“In her voice I could tell she was so excited to show me the slippers she made from a cardboard box . . . my heart practically melted. All I could do was tell her how much I loved them and that she could open a slipper shop, give her a big hug, and say goodnight. When they try to impress me sometimes I felt like I was temporarily filling a deep hole that they carry inside all of the time. They miss their moms and dads so much. I can’t fathom growing up without mine.”
Hanna Morrison at the Nepal Children’s Center Hanna Morrison, a recent Special and Elementary Education undergraduate, knew she wasn’t ready to start teaching in the U.S. immediately in the fall. Looking to teach abroad, she entertained the idea of traveling to Nepal to teach under a Fulbright grant. After hearing of a conflict victim’s children center in Sarlahi, Nepal through a family friend, she decided to take on a seven-month volunteer position teaching there—an experience that would change her life.
The Nepal Children’s Center lies in rural Sarlahi, 30km from the border of India amidst fields of sugar cane, with temperatures ranging from freezing to over 100 degrees. The village has no running water and intermittent electricity. For twelve years, from 1996-2006, a violent Maoist insurgency raged across across the Himalayan nation.
The fathers of the children at the Center, both Maoists and police officers, were among the 13,000 that lost their lives in the struggle. The goal of the Center is to not only provide shelter and education for the children, but bring about substantial reconciliation between the Maoists and Nepali civilians through the forging of deep friendships.
The Nepal Children’s Center provides children with their everyday needs through the three main areas of education, accommodation, and psychotherapy and emotional development. Educational needs are met through scholarships to a local private school that teaches math, English, computer science, and creative arts.
“Nepal became a place that showed me new people and who I want to be. It’s a place where I experienced loving children like a parent might. It is a place to adapt to a new lifestyle . . . Getting on that plane with a one-way ticket was the best decision I have ever made.”
Children are provided with a safe place to eat and sleep, regular medical check-ups and health services. Lastly, emotional development is provided for the children as they have the opportunity to use professional psychotherapy services, reconciliation programs, peace parties and leisure activities.
As part of Hanna’s volunteer position at the Center she helped secure sponsors for the center as well as taught creative arts, exposing the children to visual arts, storytelling, music, singing, and dancing. The children wrote their own stories, illustrated books, and even participated in a play competition telling their stories to the local community.
Intrigued by the unfamiliarity and vibrancy of the simple rural life in Nepal, Hanna explored and became a part of her village, forming lifelong relationships through practicing her Nepali with the villagers and children. Hanna’s experience at the Children’s Center has profoundly changed her life as well as the children whom she looked after.
The Nepal Children’s Center has been sponsored by the Unity Church of Fairfax and Service for Peace- Nepal (SFP), a partnership facilitated by the Global Peace Foundation-USA, since the spring of 2012. The Center, managed by Saroj Khanal, Director of SFP-Nepal, houses and cares for 27 children with ages ranging from 4 to 16 years old who have lost one or both parents.
For more information on the Nepal Children’s Center and on sponsoring a child, contact Gail Hambleton, GPF-USA Director of Interfaith Partnerships, at [email protected].
Watch a heart-felt documentary film on the Nepal Children’s Center: