It all started in 2014 for me. A friend had reached out to me saying that my friend and Mike's sister Mary Kate had passed. I couldn't believe the news. Mary Kate and I hadn't seen each other in years. My mom and I went to her services and were deeply moved. She was an amazing woman who had done so much in a short time. During the gathering they had mentioned her work in Nepal and had asked attendees to send their donations to Nepal Orphans Home. I began to donate on a regular basis and that's how I began my relationship with Michael, the founder of NOH. Through emails with him and following the monthly newsletter I could see that it was a great organization. Then in 2017, with Michael’s encouragement, I decided to make plans to volunteer in 2018.
Going into this I wasn't sure what to expect. I was scared, nervous, and excited all at one time! The first few days I got the chance to get acquainted with Kathmandu and the organization. Sunita, Himal, and Saroj took me through orientation. This gave me a background of Nepal. Topics of discussion included customs, beliefs, and history of the country while getting a chance to do some sightseeing with them. From there I had to plan where I would spend my time. Most volunteers typically stay longer than 2 weeks, so it made sense for me to stay in Kathmandu. This allowed me to work with the children of Nepal Orphans Home and to spend time with another organization within the city.
Days consisted of early mornings and evenings with the other volunteers and during the day with the kids. The time with the other volunteers was extremely valuable and enjoyable! Each volunteer had such a unique story and background. You could learn so much from each one. The fact that they were from all parts of the world gave you even more perspective. The kids provided just as much or even more. They were very welcoming and showed an eagerness to learn. I spent a good portion of the time helping students out with any challenges they were facing with school work or just spending time with them playing sports and other fun activities.
One question that I kept asking myself was: Would I be able to make a difference? The answer was yes! I believe it can be hard for volunteers sometimes because you’re going into it thinking, "How do I make a big impact?" Walking away from this experience I can say it’s just about being there, spending time, being present, open-minded, and patient. The kids are happy just with you being there and spending quality time with them. If I had any advice for a volunteer it would be to go with the flow and trust the process. It will all work out.
It’s hard not to walk from this experience without some type of change in perspective. I feel humbled and blessed. I truly believe that you get more than you give when you volunteer and I would highly recommend this for everyone. Lastly, on a personal note I want to thank Mary Kate: Even after all these years your legacy still lives on in Nepal with the children you helped. Your courage and strength inspire us and all and I feel so lucky to have been touched by your presence.
Robert is pictured here with 7 of the "children" that Mary Kate helped to care for over a 5-month period of time back in 2007.