November 26, 2020

Early Childhood Development Center, Kathmandu, Nepal (13-17 May 2016)

We have been fortunate to know Pushpa Basnet and to support her Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) in Kathmandu. In Nepal, if a parent goes to prison, the children often accompany them. The Nepalese government provides no support for these children. Pushpa helps take children out of prison and provides housing, food, medical, education, and family support for them. Our son-in-law, Thomas Morgan, made a documentary about Pushpa, the 2012 CNN Hero of the Year, called Waiting for Mamu.

ECDC recently moved into a new facility, the Butterfly Home. We were invited to the Grand Opening of this wonderful place.

13 May – Friday

We arrived in Kathmandu the day before the Opening. After checking into the Park Village Hotel and Resort, we walked to the Butterfly Home, led by Tom Morgan. It was not a far walk but I don’t think we ever made it there and back without making at least one wrong turn. One trip included two slippery rock crossings across the same stream.

The road to ECDC is steep in places and needs lots of repairs. The last 100 yards or so is unpaved and not easy for cars and motorbikes to drive on. (There will be additional pictures of the road, later in this posting.)

On the way back to the hotel, Pat and I decided we could find our way without Tom leading us. Wrong! Although we did make it back, we didn’t retrace our previous route. we crossed several rice paddy fields on narrow goat tracks. Once we arrived back at the hotel, it was time for a Nepalese beer, Gorka.

14 May – Saturday

Today is the celebration to officially open the Butterfly Home. We are so lucky to be here to participate.

After a morning visiting a temple near our hotel (see another posting of Kathmandu) and meeting new friends (the common thread – Tom), we went back up to the Butterfly Home. Pat was one of the ones who walked – I rode in a cab, taking supplies. The picture below shows the dirt road approaching ECDC.

Marc Nicholson and Pat leading Kelly Kopchik and Natalie Ryneveld
Marc Nicholson and Pat leading Kelly Kopchik and Natalie Ryneveld

Most of us arrived well before the festivities were to begin. This was good, as we had time to visit with the other visitors, see the children in their Nepalese traditional clothes, watch how the kids love to take selfie photos, enjoy an American diplomat’s magic tricks, have group photos taken, and just enjoy ourselves (before the rains came).

The opening ceremony was set to be held outside in the beautiful amphitheater. Unfortunately, as the final preparations were being made, the rains came and we all move inside. The presentations included the Nepalese National Anthem sung by the children, traditional dances and songs, acknowledgements of contributions and support, and a very, non-traditional “chicken dance”. What a fun time we all had.

This concluded the ceremony and, since the rain had stopped, we all went outside to enjoy the weather, the children, a dinner, and then dancing into the night. Boy, do the children love to dance!

15 May – Sunday

Today is scheduled to be a fun day with the children, a momo party, and an opportunity to purchase crafts made at ECDC.

We were worried when Sharon Kugelmass didn’t arrive till after lunch. But she finally arrived with a grand entrance.

Sharon Kugelmass arrives by scooter

Yesterday, after the ceremony, all the guests were asked to add a hand print to the Wall of Dedication. By the time everyone had done their print, it was too dark for photos. This morning, I got a picture of the “finished” wall.

Momos are a Nepalese dumpling, made with either a chicken and vegetable mixture, or just vegetables. Pushpa told us she wanted enough dumplings for everyone to have 10, or more. Momos are served with a curry sauce that is really good. They are a favorite treat for the children. We loved them, too!

While the Momos were being assembled, face painting was proceeding outside. Everyone really got into this event (of course, some much more than others). It all started innocently enough, with Kelly and Natalie volunteering to paint the children’s faces. Others soon added their painting skills. Once Marc Nicholson arrived, chaos began (as you’ll see below). Marc and his daughter added a lot to the fun.

Everyone got cleaned up in time to eat the delicious momos. Then it was back to the stage for a final goodbye and “thank you”. Then the dancing started yet again.

Closing notes: This has been a wonderful trip and we wish all our friends could have share the joy with us. We met new friends: Kerstin Shulze and her parents, Joachim and Helga; Kelly Kopchik; Natalie Ryneveld; Sharon Kugelmass; Marc, Jeanne, Maya and Beau Nicholson; the Novak family, Ari and Monique and their children.

The Singapore contingent included Tom, the Nicholsons, Kerstin, Kelly, Natalie and us. (I know I left someone out, but can’t think of their names.)

The Novak family is a very special family. Ari works for U.S. State Department and is based in Kathmandu. Monique and he are great friends of ECDC and have been invaluable assets for Pushpa (and Tom). We were so fortunate to meet them and become friends.

Pat and I purchased the first Butterfly Nursery Kit of education toys and supplies that ECDC wants to send to each of the 74 prisons in Nepal, where there are still over 100 children incarcerated with their parents. These kits, as you see in the picture below, contain puzzles, crayons, colored pencils, notepads, blocks, bean bags, football (soccer in the U.S.), a hand-pump to fill the balls, books to read and many other things the children in prisons can use. We signed the inside cover of the metal locker and hope it will bring pleasure and learning to many kids.

Butterfly Nursery Kit for prison children
Butterfly Nursery Kit for prison children

Our last day, just before we had to leave for the airport, several of us stopped at ECDC to say goodbye. Before we had left Singapore, we had asked Tom what we could get special for the kids. He said it was okay to bring candy as a special treat. That we did and handed it our as the kids were lining up to go to school. What a treat for us! I hope the kids got at least half as much pleasure as Pat and I.

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