Kiran Namaste

“Just call me “It”,” says Iet J. Schilder-Verboom. Iet is a tall lanky lady with reddish hair. She is from the Netherlands where she runs a small clinic as a psychologist. “I  rst came to Nepal some 18 years ago,” she recalls.  at was when her husband (“who is a very active man”) had asked her to come pick him up from Kathmandu, which was where he had ended up after a mountain bike ride from Lhasa, “I came back the next year with my children (two sons) and somehow, felt very attached to the place. I spent my time sightseeing and encountered many street children here.”

Iet’s interest in street children was not just a happenstance. Shediscloses, “My childhood was spent in many different countries since my father, an engineer, was constantly on the move. This resulted in my feeling of rootlessness.” Obviously, Iet had the wings, but not the roots, two things that are supposed to be very important in a child’s life according to Goethe. Perhaps this was the reason she empathized so with the street children she saw in Kathmandu’s streets. This empathy remained with her after returning home. For the next two years, she contemplated on the same. “I wanted to travel not as a rich westerner but as one with some purpose,” she says. “My husband advised me not to be swayed by my emotions but to be more practical in making any future plans.”

She reveals how, one fine day, a project was formed in her mind. She knew what she had to do. ”I came back to Kathmandu and established Kiran Namaste, a home for single women, their children as well as other street kids. My aim was to help single women who had suffered much injustice and keep out of the streets as many kids as possible,” she says. “Kiran means the sun’s rays,” she explains, “and Namaste of course means, greetings. So, my home is ‘greetings of the sun’s rays’.” She further elaborates, pointing to the logo on her visiting card, “You see that boomerang like curvature—that is Kiran Namaste giving a helping hand. The long straight slash at the bottom is the road ahead that our benefi ciaries have to take for themselves after their stint with us.”

Talking more about the project, Iet says, “In the beginning, we took on fi ve single mothers and 13 children. Currently, at present, there are 10 single mothers and around 39 children at our Home. This is the third group since our establishment.” Apparently, women can stay in the Home for a period of three years during which time they are also given different types of vocational trainings in order to prepare them for a productive life ahead on their own. Their children, in the meanwhile, are, in addition to being well looked after, also sent to schools till Iet’s interest in street children was not just a happenstance. She discloses, “My childhood was spent in many different countries since my father, an engineer, was constantly on the move. This resulted in my feeling of rootlessness.” Obviously, Iet had the wings, but not the roots, two things that are supposed to be very important in a child’s life according to Goethe. Perhaps this was the reason she empathized so with the street children she saw in Kathmandu’s streets. This empathy remained with her after returning home. For the next two years, she contemplated on the same. “I wanted to travel not as a rich westerner but as one with some purpose,” she says. “My husband advised me not to be swayed by my emotions but to be more practical in making any future plans.”

She reveals how, one fi ne day, a project was formed in her mind. She knew what she had todo. ”I came back to Kathmandu and established Kiran Namaste, a home for single women, their children as well as other street kids. My aim was to help single women who had suffered much injustice and keep out of the streets as many kids as possible,” she says. “Kiran means the sun’s rays,” she explains, “and Namaste of course means, greetings. So, my home is ‘greetings of the sun’s rays’.” She further elaborates, pointing to the logo on her visiting card, “You see that boomerang like curvature—that is Kiran Namaste giving a helping hand. The long straight slash at the bottom is the road ahead that our benefi ciaries have to take for themselves after their stint with us.”

Talking more about the project, Iet says, “In the beginning, we took on fi ve single mothers and 13 children. Currently, at present, there are 10 single mothers and around 39 children at our Home. This is the third group since our establishment.” Apparently, women can stay in the Home for a period of three years during which time they are also given different types of vocational trainings in order to prepare them for a productive life ahead on their own. Their children, in the meanwhile, are, in addition to being well looked after, also sent to schools till they pass high school. Vocational training to the women is provided in the Home’s own workshop which has led to it having quite a large number of handmade products in its collection. Iet is happy that some of the women who have passed out of her Home have either started their own small businesses or are working in some responsible positions in others’ companies.

About present conditions, Iet admits to there being some diffi culties in not having their own house due to the uncertainty of more permanent arrangements and the rise in rent from time to time. “We are seriously planning to have a house of our own now,” she says. “In fact we have already bought a plot of land and have had consultations with an architect. Of course, funds are the major problem since it will cost quite a lot of money.” Iet is well aware that funds are not easy to come by because of the prevalent trust defi cit regarding the working of NGOs. Nevertheless, she is optimistic and confi dent that she will succeed. She is proud of the fact that UNESCO has recognized her project and allowed it to use their logo in her brochures. As far as her staff is concerned, she is today quite satisfied with their work although as she says, “Well, I have had some disappointments in the past in this regard, but I am quite happy now.” It is a small staff headed by a coordinator and a supervisor. Iet says that although the Home does not lack in rules and regulations, love and warmth are equally important in a Home such as hers. As she says, “We want to create a family environment here where all the residents feel a sense of ownership. I want there to be warmth and goodwill.”

In addition to future plans to construct their own building, Iet is also planning to set up a system whereby women who have passed out of her Home can, if they want, be employed in it itself as trainers. She says, “I have big dreams, I want to do so much more. You know, I have observed that if your dreams are sincere enough, there are many people who will come forward to help you.” Iet comes to Nepal about two times a year and stays for a couple of weeks. It is certainly a long distance from the Netherlands to Nepal
and one does wonder what keeps her recharged year after year to make the long journey and what motivates her to still dream of doing more. Her answer is simple, “When I enter our Home and see the children that makes me very happy and makes me want to do more.”

Video of Kiran Namaste 

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