Today was my first day of volunteering at an orphanage here in Pokhara. One of the reasons I came to Nepal was to have an opportunity to help with kids. It has occurred to me over the past 6 months or so that connecting with an orphanage might provide for me a sense of satisfaction, and fulfill at least to a degree the fatherly/fathering urges that run strong within me. The opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life is something I hold dear. Today was a very sweet day. There are 41 kids who live at the orphanage and I so appreciated having time with them. A few of them were glued to me for much of the day. I photographed the kids above with their volunteer dentist who came to look after their teeth today. Can you say “TEEEEEEETH!”
I get to take some of kids to school in the morning and pick them up after school. It touches the tenderest parts of my heart when the youngest ones reach for and take my hand. Helping the children with homework after school is quite satisfying as well although there is a bit of bedlam in the small room where 20 or so kids work on their English, Nepali or Math homework on the tiniest little tables sitting on even tinier littler benches with one poor light on a side wall as the sun fades. I feel most helpful with math assistance as I’ve loved math/numbers since I was a kid. My main job, however, is to love them up as well as I can and instill in them a belief in their own capacities. There is a teacher in the room as well who has been hired to help them with their homework, but in my book she’s rather useless as she texts on her phone much of the time, never smiles or encourages, and much too commonly snaps at the kids. I even saw her whack one kid with a ruler. I give her a good long stare when I see that kind of thing so I’m sure she’s not my biggest fan either. Although I realize that this isn’t my culture and different behavioral norms may apply, she’d be fired in about a much time as it would take me to snap that ruler if I had any say in the matter.
With permission of the director there, I did a long photographic portrait session with the kids, as they could use some updated pictures for their walls. I photographed 37 of them as the remaining 4 were away for the day, and I can perhaps only begin to say how touched I was by being able to look directly into the eyes of so many beautiful souls. To me, being allowed to have that time to commune with the soul of another being is the greatest gift of being a photographer. Although most of them were bright eyed, a few had an unmistakeable sadness in their eyes. I had to turn my head away a few times so they wouldn’t see my tears, sometimes just from the joy of feeling my heart in connection to their sweetness and sometimes touched by what I perceived as a wounded preciousness. While photographing them, I did my best to affirm them, telling them that they were deserving of wonderful things, and also how wonderful and beautiful they are. I wanted to reach the kids as well to help them to show up in their beauty for the portraits. Mostly though, it felt like they could benefit simply from having their worth and beauty reflected back to them.
Like we all could I suppose.