eight homes with over 320 boys and girls that are under Umbrella’s care. Our responsibilities while we were there were simply to spend time with the children. We ate with them, helped them get ready for school, walked them to and from school, helped them with their homework and played with them. The three months went by quickly and I was heartbroken when it was time to leave! On the plane ride home I was already planning my return trip, which my husband and I did in April of 2012, spending over five weeks with these amazing people.
I continue my commitment to helping the Umbrella children while at home in Canada through fundraising efforts. This year in August we hosted the 2nd Annual Umbrella Golf Classic almost doubling our fundraising dollars from last year and on New Year’s Eve we are hosting a Fundraising Celebration Party. All funds raised from these events go directly to providing the Umbrella children with their basic rights: food, education, safe shelter, health care, and love. In the blogs that follow, I will share some of my stories so you will see why I have come to love and respect the Nepalese people.
Further information on the Umbrella Foundation and the volunteer program can be found on the Umbrella website www.umbrellanepal.org.