The Butler Rothchild family has been a Barker family since 2007. The Barker Foundation helped bring their family together when Christopher Butler and Jennifer Rothchild adopted their daughter Laxmi from Nepal in 2011 and their daughter Xiang from China in 2012.
Christopher is a sociologist, and he studies international development, social movements, political ecology, and environmental issues. He is currently a Fulbright-Hays scholar studying the socio-cultural, economic, and political dimensions of hydropower in Nepal. He is also an editor for the journal Hydro Nepal. Jennifer is a sociologist as well, and since 1994, Jennifer’s research in Nepal has centered on gender and development, families, childhoods, public health, and social inequalities. Her publications on Nepal include her book Gender Trouble Makers: Education and Empowerment in Nepal (Routledge, 2006). She is currently working on a second book about children’s homes in Nepal. Christopher and Jennifer are both professors of sociology at the University of Minnesota Morris. In addition to their scholarly work, they have served as research consultants for several human rights organizations in South Asia. And in 2007, they, along with some American and Nepali friends, opened Sam’s House in Nepal.
What is Sam’s House?
Sam’s House is a home for abandoned, orphaned, and at-risk children in Pokhara, Nepal. At Sam's House, we embrace the future by providing a home, family, education, and love to abandoned, at-risk, and parentless children in Nepal. We believe that love, security and education are essential rights as well as key components of any child's ability to thrive in and contribute to the world. The people of Nepal, the kindness of their culture, and their devotion to family and friends inspire our organization.
Sam’s House is named in honor of Sam Rothchild, Jennifer’s grandfather. Sam came to the United States from Europe in the 1910s and lived in several children's homes in New York City before reuniting with his family. He credited his survival and education to those special families.
Sam’s House is a family. The children living at Sam’s House consider the other children their brothers and sisters, with the small ones calling the older girls “didi” (“big sister") and the older boys “dai” (“older brother”). The older kids take their roles as big brothers and sisters very seriously, and you often see the older ones helping their smaller siblings with their homework, drying their tears when they get sad about something, or helping them wash their hands before dinner.
And the women caretakers at Sam’s House care for all the children as their own. For example, at age two, Sandeep can’t say Prema’s name so he calls her “Pom Mommy.” Tara (who is tall for a Nepali woman, which means she's just slightly above five feet) is “Thulo Mommy” (“big mommy”); Susma is “Sauno Mommy” (“little mommy”); and he can say “Asuna,” so Asuna is “Asuna Mommy.” Asuna Mommy feeds him, Sauno Mommy potty trains him, Pom Mommy disciplines him and takes him to nursery school, and he can’t fall asleep unless he’s lying next to Thulo Mommy.
In addition to providing love, care, schooling, and a family to the children living at Sam’s House, the organization also supports the education of local school children. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. Many families cannot afford to send their children to school. With scholarships provided by Sam’s House, these children, who otherwise would not be able to learn and study, can now look forward to a brighter future.
Updates from Christopher and Sam’s House in Nepal
Christopher was in Kathmandu, Nepal on April 25, 2015, the date of the first devastating earthquake. He was pretty shaken up but OK. Because the tremors continued and most people did not feel safe sleeping inside their houses, Christopher slept outside for several nights following the first earthquake. Christopher and Rose Schweitz (a graduate of the University of Minnesota Morris, who is now working as a high school teacher in Kathmandu), came up with the idea of collecting potable water tablets and drops from departing tourists. They went to the airport and surrounding hotels. They then distributed the collected water treatment kits to those desperately in need of potable water in Kathmandu.
Shortly after the first earthquake, Christopher left Kathmandu to offer support in Gorkha. This town is not far from the earthquake’s epicenter and was subsequently one of the most severely affected areas. Christopher worked with the International Medical Corps on their assessment of Gorkha's surrounding communities and villages. A week after the first earthquake, at least ten villages to the north had not yet received any help, and the families in these communities had been out in the cold (and then rain) after their homes had been destroyed. Nepal's geography compounds the problem as these places can only be reached by foot—several days’ walk on a good day—and many routes and paths have been compromised (or even lost) after the earthquakes and subsequent landslides. Soon the wet season (the monsoon) will bring even more rain and landslides to Nepal. At this time, the International Medical Corps (IMC) and other organizations on the ground there are organizing mobile health camps and other services to reach these people desperately in need.
A second devastating earthquake took place on May 12, 2015, with its epicenter to the east of Kathmandu. Christopher, again, was thankfully OK. So was everyone at Sam’s House.
Sam’s House is located in Pokhara, which is Nepal’s second largest city. We are happy to report that everyone at Sam's House continues to be OK and safe. After the first earthquake, they all gathered at the main house and slept huddled together on the first floor.
Ramila, the house manager at Sam's House, led a collection drive for clothes and food from all the children's homes in Pokhara. They made plans to deliver these goods to Gorkha—again, an area devastated by the first quake. She and all the caretakers at Sam's House are everyday heroes.
Christopher visited everyone at Sam’s House on May 22, and was happy to see that some normalcy had returned to Sam’s House. He noted that none of the buildings appeared to have been structurally compromised or damaged. Sam’s House is so very lucky! Tragically, this is not the case for many children and families. This is where people like YOU come in…
How can you help? How can individuals and organizations provide continued support for Sam’s House beyond the immediate support being offered now?
- Talk about what has happened in Nepal with everyone you know.
- Learn more about Nepal yourself.
Perhaps start here:
- Donate to legitimate and reputable organizations, who work in partnership with local agencies on the ground—organizations that have experience in collaborative relief and recovery efforts. In addition to the International Medical Corps we would also refer people interested in donating to a list of relief agencies put together by the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies (ANHS), an organization of which both Christopher and Jennifer are members:
- Sam’s House is committed to supporting these types of organizations. Help Sam’s House support those children and families in the communities who need it most. Between April 25 and May 25 2015, all donations made to Sam's House went directly towards earthquake relief efforts in Nepal. Sam’s House will continue to support those working in recovery in Nepal, and donations earmarked for these recovery efforts will go right to those who need it the most. Donations to Sam’s House are tax-deductible.
- Contact your legislators. Nepal is a very poor country, and as such, does not have the resources or infrastructure to recover on its own. Nepal needs countries like the United States to offer long-term recovery support. Contact your state’s Representatives and Senators, and encourage them to continue to push for ongoing aid and sustainable development in Nepal.
Thank you so much for your continued concern for and commitment to those suffering in Nepal. Please do not let Nepal and its people become yesterday's news. We have a lot of work to do, both now and in the many days to come.