Sudeep, a 14 year old boy just back from school approached Durga Mainali, and spoke a few words that were inaudible to me because of the noise of the children flooding the playground. Then, he went on to touch her feet with his hands and said “Mummy.” This scene brought a few teardrops to my eyes which hopefully the others didn’t notice. I wanted to find out more about this boy and asked him if I could talk to him. Sudeep sat next to me and I asked him how his day had gone. In fluent English, he told me that it was just another one of those perfect days. He is in the eighth grade and enjoys school at Zone Academy and ranks first in class everytime. Here was a boy bubbly and serious about studies, charming and easy-going. When asked about the place he was living, he again replied in an uncalculated manner and totally at ease – “This place has given me everything I’ve wanted. I can’t think of another place which could make me happier. I am content here.”
The Home and its activities
And happiness is what I see all around the Buddhist Child Home, a non-religious children’s organization. ‘Love all, Serve all’ is the Home’s motto and what words would be more suitable to express what this organization does? Buddhist Child Home has been running for 12 years. Starting with a single child, the place now vibrates with the energy of 56 children of different ages. Chairperson Durga Mainali co-ordinates it all. The Home is spacious, with rooms for different activities. Most of the equipment has been donated by compassionate people. What keeps it running is, basically, small sums (101 rupees per month) from 300 people, free grocery supplies, a permanent staff and volunteers and, most of all, the love for the children. “Times are difficult when some of these children return from school and, having seen someone wearing a nice set of clothes, they ask me if they can have new clothes too. They are young and naïve and do not know how difficult it is to get a regular day going. It breaks my heart not to be able to provide them with the things they want,” says Mrs. Mainali. “They, like any normal human being, want to eat good food and request meat at times. We do our best to raise extra money to supply the children with their wants. A lot of people and institutions have been more than generous. Hyatt Hotel has been a major help to us. Our relationship with them goes back to over 5 years when I had approached them for donations. They agreed instantly and contributed 5,000 rupees the first time and 9,000 the second time. And they have been organizing events for us, too. The children get to go and swim at their pool every 15 days and they really enjoy it. It makes them very happy. The swimming coach there encourages them a lot and a handful of our children have become decent swimmers. A few days ago, a guest at the Hyatt, Mr. Phil Tweed, an Australian gentleman, entertained our children with his piano pieces at the Rox Restaurant. Phil, and his friends donated clothes, chocolates, books and toys to the Home. People like these have been angels to us and we deeply appreciate their help.”
As I was later guided through the Home, children of different ages; from infants to adolescents greeted me with “namastes” and big smiles. These smiles warmed me to an astonishing level and I soon found myself playing and interacting with them. Interestingly, all the children here have names that begin with the alphabet letter ‘S’. A five year old boy, Shakti, recently changed his name to ‘Sushil’, on his own, because he felt he wasn’t powerful enough! Shakti loosely translates as ‘power’. But, he was surely powerful enough as I watched him actively muscling around. I was assured that the place must be loads of fun for him.
There are computers that the children love typing and playing games on. Movies are shown once in a while: cartoons, Hindi movies, and children’s fare. And there’s a generous collection of books on the shelves. The infants love flicking through them, marveling at the pictures, while the older lot love reading them. The children go to five different schools and spend about two to three hours or more on homework and extra studies. The older girls have been trained to cook, and sometimes help the Home’s own cooks. “Not everybody wants to do it, but some of them are genuinely interested and prepare tasty food,” says Mainali.
A whole lotta love
“The kids here somehow seem very understanding and never ask about their past. They don’t need to tell me that they love this place. I sense that in their expressions. I am most happy when the children pack their bags and get going to school in the morning and also when they secure good grades. Not all are brilliant, but they are optimistic and endeavoring. I look forward to when my children perform social services or excel in whatever they opt to do later in life. I am optimistic about them. I know there’ll come a day when they shall make me proud. They love me a lot. I can still remember a day when they grouped together to cook dinner and starved until I returned to the Home. They wanted for me to eat first.”
Buddhist Child Home has doctors, dancing instructors and even a child psychologist who visits from time to time. They have fondly named their psychologist, Dr S.B. Ranabhat, “Good Behavior Sir”! Sapana, a 14 year old studying in the eighth grade loves the dancing classes. “The boys dance too,” she giggles, but it is evident that she is the best dancer in the home. She seems somewhat shy, but accompanies me around the kitchen, the hall, and other rooms. Like all the others, she is looking forward to a birthday bash that is coming soon. Apparently, five children have their birthdays together and there is going to be a major celebration.
A lot of love oozes out of this place. The happy look on the faces of these children makes one want to cry out of sheer joy and compassion. Their childish tantrums, their innocence, their love for each other, their genuine greetings – all these elements make Buddhist Child Home a family, and a happy and nice place to be in: a true home…