We’ve Moved In! Nepal’s Butterfly Home is Complete

During the winter of 2015/2016, Utopia Volunteer Kayla is volunteering at the Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC)/Butterfly Home in Nepal. After progress was significantly delayed from the earthquakes that devastated the country in the spring of 2015, February 2016 marks the completion of the NEW Butterfly Home!

Here is an update from Kayla, February 2016:

Volunteer Kayla enjoys celebrating this major milestone with the Butterfly Home children.
Volunteer Kayla enjoys celebrating this major milestone with the Butterfly Home children.

It is official, the Butterfly Home is now truly a home with all 45 ECDC kids running around. There is still a little last-minute painting, organizing, and tree house assembling to be done, but those are little things compared to this big and long-awaited accomplishment! I was honored to take part in a Nepalese Ceremony to bless the house and celebrate the kids that took place before the first night in the new home. All the girls got to dress up in their traditional, bedazzled Nepalese dresses and I did my best wearing one I last minute found in a department store. The ceremony included a lot of chants, fruits and herbs representing different things, and seemingly endless handfuls of candy for the kids. It was a happy day for everyone.

The move-in week we were lucky enough to acquire more helping hands as Thomas Morgan, the creator of Waiting For Mamu (the documentary on ECDC), his family, and a returning volunteer joined us. They were all such lovely, generous people who I was honored to experience this memorable moment with.

Waiting for Mamu's Thomas Morgan participated in a traditional Nepalese Ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of the new Butterfly Home.
Waiting for Mamu’s Thomas Morgan participated in a traditional Nepalese Ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of the new Butterfly Home.

The transition from the old to the new home has gone very smoothly with only a few misplaced items and a not-so-welcomed reminder of last years devastation when a 5.3 magnitude earthquake shook Nepal awake the night before moving in. Luckily, there was no damage and the kids are tough enough to not be phased by the scare…excitement wasn’t dulled a bit that day.

I am having the most rewarding time spending day after day with these extraordinary kids. I am surprised daily by their strength, passion, and endless love; and now with their new and improved home they can play like kids and pursue their passions. This is their first home with a yard to play soccer and do handstand on, sinks that dispense water, and an oven to bake homemade treats in. They can now experience a bit more of a life as a kid with less troubles and more joy.

Festive, traditional clothing were worn by all during the blessing ceremony to commemorate the new Butterfly Home.
Festive, traditional clothing were worn by all during the blessing ceremony to commemorate the new Butterfly Home.

The next challenge is for me to teach the staff and older kids how to bake. Our first attempt at making brownies put into perspective just how many mouths they have to feed here, and how much chocolate these kids are capable of devouring. But besides the excitement of a new home, routine is still in hand and settling into the new home seems to be an easy task for them.

Life is good here at the Butterfly Home, even the impressive amount of bumps and bruises from pretending I’m a kid are welcomed.

Namaste from Nepal,
Kayla

— Click here to read Kayla’s previous update from January, 2016. —

To find out more about how YOU can volunteer with ECDC in Nepal, please click here. Click here to donate to ECDC, and always contact us with any questions about getting involved!

Prayer flags fly at the completed Butterfly Home. Congratulations to Pushpa, staff, and the wonderful children on this milestone.
Prayer flags fly at the completed Butterfly Home. Congratulations to Pushpa, staff, and the wonderful children on this milestone.
Sunset descends upon Kathmandu and the Butterfly Home.
Sunset descends upon Kathmandu and the Butterfly Home.

Progress at the Butterfly Home in Nepal

During the winter of 2015/2016, Utopia Volunteer Kayla is volunteering at the Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC)/Butterfly Home in Nepal. In addition to providing nurturing care and support for the children, and maintaining operations of ECDC, Pushpa (ECDC’s founder), staff and volunteers are preparing for a move into the new Butterfly Home.

Here is an update from Kayla during her volunteer time in Nepal, January 2016:

Image of volunteer with children at the Butterfly Home
The ECDC children have started calling Kayla ‘Auntie Kayla’

It has been such a blessing working with Pushpa and the kids! It seems I have arrived at a very hectic time for ECDC with the kids having their exams and Pushpa trying to get everything squared away for the big move to the new Butterfly Home. I am happy to be an extra set of hands for them all. I have been able to work at the new home with finishing touches and the never ending packing and unpacking. The new house is definitely a step up from their current living situation. It is absolutely gorgeous and you can tell Pushpa poured her heart into this project. The excitement expressed from the children to move into a proper home is highly contagious as well. It is still a work in progress, but they aim to be move-in ready in two weeks.

Kids at the ECDC showing love!
Kayla loves spending time with the ECDC children, and it looks like they love spending time with her as well!

At the moment we do most of the cooking outdoors over a fire because of the lack of space and equipment in the dark outdated kitchen. Four kids sleep in a bunk-bed, an older and a younger per twin sized mattress. We wash the kids hair using the water pulled up from the well and bucket it onto their heads outside over the drain. Meals, studying, and playing are all done in the same outside seating area. The new home has a total of four buildings and includes separate dormitories for the boys and girls, a beautiful Waldorf room, a spacious kitchen with new appliances, bathrooms that include working showers, a library, a stage for the kids to perform and play on, and the entire orphanage is handicap accessible.

Nepal is really struggling with the border closed between them and India. Petrol shortage is the biggest repercussion and because of this all of Nepal has what they call 13 hours of darkness a day. There is scheduled time for when electricity should be on each day and it is supposed to add up to 11 hours, but it is hardly reliable. Pushpa took great precaution for this and has had several large solar panels installed at the new Butterfly Home so they wont have to get up in the middle of the night to take advantage of the unpredictable electricity anymore.

ECDC Kids practicing morning yoga
The ECDC Kids enjoy doing Lions Breath with their yoga practice, led by volunteer Kayla!

The kids are finally through with exams and are on a little holiday at the moment. Pushpa is in and out all day long so I stick around normally from 8 in the morning to 6 at night helping with whatever I can—playing, cooking, cleaning, etc. Teaching the kids yoga in the morning is such a blast. Their attention span is naturally a bit shorter, but as long as we get the lions breath in they are all happy as can be. I am learning a lot from them. Most of the kids speak as much English as I do Nepalese, so it was a bit of a struggle at first, but we have somehow overcome it and I adore their company. They call me Auntie Kayla and it is constantly called out throughout the day, so much so that I am starting to hear it in my sleep.

Pushpa has presented an amazing opportunity for me to travel to a remote prison with her to rescue two more kids. I am very honored to get this experience and see a bit deeper into Pushpa’s work and the life endured by these children. I will be sure to write a report on it when the time comes.

Namaste from Nepal,
Kayla

— Click here to read Kayla’s update about ECDC’s Grand Opening, February 2016. —

To find out more about how YOU can volunteer with ECDC in Nepal, please click here. Click here to donate to ECDC, and always contact us with any questions about getting involved!

The new ECDC complex near completion
The new Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC), more commonly known as The Butterfly Home, is in its final stages of construction. Kayla tells us it should be move-in ready within just a couple of weeks!

Empowering women in Kenya

Mary (pictured in a blue jacket) joins together with women of the Living Positive Kenya program that aims to empower women and create thriving communities.
Mary (learning forward, center) laughs with others of the Living Positive Kenya program that aims to empower women and create thriving communities.

In Kenya, countless women with HIV and AIDS resign to their fates of having to live in slums isolated and without help, feeling ashamed from the stigma of community members. One social worker, Mary, was tired of answering phones only to hear that another child was orphaned in these impoverished areas. She knew something could be different. She knew that there was some way for these women to feel better about their situations and get the help they need for their own health, and the health of their families.

This social worker decided to make a change and develop a way to empower these women to lead fuller, more successful lives. This was the birth of Living Positive Kenya, a community-based organization working with women who have HIV/AIDS.

In this program, women go through an intensive 18-month training in psycho-social counseling to accept their positive status, and skill training and business plan development to enter the market able to generate income for their families. They also receive homecare visits and transportation to medical appointments to help with the physical and mental afflictions of this disease.

Volunteer with the Living Positive Kenya program and help make a difference in communities affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Volunteer with the Living Positive Kenya program and help make a difference in communities affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa.

The training has enabled more women to stay alive and take care of their own children, preventing numerous Kenyan kids from orphanage life. Through the Living Positive Kenya program, the community has accepted the women and they no longer have to live in fear or isolation.

Living Positive Kenya started out of the spirit of selfless giving. Its growth and future sustainability depends on volunteers who come to Kenya willing and wanting to help empower these women.

It is a rewarding moment to see children coming home to their mothers and not to orphanage dorms. If you’d like to help with the Living Positive Kenya program, contact us and let us know!

Giving back in Costa Rica

Image of English teaching in Costa Rica.
Teaching English was only one way volunteer Thuva gave back to this small Costa Rican community.

At a poor school in the small Costa Rican hill town of San Miguel de Sarapiquí, a volunteer named Thuva gave his heart and hands to help educate students for eight weeks. This 25-year old young man from Singapore taught English and Physical Education classes to all 23 students, connecting with each of them through creative learning games and a passionate, enthusiastic presence.

Before long, students started sending dinner invites his way and Thuva became part of the community. Touched by their appreciation and humility, Thuva left a much-needed new pair of shoes for every single student, and his personal laptop for the teacher.

When asked how he could give that much to everyone, he said “They gave me more than I ever expected.”

Generosity and goodwill filters through the lives of everyone affected by the works of a volunteer like Thuva. The memories of loving kindness given from the community to Thuva, and from Thuva to the community, will continue to spread love and positivity long into the future.

Engagement and mentoring changes lives in South Africa

Name: Ian Sulcer

Volunteer DestinationSouth Africa

Volunteer Ian Sulcer with kids in South Africa
Ian’s dedication and passion for helping at-risk youth has left a lasting impact on the lives of the South African children he worked with.

Ian Sulcer wanted to dedicate his life to helping children at-risk of dropping out of school, using drugs, or struggling with behavior and discipline issues. Utopia Volunteers (UV) Executive Director Debbi Asuncion and Dreamcatcher, a UV partner organization in South Africa, organized a program for Ian that would let him develop an engagement and therapy model to use with at-risk youth in South Africa.

Ian immersed himself fully in the experience and gave everything he could to the kids he was working with, finding enrichment and direction that would help guide his future service.

After Ian’s volunteer experience, Dreamcatcher reported that his time profoundly transformed the lives of two at-risk boys.

One troubled 10-year old boy who Ian mentored for three months was recently elected class captain, significantly improved his grades and attitude, and was even nominated the best cricket player on his team. His 16-year old brother who was under-performing at school, missing many classes, and facing constant pressure by peers to use drugs, has found focus and a new lease on life from his litter brother’s example. Witnessing his sibling’s resolve and personal growth, the elder brother has cast off the shackles of anti-social behavior and has set his sights on enrolling for a skills development -and post-school enrichment course for high-school drop out youth.

Well done Ian — your legacy is alive!

During his time volunteering, Ian wrote this about his experience:

“At the start of my volunteering journey I felt as though I had too much responsibility. I thought I needed some direction, or else I would go through the 3 months without anything of merit to show on the other side. However once I was able to find my bearings, orientate and dedicate myself to making something happen, I was able to take charge of my own experience and create something beautiful. I know that I made the right choice in placement and, go figure, it wasn’t for the reasons that had expected. … I have been forced for these months to take control of the work that I do, to think about what kind of experience I want to want to have, and to make it happen. As it turns out, I am getting exactly what I needed out of this experience in order to learn and to grow into the kind of man that I want to be in a way that was wholly unexpected and completely perfect.”