Wandering around the historic Patan Durbar square, I decided to seek some peace in the comparatively quiet walls of the Patan Museum. A stunning display of Newari architecture and Nepalese cultural exhibits lay before me. After I was content that I had roamed the hallways long enough, I headed towards the exit. Just before I stepped under the low door that marks the entrance of Durbar Square again, I noticed a sign to my left: Lynsey Storer and Dr. Sumita’s fundraising exhibition.
As a traveler, one of the best things is having all the time in the world, so I thought why not take a look? I headed up the narrow wooden staircase and entered a long room filled with beautiful acrylic pieces. The right-hand side was lined with flowers and the left with monotone paintings of the Himalayas. I spent a while looking at each piece individually, the colours used in the palette, the brushstrokes, the scrapings. They were all so incredible. As I worked my way back round in a circle to the entrance, I noticed a woman by the door, etching away in a sketchbook.
In the blink of an eye, a few minutes had turned into hours and I was still engrossed in conversation with Lynsey, the artist behind the Himalaya pieces. She told me all about her career as an artist and a teacher, even letting me peek into her sketchbook – an intimate insight into the work of an artist. I was then introduced to her dear friend and colleague Dr. Sumita, the lady who had put forward such an incredible array of flower paintings. While their artwork was beautiful, what intrigued me the most about the pair was the extensive charity work they had had both been involved in, with the exhibition itself functioning as a fundraising event.
That’s why when they invited me to the exhibition’s formal inauguration on August 26, just two days later, it was an offer I simply couldn’t turn down.
The cause behind the exhibition
In 2014, Lynsey dropped some clothes off at an orphanage in Nepal, part of a scheme called ‘Dress a Girl Around The World.’ Just one year later, she saw the news of Nepal’s earthquake and couldn’t stop thinking about the girls she had met the year before very briefly. Worried about how they had fared during the earthquake, her friend Dr. Sumita, who lives in Nepal, asked a colleague to visit and check. When she arrived, just the youngest girl was left. They didn’t die in the earthquake. The orphanage owners had sold them and they were currently in transportation to the India-Nepal border to be exchanged at a brothel.
With the help of her colleague, Dr. Sumita was able to save the girls from what would have been an awful fate. As a result, Dr. Sumita, along with a group of supporters, decided to found the Bud Garden orphanage, home to 10 girls at present, aged 4–10. All are now safe without the fear of being sold into the sex industry, a sad reality for many young children in orphanages across Nepal.
Using Art To Help Nepal’s Orphans
Combining their shared passion for art, Lynsey and Dr. Sumita’s joint fundraising exhibition ran from August 24-30. I thoroughly enjoyed the inauguration event, as not only was it a lovely display of art based on Nepalese landscape and natural beauty, but all 10 children currently being housed by the pair through their charity work were in attendance, as well as others that Lord Buddha Children Health Foundation sponsor too (Dr. Sumita’s charity). The audience consisted of a huge variety of ages and it was a lovely collection of art appreciators, those interested in social work and passing tourists.
Lynsey’s work, entitled ‘Journeys,’ had been previously exhibited as a travelling exhibition, touring from Taragaon Museum in Boudha to the Nepal Arts Council in central Kathmandu. Her pieces all feature a monochrome palette, and are distinguished by their bold patches of tone made using a palette knife. While they make beautiful acrylic depictions of one of the world’s most famous mountain ranges, the collection of 36 pieces also holds a hidden meaning. Lyndsey told me, “Most mornings, as I step out of the orphanage in Lapsiphedi, if the clouds permit, I behold the breath-taking view of the Himalayas rising before me in the sky. It seems like a spiritual encounter; feeling so small in comparison to the phenomenal view before you.”
Dr. Sumita’s 24 pieces were spread across the right-hand side of the gallery, having moved from her previous debut exhibition in the Hyatt Hotel. Her exhibition entitled ‘Innocence,’ is an incredible achievement considering she is a relative beginner. Her inspiration behind the theme was clear: “Like children, flowers can be seen as delicate and innocent whilst finding strength from within to withstand seasonal hardships and the winds of change. Soft and graceful, flowers enhance our lives with their beauty and fragrance.”
To me, the exhibition provided a beautiful space to reflect upon Nepal’s stunning flowers and landscapes, whilst also enabling support for the most vulnerable.
Dr. Sumita Rajya Laxmi Singh
Dr. Sumita’s dedication to protecting orphaned children stems from her own difficult childhood. She was in fact an orphan, raised by an ‘aunty and uncle’ she would later discover were of no relation at the age of 30. Her ‘uncle’ paid her school fees growing up and she succeeded consistently as first in the class, resulting in a later scholarship to attend higher education.
Despite this, Dr. Sumita is as flourishing as the flowers she displays in her exhibit. With a very modest and humble demeanour, many would not realise that she holds a staggering 7 degrees, all graded at a 1st. Through her PhD on provision for children in orphanages, she concluded that orphans did not receive enough health care or educational support. With experience as a medic and a social worker, she then decided to found the Lord Buddha Children Health Foundation (LBCHF) in 2006, which provides healthcare to orphans who would otherwise have no access, funding minor and major surgeries, as well as supporting health camps across the country. Alongside her medical-based charitable work, she also co-founded the Bud Garden Orphanage with her dear friend and colleague Lynsey in 2016 – the basis for their joint fundraising exhibition.
Like a chameleon with multiple colours, Dr. Sumita has also lent her hand at the literary art form, publishing her 4th book titled Sorrow of Orphans, which is also a fundraising avenue for the orphanage so close to her heart. The book follows the true story of Sita, a girl who was lucky to find help and support through Dr. Sumita’s work. Available on Amazon, the book provides a fraught and honest true story of life as an orphan, and reflects the author’s commitment to improving the lives of the children she works with.
While Lynsey can be spotted touring galleries and lecturing at the Sirjana Art College in Kathmandu, she is actually a UK-based art teacher and the Head of Art at Brentford School for Girls. Alongside her incredible art career, she has travelled widely and has been involved in 14 years worth of arts-based charity work in Uganda, helping communities affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. She initially began her work there in 2003 when she went as a photographer to document elements of the war.
Her extensive work includes fundraising for the construction of an Art Centre (Through Art Keep Smiling/ TALS), which she helped establish with its founder David Odwar. She also helped source computers from schools for a pioneering internet café, connecting north and south Uganda and the rest of the world. She continues to work on sustainable craft projects such as traditional paper bead making and fundraising art competitions at the TALS Centre.
In Nepal, her focus has also been on charitable work through the medium of art. After the earthquake in 2015, she started a unique campaign to raise money from Redlees studio where she is based in London. She collected used rice sacks from Nepal and had them made into shoulder bags which she still sells at her studio; the proceeds from the sales returned to Nepal where Dr. Sumita was able to provide food and emergency assistance for those in need.
Her previous exhibition ‘East Meets West’ was displayed at the Nepal Arts Council building and was a unique opportunity to compare the landscapes of Nepal’s Lapsiphedi where the orphanage is based, and northern England, the place of her childhood.
Although the exhibition at the Patan Museum is no longer running, some artwork is still available as fundraising sources for the Bud Garden Orphanage, as well as the rice sack crafting project which Lynsey initially began in 2015. These are available on the Lord Buddha Children Foundation’s website, http://www.lordbuddhachildrenhealth.com. They can also be contacted on Instagram, at @lbchf_nepal. Dr. Sumita’s newly released fundraising book, Sorrow of Orphans, is available on amazon, at https://www.amazon.in/Sorrow-Orphans-Sumita-Singh/dp/1782226605. For more information contact Dr. Sumita or Lynsey Storer.
Get in touch with Lynsey Storer by email on email@example.com, or by browsing her Instagram account @lynseystorer.
Contact Dr. Sumita R L Singh by email on firstname.lastname@example.org, or by her
Photo: Pramod Neupane-WWF Nepal From red pandas swaying on branches in the eastern Himalayas...