Note from Editors:
Children that lived previously in the streets of Dutch city of Haarlem are preparing miniature of how their new Shangrila Home should look like (using boxes). They will use these to contain the donations they are expecting to get from the crowd on Nepal Day. These 80 homeless children were displaced when an earthquake destroyed Shangrila Home, and they need 750,00 euros to purchase 1500 m2 land and build Shangrila Home with a playground.
by Juliet Linley
Nepal Day is approaching fast at the after-school art and creativity center aptly named Press Play in the Dutch city of Haarlem.
And a dozen kids are eagerly creating their own miniature construction projects of a home far away, yet close to their hearts.
A home that was shattered and urgently needs rebuilding.
Last April, the Shangrila Home in Kathmandu that housed 80 former street children, was destroyed by the powerful earthquake that ripped through Nepal with a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter’s Scale.
Led by Press Play founder Nynke Hielkema, the Dutch children are working feverishly on their visions of what the new Shangrila Home should look like — so they can start using them on the September 15th Nepal Day to raise funds for rebuilding the original one.
In the Netherlands, collecting donations for all sorts of good causes traditionally calls for the use of ‘collectebussen‘, or collection boxes. At Press Play, the kids are creating boxes in the shape of Shangrila, which they hope to fill with generous offerings over the coming weeks.
“The people who go around with ‘collectebussen’ always shake them,” Hielkema explains. “That’s also what happened with Shangrila Home: it was shaken by the earthquake. So the children can demonstrate this as they ask people for donations.”
A graduate in International Relations with a specialization in telecommunications, Hielkema, 45, changed direction mid-career. She opted to dedicate herself to art and creativity specifically in relation to children — something for which she has always felt a strong passion.
“There will be Nepali food, dancing and singing on the day. But what counts the most is the effort the Press Play children are putting in, to help rebuild a home for youngsters about whom they feel very strongly,” Hielkema tells me.
For the past four years, Hielkema has been traveling regularly to Nepal to work on creative projects with former street children in the city of Boudhanath.
“Thirty of Shangrila Home’s children have been placed in the care of another two homes nearby — Marinka Home and TiomLaura Home — while the remaining 50 children of Shangrila have found temporary housing elsewhere,” Hielkema says.
The three homes work closely together, taking in orphans, former street children and children whose parents are too poor to care for them, or cannot cope due to severe psychiatric problems, or drug and alcohol addiction.
According to CPCS International up to 1,200 children are living rough in the Nepali capital. Many subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse.
Shangrila was the first of the homes to be set up. Belgian Inge Bracke got it up and running in 1995, initially housing 11 street children.
The home now gives shelter, education, medical aid, food and care to more than 80 kids. It also provides the children with professional training, offering them computer and sewing classes, as well as a ceramics project.
Lies Vink is a Dutch lady who volunteered with Bracke at Shangrila Home. She was struck by the many children living on the streets, sniffing glue and sleeping rough. One night after witnessing a fight between a few boys and a drunken lady over a mere dirty blanket, Vink promised herself she would set up a home for those boys — and others in their same predicament.
Within a week, Vink had created a home for six boys. Today, 36 children live in what is now called Marinka Home.
By 2010, Vink had raised enough funds to set up a second home. And so, Tiom Laura Home opened its doors and welcomed Chetchi Tara – a four-month-old baby – on Christmas Day.
She was to be the first of many children saved from a life on the streets. There are now 35 children living in Tiom Laura Home.
Hielkema first went to Nepal a year after the third home was set up, in late 2011.
I was doing creative workshops at an after-school activities center in the Netherlands, where quite a few artists worked. One of them, Laurien, used to go to Nepal every year to work with orphans, and had set up several creative projects in the field. She often told me that should I wish to go to Nepal to work with children, she could put me in touch with the right people.
Since it had always been a dream of Hielkema’s to work with underprivileged children abroad, she seized the opportunity.
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