Nepal orphanage lives on

A Nepal orphanage for which donors, many of them from Chico, collectively raised nearly $200,000 continues on, and volunteers there say they hope its founder’s mixed feelings about how the project turned out doesn’t discourage future giving.

“It’s an amazing, amazing place. It’s running perfectly,” said Erin Peterson, an orphanage volunteer and former Chico resident. Fifty children aged 6 months to 14 years live at Namaste House and attend school, eat well and are cared for by a loving Nepalese staff, she said.

Chico resident Cynthia Kennedy conceived of the orphanage in 2000 after visiting Nepal with her young son and ultimately raised $192,000 for the cause.

Upon reading the April 7 Newslines article “Orphanage continues without it champion,” volunteers and the manager of the orphanage contacted the News & Review hoping to let readers know it is still serving children and in need of donations. They also had a different view from Kennedy’s of how Namaste House and its Chico founder ended ties.

Kennedy told the News & Review that, in a twist she found “heartbreaking,” the relationship between her and the current orphanage workers broke down after most of the donations had been transferred to their control. “They wanted us to keep raising money and not be involved,” she said.

Those currently aligned with the orphanage counter that it was Kennedy who tried to exact complete control over the project.

Visma Paudel, the orphanage’s executive director, said in an e-mail interview that he was initially excited to work with Kennedy, as he liked her orphanage plans and desire to help children. But over time Paudel found her to be difficult to work with. “She never accepted ideas from others,” he said.

Karen Daudet, a member of the since-disbanded American board for the orphanage, said she continues to support Kennedy and her perspective of events. It was the board that ultimately made the decision to dissolve the fund-raising organization. “We tried to exit gracefully from the situation,” she said.

“She was motivated out of something deep in her heart to do this,” Daudet said. “Cindy is a very strong person. She had a very clear idea of what she wanted.”

After visiting the orphanage, John Riley, a schoolteacher on the Isle of Man, in the British Isles, decided to start a nonprofit to support Namaste House, which costs $4,000 a month to run.

“The excellent work continues without the financial help of Namaste House America, but it is not going to be easy,” Riley wrote in an e-mail.

The orphanage Web site, which includes donation information, is