Happy Children's Home (UK Support) is one of our long-standing Act4You accounts, led by Neil Manthorpe and Paddy Gallaugher. Paddy explains what they do: 

Introduction to Happy Children's Home, Kathmandu

Thanks to the generosity of an ex-Gurkha, who gave his house for use as a refuge for needy children, HCH has sought to nurture and develop children from widely varying backgrounds for over 15 years. Some of the children are orphans, but most come from disadvantaged families whose fortunes have collapsed for one reason or another. Up to 12 children can be accommodated in the Home itself, with a further 12 being resident locally but looked after by the Home, whose Manager makes regular visits to ensure they are progressing satisfactorily. 

The Home Manager, Swarnim Sunuwar, was himself raised in the Home so has a good understanding of the children’s needs. He is assisted by his wife Mamata, who is an excellent cook and a wonderful surrogate mum.

How the Support Group started. Meeting my old driver on a return trip to Nepal, I was intrigued to learn he had founded a children’s home. After visiting it with my wife, we both agreed we should try to help, and so it was the UK Support Group was formed.

Role. The primary purpose of the group is simply to find sponsors. Formulating objectives that meet Charity Commission guidelines was also straightforward: we replicated the Home’s stated aim - to provide needy children with positive nurturing. This, and the provision of a Christian–based family environment, seemed entirely valid. To ensure we remain focused on this objective, members of the group visit Nepal at least once every two years. This gives new sponsors a chance to meet Swarnim, Mamata and 'family' as well as undertaking a mountain trek – both experiences are great fun. They also present the visitor with a very different outlook on life to that which most Westerners consider 'normal'.

Current Situation - Hope, Resilience and Prayer

COVID-19. Though reported deaths have been relatively few, the drastic measures to prevent the pandemic catching hold come at a price.  Closure of factories and the collapse of tourism are causing mass unemployment and, with only a limited welfare system, people are already going hungry.

Impact on the children. Naturally, the children are anxious. Schooling is disrupted, travel restrictions are making life difficult and food prices are rising inexorably. Despite these problems, the children remain in good spirits. Perhaps because many of them experienced the terrifying tremors and violent storms that accompanied the 2015 earthquake, they do not see the pandemic as a huge problem. In the former crisis, they had to abandon the Home and live huddled together in a makeshift shelter close by. It must have been really frightening.

The Future. Well, so much for the past: what does the future hold for charities like Happy Children’s Home and related support groups? In these times of change, there are those who say such organisations only perpetuate the causes of poverty and it would be more helpful to invest in enterprises that create jobs or develop the rural economy. From a support organisation’s perspective this assessment seems idealistic at best. Practicalities suggest that Nepal is in no position to make such a transition any time soon. The exodus from the hills has reached epidemic proportions, the lure of good money abroad is decimating the male population and life for single parents is becoming progressively more difficult.

Hope for Nepal. 
It is good to be challenged by idealism, and there is reason to believe that the next generation of Nepalese are people with real hope for better things to come. Links International have a strapline underpinning all the projects they support – 'Faith over Fear'. This is something the charity is witness to across many under-developed countries and Nepal is a shining example.

A Nation of Makers. Ted Atkins was, until his tragic death in a climbing accident, a trustee of Happy Children’s Home. The children looked forward to his visits and listened carefully to his talks. This was not just because he had climbed Everest three times. It was his passion for Nepal and its people that made him a favourite speaker. His memory is immortalised in a memorial that hangs in the Home. It quotes Ted’s often-stated conviction, “I want to see Nepal as a Nation of Makers, not a Nation of Takers!”

Jai Nepal and God bless the children of Nepal!

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