The original photo of "Namaste boy", Gyeni Bohara, taken in 2000 in the remote Humla region of Nepal.
In 2000, before we met, my wife Cora took a photograph of a small boy while traveling in western Nepal’s remote Humla region. The photo brought us together after I saw it in a Queen Anne café.
I became a member of what Cora called the Namaste Circle. That was her name for all of the people who loved, resonated with the image, and felt truly inspired by it. But for me the photo was even more personal because I fell in love with the photographer and grew to share her longing to know more about the child.
After marrying, Cora and I decided we couldn’t wait any longer (the Maoists were at bay, so we could finally journey to the region where the photo was taken) and set off to find the child. We really wanted to know what his life was like and how we might help him, he had given us so much.
Gyeni and Phil were reunited in Humla in 2007.
We traveled to Humla in 2007, hoping to thank him and explain how his image had changed our lives. It took several days, with our translator Pema Lama and the photo of the boy we searched for. We traveled on foot through villages, stopping all passersby, going to schools.
Fortunately, we found the young boy—Gyeni Bohara—in Thehe, a village of about four hundred and fifty families.
Living conditions in Thehe are primitive. Located high in the Himalayas, the village has no electricity or bathrooms, limited running water, little education, and dim prospects for breaking the cycle of poverty.
From this journey, Cora and I established a nonprofit organization, the Namaste Children’s Fund, to help the villagers and provide education for their children. We enrolled Gyeni and a little girl, Amrita, in a boarding school outside the region.
The Namaste Children's Foundation has enabled these girls to attend school by establishing a hostel in the town of Simikot.
Wanting to assist more children, we gained the villagers’ support to establish a hostel in Simikot, a neighboring town with more amenities. Twenty-five girls can now attend private school closer to home, which results in their receiving better nutrition and more time to focus on their studies. We’re also working with the villagers to build washing and toilet facilities and to extend the village’s water supply.
A photo of a young Nepalese boy initiated this simple story of joy and connection—a story guided by the belief that we are responsible for one another. It affirms that despite the fact that our communities are separated by a long distance, we can work together to build a stronger world.
For more information about the Namaste Children’s Fund and to view a photo gallery of the search for “Namaste Boy”, please visit: www.namastechildrensfund.org.
Contributor: Phil Crean.
Photos: Cora Edmonds.