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Albury charity: Meg’s Children helping kids in Nepal

Albury charity: Meg’s Children helping kids in Nepal

IT was coming up to the first anniversary of her daughter's death when Trish Ryan booked a flight to Nepal.

"I knew I didn't want to be at home for the anniversary. I knew I had to do something," says Trish, who lives on a farm at Bowna, northeast of Albury.

"I'd never been to Nepal, so I thought why not.

"I went over and volunteered at an orphanage. Living with these children for the time I did you certainly stop feeling sorry for yourself."

Little did the mother-of-four realise it then, but out of her grief would arise a charity that has — since 2005 — changed the lives of some of Nepal's most destitute children.

The charity is called Meg's Children and is named after Trish and Vince Ryan's eldest daughter, Meg, who died in 2003 at the age of 23 from complications of spina bifida.

Trish — who at the time worked as an oncology nurse — says in those first seven weeks she spent volunteering at the orphanage she witnessed poverty on an unimaginable scale.

Malnourished and dressed in rags, the children captured her heart.

"It was damp and dark with an open drain where raw sewerage ran,'' Trish says.

"They were their own little family and looked out for one another but were desperately in need of food, running water and education in a safe, clean house.

"When I got home I just couldn't stop thinking how unjust the world is. It's simply a matter of birth — we're lucky to be born here and those children are unlucky to be born there."

Trish called a public meeting in Bowna to gauge interest in starting a charity and about 15 neighbours joined the cause, officially launching Meg's Children in 2005.

After jumping through considerable bureaucratic and legal hurdles, Trish and her committee organised for the 26 abandoned children in that orphanage to come under the charity's guardianship, renting a house, employing staff and providing nutrition and education.

"Education is the key issue, it's what we've focused on ever since," says Meg.

With more than a decade now passed, six of the original children are now at university, with others already having established successful, healthy lives outside the charity. "It's a hand up, not a hand out," Meg says.

"They apply to us for scholarships and if they fail their first year they are out so there's an incentive to work.

"Once they start to work, they repay some of that scholarship — although of course given the wages they'll never really repay it."

With some of the original children now adults, Trish and her team have extended the charity work, funding a children's home operating from Siddhi Memorial Hospital in the city of Bhaktapur, near Kathmandu.

Meg's Children runs fundraising events during the year, including a major auction in March, which raised $57,000 — all of which goes to the charity and not management fees. All funds raised are administered by the hospital to pay for education, food, accommodation and an outreach program for families living in poverty.

Trish, who continues to work as a nurse to pay for her own travel, has visited Nepal 16 times, (about twice a year) not only to keep contact with her new extended family, but also to ensure administration runs smoothly.

"It's been tough at times but the satisfaction I get from seeing these kids evolve and develop is pretty extraordinary.

"If you believe you can do it, do it, and surround yourself with good people it will happen.

"Meg's Children has changed lives. The children have grown and developed into happy-go-lucky teenagers and there are lots of individual stories of success and hope — we are helping families, not just children.''

And above all, she says "I can't help but think Meg has orchestrated the whole thing".

"Life is so sad. But you can't live forever with that sadness. If you can turn it around.''

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