Many of our clients, after we hear the story of all about them, are very curious to the story of us. The story of Diwas and Sadie is an epic love story, which is best shared in person, and I think is quite representative of DIWAS Photography and how we try to live.
Welp, there are many stories to be told… but we’ll tell you a bit about the beginning of ours.
In 2003, I (Sadie) traveled to Nepal. After working for 10 years in non-profit youth development and community organizing and a relationship that needed a break, pursued a childhood vision . . . traveling Asia and experiencing a cultural exchange while serving/giving back based on my skills. After exploring volunteer programs online, I found one that spoke to me and an option was to volunteer in an orphanage. There were two national programs that were available to me given my chosen agency – either Nepal or Ghana. I did a quick research on aid given to social programs focused on children and chose the underdog of funding: Nepal. To be honest, I didn’t know much more than Everest and Nepal being a neighbor to Tibet; a Kingdom sandwiched between super-powers India and China. The history of Nepal, culture, current events including the conflict, and the surge of orphanages to house displaced children of war would become my focus of study for the next, well, lifetime.
Cue my “free spirit”; craft the “Why Volunteer” essay/subsequent credit card payment, and start reading everything. My tickets were booked, and off to Nepal I went. Once my feet touched the ground in Kathmandu, I felt home. I met with the local NGO that I was to be working with and over the next few months I got to volunteer fall deeply in love with Nepal.
More on that, after you meet Diwas.
Diwas, in February of 2003, had just finished up school and was celebrating Holi, the Festival of Colors. He was with a group of friends and family as they rented a rooftop terrace at the same Guest House that I was staying at. He had been taking the college pre-requisites and figuring out what career pathway he was headed towards… he loved the arts, but knew the family pathway in Nepal was towards the sciences or management degrees.
One night in February of 2003, Diwas and his friends were hanging out one night, creating music and being twenty-something in Kathmandu. They were celebrating the eve of Holi, a bomb went off – which was common-place given the conflict – and the city went on a strike, cars off the street and most people turning in for the night. That bomb was the reason I found myself at a Guest House, and had the pleasure of encountering this super fun, hip and caring group of young Nepali friends.
I settled into my room, which connected to a lower terrace. As I sat on the terrace, reflecting and writing, listening to the streets of Nepal, the laughter of the people on the upper terrace, and hearing music being made everywhere, I was grateful to be present where I was at that moment. Then, I heard an invitation to join in their gathering. I would have been rude to refuse.
I joined this community of friends and the rest is history. What sealed the deal of this group of friendship outside of shenanigans and social relief though, was their fascination of the current state of Nepal and how children were impacted. They were devastated to learn that children had become a commodity in Nepal given the conflict, and were horrified to learn of the suspect trafficking that was happening. They knew the conflict in rural Nepal was awful and had impacts within the city – which was relatively safe – but to look at children in orphanages and know their stories were so varied, was hard to take in. They were compelled to be of service, which looked like them supporting me in my service as a volunteer.
In the midst of my encounter with this community of friends, my volunteer time had shifted from just helping the kids to get ready for school and teaching basic hygiene to way more intense social issues. Previous volunteers had been investigating suspected child trafficking in the orphanages, and there was a “what to do” or “ke garne” in Nepali moment. I started talking with the community and neighbors and ended up pulling together an informal yet intersectional focus group of natives: schools, small businesses, dentists, doctors, NGOs, government officials and orphanage owners. We came together to look at how the Nepali community can best support children’s homes/orphanages to prevent children being trafficked, and recommended best practices in having an orphanage or children’s home. And how we could go about continuing the investigation to eradicate the problematic orphanages.
The NGO that I was serving with and I met with one orphanage that was at risk of making some difficult decisions about the children at their home, and we asked if we could support them and intervene. When they said yes, we co-founded a project home that modeled the best practices defined by our focus group and adopted by the Kingdom’s Child Welfare Committee. This home, Brighter Futures Children’s Home initially housed 12 children between the ages of 3 and 14 with various physical and mental abilities. Diwas and his friends volunteered at the home, helping support their academics, helping support the home dynamics, and helping remove nits from their hairs. Mostly, they served as big brother and big sisters to the children… someone they could talk too. This, was probably the start of my love story with Diwas ☺.
Fourteen years later, the children have mostly phased out of the care, have gone on to either get married or go to college. When we started DIWAS Photography years ago, both Diwas and I knew we wanted to continue to support community building in Nepal, like our friends at Brighter Futures. We know, first hand, how important it is for children to have a safe and healthy place to grow. This is why a portion of our income from our client work goes directly to support education and eradication of poverty in Nepal. . . and someday, beyond.
We may be a long ways from Nepal, but she is never far away in our hearts.