Orchid Garden Nepal: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty
Bina Basnet worked for seven years at an orphanage house in Kathmandu, Nepal. She met many families struggling against poverty. She heard stories of drunken fathers and absent husbands. She met loving mothers who could not care for their children while at work each day. She learned that some children accompanied a parent to work, even to hazardous construction sites. Other children were left unsupervised at home in overheated rooms. Many parents did not want to give up their children to the orphanage, but saw no alternative for ensuring their children received proper care. If children had a home to which they could return at night, the orphanage would not accept them. Many mothers worried that their children would end up on the streets. Without a proper day care center, too many children were falling through the cracks.
Because of her observations at the orphanage, Bina Basnet recognized her community’s need for a new type of organization. She left the orphanage in 2006 to establish Orchid Garden Nepal (OGN), a non-governmental organization that provides early childhood development programs for the children of impoverished Nepali families. Initially serving solely as a day care center, OGN offered strained families a safe, educational, and fun place to leave their children during the day. Thus, mothers were able to earn money as laborers, vegetable vendors, cleaners, and more. By opening up opportunities to these mothers, OGN sought to break the cycle of poverty while offering children a nurturing environment in which to grow and learn.
As the first cohort of children grew up, OGN wanted to ensure that they would continue to have access to educational opportunities. Thanks to a variety of charitable sponsors, Bina was able to send many of the children to local private schools. However, the children from dysfunctional home lives experienced great difficulties in school. Bina acknowledged this problem, fearing that such children would fall behind their peers and become increasingly disadvantaged.
Since 2010, Bina has continued to expand OGN to include structured classes through Grade 2. Using generous funds from a Nepali donor named Devika Shaha, OGN erected a new building and hired several full-time teachers. With daily lessons in English, math, science, and more, OGN seeks to provide its students with a competitive educational foundation to ensure future success.
OGN teaches more than the basic subjects of the standard school curriculum. Regular classes in music, dance, and art encourage creativity and imagination. Every day, the children play games and sports to keep them active and healthy. Additionally, donors have sponsored fun field trips to local swimming pools, amusement parks, and cultural sites. In this way, OGN ensures that the children receive a well-rounded, first-rate education during the most crucial years of childhood development.
Some Stories About OGN Families
Sangita and Simron Bhujel were born in an extremely poor household. Their family used to live in a house made of plastic tarps near the Chabahil district of Kathmandu. Their parents used to work for 12 hours a day, the father as a construction worker and the mother as a domestic worker, for very low wages. At times, the parents would go for days without eating so the money they earned could be used for their children’s needs. In 2005, their father died of jaundice, because the family could not afford necessary medical care. The newly widowed mother had the sole responsibility for caring for her 1-year-old and 2-year-old daughters and so could not work. She and her children began to beg in the streets.
One year later, an OGN staff member who found the family on the streets brought them to OGN and the children were admitted to the school. As of 2013, Sangita and Simron are both enrolled in classes. They have demonstrated much improvement and are now performing well in their studies. Lila, the mother, was sent to Women for Human Rights (WHR) in Baluwater with the helpf of OGN. WHR offered her a job and place to stay. She is now working as cleaner and sweeper at WHR, earning more than ever before. Her ability to care for her children has increased greatly.
Journey of Progress
Every day, 8-year-old Saraswoti Lama would walk one hour each day to reach OGN while carrying her little sister on her back and holding her younger brother’s hand. While her siblings were at the day care and her mother was cleaning four houses a day, Saraswoti would spend her day roaming around and doing nothing. Her father was unemployed and he would come home drunk and beat her mother severely.
When Saraswoti fell down from the second floor of her friend’s house and broke her leg, she needed to stay in the hospital for a month. Mr. Fien Van’t Sant, an OGN supporter from the Netherlands, paid all her medical expenses. Bina asked Saraswoti if she would like to go to a good school. The girl eagerly agreed, and OGN enrolled her in a boarding school where she soon discovered her talent for drawing. Her mother says Saraswoti has also become a wonderful helper at home.
Saraswoti is doing very well in the school, making great progress in her learning, health, and hygiene. OGN helped her mother gain a license for selling popcorn on the street, which helps the whole family.
Opportunity Builds Confidence
Two years ago, 7-year-old Sunil Lama was found on the street; he was sniffing glue to numb his hunger pains. Three of his brothers had already died from starvation. Their parents were unable to take care of them as they had to go for work, and so they would lock them in a room.
When Bina heard about Sunil’s circumstances, she enrolled him in the boarding school. The transition from the street to school was difficult for Sunil, as he was not used to a structured setting. Although he misbehaved and was expelled, Bina did not give up on him. She placed Sunil in a hostel, where he receives an education and has a safe, caring place to live.
Today, Sunil is living in the Nark Foundation where he is getting education and residence support through the help of OGN. He loves gymnastics and is always smiling. Inspired by Bina, it is his dream to help other disadvantaged children one day.