Aastha House, House of Hope

Aastha House, House of Hope

Buddhanilkantha, Nepal: Aastha House is the flagship program of the Rising Child Nepal Foundation. Started by Margreta Kerr (Maggie) in 1997, Aastha House is home to some of Nepal's most destitute children, children who formerly lived on the streets, were begging, involved in child labor or living in remote Himalayan villages in direst poverty,orphaned and no other family member able to care for them. Over the years, we've helped many, many children. Children who once were mired in poverty rise up and achieve all they are capable of through your support of Aastha House, House of Hope. Now, when we see street kids begging, we see them not as filthy beggars but as the beautiful children they are, and what they could become if only they were given the chances of other children, proper education, nutrition, a roof over their heads and loving, family like support.

Sponsor and Donate

Sponsorship of one of our children costs US $1400 a year. That amount provides each child with a loving, family life home, nutritious meals, medical care, tutoring, outings and extra curricular activities. The children all attend a local English medium private school, one of the best in Nepal, where they receive a first class education. We are currently raising money to build a permanent Aastha House, so your support is all the more needed to enable us to continue caring for more orphaned, abandoned and at risk children in Nepal. If you can't afford $1400, any amount is appreciated... $5 to $5000! As we are an all-volunteer organization, all money goes directly to the children and our projects. I take no salary for this work.

Our Commitment and Answers to Common Questions

How long do the children stay in your care, and what happens when they complete high school?
We never abandon these children. Once they become part of Aastha House, they are family and they all consider each other brothers and sisters. After high school, we continue to support them through university or vocational training, whichever best suits their talents and needs, and then help them as they adjust to life as adults. For most of our children, the only family they have ever known is Aastha House. Maggie, her amazing houseparents Gupta and Anita, who the children call Uncle and Auntie (they have been with me since 1997 and are really like parents to our kids), and Aastha House will always be their home once they start their own families and return to visit with their children! W support them in whatever way necessary to go on and have independent and fulfilling lives making a difference in the world.

Why do you only accept 25 children to Aastha House and not more?
Maggie and her staff are asked almost every week to take in more orphaned and abandoned children. We have to say no, not just for financial reasons. Aastha House is family and Maggie has always aimed to make the home a HOME, not an orphanage or warehousing of children. Its simply not possible to do that with huge numbers of children, so we have set a limit of 25 based on our staff and what we have learned works over the years.

We also focus on other areas, such as scholarships for untouchable girls, a way for girls from the lowest denominator of Nepal society to remain in school. We focus on providing income generating projects for women in slum and squatter areas, and we focus on nutrition, helping keep children in school through providing nourishing food. Although we will continue to run Aastha House as the focal point of our work, we will be placing more emphasis on our scholarship, food and income generating programs for women and children in the years to come.

How do these children come to you?
We are often asked how these children come to us. Stories of children in dire need are passed on to us every day. But the process of a child coming to Aastha House is a long one. Maggie personally visits the villages, slum areas, squatter settlements, and gets to know the child, other family members, and locals who can fill in details. She rarely has accepted a child in a short period of time and always tries to find other options for children to remain in their home villages. Often this is simply not possible, as orphaned children don’t have other family members who are able to feed their own families, let alone another child.

Sometimes parents with severe disabilities are unable to adequately care for their children and, after attempting to put the kids in local schools, we find they need to be in a home with structure. Many of our begging kids were first put into local schools but missed so much school because of illness (from measles to typhoid fever and hepatitis) due to the horrific lack of sanitation and access to clean water in their homes. They were also still forced to beg on top of their school duties, and ultimately, this was not sustainable. But if at all possible, we find ways to keep the children in their homes, even if they are in a squatter or begging community (as with the quilt makers from a begging community in Kathmandu) and find ways for their parents or caretakers to earn an income. We find most family members want their children to remain in school and have a better life than they did, but they must have a source of income that doesn’t involve begging to do so.

As we are a registered nonprofit and NGO in the country of Nepal and the USA, we must go through government channels to ensure the children are legally put in our care. And, as said previously, we do only accept children into Aastha House as a last resort after all other options have been exhausted. Our first aim is to give them a safe, healthy and happy life along with education in their own communities with other family members (if they are orphaned) or in a local boarding school Aastha House is only for those children most at risk who have nowhere else to go and no one to care for them.

One final question Maggie is often asked: Why do you not facilitate adoptions?
The reasons are complicated. One, Maggie firmly believes that children should, if at all possible, grow up in their own culture. For that reason, she first tries all avenues to find ways to help children in their own villages or begging communities, and only takes children who have no other alternative. Nepal needs its children, the life force of this amazing and ancient culture. They need their children educated and nourished and able to give back to their society and move it forward. They need to rise up and soar, as the name of Maggie’s foundation, The Rising Child Nepal Foundation, suggests.

Also, the reality is that many children adopted from Nepal are not true orphans and have one parent living. There have been abuses of the system, and some children’s homes were set up to basically make money off of adoption, with the agencies in the USA charging thousands of which the middle men in Nepal get a cut (and the agencies take a large portion, as well). It is a business, and it is one fraught with potential for disaster. Recognizing this, the Nepal government has several times suspended adoptions until they could make sure stricter laws were in place to protect the children and the potential adoptive families. Adoption can be wonderful for many, but our focus is on keeping these children in their own culture and society and helping them develop a sense of compassion and desire to give back to other children who once were in their plight.

Now, let’s introduce you to some of our amazing Aastha House Kids >>