In 2005, Julie Seynaeve, a student from Ghent, Belgium was traveling in Kathmandu, Nepal when she happened upon a small orphanage in desperate shape. Despite the best efforts of the staff, who were penniless themselves, twenty children were sleeping in one room, on the floor. For food, they begged for a handful of rice, house to house, or scavenged old vegetables left over in the Kalamati market. The children were undernourished, had health problems, and were uneducated because they couldn’t afford the modest school fees.
“When I saw the appalling conditions the children were living in, I thought – well, this is somewhere I can help,” says Julie. “With the little sponsoring I have to offer, I can do something.” And something she did. Donating her own money and raising more from her friends, family and community, Julie was able to radically alter the children’s desperate circumstances.
The Freedom Children’s Welfare Center is now a bright and happy home for 24 children, filled with the sounds of talk, laughter, food cooking, and children getting ready for school. With beds being made, clothes drying in the sun, and shoes clustered at the door, it’s just like a real home – which for these orphaned, abandoned and neglected street children is the happiest of situations.
All the children are now being educated in a school near the centre in Naya Bazaar. Some are behind because they had no previous education, so Julie has arranged for a tutor to come to the center a few days a week to help, but she is running low on money. She’s also started a fund for further education and training for the older FCWC children, so they can be self-sufficient when they leave.
The most powerful part of this story, for me, is that 24 young lives are being transformed by one young girl of fearless compassion. Five years after her initial impulse to “do something,” Julie repeatedly returns to Nepal to visit the kids, works with the Nepalese staff, serves on the board, and raises funds in Belgium to support the children.
Julie’s latest message to me was accompanied by a smiley face and read: “As school fees of the children need to be paid half April and have gone up a lot, the $100 money is very welcome for that! Even a little help, a small gift, goes a long way in Nepal!”
Watch this short film about the Freedom Children’s Welfare Center and you’ll be hooked. (Oh, and if you go to Nepal, you can volunteer at the Center, visit with the kids, and help out in a multitude of ways!) Next year, I am so there!