Simona and Mayan Adhikari visited Kathmandu, Nepal, to visit family last December. When they came home, they brought with them a mission.
“Here, we have everything, but there, they don’t have anything,” said 10-year-old Simona, a rising fifth-grader at Waddell Language Academy. “That’s why I wanted to help them.”
“I felt sad because they had no moms and dads and they don’t have a lot of food to eat,” added 7-year-old Mayan, a rising second-grader at Waddell.
The siblings are U.S. citizens, but their parents are first- and second-generation immigrants. The Adhikari family lives in the Cady Lake neighborhood in south Charlotte.
“My husband grew up in Kathmandu, Nepal, and came to the U.S. for college,” Sapana Adhikari said. “I was born and raised in the U.S. from immigrant Nepali parents. The kids were visiting grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins (when they went to the orphanage). The last time they had been there was six years ago.”
Sapana said her husband accompanied Simona and Mayan on their three-week trip to Kathmandu, while she stayed in the U.S. with their youngest daughter, Eva. During their trip, Simona and Mayan visited an orphanage about an hour outside Kathmandu, Adhikari said.
“Our hope was to expose them to children living in another part of the world who may be less fortunate than us,” she said. “At the dinner table, if they would waste food, or at a store, if they would ask for a toy, we would always remind them that there are kids less fortunate than them and to be grateful for what they have. I am not sure they really understood this and the purpose for out visit was to show them less fortunate children and inspire them to help others.”
Adhikari said her children were very affected by what they saw and experienced at the orphanage. Simona and Mayan brought goodie bags to the children.
“We had leftover goodie bags from a birthday party we had just given in the U.S.,” Adhikari said. “I think they brought them to Nepal with an American mindset perhaps – they loved getting these treats and they thought any kid would love to receive them. I am not sure they ever thought of kids not having their basic needs being met.”
Simona realized right away that the children in the orphanage – about 30 at the time of their visit – needed much more than the goodie bags she and Mayan brought with them.
“We gave them goodie bags with candy and pencils but what they really needed was food and clothes that fit,” Simona said.
“They are also kids, they should get the same treatment as us,” Mayan added.
Adhikari said the children were surprised by the conditions the Nepali children lived in.
“Their visit was after 2 p.m. and the kids had not eaten breakfast or lunch,” she said. “They looked around and saw that although it was nice to get little toys, what the kids really needed was a warm meal and some clothes that fit them. The kids received one meal a day from a government stipend.”
When Simona and Mayan returned to the U.S., they wanted to do something to help, their mom said.
“They collected the few dollars they had received from family and friends,” she said. “They collected pennies from around the house and over the next six months amassed $300.”
Sapana said the $300 was able to provide a jacket and pants for every child as well as food.
The children were featured in a Nepali newspaper, with an article titled “Simona and Mayan’s Desire to Help,” Adhikari said.
“This little project really helped my kids see what kind of a difference they can make with just a little effort and time,” she said. “They hope to make a contribution to this orphanage every year.”
For their next project, Mayan and Simona have been thinking about raising money to provide the children in the orphanage with tennis shoes or winter coats and are trying to think of a way to provide the kids with daily snacks, Adhikari said.
“I was so happy that they were so moved by this experience,” she said. “I was in the U.S. and remember them calling me from Nepal. All they could talk about was what they had seen at the orphanage. They had mentioned that it was the middle of winter and the kids were wearing flip-flops, that they were hungry, that their clothes didn’t fit them. They felt bad that the kids didn’t have parents and were sleeping over 10 people to a cot on the floor.”
Adhikari said one child from the orphanage said that her children’s gift of clothing was the second time in his life that they had ever worn new clothes.
“It is so easy to take for granted everything you have when you are never exposed to someone less fortunate than you,” she said. “This experience has helped my kids appreciate what they have and hopefully this is just the beginning of a lifelong desire to help others.”