Couchsurfing is occasionally a little awkward, occasionally frustrating, but often it opens doors you couldn't find otherwise.
A guy named Kamal messaged me out of the blue when he saw that I'd logged in from Nepal. He offered to meet me and show me the orphanage that he started. A couple other guys had made similar offers, but he seemed the most reasonable.
Aside: there's this weird phenomenon where people from other countries just... do the internet differently. I mean, my friend Flora borrowed my computer to log in to Facebook, and when she went to Facebook, of course I was already logged in, and the first thing on my news feed was a post from an Indian guy I'd met once: a fashion photo of a guy in his underwear. I mean, okay. Or another guy I met once posted on my wall a series of photos entitled "LIVE LIKE A LEGEND AND DIE LIKE A WARRIOR". This isn't even a language barrier issue, it's just... y'know, lengthy disclaimer about cultural relativism and all, but some people do the internet wrong.
Anyway, Kamal seemed like a good guy, and so Flora and I met up with him, and made a plan to see his orphanage later that day. We took a taxi to the outskirts of town, then took his motorcycle from there (3 on a motorcycle is illegal within the city). We ended up at a big manor-like house in a quite pretty suburbanish setting.
The only photo I thought to take before it got dark
It's a nice house, but just big enough for hostel-dorm-style bunkbed housing for the 35 kids who live there. There's an outdoor picnic table area for eating and studying, a kitchen, a couple extra rooms for Kamal and his wife, an office, and a room for volunteers. It's a squeeze, but it fits. Kamal explained that they had only 22 kids, but then his brother (who was also running an orphanage) died, and his orphanage's 13 kids had nowhere to go, so Kamal took them on too.
Worse, their place is a year into a non-extendable 3-year lease. After that, Kamal shrugged, they have to move. (y'know, to another 35-person house.) Furthermore, the kids are each supported by $250/year donors, but as they enter college, costs go way up. So of course they're raising money for everything: money for the kids who are going to college, money for general day to day expenses, and $75k for a permanent building. They're selling personalized bricks at $75 each to donors, which seems like not a bad plan.
So, okay, so I met them. And of course I'd like to do something. I don't know what, right now, so it's a little confusing. But making this connection is a start, I think. Now, if I want to go volunteer in a Nepali orphanage for a day/week/month sometime, I can call them up. If I have a few extra bucks, I can buy a brick. If I want to organize a drive for donations, I know exactly where the money would be going, instead of throwing cash at a big organization.
Furthermore, if you want to do any of these things, well, now you can too. You and I both have a connection to an organization that's not big and bureaucratic, and not actually some scam by a shady guy in a back alley. It's a start.
Oh, and here they are.