For our recent subscribers to the newsletter, an introduction to the great work of Viva and Jacky is definitely in order. Viva Bell co-founded The Umbrella Foundation with Irish friend Dave Cutler. Viva, a full time resident of Nepal was country director, house mother, teacher and friend to the children who were the first to come under the umbrella.
In 2005 Umbrella performed the first rescue, with the support of the Child Welfare Board, taking 7 children from a despicable home in Dallu. No one could have known then that Umbrella would grow to be the organisation that it is today. Back then Viva and Dave were merely reacting to the desperate needs of these children and doing what they knew they had to do.
The Child Welfare Board had confidence in the ethos of Umbrella and so came to Viva on many occasions with news of other homes that needed to be shut down, meaning there were more children who needed a home. So while many other children’s homes might rescue two or three children at a time, every time Umbrella performed a rescue their numbers would increase by at least 20! So evolved the growth of Umbrella. The first house was opened in 2005 and the latest house was opened in April 2009.
Jacky joined Viva in 2006, taking over as country director. Together, Jacky and Viva held the reigns in Kathmandu. Jacky was hugely instrumental in the realisation of many of Umbrella’s dreams. As most of the children have rural backgrounds and as Kathmandu is highly over priced, over crowded and over polluted it became clear that Umbrella’s future could not be in the country’s capital.
With the counsel of long time friend and loyal supporter, Gyan Badhur Lama, the community of Gurje was the chosen location to relocate the Umbrella family. It was Jacky’s tireless efforts that secured a donation of land from the Nepali government, won a bid to build a school for 500 students and a hostel for 300 children from the Indian government, the largest bid awarded by India to a project of its type in Nepal!
Its hard to put into words all that was achieved by Jacky and Viva in Umbrella and even harder to write down how everyone in Umbrella, especially the children, felt to see them go.
A traditional Tika ceremony would not have been enough to say goodbye to this pair but in planning the farewell it became clear that there just isn’t an ‘enough’ when it comes to thanking Viva and Jacky for all they had given.
On the 18th of June Sagarmatha playground was transformed into the stage for a surprise farewell party. The guests of honour were welcomed by all their friends in Nepal. Once the pair were seated in the dimly lit tent the first seven children to be rescued by Umbrella entered, each holding a candle. The candles were layed down on the stage and were then followed by 320 more as every Umbrella child came into the tent caring their own light.
It was an emotional scene as the playground filled with light, children and tears.
The ceremony opened with a speech from Sushil Chettri, Umbrella’s first child to sign out and is a perfect example of the product produced from Viva and Jacky’s love and care, as he has gone onto open his own charitable organisation caring for the city’s rag pickers.
There were traditional dances from the girls, hip-hop dances from the boys and there were songs sung and written by Umbrella’s kids.
To some it may have seemed like a showcase of the children’s talents but in reality it had noting to do with showing off, it was all about showing appreciation.
The children wanted so much to express their appreciation and love so this goodbye party was as much for Jacky and Viva as it was for them, to give the children an opportunity to show what Umbrella really means to them!
The show neared its end with a shadow play, playing out the story of Umbrella and Jacky and Viva. The idea of the play, the performances and the night was ensure that Viva and Jacky realise all that they achieved and how much it means to everyone here.
Bob Marley’s words were borrowed to close the evening
“Viva don’t worry about a thing
Cause every little child, gona be alright
Jacky don’t worry about a thing
Cause every little thing, gona be alright.”
As they leave Umbrella in capable new hands, we wish them all the best for the future and thank them for their huge contribution to the children of Nepal and the development of Umbrella.