Alone in Multitude

Life of an orphanage in Nepal

Despite its cultural wealth, Nepal remains a poor country which inhabitants live on about 2$ per day, most of them in remote areas where food, health care and schools are scarce. Such conditions make these people easily convinced by traffickers that a brighter future is possible for their children in the capital. The number of orphanages in Kathmandu started to grow in the late 90’s and child trafficking became a lucrative business. Traffickers could easily forge documents and so-called orphans could be sold to strangers for as much as 25,000$.

Now that it has become impossible for foreigners to adopt children from Nepal, the dodgy orphanages rely on the generosity of uninformed volunteers that come to help in the daily life of the orphanage in exchange of a small amount of money. Given the number of tourists coming to Nepal, it has since become a lucrative business but with no benefit to the orphans that live in terrible conditions. However, orphanages run by people that do care about their children still exist today in Nepal.

Although my photographs usually focus on nature-related subjects, I like to work once in a while on something different to broaden my horizons. That’s how I spent a month in Sujan and Anita’s orphanage where, despite the lack of sponsors, orphans with various backgrounds were taken good care of.

On this series, I didn’t intend to thouroughly document the life of orphans in Nepal but only to show a glimpse of hope for these kids.

I. Solitude

Life in a Nepalese orphanage

Nepal, despite its natural wonders, remains a poor country. Poor conditions, mental diseases, cultural beliefs and prostitution sometimes lead parents to abandon their children. However, some people take good care of them and sacrifice their lives in order to give these kids a better chance.


Ruling the orphanage

Sushina (left) and Anup (right) in the shared room of the orphans. Although they spend most of their time together and consider the orphans as brothers and sisters, Sushina and Anup, the biological children of the founders of the orphanage, sleep separately in the room of their parents.


Depressed

Asmina, 7, shows early signs of depression. She often isolates for a moment from the other kids. Her mother suffered mental problems since her husband died, and then was not able to take care of her. Knowing about Asmina’s background makes Sujan and Anita from NHCPS orphanage worried about her.


Sleeping room of the orphans

The orphan children of NHCPS still share one room, and some of them have to share a bed due to the lack of money to buy extra beds. With the government regulations, NHCPS will need to provide separate rooms for boys and girls and have one bed per child in the coming months, otherwise they will have to close the orphanage.


Playing outdoors

In NHCPS orphanage, the kids are lucky to have a garden in which they can spend a lot of time instead of watching TV. But it has a cost and often the landlord has to wait before being paid the monthly rent due to a lack of support.


At the grandparent's farm

Asmina (left) and Nabina (right) from NHCPS at their adoptive grandparent’s farm. Parents of both Anita and Sujan, the founders of the orphanage, support their children’s initiative although they remain anxious for their future. Donations are scarce and government doesn’t provide any help, so Sujan and Anita often need to get loans from friends to keep on helping their kids. Their salary being meager, Anita decided to go back to school and study to hope for a better job which will help them in the future.


NHCPS orphans Watching TV

One of the few moments of calm in NHCPS orphanage. When electricity is available, the kids turn on the TV and watch Indian movies and series which they are fond of. Sujan sometimes insist so that they watch movies in English instead in order for them to get familiar with this very useful language in a country where tourism provides a lot of opportunities.


Anup

Anup, 4, is one of the two biological children of the creators of NHCPS orphanage. Being the youngest kid in the orphanage, he defends himself by screaming, crying and hitting his brothers and sisters. A bit like his father used to as a kid confesses Anita, his mother.

II.Daily Life

House cleaning

Asmina, 7, helps cleaning the kitchen and eating room of NHCPS orphanage. So far, everybody eats on a carpet on the floor as there is no money to buy a table, which makes the cleaning necessary everyday. Moreover, all the children need to become independent when adult, so everyone helps in daily chores.


Going to school

Even if the government school in which the kids of NHCPS orphanage study is close to their home, they always need to be inline and accompanied by an adult because of the heavy and chaotic traffic on the road they have to follow then cross. From their home to the school, there is no such thing as a sidewalk.


Learning

Family and volunteers come to help Sujan and Anita in their NHCPS orphanage. Narayan, Sujan’s cousin, teaches Niruta, 6, how to read Nepali on his journal before heading to Qatar where he has found a job which will help him, as many young Nepalese, to provide a decent icome to his family.


Anup cleaning

Anup is being cleaned during the weekly outdoor wash. Cold water from the well is used as it is totally free. There is no hot water running in the home.


Hair brushing

Niruta, 6, gets rid of undesired head louses while surrounded by her orphan brothers and sister. Despite the care provided by Sujan and Anita of NHCPS orphanage, parasites are not uncommon.


Preparing dal bhat

Sushina (left) and Nabina (right) help to prepare the beans later to be used for this evening’s dal bhat. Based on rice, lentils, curry and potatoes, dal bhat is the traditional meal in Nepal and is eaten twice a day everyday in NHCPS orphanage.


Playing outdoors

The kids love to disguise. As soon as the parents are gone, they open the doors of the closet and dress up with whatever they find amusing.

III. Moments of Complicity

Screams

Anup is the younger kid in the orphanage. Being the biological child of the founders of NHCPS orphanage doesn’t grant him any privilege. So he had to find a way to defend himself against the older kids by crying and screaming.


Complicity

Hygiene is important in NHCPS orphanage. Before and after each meal the children are asked to wash their hands, and must wash their face everyday.


Sushina imitates her mother

When the parents leave the orphanage for work, there is a feeling of freedom among the kids and everything becomes a game.


Sushina superstar

Like any kids, NHCPS orphanage children imitate what they see on TV. Here Sushina plays the role of a model while Sajan rushes with the bike to steal the spotlight from her.


Chaos in orphanage

Once Sujan and Anita leave NHCPS orphanage for work during the children holidays, chaos reigns supreme. Hopefully volunteers and family are here to help and watch over them.


Ending marmelade

Anup and Sushina of NHCPS Orphanage sharing the end of a marmelade bag. Despite the lack of money, kids are allowed once in a while to buy some sweets. Due to scarcity, marmelade sharing among them becomes a serious affair…


Disguised portraits

Disguised portrait of Sapana (left) and Sushina (right). Between souvenir photographs and a big paper sheet with Nepalese and Latin alphabet., this room is the place where the children work, play and sleep.

IV. Joy

Anup cleaning

Anup having fun with cold water in the garden of the orphanage. Water often implies game, especially during hot summer days.


Niruta

Portrait of Niruta, 6. Niruta’s father is deaf and cannot talk. This has made his situation difficult. Her mother works for the owner of their house to get some food for their family but it is not enough. This is why Niruta was referred to NHCPS orphanage to give her the chance of a brighter future.


Children playing

In the rapidly growing suburb of Kathmandu where buildings grow everyday leaving no place for nature, the kids of NHCPS orphanage are lucky to have a little bit of nature to play in.


Hope in orphanage

Even if some orphanages in Nepal have a bad reputation and are involved in child trafficking, this is of course not the case for every one of them. Orphanages still represent hope and remain a necessity in a country where poverty is the norm and street kids, a reality.

Would you desire to support Sujan and Anita’s orphanage, feel free to contact me using the contact page.