International students from Beijing University made up a volunteer team in winter holiday of 2013. Following a certain NGO, they went to JOSSA orphanage of Katmandu and completed a 15-day voluntary service. During this period, we interviewed relevant persons-in-charge from NGO, school and orphanage, witnessed the poor living conditions of the children. We hope NGOs can use their money wisely and provide direct physical and funds support to JOSSA orphanage.
Guess where I had the most delicious dinner?
I had never experienced hunger before I came to Nepal. Like most Chinese students, I never had to worry about for food and shelter, even though I wasn’t born in a rich family. I still remember my mother asking me to eat an egg every day, but instead I threw a lot of them away. I was tired of eating eggs. I never thought there was anything wrong with disliking eggs. I thought it was just a harmless little quirk, until I came to JOSSA orphanage in Nepal.
The orphanage can only provide 2 meals a day. The morning meal is served at 8:00AM, and evening meal is served at 7:30PM. As a Chinese who was accustomed to eating 3 meals a day, I felt hungry again by 12:00. There’s a tea time between 2 meals, but it only consists of a little cup of tea and cookies. Mama gave each volunteer one bag cookies, but I still felt hungry. Not the kind of hunger described in The Call Of The Wild—a spiraling upward, erosive hunger, but a kind of slow and dangling starvation sensed between the 2 meals.
Each day, after tea time, I waited eagerly for dinner. I did not expect the taste of the food. I expected Mama to cook more. Actually, each meal is almost the same. As the picture above shows, it is always a curry cooked meal.
Mama would allot rice to each plate, pour something like porridge over it, then add some vegetables pickled by curry. Mama and Roma would buy the vegetables at the market nearby. Each person is only given a small portion. Curry became the only thing that would stimulate my taste buds.
The food might seem abundant in the picture, but it is all that is provided to over 20 people. Mama would give a little bit more to the children, but for a growing child, the little more food is far from adequate.
Uncle Roma told us that food shortage is always a problem here. He tries hard to buy more, but the price is always increasing. He is also unsure how long they will be able to provide rice.
Food is not the only issue here. The protein shortage has seriously influenced the development of the children. The orphanage tries to provide eggs on Wednesday and meat on Friday, but the actual situation is much more challenging. Anna, a volunteer from Switzerland, has stayed here for 3 months now and said she has never seen meat.
Because of malnutrition, the children in the orphanage are smaller than normal. The boy in the picture is 12, but he is only a meter tall. The other boy is Yakka, who had been wearing a cast for a long time for a fracture. His bone is not recovering well because of malnutrition, the doctor told us. Although it was sunny outside, we still felt cold and were wearing down jackets. Poor Yakka had no jacket, only a shirt.
It is not easy to get meat so eggs become the only food that gives protein to the children. It’s even difficult to ensure they receive eggs once a week, but Mama and Roma managed to give us eggs twice a week.
At this point, I had developed a strong dislike for eggs. I could even smell the egg when it was cooked with vegetables. Strangely enough, however, I did not smell anything unpleasant when Mama put an egg on my plate. On the contrary, I smelled delicious nice mixed with the rice and chili. I was perfectly content and ate the egg quickly. Before my friend could remind me to capture the moment with my camera, I finished the entire lovely egg.
My friend knew I did not like eggs so she asked me how I managed to eat it. I simply smiled, knowing I did not have to explain. When you know the thing you strongly disliked was valued by so many others, how could you not change? I had not known that out there, there was a group of children that wished they could eat an egg every day. Knowing this moved me and my egg phobia was cured, when I saw how selfish and naive I had been. As for the children in orphanage, what shall I do for them? Perhaps I can help to put the eggs that you need on their plates.
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