Some of Nepal’s homeless children will soon have a safe place to live if islander Josh Bingham’s plans to build a new home for them comes to fruition.
Bingham, 23, volunteered at a Nepalese orphanage for five months in 2012 and 2013 through an international volunteer program. Now, back on Vashon, he is developing a nonprofit organization and has begun raising funds and creating a network to open such a home himself. He is hoping islanders will support the effort.
“I am so ready to call this place my home and start this,” he said in a recent interview, where he discussed his time in the small country that borders India and China.
Bingham, who graduated from Vashon High School in 2008, has considerable international travel experiences for someone his age. He has taught sex education in Senegal, studied acting in Italy and hiked the Himalayas. But when he went to Nepal, — drawn there initially by Mount Everest — his choice to work in an orphanage changed the trajectory of his life.
There he became a caregiver for eight children at the Pokhara Nestling Home, and, despite his young age, took on what he called a “grandfatherly role,” often taking kids on hikes and other outings.
“I wanted to work with kids,” he said. “It’s just something I had a passion for.”
One day toward the end of his time in the country, he and the children were at a park where they often played, and Bingham said he spotted three children he often saw there, their hair matted and their skin sunburned. He asked about them that day, he said, and learned that the children lived at the park and begged — and at night, many other children joined them to sleep there.
With that knowledge, the seeds for what Bingham is calling Nana’s House were planted. The name, Bingham said, is in honor of his grandmother, islander Nancy Gokay, also known as Nana.
Child poverty is a large problem in Nepal, Bingham said, with more than 5 million homeless children in the country, which is the size of Arkansas.
While international aid organizations offer programs, Bingham said, the government does not provide any social services, and the need outstrips the number of facilities available.
Last summer Bingham returned to Nepal to see the children at the home where he had worked and to determine if opening an orphanage there was truly the path he wanted to follow. The answer, he said, was an emphatic “yes.”
“I said, ‘I am coming back here and doing something for this community,’” he recalled.
Now, he has established a board of directors, which includes a key person in the Nepal community he plans to locate the home in, two former orphanage volunteers and his parents, Chris and Sue Bingham, who live on Vashon. He is in the process of becoming a tax-exempt nonprofit and has created a Facebook page and website. He has also begun the process of fundraising, he said, which he expects will include grant writing and a variety of fundraisers.
To buy property and build a home — his preference instead of renting — will require $9,000 to $10,000, he said. He would like to have several months of operating expenses on hand when he begins the project, making his goal $25,000.
He welcomes donations from islanders, he said, and has set up an account at Chase Bank for the organization. Several islanders have expressed interest in volunteering at the home, which he said he hopes to begin building by September after returning with a board member to look at possible land to purchase this March.
Bingham said, he too, will live at the home, along with local house mothers. It is a long way from Vashon, he noted, but he is looking forward to returning to the culture and its hospitality.
“That’s what hooked me in,” he said. “They are a warm, generous people that have no reason to be for you, but are.”
For more information, see www.nanashouse.org, www.facebook.comNanasHouseOrganization or email Bingham at NanasHouseInquiry@yahoo.com.