Traveling as model & volunteer turned Dutch model Iekeliene Stange into a passionate travel photographer. She dreams of a better world and hopes to return to Nepal and visit an orphanage. Last December she had the chance, her journey.
"After a long flight via Paris to Dehli, I first spend New Years in Punjab with a family who gave me shelter for four months last year. I gave manual labor at their school for deaf and blind children in Patiala, a town with mostly Sikhs and Hindus. After celebrating New Years with a bunch drunken Punjabi's (which they are known for), an afternoon with the local biker gang at their Royal Enfield-motorbikes and a visit to different NGO's in Patiala, which the family cooperates with, my jetlag calmed and it's time to go towards Nepal".
"Arriving at Kathmandu I found out that my bankcard is still at an ATM in Patiala. With no cash it's not even possible to buy an entrance visa for Nepal. Now what? Back to India or maybe even the Netherlands? I'm about to give up. Happily a nice Polish boy who was sitting next to me on the plane helps me: he lends me money for my visa and a hotel. My parents are so helpful to make a Western Union transfer so everything turns out OK".
"In the early hours I walk to the bus station and hope to catch some sleep on the way but I immediately fell in a conversation with a sweet Nepalese guy who sits in front of me. He lives in Bangkok but is on his way to visit his parents. And so we arrive after six hours of winding mountain roads in the National Park of Nepal: Chitwan, the Kingdom of the tiger, elephant and rhino. It's hard to get in touch with Sushila, the owner of the orphanage, but eventually I manage to call her via one of the cab drivers of the bus station. After a couple minutes she appears at her blue bike and welcomes me with a friendly smile. I think I like this lady".
"Sushila set up a small orphanage a few years ago together with her husband and used the money from her dowry. Her husband owns a small shop in the village and they live a very simple life. You can tell that they put all the income in the orphanage. At this moment there are five children (and two own children) but she has to expand to ten children to officially be allowed to keep the orphanage running. However, there is not enough money coming in and it's questionable whether they can provide food for five extra children. The foundation for a new building is already there, but it can't be continued at this moment".
"One by one the children arrive from school. I suspect it will be a challenge. All children who Sushila took in come from a difficult childhood. They are very energetic and full of life, hard to keep up with them and it's not easy to keep them in order. But Sushila is the ideal person with her patience and love and she knows exactly how to manage them. That is, when she's around".
"My head is full of ideas when going to bed. The next day I immediately start to work and explain my thoughts in poor English to Sushila and we brainstorm together about the possibilities. At this moment the situation is minimal: the children only have a wooden box for their clothing. The thin mattresses Sushila made herself from rags. I suggest to build wooden cabins for the children's rooms, when Sushila remembers she has two old cabins in her henhouse. The cabins really need a make-over, after being scrubbed and spruced, I paint them with flowers and decorations while the children tell me where I need to put the colors. Then I start with the girls room, I painted him blue and purple and gave the brand new kitchen the beautiful colors bright blue and yellow. We also took care of the exterior and even Ama, the deaf lady who is the only employee of the orphanage, is helping with joy".
"One day, when the children came out of school, we decided to take a walk through the woods. During the walk they were all fighting to hold my hands. The park is quite popular among the tourists, especially many Asians who are here for the safari, hoping to spot a tiger or crocodile. These days I'm not so easily impressed by the big elephants who walk by occasionally, as the children have one as their neighbor. Suddenly we spot a small kitten that is hit by a motorcycle. She isn't able to walk any more, so we took care of her sharing our rice and giving her a spot close to the fire. During my time at the orphanage I'm also witnessing the birth of a nest with chicks, a small kitten and a puppy. I make the joke to Sushlila that next time when I will visit her she will be running a Zoo".
PRINCES AND PRINCESSES
"Every time when I'm painting they all want to help and arguing about who's turn it is. So when the children have a five day holiday I decide to distract them with a creative activity. I give them a piece of cardboard and show them how they can make masks or crowns out of it. Everything is painted in bright colors and the boys come up with more ideas. They make swords with their name on it out of bamboo and for the girls magical wands decorated with beautiful stars. The next day we all dress up. Just like Sushila I wear a colorful sari. Dressed up we go in procession through the village on our way to the local lawn in the forest. There the princes fight against each other to conquer the hand of a beautiful princes".
"Later that week we do another activity in the forest where I gave the children the mission to collect the most beautiful leaves and flowers, which they laced up to a long garland to decorate the front of the orphanage. Then it's time to leave, Sushila organizes a small horse-drawn carriage to bring me to the bus station. During our bumpy ride we discuss the future of the orphanage. What an inspiring woman!"
You can donate via www.savenepalorphanlife.org.