by Burleigh Bodart, Greenheart Travel Correspondent Scholarship Winner in Nepal
The orphanage here is home to 72 children. Most of them have at least one parent who is alive, but in prison for drugs or other crimes. One woman runs the place as the director and another helps out with daily tasks. The place is small, consisting of three long corridors that the children live in. One of them has a row of small rooms they use as classrooms where the older children teach the younger ones in the morning before school. Most of them attend the government school right next door. In the center of the three corridors is a small play area with grass, clotheslines, and a single crumbling jungle gym. They only get one shower a week and have their heads shaved to avoid pests. They don’t have much so anything that they find or receive is truly special. I once broke up two girls who were fighting over a little onion that was tucked in one of their pockets. Where they got this onion, I have no idea.. Most of all though, these kids have each other. The bonds between them are so strong.
I spend every morning with a small group of children from three to six years old. They are the youngest group at the orphanage and since there are just ten of them, I was eager to do something that they would absolutely love. We spend some of each day working on creative activities. It was sad to see how little these children work with their hands. We do a lot of coloring, paper projects, or playing with play-dough. Some of them seem to be more developed with things like this, but others need some help learning to roll the play-dough in their hands or to hold a crayon properly for coloring. We spend a portion of each morning having a “camera lesson”. These kids love being in pictures and posing for any visitors they encounter. As much as they love being in front of the camera, so many of them seem even more eager to operate one. As soon as they hear the click, they stampede back over to see it. Many of them try to mash all the buttons with their fingers or point to themselves shouting, “Me miss, me!” hoping to take a picture themselves.
We learned a general three-step process while they all held imaginary cameras. “Look”, “Focus”, “Click!” is what I taught them. After a few lessons, I felt we were ready for the real thing. One day last week I brought the box of disposable cameras I had packed from home. Each of the children was given their own camera. They were ecstatic. I had to grab my camera to take a few pictures of them just minutes after passing them out. Their faces were priceless as they practiced snapping pictures and looked up afterwards, so proud of themselves. Thankfully I didn’t teach them the winding part so they wouldn’t be able to go crazy and use up their pictures the first day.
Everyday after that, each of them got a turn to go outside and take a few pictures. It was great for them to receive individual attention, and I loved getting to see more of their personalities. I plan to get the pictures developed once I’m home and make a mosaic portrait of each child like I did for my final project in school. Once they are finished, IDEX will print out the images I send and give to the children. I think it’d be so nice for them to have a good picture of themselves, especially when they were part of the project.
Meet the photographers:
Pawan is the youngest, just three years old. He is far more advanced than most kids his age. Being surrounded by older children I think has helped him learn more quickly, although he gets frustrated with things at times. Creative activities are somewhat challenging for him and he’ll throw his crayons when he’s had enough. He picked up his camera though and absolutely loves it. He ironically was one of the first to figure out the winding trick before you take a picture.
His brother, Prabin, is very quiet and much more mature that the others. He’s shy most of the time. You can tell by the fact that he’s hiding behind his camera!
Bishnu is hilarious. Everything to him is the greatest thing ever. Each task is done meticulously, but with a big smile on his face. Always the first to say, “Thank you miss!” as the other chime in after. I’ll sometimes turn around to see him packing up my bag for me at the end of class. He loves to help out and feel needed, and he gives the greatest hugs.
Pramisha is very sweet and not nearly as rowdy as the other girls. She is always looking for your approval and loves to be next to you or hold your hand.
Arati, a crazy little firecracker, is easily excited and can always entertain herself. She is the one kid that colors perfectly between the lines and makes sure the colors are thick and dark. She is very creative and is always off doing her own thing.
Then there is Poonam, another adorable little schemer. She is first to jump up and shout out the answers. She loves to dance and sing and often gathers the troops to show off the dance they recently learned. She’s really sneaky, but keeps the class interesting with her crazy antics.
Anjan is the cutest little thing. He is ALWAYS smiling. I can’t help but laugh when he looks at me and lets out his sweet little giggles. He is so sweet to everyone and loves to be tickled.
Nishant is more sensitive than the other boys and very friendly to his classmates. He is quiet and independent, but does really well with individual attention. He has an adorable little smile that escapes when he is having fun.
Binita is the most mature girl of the bunch. She tends to lead the others and excitedly shouts out the answers. Her English is wonderful.