Ever since its establishment, Outdoor Himalayan Treks (OHT), while providing top-notch tourism services to travellers in Nepal, has always maintained corporate social responsibility and community development as its primary background concerns. The Orphan and Street Children Rehabilitation Centre, which OHT has been actively supporting since 2005, is just one excellent example.
Having started his career in tourism as a trekking porter, Rajendra Prasad Sapkota, OHT’s founder, has explored much of rural Nepal and maintains a very good understanding of the adversity faced by the inhabitants. Now a reputable businessman with a keen sense of the need for outreach to help alleviate such hardship, Rajendra uses his company – also the whl.travel local connection in Kathmandu and Pokhara – to provide financial, logistical and technical support to different humanitarian organisations in Nepal.
Helping Kids off the Streets
In 2001, Makhan Babu Pariyar (a former school teacher) and a few other social workers and activists rescued some children from helpless families fleeing Labubesi (a remote village in the country’s Gorkha District) as armed conflict intensified in the region. They then formed a non-profit social welfare organisation named ‘Nepal Gramin Basti Bikas Kendra’ or Rural Village Development Centre (RUVIDECE), registered and affiliated with the Social Welfare Council of Nepal. Shortly afterward, committed to the care of orphans and children from families too poor to provide even the basic necessities, the Orphan and Street Children Rehabilitation Centre opened its doors.
A total of 22 resident (seven girls and 15 boys) and three non-resident children are currently in the care of the Centre. Aged from 4 to 15 years, many study at the nearby Manjari Higher Secondary School, where their academic achievements are notable. In fact, three of them – Chandra Man Gurung, Kiran Gurung and Sunita Gurung – happen to be top of the class in their respective grades. Likewise, most of them have won different prizes in drawing and sport, with Chandra even winning first prize in a drawing competition held by the Kantipur Daily (a leading national newspaper).
The Centre is still chaired by Makhan Babu Pariyar and now also has four resident volunteers, including the chairman’s wife. Without any fixed source of income, the Centre relies solely on the contributions of donors and volunteers.
Business That Cares
Rajendra was first made aware of the orphanage when an Italian couple volunteering there came to his Kathmandu office for travel information. They eventually purchased a couple of flight tickets, but, before leaving Nepal, they asked him to pay a visit to the Centre and appealed to him for help.
At that time, the Centre had just moved to its present location – a three-storey rented house in Hattigauda, a northern suburb of Kathmandu. On his very first visit Rajendra was deeply touched by the condition of the Centre, which was in serious need of support. Once an orphan himself, he felt a strong bond with the young kids and resolved right then and there that, rather than just provide a one-time donation, he would initiate long-term aid to ensure the needy children had a better upbringing.
Since then, OHT has helped fund the various operating costs of the Centre (school fees, rent, clothing and food), provided supplies (beds, bedding, school uniforms etc.) directly to the children, and found extra finance for recreational activities, such as the celebration of Dashain (a national festival).
To make its aid efforts even more effective, OHT is considering a policy to get its staff involved, asking them to contribute a portion of their salary to the Centre. This applies not just to full-time staff, but also to tour/trekking guides. Most recently, OHT has funded the cost for developing and maintaining the Centre’s first website, www.havenforkids.org. On top of this, OHT will provide media- and IT-related support, so that the institution can easily connect with individuals, organisations and communities worldwide.
In addition to helping with direct aid, OHT conducts an indirect but very effective form of fundraising by encouraging its clients (mostly tourists and trekkers from abroad) to share in supporting the initiative. To date, nearly 40 travellers have volunteered and/or willingly made a donation after they visited the centre with OHT staff, often a trekking guide. The contributions have ranged from fruit and groceries, new toys and second-hand clothes and books to cash of US$100 to $300, sometimes on a regular basis. One Dutch family sent €100 per month for almost a year and a half.
OHT remains sincerely thankful to all who had something to give and always welcomes further support. OHT appeals to the readers of this article to think about how even a small contributions can help transform a displaced kid who has lost hope into an independent, productive and responsible member of society. A little bit can sometimes go a really long way.