By: Lauren Bugg
In Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, there are children living on the streets, girls being sold into sexual slavery, and daily fatalities occurring due to extreme poverty and the effects of HIV. These conditions are the oppressive realities of many Nepalese people. For Rhoman Goyenechea, life after graduating from APU has taken him into direct contact with this kind of destitution. As one of Tiny Hands International’s first long-term volunteers, Rhoman’s life has been dedicated to the service and development of the Nepalese people.
What is your role in Tiny Hands International?
“Tiny Hands is actually new at having long-term volunteers. My role has been getting more in-depth with understanding why we do the things we do. [Volunteering] starts out like that, [with understanding] why you are on the field and what’s going on through being someone who has a heart for this and wants to help as much as I can without hindering the Nepalese. I’m more behind the scenes.
I don’t ever want to personally interfere with our Nepali staff, who know things I can’t know because I’m a Westerner. They have a lot of knowledge to offer, as I do, so we have to find that balance, that common ground.
We work through the churches, and our goal is to get the churches involved as much as possible because we want them to rise up. We can be a helping hand.”
How do the children’s homes that you work in operate?
“These kids range from ages 5-14. We max out at 15 [children at a time in the home], but legally you have to have at least 10 in Nepal. But we don’t want to go more than 15 because then it becomes more of an institution, an orphanage, instead of a home. The idea is that it’s a home, a family.
It starts out by finding the right parents who want to raise these children as their own. The parents need to be committed and feel called to this ministry, because raising children that are not your own biologically is something you can do one day and decide not to do it another day. Our parents are amazing and I have been blessed to spend time with them and learn from them. Our children’s homes are about the development of the Nepali children. It’s different than what we have for development of [American] children. [In America] we’re always told to read, but reading isn’t [emphasized to be as] important for Nepali children.
We want to change this and create things in the children’s home to further their development. We created a reading program with a prize catalog as an incentive. A lot of the prizes out of the catalog are developmental, like crossword puzzles…reading, painting, drawing and instruments.
The second thing is our computer program. This is teaching them the basics like typing, how to use a mouse, how to turn on a computer and how to do research. This program is designed to take someone who doesn’t know anything about computers [and teaching them so] they can write a research paper.
Can you talk about a specific situation where you saw real change in the life of a child at one of the homes?
“One of our children, he came and was very timid. His situation in the past was very traumatic. But in this past year, it’s been night and day. Now he’s laughing and coming up to me. When we have guests, he wants that attention, loving that attention…he is safe.
When he first came he was fresh, in the sense that he had never been in this kind of situation. Most of the children that come from a traumatic past, such as civil unrest, political unrest, parents being drunk or addicts, don’t know such a thing as love. Children see physical abuse and physical torture, in so many different ways, from such a young age.
You start to see the walls come down, the guard come down. That’s when you know that the work that we do is so rewarding. It’s just such a joy because you see that transformation in that child. Also, the other children [that have been there longer] are phenomenal with the love that they give. The older kinds are so responsive to giving that love.
What would you hope Americans, or APU students, could understand about the work that you are apart of in Nepal?
“I almost feel like it’s mandatory to go, and experience it, whether you’re a Christian or not, because it will change your perspective.
Hear and be challenged to learn about issues that are going on. Not just hearing and letting it go, but to know about [global issues], whether or not you feel you can do anything about it at the moment. I don’t want to guilt anyone into doing something, but just give the reality of what’s happening and let God work in them.
A Nepali pastor, who worked with addicts, told us, ‘I cannot take that addiction away from them. I can only bless them with the world of God and ask God to heal them and take the addiction from them and become clean.’ We need to give the truth, give the reality of what’s going on, and let God change people’s hearts to step forward.
I want APU students to know. I want them to come. Essentially I just say, ‘come, see it, and be changed by that.’”