Rebecca Eby would like to aid a Nepalese orphanage in dire need. She would like your help too.
A year-and-a-half ago, Eby, a photographer, found herself in Kathmandu, Nepal working with the Lotus Children’s Home as a volunteer with Photographers Without Borders. She spent several weeks getting to know Laxman and Laxmi Shrestha, their children, and the orphans they care for. The family and the approximately one dozen children in their care occupied one floor, with two bedrooms, of a home in the city.
But not anymore.
Because of the devastating earthquake which hit the nation on April 25 and the continued aftershocks, they are all sheltering in a tarp tent. Their home is still standing, but is not safe to inhabit.
The devastation goes far beyond the loss of a home, according to Eby. In a city with little basic infrastructure and massive damage, access to clean water, food, and other necessities is scarce. The funds to run the orphanage supplied by Laxman’s work at a local hotel have disappeared as well, lost in the dust of the collapsed structure.
Even with the rising cost of goods on the Nepalese black market, $20 can feed all of them for several days, Eby noted. She hopes to raise at least $2,000 for the orphanage.
Eby is going about this a couple of different ways.
First is through the donation of her commission as an Usborne book salesperson. Her commission on all book sales through Thursday, May 14 will be sent to the orphanage. The book sale is accessed online at https://h4606.myubam.com.
Secondly, she is working to raise awareness of the issue and encouraging direct donations through the orphanage’s website at http://www.lotuschildrenshomenepal.org.
And last, for those who are uncomfortable with online giving or who don’t need or want children’s books, the young mother is accepting donations on the orphanage’s behalf, which she will then transfer either through PayPal or wire.
“I am willing to do whatever I can to facilitate helping them,” Eby said. “Food and water prices are skyrocketing. Laxmi’s blood pressure is really high from the stress. The kids are getting sick. They can no longer even access the free water from the well they used to have.”
Much of the city was without basic services we take for granted prior to the earthquake, Eby explained. The city’s growth outstripped the government’s efforts to provide water and sanitation or other utility access. What existing infrastructure there was has been decimated.
Food security was also a serious concern prior to the earthquake. With few having access to running water or refrigeration, food stores were always slim. Homes rarely had more than a week’s worth of food. Many did with even less, according to Eby.
And orphans are particularly vulnerable.
“In Nepal, they have a caste system,” Eby described. “If a child is orphaned, they are considered extremely unlucky. If they are lucky and family takes them in, they will often be treated poorly, worked hard and clothed and fed poorly. If family doesn’t take them in, they aren’t likely to live long. They will die. They will be kidnapped, sold into sex trafficking, end up addicted to drugs. It’s a really horrible outcome.”
Because of the earthquake, with a death toll of over 7,000, the numbers of orphans has probably jumped significantly, in Eby’s estimation.
Lotus Children’s Home is something very special in Nepal, according to Eby.
Laxmi herself is an orphan. Her husband braved the disapproval and neglect of his family to marry her. And they have spent their married life taking in the very children their society has largely abandoned in Eby’s estimation.
“Laxmi and Laxman raise these children as members of their own family,” Eby recounted. “The children even refer to them as their parents.”
While Laxman provided for everyone from his job, the couple still had to fundraise to cover the cost of education – approximately $500 per student per year for uniforms, food, supplies, and private school tuition. The public schools are underfunded and inadequate in providing the education that the children need to support themselves later in life.
Eby is unsure when the schools will reopen. Nor is it the most pressing question, while the family faces loss of employment and growing costs for food, water and medicine.
“Even with the situation as it is, it is still better to send money than goods,” Eby said. “It’s a third world country. Even with this situation, it is still less expensive for them to buy it there. They are on the border to China, so goods are nearby. People are working to get them into the country.”
“I think the biggest takeaway from this is that you don’t need to do a lot for it to mean a lot,” Eby said passionately. “This is life or death for these children. That orphanage had already saved their lives once.”
One recommendation Eby wouldn’t give was making donations directly to the Nepalese government, citing corruption and overwhelmed resources. She also suggested people choose carefully when they made donations to non-governmental organizations.
“The Red Cross gives 90 cents for every dollar raised, which is pretty good,” Eby said.
All of what Rebecca Eby raises will go directly to the orphanage.