Charity Works




Four months after yet another earthquake, the children of Horac are busy cooking, playing and studying for exams. I was invited to visit the orphanage run by a young Tej, which brings up around 25 children as young as five years old like one, big, happy family. We soon hit it off and I began to document the children over a two week period in their four storey building and its yet to be cleared rubble.

The earthquake known as the ‘Gorkha earthquake’ was one of the worst in magnitude (7.8) hitting close to Kathmandu April 25th 2015, killing around 9,000 people and injuring thousands more. The children’s home was one of 600,000 structures damaged or destroyed, and now they had to find time to collect any salvageable bricks in between their homeworks.

The volunteers were asked to live alongside the children and assist in the orphanage itself, be it cooking, chores, trips into town, birthday surprises, school runs, painting and decorating, you name it. We became like extended family members overnight with endless smiles and laughter. It was my first time experiencing Nepali culture and I was surprised at just how much chilli they use in their cooking, and how studious the children are. One thing Tej was proud about was the level of freedom the children possessed, unlike other orphanages that had strict living conditions. His played football freely with the children after homework, and laughed all the time. Another unique quality was the maturity of the children, how the elders understood their roles in assisting the youngsters be it dressing, feeding and schoolwork.

It was amazing to consider the five-year-old, just recently joined and often crying when tired or sad, be taken in as their smallest brother and kissed and hugged all day long. Surely he might be sad at the loss of his parents, perhaps in the recent disaster (I never asked), yet he had taken to, and been taken in with so much love and care by his new family that his tears were soon replaced by giggles. The love literally emanated through each child’s often stained T-shirt and filled the bareness of the room.

As Andrew in his blog mentions, I thought a lot of these kids become orphaned when their parents are killed in, say, a car accident. However, it appeared that at least half the children had father’s that abandoned the family because of having marital affairs, having a problem with alcohol or just didn’t feel they could take care of the home and walked out. And their mothers, still alive today, are either too poor to care, left home with another man and can’t take the child, or abandoned their child to an orphanage if they could not send them out to beg on the streets.

I was left wondering about the two other Nepalese groups of people I had heard of, namely the Gurkhas and the Sherpas and how such a poor nation and its hardships could create a race of the most enduring and strong humans on Earth. Yet I also knew how intelligent, kind and loving these people were as I sat and laughed with the children. Is there some correlation between having less and being more…somehow?

I was inspired by the directors of Born Into Brothels who placed the camera in the hands of the the children for more intimate shots, so I did the same and the kids began interviewing themselves. This was the first time I felt I was teaching as I guided them to hold the camera straight, collect some B-roll and create usable shots.

The experience of working with such a large group of children was both overwhelming and satisfying. It taught me a lot about the value of community, and the power of teamwork, love and generosity.

Charity works 🙂

I had been impressed by the documentary Born Into Brothels where the directors handed the children cameras to get more intimate shots, so I gave the children my camera and they began interviewing themselves.

The following week we took a trip into town on the local bus. The buses were crammed and we stood bumping into each other like sardines, but laughed all the way.

Thabarwa now has its own local trash truck that each inhabitants comes out to empty their waste daily. I recorded the process on film (the first ever film I had made), stayed in touch with the centre over the years and found myself shooting for my first feature-documentary (currently in production) of that very same monk, and winning over a dozen film festival awards for a short fiction film I made the last time I was there – a whole new world revealed through this project, which otherwise would have been inaccessible to me, suddenly showed me so much I had misunderstood about myself let alone the nature of reality – simply by practicing and observing the practice of ‘giving back’.

Charity works 🙂



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