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Home » Helping children in need through my orphanage, DOCS Foundation Nepal

Helping children in need through my orphanage, DOCS Foundation Nepal

Only some do or have the time to give back to their community. Philanthropists are very few and far between in life. On this issue, Voyagers Voice was pleased to interview Liladhar Bhandari, an entrepreneur and philanthropist based in Nepal. We talk a lot about travel and what an incredible impact it has on all of our lives. However, what about those who work in travel and devote their time to giving back to their community?

Kids are playing
Photo credit: Shebs Alom

Bhandari is passionate about his country excelling when it comes to tourism. He runs many businesses, with Going Nepal and Nepal Luxury Escapes amongst them, which provide bespoke tours. Alongside this, Bhandari runs an orphanage, Destitute and Orphan Children Safeguarding Foundation Nepal (DOCS Foundation Nepal), a non-governmental, non-political and non-profit organisation established in 2002.

Bhandari explained in detail during this interview why this runs alongside his other businesses. Why he started it, and how grateful the kids have been who have grown up in the orphanage and obtained an education to succeed in life.

orphanage Nepal
Photo credit: Shebs Alom

Bhandari's childhood

Liladhar Bhandari was born in Ramche Village, Shindhupalchok District, in January 1969. When he was 2, his father died at 23, with his mother only 19. After his father’s early death, Bhandari and his mother were helpless, with his childhood being very challenging.

Financially it was a struggle. At one point, Bhandari was forced to drop out of school as his mother couldn’t afford to pay for the school admission. Luckily, with the help of Save The Children U.K., Bhandari was readmitted. He resumed his studies, graduated high school in 1987 and then went to Kathmandu for higher education. Save The Children U.K. continued to sponsor him until he obtained his bachelor’s degree in 1992.

After his studies, Bhandari found a job in a travel agency in Kathmandu and started vocational training in a government training centre. In 1993, Bhandari was sponsored to go to Germany for three years to work as a travel agent. He returned to Nepal in 1996 and has worked in the tourism business ever since.

With so much success with his company, helping explorers and tourists live their dreams through travel, what was the reason and what was Bhandari’s intention behind opening DOCS Foundation Nepal?

Bhandari with the kids
Photo credit: Shebs Alom

The reason for opening this orphanage was my passion for helping

“The reason for opening this orphanage was my passion for helping, my love for helping children. It’s my payback, as I was emotionally inspired to open an orphanage to support children in need.” Bhandari explained.

“Let me describe an incident that occurred, and it was a turning point in the formation of the DOCS Foundation Nepal; a girl of 7-8 years old lived with her aunt on her mother’s side right next to my apartment. She had to work as a domestic servant. One day the girl could not endure her aunt’s mental and physical torture and tried to commit suicide. That day when she tried to commit suicide, I ran out of my apartment and saw that the girl was about to hang herself with a scarf. My wife and I rescued her and brought her to our apartment, and the very next day, she went to school with our children. After that incident, a few weeks later, I registered DOCS Foundation Nepal.”

Bhandari went on to say, “The number of children increased monthly, quarterly and annually. Eventually, the number of children in care reached 151, with girls and boys placed in separate houses. More than 500 children have been rescued from different situations and protected for at least ten years until they finish high school. All of them have gone on to have a new life. Some became engineers in various faculties; others, health workers, doctors, bankers, and some hold respectable positions in different sectors.”

Many people would have turned a blind eye and said, “It’s not my problem.” Bhandari showed genuine care and boldness in opening an orphanage to help children after the incident, which significantly impacted him.

Photo credit: Shebs Alom

It was just a pilot project

There are many other orphanages in Nepal. What is it about Bhandari’s orphanage that makes it very unique? Is it the education system provided by the orphanage to the kids?

“We give them the best life here because they all attend private schools for their education. I completed two ambitious projects in Nepal within ten years (2005 and 2015).”

Project one:

“There was no college-level educational institution in the region where I come from. In collaboration with Tribubhan University, Kathmandu, I took the initiative and donated the most considerable amount to start a college called Araniko Collage in my village. Up to now, more than 2,500 young people (boys and girls who cannot afford higher education in Kathmandu and big cities) have already graduated from this college, and about 600 students are taking part in the classes. I am also the patron of the college.”

Project two:

“Social and economic reasons force people to leave their beloved children on the street or wherever possible. There are already hundreds of NGOs working for the welfare of street children, but the result has not been significant. I wanted to get into this very critical sector, rehabilitate and counsel all the children off the street, and send them to the family or school.”

“Within 67 days, my team and I were able to change the children’s behaviour and send them to school. It was just a pilot project that was a great success, and it was celebrated all over Nepal. The government was happy to spread the same model all over the country.”

Bikas Tamang and Anita Bhatta

Unfortunately, threats were made to Bhandari as people who had worked helping street kids for years became jealous. He started receiving calls and was bullied for his philanthropic work. Eventually, the government withdrew the project to save Bhandari from either being seriously hurt or worse.

To give you some perspective on how successful this orphanage is, Bikas Tamang and Anita Bhatta are two individuals who spoke to us regarding how much gratitude they have that DOCS Foundation Nepal took them in. Tamang is from Panauti Village, southeast of Kathmandu, and Bhatta is from Gorkha, northwest of Kathmandu.

Currently, Tamang works alongside Bhandari at Going Nepal and Nepal Luxury Escapes and has helped many tourists as a planner and guide, including going off to Mount Everest base camp. He finished college, obtaining a qualification in hotel management. Bhatta also works alongside Bhandari at his health clinic, another business he runs. However, she plans to go to Italy for further education. She has also completed flight cabin crew training and a Bachelor’s in Business Studies. These are examples of two individuals out of hundreds that have gone on to make something of themselves.

Photo credit: Shebs Alom
Photo credit: Shebs Alom

The primary source of income for the orphanage is the contribution of the international tourism partners

Starting an orphanage is one thing. However, sustaining it for 20 years is another. How has Bhandari gotten funding for DOCS Foundation Nepal over the years? And, what impact did the COVID pandemic have on the foundation?

“The primary source of income for the orphanage is the contribution of the international tourism partners—their customers and my personal international friends. The foundation has had so much support over the years; I am pleased to see the growth.”

“When the pandemic hit, the tourism business shut down completely, and we had many financial challenges. Our standard donors stopped funding, making it very difficult to maintain the foundation’s expenses. With this, we are looking for new sources of income for the orphanage, as I have a monthly deficit. The total cost comes to about $3,500 a month, and I am currently putting in $1,000 of my income to keep the orphanage afloat.”

Bhandari continued, “My main concern regarding the orphanage is meeting everyday needs such as food, school/college supplies, nanny and administrative staff salary. There is also medical care and house rent which we pay $1,200 a month. The COVID pandemic has caused a global humanitarian crisis, so finding sustainable resources is difficult.”

Photo credit: Shebs Alom

The foundation's mission is to give facilities to more and more children

Since conducting the interview, Bhandari could have a large donation to help house the kids in a new purpose-built home. Let us hope the funding comes through for that, as this would further help the children.

You meet many people in the travel industry. However, there are a few that you meet that give back as much as Liladhar Bhandari. The children he has helped wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for him—even more than ever as they go through financial difficulties.

What is the future of the foundation? Bhandari explained, “The foundation’s mission is to give facilities to more and more children; my goal is to start my own farm and grow vegetables and crops as well as build my own house to save on house rent. On the other hand, I would like to turn this orphanage into an entrepreneurship skill development school so that children can complete theory and practice simultaneously and make it easier for them to find a job.”

Whatever happens, in the future, we can all take something away from this story and be inspired by Liladhar Bhandari to help someone close to our community.

Photo credit: Shebs Alom
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