Notes from a Popular Volunteer

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Featured here: a blog post from Captured at the Speed of Light, the blog of Neil Dixit, a popular Ama Ghar volunteer. Thanks to Neil for allowing us to share his words and photos with you – enjoy!


Come on in low[1]

The door always seems to be open at this place, warm and endearing, seemingly drawing the visitor in. For the past three weeks, I’ve had a chance to get to know this door very well, not to mention the people who live past it’s threshold. Ama Ghar, commonly referred to as “motherly home” in English, is a home for children of disadvantaged backgrounds, located about 12 km south of Kathmandu proper in the village of Taukhel. Comprised of 39 kids ranging in age from 7 to 19, Ama Ghar, together with funding from the Ama Foundation, give the children a chance for a proper upbringing, including a place to sleep, eat, play, and the opportunity to go to school and live like a family.

In addition to the children, a permanent staff of seven, plus two guard dogs, work almost none stop in order to fulfill the goals of the organization. The tasks include, but aren’t limited to: cooking, cleaning, tutoring, managing finances, playing with the children, in addition to a multitude of other typically equivocal tasks. For the staff, a broken window means assuming a window repairman role for the day. Shopping for 40+ people is no breeze either. To say the staff doesn’t have help would be blasphemous though. The children help a tremendous amount in keeping their rooms clean, doing their laundry, as well as helping in dinner preparations. Security issues appear to be under control as well with help from two dogs, including Balu,Balu low[1] pictured here.



Brought to life roughly 9 years ago with the establishment of The Ama Foundation, the strain on the current accommodations in Taukhel is apparent. With only 5 rooms dedicated to almost 40 children, sleeping arrangements have become tight. Almost every outdoor ledge that sees some sunlight is dedicated to drying clothes, and eating space is very limited. When more than one guest joins the house for dinner, children must be displaced from their regular eating area to make room. For the children, however, this is well worth the extra attention they receive. Curiosity abounds in the form of questions, about anything from what life in the U.S. is like to what kind of music you like to listen to. Luckily, a new house has been in the works for almost two years, and the children will hopefully be moving by the end of this month.

Ama ghar low[1]

Ask Bonnie, house Managing Director of Ama Ghar, what Taukhel looked like when the orphanage first opened, and she’ll tell you there was only a fraction of the buildings there are today. Not only has crowding become a problem within Ama Ghar, but with new houses going up everyday, it’s become a problem in the greater part of Taukhel as well. Not that the kids mind this much; many have friends that live near by, and shops are readily available for the children when they have some spending money to buy chocolate, or pirated movies. It becomes apparent that there are two opinions burgeoning in Ama Ghar as moving day approaches: those who are looking forward to moving, and those who are not. The reasons are obvious: One camp is looking forward to the much needed space and privacy, and the other is hesitant to leave what little civilization they have in Taukhel, not to mention friends and easy access to public transportation.

dhan low[1]

Dhan, rice fields, are a common sight near the new house. Compared to the wall to wall buildings typical of Taukhel, it’s a different world, a different time. Gone are the shops, the crowded streets, replaced by farms and dirt roads. We’re left with ample space, cleaner air, peace and quiet…. maybe a dream world for many, but perhaps not for a teenager. Moving to this kind of area, although only a 2km drive from the old house, will be a massive change for everyone. Only time will tell how both the children and the staff will adjust to their new surroundings. However, with the way the Kathmandu valley has been expanding and growing, perhaps we should see this move more as a blessing rather than a curse. Who knows what the area will look like in even just 5 years time. It may become just as crowded as Taukhel is now. I leave you with a preview, a teaser if you will, of the new house. Upon it’s completion many more photos will follow; hopefully that day will come by the end of the month.

— Neil Dixit, October 8, 2010

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