From $30 to $10K: One Family's Campaign to Help Orphaned Children in Nepal After Earthquake

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The Hastings-Kimball and their children, Shanti and Sandeep, in Nepal. (Photo: Courtesy of Sarah Vander Schaaff) 

When Alisha and John Hastings-Kimball returned from Nepal in January 2007, they brought with them the two children they had traveled to the country to adopt: a girl and boy, both 2 years old, who had been cared for by the Sagarmatha Children’s Home.

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“We did not take Shanti and Sandeep from Nepal to cut them out of that culture,” Alisha told me recently when I sat in her New Jersey home, surrounded by artwork from Nepal, including that of the master thangka painter, Lalman Lama, who was briefly staying with the family on his way to New York.

“We do not have a connection to the children’s biological parents,” Alisha said. But she and her husband, and many other families who have adopted from the Sagamartha Children’s home, have kept strong ties with the orphanage and its staff.

So much so, that they are now part of a growing network of such families raising thousands of dollars to help Sagarmatha rebuild, tapping their social media networks in a grass-roots mission to give back to their children’s first home.  A home that is both closer, thanks to social media, and more remote, with restrictions on adoption and the government’s desire to control earthquake relief donations.

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For the Hastings-Kimball family, the fundraising has been a personal and global effort. First, there was the Saturday morning in late April when they told their now 10-year-old children about the earthquake.

Their reactions were deep, but intensely different, their father said.

Shanti wanted to empty her piggy bank and send the money for relief. Sandeep could only view so many photos before saying, “I’ve seen enough.”

The next day, John set up a GoFundMe page, with the goal of raising $5,000 to send directly the Sagarmatha Children’s Home. Shanti and Sandeep’s $30 would be seed money for the larger goal.

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The scene at the Sagarmatha Children’s Home shortly after the earthquake. (Photo: Sagarmatha Children’s Home/Facebook)

John had been in continued touch via Facebook Messenger with the lawyer he’d come to know well since the adoption in 2007, Manoj Kumar Kandel. Kandel was now the head of an NGO in Nepal with oversight of children’s welfare. John was also in contact with Sapna Rana, the director of Sagarmatha, which maintained buildings in Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. Both Manoj and Sapna were safe, but they were expecting an influx of children in need of shelter and care. The orphanage that typically housed 15 to 30 children was anticipating 300 to 400 more.

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In the days since the Hastings-Kimballs began their drive, they’ve raised more than $9,700 from more than 95 people – and it continues to grow. Their page has been shared more than 200 times via social media. 

Alisha says her two children “have an innate ability to function from a place of honesty and compassion. They … remind us that helping others without hesitation should be our first response to people in need. That instant reaction was what spurred us to create the page that is funding their children’s home now.”

Now their family’s goal is now more defined. Kandel contacted them shortly after the family’s fundraising efforts began with word that the orphanage will need to rebuild. It will cost roughly $200,000 to acquire the land and construct a home to house 50 to 60 children, he estimated.  

It’s then that the Hastings-Kimballs turned to the larger network of families they had come to know who had also adopted children from Nepal and maintained ties. They are now adding their individual fundraising money to that of the Nepal Adoptive Families Association – a social and support group that is becoming a nonprofit to continue support for rebuilding Nepal.  The Nepal Adoptive Families Association wires money directly to orphanages and children’s homes, including Sagarmatha and to an NGO on the ground in Nepal that can receive and allocate aid to the orphanages that were most hard hit.  

A May 1 article in the London Telegraph, “Nepal aid donors ‘may halt fundraising’ amid fears government will seize donations” detailed the statement by the Nepal government requiring all donations be transferred to the Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund with punishment by law for those who disobey.

While those quoted in the article speculated on both the chilling effect and practical enforcement of this demand, parents such as John and Alisha are using Facebook, gofundme, and the network of Nepal Adoptive Families Association to move ahead with their goals.

The Hastings-Kimballs plan to keep fundraising and get the money directly to the orphanage to which they are so grateful.

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