From fear to freedom: 12 years confined in an orphanage in Nepal

In 2019, our local partners in Nepal reunited Moti* with his family. Now, he looks back on a childhood spent locked away inside an orphanage – sharing an exclusive personal insight into the heartbreaking realities of institutionalisation. 

“If one of us made a mistake, all of us would get beaten – with pipes, sticks and bamboo strips. In my heart, all I felt was fear.” 

These are the words of Moti, a young man who spent the majority of his childhood confined inside an orphanage. “They took me at such a young age,” Moti, now 20, says, sitting outside his family home in Nepal. “I stayed there for 12 years. I didn’t even know I had a family.” 

Young Nepali orphanage survivor Moti* sits against a grey wall in a darkened room.  He's looking pensively to one side. He has short dark hair and a moustache and wears a dark brown shirt.
Moti*, the youngest of six, never knew he had a family. Even when they visited him in the orphanage, he thought they were strangers.

Moti’s dad died young, leaving his mum, Kumari*, scrambling to raise her six children alone. Grieving her husband and unable to pay for Moti’s school fees, a local priest advised her to send him to an orphanage. Believing it was her only chance to get an education for her youngest child, Kumari agreed. Moti was only four.

“I felt bad living there,” Moti explains. “The orphanage was meant to educate, but that’s not what it did. I suffered.” Instead of receiving the care his mum was promised, Moti was exposed to violence, abuse and neglect for twelve long years. Now, he’s sharing his story to shed light on the realities of orphanages, and the importance of family for every child around the world.

Behind closed doors 

“We were beaten all the time,” Moti remembers. “They didn’t feed us well either. We still felt hungry after every meal.” Moti grew up alongside 300 other children. He received little care, love, or freedom. Even sleeping was controlled. 

“I slept in a dorm with 30 other children,” he explains. “Three rows of ten, like sardines, forced to sleep completely straight. The slightest movement and we were beaten. Was that them trying to educate us? We couldn’t even sleep how we wanted to.” 

Right now, over 10,000 children are growing up in orphanages in Nepal. Like Moti, 85% of them have living families, but were sent to an orphanage under the promise of receiving an education. In many cases, that promise was a lie. 

Moti enjoying his own room after years confined inside the institution, wishing he could go outside and have his freedom.

“We had to wake up at 4 a.m. for prayers and chores, every day. The orphanage was Christian, so Hindu children were forced to convert,” he remembers. 

“We never got to go outside. We felt like the world was only as big as the orphanage.”  

Moti’s mum, Kumari, just wanted the best for her son. What she didn’t know was that orphanages don’t help children. They harm them. Behind closed doors, children like Moti suffer.

Reuniting Moti with his family 

In 2018, our local partners The Himalayan Innovative Society (THIS) and Forget Me Not (FMN) started working inside Moti’s orphanage.  

In partnership with the Nepali government, they began the long process of closing the orphanage by reuniting the children inside with their families. Sajit Sapkota, a Reintegration Officer with THIS, began by tracing Moti’s family, counselling his mum, Kumari, and ensuring she had everything she needed to bring Moti home. Once she was ready, Sajit began preparing Moti. 

“There was talk of everyone in the orphanage finally being allowed to go home,” Moti remembers. “They asked me if I wanted to leave. Delighted, I said yes.” 

With help from Sajit, Moti was soon ready. After twelve long years, he left the orphanage and went home to his mum. 

Thanks to Hope and Homes for Children, our local partners were able to financially support Kumari so she could take care of Moti where he belongs – at home.

The world outside the orphanage 

Four years later, Moti has settled in to life back at home. But after twelve years effectively confined to a prison, adjusting to life outside the orphanage was still very challenging for him, which is why our team’s ongoing support is so crucial.

“When I left the orphanage for the first time, I felt very strange. I couldn’t make sense of where I was or the world around me. So, I kept silent. Sometimes, I thought about dropping out of school.” 

But Sajit stuck by Moti’s side every step of the way. He visited regularly, offering counselling and financial support to pay for school fees, books and one-to-one tuition to help him finish school and pass his final exams.

Sajit (left) visiting Moti for a regular counselling session.

“Sajit encouraged me to study and move ahead in life,” says Moti. “He goes to the shops with me, gets the tailor to take my measurements, and gets me school supplies to last the year. He’s helped me in ways a family usually supports a person.”  

“Gradually, after a year passed, I started talking to my family, friends and teachers and got along well with them. Now, if I see a new person, I want to talk to them and be their friend. And if any of my friends are struggling, I help them.” 

Now, Moti’s dream is to finish school, learn to drive, and move abroad. He’s settling in, adapting to life at home, and learning to love his new-found freedom. 

Reunited at last, Moti helps his mum, Kumari, prepare maize outside their family home.

“To me, family means to live together, to love each other, to share our sorrows, and to belong,” he says.

“Because we got beaten a lot in the orphanage, I had a lot of fear. Thanks to the love I’ve received from everyone here at home, my fear has gradually gone away.” 

“Here, with my own bed, I am free. I can move and sleep on my own free will. And nobody can say anything about it.” 

Moti in 2023, shortly before he took his final year exams for high school.

Moti is just one of hundreds of children in Nepal who we’ve helped reunite with their families. But there are still 10,000 more. We urgently need your help bringing them home. To prevent other children from suffering the agonising hardship Moti endured for twelve years, please donate what you can today, and help keep children #SafeFromHarm and free from fear.  Thank you.