Annual Nepal Report – 2016

Dear Friends,

I just returned from another fantastic trip to Nepal. This time of year the sky is blue and the Himalayas peek over the foothills. It’s a bit chilly and the air pollution was the worst I’ve seen in 15 or so trips there. Thick dust and diesel soot really clogged me up. It’s taking awhile to recover. Dinesh, our colleague in Kathmandu, was often my taxi as I rode on the back of his scooter through the soup of smog. I used to ride a motorcycle a lot in Nepal, but I’m trying to cut back a bit.

The politics are still in turmoil, and the city seemed even dirtier than usual. There’s still a lot of rebuilding going on from the earthquake. There was one huge life changing improvement – the electricity works. The load shedding of electricity has ended and was apparently caused by corruption and waste in certain factories. This is a big deal because lack of electricity really brought the basic functions of the economy to a slow pace. Hopefully the electricity supply will last.

Hopeful Home Children

There were so many highlights and rewards on this trip. Our Hopeful Home orphanage children are happy, healthy and studying hard. I visited their school and the principal is very pleased with the kids. Many of them are leaders in their school classes. Thanks to a special donation they are warmer and better equipped for school. We bought them all new winter clothing and school supplies at the bazaar near their home in Bhaktapur. We were also able to get two new computers for the children, again from a special donation.

Santosh in his new winter jacket.

I spent a night at the orphanage this time and a dance party broke out. Even 5 year old Santosh danced. Santosh is from the Chepang caste and Chepang speak a different language than Nepali. Santosh is learning Nepali quickly, but I’m not. The food was great and the cooks are sweet ladies who work hard to care for all the needs of the kids beyond their food.  Gopini, the founder, is consistently caring for the children also. At dinner time I sat by Santosh who ate a mountain of rice, at least twice what I could manage.

The children have routines and are so well behaved and respectful. It’s amazing how nicely adjusted they are. Several of them have very disturbing pasts but are doing so great. The oldest boy, Krishna, is now in college. I have watched him grow up for many years. He’s an engaging young man with a bright future. He speaks English fluently and tutors the younger children. The expenses for each child for one year are around $1000. If you would like to personally sponsor one of these children please let us know! The children love guests and volunteers, so if you’re ever in Nepal let me know.

The girls of the Himalayan Education Center

I visited the Himalayan Education Center (HEC) hostel in Khandbari, Nepal. The girls are doing really well. They are serious about their studies and they are really funny and enjoyable to be around! They laugh at my attempts to speak Nepali and pay great attention to making sure I’m absolutely stuffed with food and tea. They are quite attentive to guests and it’s an interesting experience visiting a home full of girls from diverse castes and mountain villages, being the only foreigner in the area. I always see or learn something new.

One night, at 2am, a bizarre noise came from outside the hostel. It sounded like a dying goose might sound, I guess. It got louder and real close, just outside my door. I went outside to find a man wandering around the perimeter of the hostel blowing on something like a ram’s horn.  As the house is full of young girls, and I thought he was a crazy man or a drunken suitor, I grabbed a stick and confronted him. He said something to me I didn’t understand then turned around and walked away quickly. In the morning I learned that he was a Jogi, which apparently is a people or caste who traditionally wander around homes in the middle of the night blowing their horn and casting off bad luck or evil spirits. They then come to the homes the next day to ask for donations or offerings for this service. So the Jogi came the next morning for his donation. He was looking a little uneasy and asked the girls about the man who confronted him in the night. I apologized for not knowing his intentions and we all shared a laugh. The Jogi laughed the hardest. Sunita gave him a donation and off he went. I learned about Jogis this time in Nepal.

It’s the dry season, so when water occasionally runs to the house, the girls scramble to get buckets and tanks filled. They can collect water at a local tap also which is crowded with people trying to do their dishes, shower, etc. The sources are surface water and I never drink it without adding iodine or boiling, but the girls have no choice. They would burn too much gas boiling it all. During my visit I installed an Aguaguard water filter at the hostel. It will remove parasites and other impurities in their drinking water. It works really well and I was very pleased.

For gifts Sunita and I got the girls circular needlework frames. They were fascinated with them and immediately began making gorgeous creations in their free time.

The HEC girls are tutored by a local teacher at 5am in the morning before school each day. There are 10 girls living at the hostel right now. One girl was back in her village awaiting her exam results before continuing her education. In Nepal it often takes up to 6 months to get exam results. One girl recently left to provide care for a sick relative in her village. One girl had recently left to continue her education in Kathmandu. Sunita will select 2 or 3 new girls before the start of the school session in the spring. 13 girls have graduated and are teaching after being at the HEC! The HEC hostel requires $1000 per girl per year to support which includes living expenses and school expenses. It’s a great deal to change a life. If you would like to sponsor one of the girls please let us know.

Library Dedication in Sekaha, Nepal

Sunita and I initiated a new library in Sekaha, Nepal. This library is dedicated to a special person who helps us with our fundraising. A new library is always an opportunity for a celebration at the school. It’s usually a vibrantly colorful program with dancing, many speeches, flowers, and songs. I always explain that I’m not the donor who gave the money for the library and explain who that really is. I am kind of a lucky middle man. And I feel fortunate to be away from fundraising and other mundane tasks doing real things that help people in a gorgeous country with a rich culture. They will really enjoy the books and their knowledge. Sunita made some great book picks based on their requests. We have now created 22 libraries in villages in Nepal.

Thanks again for your help.

Sincerely,
Mark

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Annual Nepal Report – 2015

Mark Lamont traveled to Nepal this summer. Here is his report.

I went to Nepal for the 14th time in July. I’m really fortunate to have the time, the support and the donations to help out there. I’m lucky to have countless colorful memories and deep friendships in a gorgeous place. That gets better each time I visit. Nepal makes me remember that life is really hard for most people in the world who don’t have the rights, opportunities, freedoms, quality of education, income, luxuries, sanitation and health care that we have – especially for women and children. Problems and stresses here wither in comparison and I can deal a bit better. Nepal also has a lot to offer that we don’t have.

Three new libraries are being established in isolated schools in northeast Nepal. All are dedicated to loved ones who have passed away recently. In July we got the LaMont Family Library up and running in Num, Nepal. It’s in honor of Ken LaMont, my father, a man of many great deeds. He passed away from ALS one year ago at the age of 73. You can read his obituary by clicking here. Two more village libraries will be opened in September. One of them is for Antonio and Cooper from West Linn.  Another library will be dedicated to Lavae Robertson, Dick Bailey, Martha McReynolds, Sandy Muller, Larry Heater and Carla Westrobe.  (Please see the bottom of this page for more information about these honorees.)

The villagers are in these communities are always grateful for the libraries. The libraries honor those who have passed with a unique memorial in a far away and magical place and provide a useful gift that is cherished for years to come by people who don’t have access to books.

I visited the Hopeful Home orphanage. The kids are doing great. They get along well and study hard. Over 90 percent of them have passed their graduation exams over the past 15 years. This is much higher than the national average. With Ten Friends’ help they have purchased land and hope to build a new orphanage building soon. This would be the completion of a plan and a dream ten years in the making. We hope to start building the new Hopeful Home Children’s Home in the next year or two. We need donations to make that happen. Please ask Mark for more information about donations for building the home.

We also plan to help build (fund) a new hostel building for the Himalayan Education Center in Khandbari. We need donations for that as well. Please ask Mark for more information if you’re interested in supporting this project.

Some people in Kathmandu were still living in tent villages when I was there. Some of them were told not to go back in their houses or apartments by the government or engineers. Some of them were scared to go back in their homes. Some of them had found a free place to live for awhile.

Earthquake damage is fairly minimal in the capital, Kathmandu. But there were damages and some casualties. Severely damaged buildings are hard to find. Several historic sites and temples were damaged and are now propped up. That was really sad but they are not destroyed and are still worth visiting. The damage was more severe near the epicenter, northwest of the capital. I didn’t visit that area but it was really bad there and many died. However, Nepal is not destroyed. It’s fine for tourists. They want us to know that.


New Libraries are being dedicated in remote villages of Nepal in honor of the following people:

Antonio Caballero and Cooper Hill were two beloved juniors at West Linn High School. Both were good students, good athletes, and kind young men with countless friends. They and six friends were on their way to a hike in the Columbia Gorge one weekend morning in February. As they stopped on Highway 14 to turn into the trail head parking lot, a car rear-ended their car at full speed, killing Antonio and Cooper, who were in the backseat. No alcohol or drugs were involved. A horrible tragedy for our community. We’ve lost a number of kids over the past few years to traffic accidents and suicides.

Lavae Robertson– Loved all children, a kindergarten and Sunday school teacher throughout her life. Incredibly faith-filled, wonderful mother and wife. Active community member, stayed busy during retirement and throughout her life volunteering and helping others, and always active in her hometown church.

Dick Bailey – farmer, strong Christian, honest and hard working. A great and true friend to others. Gentle and easy going laugh, always made everyone anyone feel welcome. Loved to read western books his whole life until he died in his eighties.

Martha McReynolds – born and raised in Germany, faced many struggles but never a complainer. Hard working, loved gardening, worked in schools and volunteered hundreds of hours in various service organizations. She was a long time quilter, sending them to hospitals, as well as individuals, she knitted tiny hats for the premature babies that helped keep them warm. She worked endlessly at her church doing the unseen things that keeps a church functioning. She was grateful to our Lord for life and demonstrated it by her works rather than words.

Sandy Muller– Sandy was a vivacious, cheerful, adventure loving 14 yr old when she was diagnosed with cancer. She battled it all her life, never letting it slow her down until her last few days when she died at the age of 59 . She was an incredible wife and mother of three with an amazing inner strength and faith. She worked in the book publishing industry most of her adult life. Loved her family and friends a tremendous amount.

Larry Heater -Wonderful sense of humor, easy going, family man, hard working loved and welcomed all others. A kind laugh and demeanor like that of Floyd the barber on the Andy Griffith show. Active in his hometown church, always willing to quietly lend a hand to anyone in need. Died from Alzheimer’s in his early 70’s.

Carla Westrobe – Loved her family, friends and dogs. Was a wonderful friend to others, tremendously enjoyed singing in the choir, watching movies, and volunteering in her community.

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Annual Nepal Report – 2014

Sally Benton traveled to Nepal this summer and spent time in Kathmandu and in eastern Nepal.  Here is her report.

Hopeful Home

The children’s home we help to support in Kathmandu has big news!  Hopeful Home Children’s home sold their building in Kathmandu and purchased land in Jhaukhel, two kilometers from Bhaktapur, a UNESCO World Heritage site near Kathmandu.  The area has clean air and is quite rural.  The land they bought is 25 units, or about 8725 sq. feet.

They would like to build a four-story facility, and they already have plans drawn. They currently have 16 children and hope to eventually expand to no more than 50 children.  Over the years their numbers have ranged up and down, but when we started working with them, there were about 40 children living in the facility.  Some have graduated and are living on their own, and some have rejoined relatives while we continue to support their schooling.

Dinesh, our assistant in Kathmandu, suggested they would like to build this winter, and it would take 6 – 7 months to build an initial three story building, with plans to expand to four stories.  However, in further discussions, it appears that while they have savings from the sale of the house in Kathmandu, they do not have the funds now to build more than one floor. He estimated the total cost of building the four story structure will be $65,000 to $70,000.

They are renting a house quite near the purchased land, and we watched them planting rice on the land where the building site will be.  The land is on a flat site, with room for a large kitchen garden and playground.  In addition, there is a shallow well on the site, which can be used to irrigate the garden.

There is a Community Medical Clinic just 1 km from the land, and there is a hospital 2 km away on the same road, at the edge of Bhaktapur.

We have a new activity director and tutor for the children.  He was a teacher in Kathmandu, at their previous school, and wanted to move to the country.  He is qualified in math and sciences and also will be teaching at the new school the children are attending.

The school, United Preparatory English School, is very conveniently located only 100 yards from where they are renting, and no more than ¼ mile from their construction site.   Dinesh and I visited the school. The Class 10 teacher showed us each classroom, and introduced us to the teachers and students.  The kids in each class all hopped up and greeted us in English, and some asked us questions in English.  Class 10 was doing quadratic equations on the board.  The facility is simple but spacious, with a large central playground and common area, and the class sizes are small. They offer pre-school through Class 10 at this school.

The children are adjusting to their new school, and just finished their term and were on holiday during our initial visit to Hopeful Home.  Two of our students are doing quite well in their new school.  Riya Shah is first in her class, and Prya Shah is 6th.

The location definitely has potential to be a great home for these children.  Gopini, the founder and head of the Nepali non-profit board for the home, is emphasizing this is a plan for the very long term, and even after both she and the current board are gone, Hopeful Home can provide for needy children to have a safe, secure, healthy home for years to come.

Children’s Paradise Home

We also visited Children’s Paradise home, where we also sponsor children to get a good education in Kathmandu. They have moved to a more secure area in the city, but are able to continue to attend their private school. The house has large rooms, with boys’ bedrooms on one floor and girls’ on another, with a patio off the study room on the 4th floor, and a nice kitchen and sitting room.

We visited with the children and are pleased to see that their English is becoming very good. This skill is important in Nepal, as English language proficiency can help them advance in many different careers. The children are happy and talkative, and are doing well in school, according to their report cards. They all know their sponsors and are very grateful for the continued support for their education.

Himalayan Education Center

We spent time in eastern Nepal, in Khandbari and up in the mountains, and had an amazing time.

Our manager, Sunita, is doing a wonderful job mentoring and teaching the 12 girls living at the Himalayan Education Center hostel in Khandbari.  She also is the accountant for the hostel, and manages the myriad details that make HEC a thriving facility. In addition she is working to finish her Master’s Degree.

There are some pressures on the budget for the coming year.  One area of concern is that the cost of living is rising continuously in Nepal. Food keeps increasing yearly in cost. I looked at some of the expenses from 2008, and saw that then rice was 700 – 1000 rupees for 30 kg, and in 2014 it has been 1600 – 1800 rupees for 30 kg.  Sugar was 15 – 40 rupees per kg and now is 80 – 90 rupees.  Potatoes were 25 – 30 rupees/kg, and now are 50 – 60 rupees/kg. Propane was 1400 rupees per cylinder, and now runs 1800 rupees.

We have had some great successes this year.  One student, Babina, has graduated from her +2 (post high school) course and is ready to continue on to university studying mathematics.  She is a very special young woman, an orphan who was raised by her grandparents.  To have her come and be so successful at HEC has been a great achievement.

Another student, Chinchippa has accomplished great things, graduating from college, passing her teaching exams, interviewing and winning a coveted government teaching position in her region.  She is waiting to hear where she will be posted.  We’re very proud of her.

There are going to be four students  working on their post high school education at HEC, compared to last year with only two.  They all have passed their School Leaving national exams.

Simma Library Opening

We had a good trip to Simma to open a library, funded by Chloe and Deri Frazee of Sisters.  Simma is a small village up the Arun river valley, a two day hike above Khandbari. The school has 225 kids, in kindergarten to Class 8.  There are nine teachers, 5 government funded, and 4 locally funded. The students were out of school so only about forty were on hand for the ceremony, including the head of the board, and all the teachers.  The school has done a nice job. The library is housed in a separate room in a Kindergarten building.    Very nice benches and bookcase had been built, and there is carpeting on the floor! Our weather was very hot and humid, but downpours at night helped cool things off.  I was accompanied by Sunita, Chinchippa and a neighbor from Khandbari .  The local people

treated us to a great opening celebration, with cutting of ribbons and opening of bags of books.  We supplied 800 books, and it was wonderful to see everyone poring over them.  Everyone enjoyed reading, from toddlers to teen aged boys to the elderly grandparents.  We then had a party, with gifts of katas (ceremonial scarves), red tikkas (marks of honor placed on our foreheads), gifts, and of course, Mountain Dew for everyone to drink!  We intend to finish the library by putting in a solar light this fall, so everyone in the village can be able to use the facility both during the day and in the evening.

Chichilla Medical Clinic (supported by Dr. Debendra Karki of Chisang Clinic}

After opening the library, we walked back to Num, and took a jeep to Chichilla, where we met Debendra Karki, PhD. and two Canadian medical students who have been volunteering at his medical clinic in Chisang. Dinesh and I had previously met with him in Kathmandu.

Debendra is a unique Nepali.  He came from this region in eastern Nepal, from a poor family who believed in education.  Debendra was very bright, and earned a place in a boarding school in Kathmandu, and then a scholarship to go to college in the US.  He received his PhD from Harvard, and his post graduate studies included work in Berkeley and in New Zealand.  He then worked for the WHO and USAID, and has published demographic research on Nepal.  Then he decided to come back to Nepal, and use his training in Health Administration to make a difference here in his home country.  He has founded a Nepali non-profit and built two medical facilities, one named Chisang Clinic, in Baune, and one above Dhankhuta higher in the mountains.  We had met him last November, and he was working on establishng a maternal/child and immediate care clinic in the mountains above Khandbari where there is an underserved population.

We met with an elderly retired Gurka soldier, Karka Bahadur Gurung, whose home is on the main road in Chichilla, local farmers and businessmen from the surrounding villages, and an employee from the hydropower project who has an annual contract to rent all the rooms behind the house.  The home has four rooms on the ground floor that are unused. After discussion, Mr. Gurung agreed wholeheartedly to rent the space for use as the Chichilla Medical Clinic.  Dr. Karki will hire and train staff, and hopes to have the clinic open in November of this year!  They will provide prenatal/child and immediate care services. He looks forward to welcoming international medical volunteers for come and work at the clinic, as he has in his other two clinics. This is a wonderful opportunity for the people of this area, and Ten Friends has offered seed money to help with the start up costs of the clinic.  Dr. Karki’s experience is that he can fund the ongoing costs of the clinic from volunteer fees and other donations.  Our hostel manager, Sunita, is helping with the hiring process, and we hope this project can offer volunteer opportunities for the girls at the HEC hostel as well.

On returning to Kathmandu, we shopped for new and different items for our winter fundraiser and met with some of the Nepali business owners who have been so helpful to us and in doing so have helped those in their own country.  They provide ideas and products they think donors might like to see and buy at our fundraisers, so we can put those donations to work back in Nepal.  It’s a win – win partnership!

We hope to see you all at our winter fundraiser December 13th at the Belfry in Sisters! Thank you all for your continued contributions to help the children and families of Nepal!

.

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Parent’s Day at the Himalayan Education Center, December 2012

Dear Friends,

I just visited the Himalayan Education Center in Khandbari, Nepal. It was great to see the girls in their daily lives at the hostel. They all seemed happy and were working very hard in school. Each day they woke early and their time was filled with study, classes, cleaning, harvesting food, grooming their garden, tending the goats, hauling water, and asking if I was hungry. They served me food and tea to the bursting point.  The girls seemed healthy but one girl, Susmita, was taken to the local clinic where she was diagnosed with jaundice. After taking a prescribed tonic she seemed to be making a fair recovery. Twelve of the girls were at the hostel but a few were in their villages awaiting results of school exams before hopefully proceeding onward with their education.

Parent’s day took place during my visit and parents from many distant villages attended this annual event. Most of them walked for days to reach Khandbari but all were in good spirits. The parents and girls are from several castes including Rai, Gurung, and Bhotia, and some parents wore their traditional colorful clothing. Two of the girls are orphans so another relative came instead. The day was filled with warmth and thankfulness. Sunita, the hostel manager, and Wang Chhedar, a loyal Nepali volunteer, gave a very professional presentation about the HEC to the parents.

I was fortunate to see first-hand the depth of this program and how much it’s changing the lives of the girls, their families, and their villages. The parents repeatedly expressed their thanks. I told them that it is our pleasure to serve them and thanked them for trusting us, for allowing their daughters to receive the gift of education and a career as a teacher which is an incredibly difficult, if not impossible dream for girls to achieve in these parts of Nepal and many other places. Young women are very valuable for farm work and household labor in their villages so it’s a big sacrifice for parents to let them go. The appreciation for what is happening was flowing in both directions.

I also explained to the parents that I am not Ten Friends alone and that the money from this project comes from hundreds of caring people that believe in what we’re doing together. And what we’re doing is working; at this time nine girls from the HEC are teaching school in that region of Nepal. It was deeply satisfying to see the results of the donations of time and money from so many generous people from so far away. I’m now more optimistic than ever about the HEC. I am looking forward to the bright futures of these girls and many more to come. Thank you for helping to make this project successful. We hope for your continued support. For more information or to make a contribution please see tenfriends.org.

Have a fantastic New Year,

Mark

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Hopeful Home Celebrates Dashain

We’re sharing a picture of some of the children at the Hopeful Home orphanage. They’re in their school uniforms, but right now they have a school holiday, for Dashain. Dashain is the 15-day national festival of Nepal. The festival falls around September-October, this year from 16th October to 31st October, during the rice harvest. This festival is known for emphasis on family gatherings, as well as on a renewal of community ties. Nepali hindu people will return home village from all parts of the world if they get leave, as well as different parts of the country, to celebrate together.
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Meet Sunil Khadka

Sunil Khadka is one of the children at Hopeful Home. Dinesh, our contact in Kathmandu tells us that Sunil is 15 years old. “He is a smart boy and is in grade 8. He can do well in his school when he attends to his lessons and studies. He likes to play soccer, watch movies and joke with his friends.

Sunil lost his father 11 years ago. His father was a porter for a trekking company and sadly disappeared while he was headed to Mt Manaslu. His mother is currently in Kuwait where she is working. His younger sister lives in another children’s home, and his younger brother lives with his grandmother.

He has lived at Hopeful Home since he was six years old. In the beginning, it was difficult for him to adjust to living at Hopeful Home, as he had different habits due to living and begging in the street. He was sent to Hopeful Home by one of their previous donors, who found Sunil begging in front of his house.”

Sunil has a new sponsor. Thank you so much for supporting this child and his education! Sunil tells us he would like to become an electrician.

We are so happy that Sunil has a new sponsor. Thank you for supporting Sunil’s education!

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August, 2012

Sunita (our manager at the Himalayan Education Center) tells us that
she had a great visit with Rand, Mark and Kathy this summer. The
students were on vacation, except for Sujata Rai. Sujata is an orphan,
and lives with her older sister. She walks three days to come and
study in Khadbari and live at the hostel. She’s 17, and this year took
her School Leaving Comprehensive exam. Currently she is waiting for
her results. She looking forward to teaching in elementary school.
Sunita says she is a very hard worker and Kathy reports that she is a
lovely, kind young woman. We’re posting a current picture of the
hostel, and of the students working in their garden at the hostel.

Continue reading

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Run for Nepal!

On Wednesday, May 16th, 2012, Sisters Elementary School is having a school-wide event called the “Run for Nepal”. This event will raise money for a school library in the village of Tungkhaling in Northeastern Nepal. This village, like most in Nepal, has no access to books due to its isolation. Ten Friends has established 14 libraries in remote villages in this area. Our goal for the Run for Nepal is to raise $2500 which will provide about 600 books for this small village community. The children will be most excited to get these books!

So, from 1:30- 2:30 on May 16th students will walk, or run, for an hour to promote service to others, boost school spirit, and earn their donations with this group effort on our playground running trail. There will be snack and water stations.  All are invited to join the Run. All visitors must check in at the school office. Donations will bring the gift of books to this remote village.

Thanks for your support!

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Spring Celebration 2012

Come to the 8th Annual Ten Friends Spring Celebration Saturday, May 12th at Aspen Hall in Shevlin Park,from 5:30 to 9 PM. For a suggested $10 donation, you can support this local non-profit’s projects in Nepal, while enjoying a delicious Nepali meal, live music, a silent auction and opportunity to purchase Nepali crafts and gift items. Deschutes Brewery beer and lots of wine choices will be available. This event supports Ten Friends Himalayan Education Center and Village Vision Projects in Nepal. Come find out more at this fun event. Children are welcome! For more information call 541-480-3114.

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Leyah Jensen at Hopeful Home, 2011

Leyal Jensen, a Sisters High School Graduate, recently visited the Hopeful Home orphanage in Kathmandu. She completed an art project with the residents there. A link to the news article on her work is below:

http://www.nuggetnews.com/main.asp?SectionID=8&SubSectionID=8&ArticleID=19129

Ten Friends helps to support the Hopeful Home orphanage.

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Himalayan Education Center Update

We are very proud to announce that four new girls have been enrolled in the Himalayan Education Center in Khandbari.  These will fill the openings left by several former students who are now successfully teaching.  It is exciting to see this program flourishing!

The new students are, left to right, Sumana Rai, Aruna Garung, Susmita Rai and Ganga Garung.

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Nepal, Summer 2011, July 14

Hey Everyone,

All is well. We are prepping to hit our flight to Tumlingtar this A.M.. Things in KTM went well. Everyone pitched in and helped when needed. A few stomach issues, but all well now. William had a tough time for one night but bounced back quickly and was powering down eggs and potatoes this morning.

We will walk to Khandbari today. Stay two days at the teacher training hostel then start up. After two days depending on the rain we will be splitting the group. Mark, Allison, Rand, William, Anne Marie, Jackie, and Lizzy will head toward Tibet and the rest of the group will be heading with Josh Brody to Makalu base camp. Both groups will be checking on and dropping off libraries on the way. We should be back weather dependent by Aug. 3.

Take care and we will talk to you soon.
Rand / Mark

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Nepal, Summer 2011, July 13

Dear Friends,

We hope all is well and summer is treating you well. We’ve had a near perfect journey so far with 16 people in our Ten Friends group, the largest ever. Although a bit overwhelming in numbers the group is really fun and very diverse – from Central Oregon high school students, to teachers, to college students.  They get the full experience of a third world country, the richness of the culture, and participation in our projects in Nepal from orphanage assistance to village community development in small Nepali villages. It’s an amazing connection between countries, cultures, and definately life-changing for our interns and volunteers that are here with us.

Tomorrow we’ll leave for Khandbari and the Himalayan Education Center with 2400 books to initiate more libraries in rural regions in the Himalayan foothills of Northeastern Nepal. We’ll follow up on the libraries with solar panels for evening reading and safe drinking water. Below is a photo of a clay water filter made by local potters. These filters are highly effective at eliminating contaminants and they do not require electricity as most of Nepal does not have it. We hope to bring these filters into the region we’re working in Northeastern Nepal in the next year or two and start production of these filters in the region.

About half of our group will trek to Chamtyang near the tibetan border to verify village projects that were done by Sunita, our employee, during the past winter. Some will go toward Makalu, the fifth highest mountain in the world, to dedicate libraries and village improvement projects in that region. Both groups will work with your blessings and support, bringing basic needs to some of the poorest people in the world. We wish you could see their appreciation. It’s always emotional and makes it all worth it.

Wishing you well, always,
Mark and Rand

Clay water filter made locally in Kathmandu. These are highly effective and requre no electricity.

Ten Friends volunteers buying and transporting books from the streets of Kathmandu to remote villages in Northeastern Nepal.

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Nepal, Summer 2011, July 10

Hello Everyone,
Another great day. All is well and time is flying. Yesterday started with the group Walking to Swayambuth (monkey temple) and doing a tour of this amazing site and again exploring the streets of KTM then an afternoon of a tour of Thamel the tourist shopping area and then a group trip to the Hopeful Home Orphanage. The group was amazing with everyone jumping right in with the kids and helping with reading, playing games learning dances and a lot of laughing. Parker and Zander stayed for the night and today we start rotations from buying books for villages and touring water filter manufacturing plant and heading to see the ancient city of Bhaktipur. Everyone healthy. We will be leaving for Khandbari on the 15th of July. That is the 14th at home and we are planned for return late on August 2nd if weather allows. During that time we won’t be able to contact home except in emergency. We will be splitting the group and visiting the teacher training hostel, then heading toward the Tibetan border to deliver libraries and see amazing country. We hope all is well at home.
Rand / Mark

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Nepal, Summer 2011, July 9

Namaste,

Everything is great here. We arrived yesterday about 1:00 Nepal time. All of our bags arrived to much relief from the group. It looks like it took us about 38 total hours to get here and that is a record. Everyone did great. William holds the sleep record snoozing away while the rest of us squirmed around and tried to survive the marathon flights. Mark and Dinesh (our employee) met us in Kathmandu and we jumped into small vans and worked our way across the city to the guest house. The kids were really wide eyed and excited. Kathmandu has a way of attacking your senses and it didn’t let us down. Luckily it is a holiday saturday and not too much traffic or pollution. The sky was clear and we could see the entire valley. Everyone quickly met on the roof of the guest house which is one of the tallest buildings in Kathmandu and had quite a view of the city. After a quick rest we met up and talked about safety and city travel and had our first outing. We walked about 30 minutes to see Durbar Square and wandered through the tiny ancient streets with small markets, cooking goat heads and plenty of ripe trash. After many twists and turns we ended up to the classic freak street and explained the rules to the return. We broke into teams and each set of partners had to find their way back to the guest house. After a moment of wide eyes they took off with Mark and I trailed them back through the maze. Everyone loved it. We met for dinner with everyone barely keeping their heads off of the plates and off to bed. We are meeting this a.m. and starting rotations. We will be going to orphanages, seeing the sites, checking on water filters and sponsored kids and many other things in the next few days. Talk to you soon.

Rand / Mark

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Sally Benton Post, November 19, 2010

As We Leave

When you leave, part of you stays. I told Mary the other day that I can’t help but become connected to those I’ve met here. Each time I have an encounter with someone, the experience remains with me. I’ve been writing in a journal, and that will help as the vivid images fade, as will the photos and videos.

We’ve accomplished much here, and of course, I feel we could have done so much more. But, that’s the practice for me…tolerance and patience. The people we are working with are generous and sincere, and their culture is not mine. I constantly remind myself that here is where I find myself, and I learn to move at their pace, not mine. I think one of my first blogs was about changing my pace. Looks like I’m still working on it. Continue reading

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Sally Benton Post, November 11, 2010

The Soul of Nepal

Every time I come here, someone grabs my heart. This time, it is a man called Tamring. He is a simple man. His home is in Khandbari in eastern Nepal just down the path from the student hostel. He farms another man’s land, keeping half the crop for his own. When we needed a porter to carry our bags during our ten day walk up the Arun Valley, Sunita, our guide, asked if he would come with us.

When I first saw him, I thought he was older than I am. But he is 11 years younger. I’m often surprised by looks here. A life out in the sun and weather makes people appear older. Continue reading

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Sally Benton Photos, November 10, 2010

Click individual photos to enlarge.  Once enlarged, use << and >> buttons (bottom corners) to move through the photos.  Click enlarged photo to return.

You can also click “[Show as slideshow]” to view photos as a simple slideshow.  Click photo to advance to the next one.  Click “[Show picture list]” to return to original display of individual photos.

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Sally Benton Post, November 7, 2010

We’ve had a busy two weeks, and they’ve been very rewarding.

Arriving in Khandbari, in eastern Nepal, we received a warm welcome from Sunita Gurung, our student hostel manager at the Himalaya Education Center. She is an exceptional young woman. She speaks not only her own language, but also Nepali, Bhotia and English. While working on her master’s degree, she mentors 13 young women who are also on their path towards a master’s degree in education. Some of them are as young as 12 years old.

The girls are chosen by Sunita and local school representatives (being top students and desiring to be teachers). It is quite a sacrifice for the children and their families, as the girls live far away from home, sometimes for years, while they attend school in Khandbari. Students walk 2-4 days (and these are very long days) to come to the hostel. They go home for some breaks during the year including a long holiday in the summer, but living away from home is quite challenging. Their families depend on their children for the many chores farming demands, and therefore for them to allow their daughters to live away from home demonstrates the strong belief they have in the worth of an education. Continue reading

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Sally Benton Photos, November 7, 2010

Click individual photos to enlarge.  Once enlarged, use << and >> buttons (bottom corners) to move through the photos.  Click enlarged photo to return.

You can also click “[Show as slideshow]” to view photos as a simple slideshow.  Click photo to advance to the next one.  Click “[Show picture list]” to return to original display of individual photos.

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