Since the Covid-19 Pandemic sent Nepal into lockdown in March, 2020, Happy Kids Center has continued to provide support and essentials to the community. Our goal is to ensure that the programs we can continue despite lockdowns will continue; that everyone always has enough to eat and drink, access to sanitation and PPD, and access to healthcare.
No matter where in the world you are reading this, your life has, in some way, been impacted by Covid19. The same is true for us here in Nepal.
Nepal has poor health-care services and lacks medical infrastructure, staff, and equipment; it is considered poorly prepared to handle a large-scale disease outbreak according to the World Health Organization. On March 24th Nepal announced a lockdown of the Kathmandu Valley, including an order demanding people do not leave their homes, effective the following day. No one was sure of what this lockdown would look like, but we knew the community needed us now, more than ever.
Food shortages were among our greatest concerns. Nepal relies on India and China for the vast majority of food and other supplies in Nepal. India has already closed its borders and dramatically reduced exports in order to ensure their own people would have enough to eat. Supply chains in China slowed nearly to a halt even as the nation began to heal from its own battle with the virus. This means food has quickly become unaffordable for many and our community has largely been unable to stock up on even the most essential basics.
Fortunately, we partnered with a local grocer to purchase bulk supplies of rice, lentils, beans, and other non-perishable foods items. With your help, we have been able to supply each family in our community with non-perishable food packages bi-weekly along with gas, cooking oil, safe drinking water, hand sanitizer, gloves, masks and other PPE.
One of the greatest concerns for myself and the rest of our team was new mothers. In the weeks before Covid19 became an evident and inevitable threat, three new mothers came to us asking for help purchasing baby formula. It became apparent that these new mothers, all of whom are under 19 years old and with babies less than 6 months, are suffering from severe malnutrition, making them unable to lactate. We began a rigorous nutrition regimen with the guidance of a nutritionist from Siddhi Memorial Women and Children's Hospital, but unfortunately due to the current circumstances, we will not be able to continue as planned. With the funds donated through our online giving campaign, we will continue to provide these new mothers with baby formula on a regular basis to ensure their children are healthy.
We want to assure our supporters that we will be providing healthcare to the extent we are able for the duration of this crisis. This means, if one of our Happy Kids or their parents is diagnosed with Covid19 and needs to be hospitalized, we will do our best to cover the costs. While the cost of living and healthcare at large is much lower in Nepal, the cost of keeping someone on a ventilator or hospitalized for extended periods of time will be extremely steep for our small organization. We ask you to consider continuing to donate as you are able to ensure we can save the lives of any community member who contracts the Covid19 virus.
Finally, many of you have reached out asking about the status of the four children who were reported to have high fevers. As of now, all of the children are in stable condition. They have not been hospitalized as, right now, hospitals in Nepal pose more of a threat than safety. Testing is not yet available and many potentially infected people are flocking to hospitals only to be turned away, making hospitals an extremely risky place to be. However, because of the relationship we have with Siddhi Memorial Hospital, if their symptoms worsen we know our kids will receive the best possible care we can hope for from the amazing doctors and nurses at that facility.
As a reminder, the families we work with live in dense communities, packed into "houses" infested with mold. They rely on burning plastic to stay warm in the evenings, to cook their meals and warm their tea. Many have severe respiratory issues already just due to these conditions. Even those who are strong enough to survive a virus-like Covid19 are far more likely to face food crises like the mothers I mentioned above. This does not even take into account the deep cultural complexities that would keep our community from receiving help from the government or other locally-based NGOs due to their caste or ethnicity.
In a normal year, Happy Kids Center provides the children of our community with school lunches and after school snacks every day, along with weekly meal days where we invite the entire community for a feast and leftover food is distributed to those most in need. This support has been paramount to allowing parents in the community more financial freedom because they could reallocate their money away from food toward things like improving their homes and investing in themselves and their livelihoods in order to lift themselves out of poverty. However, it also left them dependent on HKC to ensure their children were receiving proper nourishment. When the Covid-19 Pandemic closed schools and the center, we knew it was our responsibility to continue to provide access to food, especially as supply chains broke down and families could no longer work.
With this in mind, we have been providing bi-weekly meal days for the last 8 months, including non perishable food items to ensure families can cook in their own homes. In July, as restrictions loosened, we have begun preparing daily nutritious snacks for the children to retrieve from our office daily while adhering to covid-19 guidance to enjoy in their homes. The same is true of our community meal days. This also provides our team with the opportunity to connect personally with the children on a regular basis to check in on the health of the family and their specific needs.
We intend to continue this practice for as long as necessary to ensure our Happy Kids and their families remain nourished and healthy throughout the pandemic.
In 2017 we developed a partnership with Siddhi Memorial Women and Children's Hospital in Bhaktapur. This partnership offers medicine as well as medical attention and care at a discounted rate for our Happy Kid and their families. However, as is the case around the world, hospitals in Nepal are understaffed and overworked. Though they are doing their best to accommodate our community, we cannot expect the special treatment we typically receive from Siddhi Memorial.
When we launched this partnership we felt that we no longer needed to fundraise for our health program to the same degree we had in the past. However, now more than ever, we need to bolster our health fund. We want to be equipped to support as many hospitalized children and parents as possible if the situation warrants it. With the severe pollution in the city and many families living in homes infested with mold, respiratory issues are extremely common, putting our community at even greater risk.
In addition to healthcare, we have continued to provide PPE to every parent and child in our community to ensure they are able to keep themselves and others safe. This is something we are committed to maintaining for as long as necessary.
Our local team at Happy Kids Center is the heart and soul of the organization. Chadani Dyola (HKC Country Director) and her family have been the only reason HKC has been able to continue operations in this time of turmoil. From the first day of the Covid-19 lockdown, Chadani and her family had already begun preparing for the worst and developing plans for how they could continue to support our Happy Kids, even before most of the world had reckoned with the reality of what Covid-19 would do to the world.
As of now Chadani and her family have moved all of HKC's operations into their own home. They regularly feed the entire community from their own doors and brave the dangers of shopping in public to ensure everyone has enough to eat. This is representative of our team's dedication to our mission and the love they have for our Happy Kids.
All of our paid employees are local to the community that we serve. They come from the same backgrounds as our Happy Kids and HKC is their primary source of income. It is of the utmost importance to us that we are able to continue to support our team, even if they are unable to work at this time, until we can reopen our doors and restart regular programming.
While for companies around the United States this goal is becoming less and less tenable, salaries in Nepal are low as is the cost of living. We pay less than $500 in salaries out to our employees across all of our programs each month. A donation of any size can help us continue to support those who are constantly supporting their entire community.
Happy Kids Center is staffed entirely by people who are local to the community the organization aims to support, so they know better than anyone, what the community needs and how best to provide it, especially in times of crisis.