October/November 2014 I had a two months stint in Nepal at one of the children's homes. The experience turned out to be rewarding thanks to the Nepali people especially the children. And I felt I was able to enrich their lives at least a tiny bit. My experiences are documented on my travel blog annewlindsay.com TRAVEL DIARIES if you are interested in knowing some of the activities I undertook with the kids and what Nepal was like for me.
However, sad to say, I (a mother, grandmother, social worker and health care administrator) and another volunteer (a fourth year medical student) uncovered problems with the health of the children related to their receiving inadequate nutrition. These are kids who have been under the charities auspice for more than five years. The top administrators in Nepal are western women, rumored to be in charge of 'volunteer support', 'fund raising' and 'budgeting'. They visited the homes once a month and did their own version of 'case management' for the children. They both went into a tirade one day and advised me and another volunteer who'd had the nerve to suggest a change to their webpage, that volunteers were too much trouble. The only reason they entertained volunteers was because they brought in money!
Where did the money from our huge program fees go to? Not to the kids, nor to the 'host families'. I am back three months now and have been in dialogue with GVN. I've enlisted the help of a nurse/academic and a pediatrician (both with extensive experience in third world countries attending to the needs of children) , and a dietitian. They have analyzed the data on the children's height and weights (we photographed records) and have verified that some of the children show evidence of failure to thrive and the calories currently provided are not sufficient, especially for the older boys (15-18 years). You know those glowing reviews on the GVN site? Will you see a review from me? No. The organization doesn't want to hear 'bad news'. Give a bad review and you are obviously a disgruntled volunteer. Even with this kind of evidence their tack is to start a dialogue with the Nepali partners (the western women) to give them a chance to tell their side of the story ( the story of why the kids are underweight.) Evidently there is a good reason for this. I can't imagine any valid reason for not buying enough lentils to provide sufficient calories. Budgeting? The tens of thousands of money brought in through program fees is not used to support the children's homes! For support for the homes, extra donations are solicited. Who from? Well everyone. -- especially the hapless volunteer who sees the needs of the children up close -- the little scrap of soap shared between six girls. The tights so worn they're like cobwebs in places. . I was hoping that GVN would step up to the plate when made aware of this level of concern. I feel so sad tonight having received another email from GVN where I'm informed the Nepal administrators will be reporting back to GVN and in 'due course' I will hear 'their side of the story' (again). And GVN has no concerns about how the Nepal based administrators allocate funding. The pediatrician, nurse and dietitian have donated hours of time analyzing the data, and they have done additional research and presented this data to GVN. Not a word of thanks. I really fear this will be swept under the carpet. I feel so sorry for these children now approaching adulthood and with very little in the way planning done to help them adjust to life outside the home. I will not discourage anyone from volunteering with GVN. The children do benefit from good volunteers. Remember a good volunteer carries a note book, pencil and camera. If we see something offensive and don't report it we are as culpable as the persons who have caused the offence.