FrontPage Mission News Trip reports The children About Us Donate 2014 Reconnecting Children with Family Nabin being reunited with his sister
Important Note:  It is important to understand that all trips to Nepal are self funded and no money donated to help the children will be used for travel expenses incurred by organization staff. This is explicitly specified in the bylaws of the organization.
In 2014 I returned to Khandbari for the 3rd time. By now I was very connected with many of the children and also knowledgeable of their family backgrounds. The primary purpose of this trip was to reunite some of the children with family members. A number of exciting things happened during the year before I traveled. First was locating Rabin’s younger sister. Tejanath went to Biratnagar to check the location where he believed Rabin’s sister to be. He returned unsuccessful. We talked about getting police involved as I was very worried if she had been in Biratnagar which is on the border with India and was no longer there. Tejanath asked for time to follow some more leads and came back that he had located her, staying with a cousin in Kathmandu. A number of weeks later he traveled to Kathmandu and sent pictures of Susma, Rabin’s sister. Second good event was signing a deal with Kopila to fund her education beyond SLC. I was by this time confident I could raise funds and wanted to make sure she had reason to pay attention at school. We agreed she would study to be a Community Medical Auxiliary (CMA) which is a 2 year course in Khandbari. This course can be completed right after SLC without the need for +2. The final good news was moving Nabin from his previous school to Surya Boarding. Rabin and Kopila moved to the government school for grade 8. There is a new Nepali rule that if kids do regional standardized grade 8 exams in a private school they are no longer eligible for further government scholarships or education assistance. Since Rabin had vacated his free spot at Surya I organized for Nabin to move to that school.  The main goal for my 2014 trip was to reunite some of the children with family. I knew Rabin had his younger sister in Kathmandu, an older sister in Dharan and an older brother in Biratnagar. I arranged for myself and Tejanath to take Rabin on a tour to meet his family. As the trip grew close we got word that his sister would come to Khandbari for Dashain so the roadtrip was reduced to Dharan and Biratnagar. It was also arranged that we would bring Sandhya to a brother living near Num and Kopila to find her father in Bahrabise. I also planned to be in Khandbari during the Dashain festivities. I arrived in Kathmandu and as is usual now I was met at the airport by Devraj. We dropped my bags at the hotel and went for Tongba, the Nepali version of beer. The next day I went to the domestic terminal in Kathmandu to catch my flight to Tumlingtar. There were two buses waiting to take passengers to the small planes out on the tarmac, one flight going to Tumlingtar and one to Pokhara. I jumped on the Tumlingtar bus and a Nepali lady came to correct me and point me to the Pokhara bus. She was surprised that I was actually going to Tumlingtar and we got talking. After a few minutes I learned she was the mother looking after Rabin’s sister and that Susma was on this same flight. It was great to see how happy and well looked after Susma was and all this before they knew my connection. I arrived in Kathmandu and went over to the house that evening to see the kids. I had to fulfill my promise of bringing Sundar chocolate. He was not at the house when I arrived but when returned he greeted me with a huge smile. The next morning myself and Tejanath met 5 of the older kids and we set out for a 4 day trek to meet Sandhya’s brother and Kopila’s father. We met them at the top of the town and I was surprised to see Rabin wasn’t carrying any sort of pack and some of the others had small day packs. I had a pretty heavy backpack with sleeping bag/mat, first aid kit, spare clothes, etc...  I asked Rabin about what he brought and he said he was sharing a pack with Sammar and all he brought was a pullover. I asked about raingear (it was still monsoon) and he said no because all the umbrellas at the house were broken. We stopped at the next town and I got each of the kids an umbrella and a toothbrush. That day we walked for about 8 hours. From Khandbari we followed the Num road, stopping at Chichilla for lunch and then a few more hours of walking to Sagrati. We arrived at the house where Sandhya’s brother is staying late in the evening. Just as we arrived the weather broke and heavy rain was soon followed by strong wind. All I was thinking was how lucky we were to be indoors because umbrellas would have done little in that weather. We had to seal all the doors and windows in the house but rain was still blown in. The kids huddled up in their pullovers but were still cold. That night we played caroom and chess and talked well into the evening. Sandhya’s brother had been placed in an orphanage in Kathmandu that turned out to be very corrupt. He left and made his own way for a while but is now married and living in a house owned by his uncle. It was great to see how happy Sandhya was spending time with her brother. The next day we left Sandhya to spend Dashain with her brother and the rest of us walked towards Bahrabise. They walked with us for the first part of the trail as far as Matsya Pokhari. The trail to Bahrabise was long and difficult. We were climbing to ridge lines and dropping to valleys all day. There were no roads and virtually no trails for much of the way. We walked along rice paddy walls and stopped often to quiz locals on the route.  It was not raining but the trails were steep, rocky and wet. On one benign section of flat ground I slipped on a rock and hit the deck. As I fell one of my trekking poles snapped. Santosh went running into the woods and found me a walking stick to replace the  trekking pole. Himself and Sammar then took it upon themselves to look after me for the rest of the day. I regularly heard “ I’ll be your guide sir - put your foot here..” In all it took us about 12 hours to get to Bahrabise. We were again lucky that the rain stayed away while we were walking. When we arrived in Bahrabise we found a nice hotel. I was pleasantly surprised how good it was given that Bahrabise doesn’t see many tourists. They served a good Dal Bhat and had fans in the rooms. Tejanath went out around the town and found somebody who knew of Kopila’s father and agreed to guide us to his house the next day. We were up early the following day to walk to Kopila’s father’s house. As it was a day trip I was happy to leave most of the weight from my backpack at the hotel. The trail was ‘interesting’ and got progressively worse as we got more remote from the town. Near the house we had to cross a river that had partially collapsed. A few lengths of bamboo were used to make the bridge somewhat usable. Once we crossed the bridge we had to climb a steep valley following very narrow paddy walls. Kopila’s father had left Nepal and lived in India for a number of years. We heard he returned to the Bahrabise area and was remarried. He is now living in a small bamboo hut with his new wife and a 2 year old child. The hut didn’t even have mud on the walls and I couldn’t picture how the 2 year old could survive the winter in that environment. Reuniting Kopila with her father wasn’t as successful as I hoped. Without saying too much I thinks it’s ok to say he wasn’t too interested in being part of her daily life. That said I still think it was very important to track him down. One of the bad laws in Nepal is that a father passes citizenship down to his children. With Kopila now turning 16 she is at an age when she can get citizenship and she will need that paperwork to complete a CMA education. Having contact with her father should make that process much easier to complete.  We returned to Bahrabise and had Dal Bhat at the hotel. The following morning we stayed a few hours to see the local market. The original plan was to hire a jeep from Bahrabise to Khandbari but the monsoon had made the road impassable. The walk home was long, hot and very steep in places. We left around noon and got back around 9pm. I was constantly amazed at the fitness of the kids and how much they enjoyed the opportunity to be out and about. Over the next few days we had quite a bit of relaxation time. I brought Connect4 and the kids quickly figured it out. I did learn not to play against Sangita as she is smarter than me and learned quickly to beat me every time. While in Khandbari I heard that Santosh’s mother lived locally. The story I heard was that she was paralyzed and couldn’t leave the house so his grandmother looks after her. I went with Santosh one day to visit his mother. I don’t believe she was paralyzed but was also not in a condition to care for him. His mother and grandmother live in a small shack on land that some neighbours let them use. I was very happy to hear that Santosh went and stayed with his mother for a few days during Dashain. On a couple of days we went out to Chewa, Rabin’s home village. On the first day Susma came with us and we went to visit their aunt, uncle and cousins. It was nice to see his family again. Rabin had been to Chewa a few times since our first visit the previous year. The next day we went back to Chewa and Rabin’s cousin’s from Kathmandu with whom Susma now stays also joined us. There was a cultural show with singing and dancing but our primary motivation for the trip was to play on the Charke Ping, a hand carved, human powered wooden ferris wheel that is build for the Dashain festival. There was a big crowd waiting to play on the wheel but we were well looked after by our local friends. While we were at Chewa Rafa and Anthony came to meet us. Rafa is from Spain and had spent 6 weeks in Khandbari volunteering in local schools and at the orphanage. He had since spent another 6 weeks traveling around Nepal but returned for a few final days in Khandbari before returning to Europe. We all celebrated Dashain together. On the tenth day of Dashain is is customary to receive a Tika from your elders. In the morning the children came to Tejanath’s house and we all received Tikas from Tejanath. In the afternoon myself, Rafa, Sundar and Rabin travelled to another uncle in Khandbari and received Tikas there also. Whilst in Khandbari I talked to the family that had brought Nabin to the welfare home many years earlier. They were distant relatives of his. During that conversation I learned Nabin had a sister living in Dharan, the same town where Rabin’s sister lives and where we already had plans to visit. That evening I met Nabin and talked him about his sister. It turned out he didn’t even know she existed. Nabin was extremely happy and excited to hear he is not alone in the world. He spent the night repeating her name and telling the other kids he has a sister. I arranged with Nabin’s family that we would bring him to Dharan and he could meet his sister and spend some time with his family there. The next day I left Khandbari. Myself, Tejanath, Rabin and Nabin took an 11 hour jeep trip to Dharan (it should have been 6 hours but that’s another story). First we met with Nabin’s sister and his cousins. We left him spend a number of days with his family. We visited his relatives to make sure all was going well and found him very happy. His relatives were also very grateful. We did also have a plan to go to Rabin’s sister’s house that day but because of travel delays it got too late. Rabin’s sister came and met us in Dharan and he went alone to spend the night with her. Rabin got to meet his nephew and niece and was very happy to spend time with his sister. Myself and Tejanath got a hotel in downtown Dharan. It was possibly the worst hotel in all of Nepal with mould on the walls and filth in the bathroom. The next day we took a microbus from Dharan to Biratnagar. Rabin’s brother was taken in by two school teachers in Khandbari at the same time when Rabin was sent to the orphanage. It is quite common for families in Nepal to take in children in return for them working in the house. That couple moved to Biratnagar, on the border with India, a year later. When we got to Biratnagar Sabin met us at the bus park. Myself and Tejanath booked into a hotel and then we all went to the house where Rabin’s brother lives and works. Although Sabin has to work in the house he does go to school during the day. At the time he had completed his school leaving certificate (SLC) and was studying in +2. We spent 2 days in Biratnagar so that Rabin had some time with his brother. I was quite surprised when Rabin arrived back at my hotel the first morning. Although Rabin could spend the night with his brother, he was still required to work in the house during the day. On the 2nd day I took a flight from Biratnagar to Kathmandu to return home. Rabin and Tejanath went to collect Nabin from his relations and they all took the jeep back to Khandbari.
Susma (on left) with cousins in Kathmandu Kids enjoying photos I sent from 2013 trip Sundar's greeting when I arrived in Khandbari Buying umbrellas and toothbrushes Trekking towards Num Playing chess with Sammar at Sandhya's brother's house Sandhya (centre) with her brother and his wife The 'trail' to Bahrabise Sammar being my guide and showing the trail Kopila crossing broken bridge Kopila's father's house Kopila with her father and his new family Sundar, Santosh and Pujan playing connect4 Santosh with his mother and grandmother Susma left), Rabin and his family in Chewa Charke Ping at Chewa Myself and Rafa receiving Tikas Nabin meeting his sister (2nd from right) Nabin and his sister Rabin and his sister Rabin and his brother Sabin
All Photographs (c) Michael Fingleton