When A Small Charity Makes A Big Difference
Submitted By Tom Devins
Himalayan Hands is a small 501(3)(c) charity making a big difference in the lives of those who have been forgotten by larger charities and the government. Organized in 2015 by Tom Devins, a Spring Branch resident, Himalayan Hands is served by an all-volunteer staff: five individuals in Nepal and five directors here in the United States. Their mission is to help the people of Nepal, one of the world’s poorest countries.
Nepal is a beautiful country. Boasting eight of the world’s 10 tallest mountains, it is landlocked, surrounded by China to the North and India to the South. Nepal is also extremely poverty stricken. About four percent of its children die before their fifth birthday. Because of malnutrition, 40 percent of Nepalese children are too short for their age. One in four people live on less than $1 per day. Three out of four households do not have access to sewage facilities.
Devins just completed a two week stay in Nepal to review operations.
“You have to see it to believe it,” Devins described. “The dirt, filth and poverty is incomprehensible; I walk away saddened and with a much deeper appreciation for what I have, even sorry I have so much.”
Himalayan Hands (HH) is helping to do its part. Since inception, the organization has built nine wells bringing fresh water to communities. It supports a day care center in one village, two hours outside Kathmandu, providing two meals a day and teachers for about 20 children. This is a big boost to the families, freeing up the village women to work in the fields. About 75 percent of Nepal’s GDP comes from agriculture.
“And those little kids,” said Tom. “I could just eat them up.”
In one village, HH recently installed solar panels, providing back up lighting to supplement an unreliable power source. In another village, HH installed a center to teach village women how to sew. Nepal’s non-agriculture unemployment hovers at about 50 percent. To find employment, many men travel to Arab countries and work as servants to the oil rich elites. According to Tom, the word “servant” is a misnomer. “Slave labor,” he says, might be a better term. The women’s sewing skills help bring in income while the primary bread winner is away.
HH’s crowning achievement came from rebuilding (and remodeling) an orphanage that now houses 43 children and four adults. It was badly damaged in the 2015 earthquake, making it virtually uninhabitable. Still, much work needs to be done. The 47 residents share three bathrooms and two showers.
HH’s good works projects make, perhaps, a poverty burdened life a tiny bit more bearable. But, the long-term solution lies in education. The high school drop-out rate in Nepal is 50 percent. HH currently pays for the education of 61 children and is embarking on a program to solicit one-on-one sponsorship for each orphaned child.
“There is a lot more to education than buying books, supplies and uniforms and ushering a child out the door,” explained Tom. “Children need to be healthy, happy and well-nourished to be good students. They can also benefit from some encouragement and a shoulder to cry on when things don’t go well.”
To this end, HH has purchased three computers and internet service for the orphanage so the children can communicate with their sponsors, share pictures and so forth. This program will also teach them computer skills and help them to learn English, resources that will serve them well when they leave the orphanage.
“It’s a tough, cruel, unfair world out there,” Tom commented. “You do what you can, then go home and get on your knees and be thankful to God for what you have.”