Origami in­struc­tions, puz­zles and play­time at an or­phan­age in Kathmandu

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - KIR­RILY JOHNS

‘‘SIS­TER,’’ the kids scream as they run to shake my­hand. ‘‘Howare you? What is your name?’’

I am­start­ing two weeks of vol­un­teer tourism at a run­down or­phan­age and chil­dren’s care homeat Hat­ti­gauda on the out­skirts of Kathmandu in Nepal, where six girls share a room and two bunk beds at the New Chil­dren’s Home­while 20 boys squeeze into a room and three bunk beds. Three to four boys share a dou­ble mat­tress.

I amfar from my­desk job in Melbourne in a com­mu­ni­ca­tions role in the health sec­tor.

In an anx­ious frenzy be­fore leav­ing Australia, I have bought sup­plies for ac­tiv­i­ties I guess might in­ter­est five to 14-year-olds. I have pur­chased Play-doh, wool, coloured pa­per, sten­cils, crayons, colour­ing pen­cils and flash cards.

Onthe first day I pro­duce pretty squares of origami pa­per, plan­ning to teach the chil­dren how to fold cranes.

‘‘Sis­ter, sis­ter, give me pa­per!’’ cry the kids. The pa­per dis­ap­pears and then so do most of the chil­dren, with­out a sin­gle pa­per crane in sight. A cou­ple re­turn and ask me to make a bird or try to fol­low my in­struc­tions, which sud­denly seem very long and complicated when ex­plained in the chil­dren’s sec­ond lan­guage.

Lit­tle Shri­jan, wear­ing a woollen beanie de­spite the heat, painstak­ingly fol­lows ev­ery step. A cou­ple of girls al­ready know how to make flow­ers, and proudly hand me their cre­ations.

The youngest girl, Swar­swoti, who has a per­pet­ual run­ning nose, asks me to make her a bird ev­ery day.

The next day I try a phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity with the chil­dren and take a skip­ping rope. The skip­ping is a suc­cess.

At first I can only recog­nise the chil­dren by their clothes; they wear the same clothes ev­ery day. Lit­tle Bud­dha-faced Solomon wears a grey fleece, Ali­nah wears orange beads, Anisha has a nose ring and Ha­bil is in a pink jumper with sheep images.

Equipped with scis­sors and coloured pa­per, I am con­fi­dent of suc­cess with a pa­per chain ac­tiv­ity, but again the pa­per ap­pears to cause more ex­cite­ment than the planned ac­tiv­ity and I am sur­rounded by chil­dren de­mand­ing pa­per, which is then snaf­fled and hid­den.

‘‘Why you bring this?’’ asks 13-year-old Shanti with a glare. ‘‘Bring Cluedo or bad­minton, some­thing use­ful. Bring sto­ry­books.’’

That night I flus­ter into the chil­dren’s sec­tion of that Kathmandu in­sti­tu­tion, Pil­grim’s Book House, look­ing for sto­ry­books.

I flick through the eclec­tic col­lec­tion, fi­nally find­ing Jack and the Beanstalk, Goldilocks and The BFG. The chil­dren love these sto­ries.

Af­ter a cou­ple of days I re­alise I need sev­eral ac­tiv­i­ties for each visit; some­thing dif­fer­ent for the younger and older ones, some­thing creative and some­thing sport­ing, all for a two-hour pe­riod. Colour­ing books are pop­u­lar, word search puz­zles are loved by the older kids.

Bad­minton is a real win­ner ex­cept when the shut­tle­cock dis­ap­pears into the rice field next door or on to the roof.

One day I bring new HB pen­cils and lined pa­per for a writ­ing ac­tiv­ity. The pen­cils dis­ap­pear but no one uses them. Ap­par­ently highly sought-af­ter, un­sharp­ened pen­cils can be swapped at school for sweets.

I ques­tion whether such vis­its are help­ful.

I try to teach games that the chil­dren can play when I am gone, rather than just give presents.

The chil­dren get some English prac­tice and cul­tural study of strange for­eign­ers, if noth­ing else.

And I do man­age to keep them away from the tele­vi­sion set.

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