Sunday, May 15, 2011


Sukhumwasi Slum
Inside view of a shack
We took a head count of the new children who joined school this term (April), only to realize that the numbers were more than our list. We had admitted 22 new students out of 60 on the wait list, after a very strict screening process but we realized that there were more than those coming to school. 
We all started talking and thinking about how this happened and realized that a few guardians/parents had duped us. Even though we had refused admission to their child, they still decided to send them, thinking we would not realize that. This was an eye opener as it made us become aware about desperate they were to send their child to a secure environment.
Screening in progress
It was very important for us to screen the kids as we had more than 60 requests. We made home visits to assess their financial status and only then decided on the final admissions. Easier said than done. Their financial status was decided on owning their own shacks, few pieces of broken furniture etc, which made them more affluent then the others. Even though I was trying to be very practical, I felt sick  inside. I kept doubting my sense of judgment and so it was Krishna, who ultimately took the final decisions. All 60 cases were living in conditions not deemed fit for human survival and from these we were trying to differentiate the “haves” and the “have nots”.

Arjun, his mother donated his 3 brothers 
The other parameters and preference were the girl child not going to school, the older child in the family out of school or the child who had been missing school for a year or more. And believe me there were plenty of those.
We lost control over all the criteria we had set for the admissions when met a mother of five who was living with her brother’s family. Her husband had abandoned her for another woman. She had no way to bring up her children so she had donated three of her older kids to a monastery. Our sense of judgment collapsed. I was shaken and didn’t have a choice but to confirm admission to both her remaining kids. She is now looking for some kind of work (obviously she is uneducated and unskilled), which will pay her enough to move out of her brother’s shack.
It wasn’t much later when we met another lady in that very same situation. All my theories about donations fell apart. What could be a bigger donation than a mother giving her children away.
Consoling a grand mom
Soon after that we met eight year old Ikesh, who looked no more than four years. This tiny little thing had seen more life than most of us. His father is an alcoholic and for no reason beats him and his mother up. The mother on her part is so frustrated that she too beats him up. This act is randomly repeated during any time of the day. Ikesh’s three older brothers have left the parents and live together on the Koteshwor crossing and have taken up begging as their full time profession. Ikesh was not taken with them as they thought he was too much of a burden to go with them and this made him very upset.

The newly admitted younger group
All this makes me think that admissions are going to be the most agonizing part of running Koseli. The parents/ children wait very patiently for us for months to start the admissions and all we can do is open admissions to some but still close doors on most of them….

Friday, May 6, 2011

Photography Workshop

Stephanie Roberts is a familiar and a very welcome sight at Koseli. From April 13th to April 19th, she was busy teaching what she is best at doing - photography. Stephanie conducted the photography workshop for the children of Koseli.

Stephanie is a documentary photographer and author by profession. Her work was recently featured on and and she recently published a new book, "The Art of iPhoneography: A Guide to Mobile Creativity." Stephanie runs a non-profit organization called Lens on Life, through which she conducts photography workshops for
underprivileged children in different countries. 

The idea behind the workshop was to expose the children to photography as a career option. We plan to conduct workshops in various fields. So when they grow up, they will know which field suits them best. And the photography workshop was the first in this series.

Almost 20 children were initially introduced to photography and finally 8 of them were selected for more in depth instruction. These children then, under Stephanie’s guidance, each shot and processed hundreds of photographs using iPhone cameras and apps in a variety of settings, in the days that followed. Each day was a better day, each idea was a better idea, and each shot was a better shot. 

The children developed keen interest in the subject and they absorbed every word that was said during the 7-day workshop. They were quick to understand and precise in following the directions. Soon they were scouting clues like lines and light in the subjects they shot. Looking at the final results, it was difficult to imagine that the photographers are 13-14 year-old kids.

The beauty of the whole workshop was that the workshop didn’t end there as their teacher thought that they needed more practice and further refinement in their art. Thus it was concluded with the “to be continued” approach.

Stephanie will now e-mail them their monthly assignments and towards the end of the month she will scrutinize their photographs and share comments with them online. Through Lens on Life, the children's photography will soon be shared with viewers around the world.

However, Koseli doesn’t yet have an internet connection, but hopefully we will have it soon and then resume our photography workshop.

For more details on the workshop, please visit

Wednesday, May 4, 2011



It was late noon and after having walked uphill constantly for 2 hours, I was very exhausted. 
Kids walking up the hills
I placed my last step on top of the hill, thanking God and feeling like I had conquered the Everest , only to realize that I had only reached the base camp. Just to clarify…. in Nepal most elevations are called hills unless they are covered with snow. And I guess this is not an understatement in the land of the Himalayas. After all, Jhule stands only at ~1900m above the sea level as against the 8848m scaled by  Mt. Everest. 
Fun time
The day was turning out to be more adventurous than expected. When we reached Sankhu, a small sleepy town, on the outskirts of Kathmandu valley we were told the hike to Jhule Resort was about an hour and it was an easy hike. Our American guests took the word “easy” at face value. But, what the organizer actually meant was that it was easy for a Nepali.

One hour had turned into three hours uphill trek. When I thought I had reached the top, I finally looked up only to see the children running effortlessly on top of the next hill.  I took a deep breath and started walking again …. I had a long way to go before reaching the promised land. We finally saw a small resort looming on the horizon of the adjoining hill. The surrounding view from the resort was breath taking. Every step taken to reach the destination was worth the effort.

The event was organized by Hriday Group in association with the Padyatris for the children of Koseli.  So in addition to 30 children we had 30 more people who were at the resort on that beautiful, clear and sunny day. For the kids it was just a cakewalk, they breezed through the hike effortlessly. They picked berries on the way, ran back and forth the hills to catch up with their friends and sometimes even came back to get us when we trailed far behind.
Sumptuous Lunch
It was heart warming to see the children enjoying the outing and their lunch too. There were no traces of the sumptuous breakfast left in their tummies which they had at Timur in the morning. 

The children enjoyed the games. They sang and danced. After all singing and dancing runs in their blood. The surprise package of the day was Upendra, a shy 12 year old boy from Terai (plains), now living in the slums of Kathmandu. After being coaxed for a while he broke into a Bhojpuri song in a loud and clear voice, the meaning of which he was only too shy to explain.
All of us
We would like to thank the Hriday Group, Timur Restaurant and Padyatris from the bottom of our hearts for gifting the Koseli kids with such a beautiful day. It surely was a day filled with adventure and excitement. For most of the kids it was a day to be happy and enjoy the countryside and breathe a sigh of fresh air atop the picturesque Jhule Resort from the daily runt and grunt of the city slums. As for me it was an opportunity to enjoy the moment and be with my kids and be happy in their happiness.