Street Kids in Nepal Drum Their Way to Self Esteem

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Paying to Volunteer - Scam or Legitimate Social Program?

The dangerously handsome man sitting at an adjacent table in the Pokhara coffee shop nodded as I wrapped up my interview with two young girls who’s had an abhorrent experience with a local volunteer operator. A jumble of dreadlocks peeked from beneath Hugo Caminero’s rainbow knitted skullcap as he leaned across the aisle and admitted that he’d been eavesdropping. Hugo was also working with children, but he’d created his own program rather than pay a firm to arrange for volunteering in Nepal. He flashed a seductive smile through his two-day stubble. Would I like to accompany him the following day to see for myself?

Hugo, drummer for the popular Spanish cover band RETO 999, was inspired by the philanthropic works of Carlinhos Brown, a Brazilian percussionist who was born in Candeal Pequeno, a small neighborhood in the Brotas area of Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. As a child, Brown played in dirt streets where human waste flowed; when it rained, excrement and mud washed into the homes. Yet it was the rhythm and percussion sounds from these same rough streets that brought him fame. Hoping to give back, Brown opened a music school in Candeal and formed the musical group Timbalada, recruiting more than 100 percussionists and singers called “timbaleiros,” the majority of them young kids from the streets of Candeal. Timbalada eventually recorded eight albums and toured various countries around the world. Today, largely through the efforts of Brown and Pracatum Social Action Association community action organization also set up by the drummer, the streets of Candeal are paved and free from sewage.

Taking his cue from Brown, Hugo bought a dozen drums, flew to Pokhara, and began looking for an orphanage where he could put his skills to use. One day he knocked on the door of the Protection and Rehabilitation Centre for Street Children and soon he was tutoring kids for an hour or so each afternoon in simple rhythms they were sure to master. At a jam session in a local bar one night he met Kim Jinuk, a Korean guitarist, and Pablo Etayo, an amateur musician from Basque Spain who had studied music therapy. And then there were three.

The next afternoon, Hugo led me through a maze of Pokhara’s dirt back streets on a shortcut to the highway, where the inconspicuous centre concealed itself behind a low concrete wall. A door cracked open we were ushered inside, where raggedy urchins immediately latched onto our legs, our clothes, whatever they could grasp. They bickered and pummeled one another; one young boy performed backflips from a nearby bench hoping to win our attention. Utter chaos reigned until Hugo broke out the drums.

Forming an orderly circle in the center of the courtyard, the children focused on Hugo as he drilled them on their respective parts.

Ick, dui, tin, char!” One, two three, four.

Within minutes the undisciplined mob was transformed into a cohesive unit, automatically working together for the good of the group. It was quite remarkable to witness and it wouldn’t surprise me to see these kids performing in a major parade someday, featured as one of the world’s great rags to riches stories.

Considering a future visit to Nepal? You’ll want to check out my Essential Travel Guide for Pokhara, Nepal, which is updated regularly.

Series NavigationPaid Voluntourism and Volunteering Scams in NepalThe Dark Side of Three Sisters Trekking and their NGO, Empowering Women of Nepal

13 thoughts on “Street Kids in Nepal Drum Their Way to Self Esteem”

  1. i also want to jon this feild ..but i dont
    have any experience n idea but
    i want to learn with all my heart please do accept me
    give me a chance i am ready to do any thing .. i am ready to face any of the difficulties n want to grow n learn more n more
    hoping for your positive response .

  2. Very interesting. Im at that point where im deciding to start my ‘own thing’. Well, let me begin from the beginning. My name is Hardy, i am Ghanaian. Im my case, i only wanted to get some experience so i can set up something in the field of teaching, agric and mentoring. I was surprised when i was told that i was required to pay the same as everyone else even after i had explained that i was resident in Ghana and didnt need to be picked up at the airport nor do i need the ‘tourism’. I just wanted to help!

    • Hi Hardy: Yes, people need to be very careful when getting involved in volun”tourism,” as much of it is a scam. Glad you realized in time. Better to just go out on your own and find a person or persons that need help, and design your own program. They will receive much more benefit that if you worked with one of these so-called volunteering organizations, who never send a penny to the agencies where they place volunteers.

  3. Hi,

    It’s great to see that there is such passion to give back to the community. 

    I actually lived in Nepal for a period of three years, working on a project with a Nepali man to provide curative and preventive healthcare to villagers in a rural village in Ramechhap, the Bhumethan Community Health Centre (

    I did not arrive in Nepal intending to become a part of this project, and nor did I arrive with any preconceived ideas of volunteering, as short-term volunteering can actually be more harmful to the community. It was a case of being in the right place at the right time, excuse the cliche!

    • Megan: I SO agree with your assessment about short-term volunteering. How wonderful that you got to do your project for a more extended period. Nepal just has a way of getting under your skin. I feel a lot like you, with regards to finding my Nepali family. I was just in the right place at the right time.

  4. Hey Barbara & everyone: This is an article dedicated to the plight of the Street Kids in Kathmandu specifically their addiction to glue sniffing (amongst sexual trafficking, violence, poverty & many others). read, spread and pass on – the message of the street kids in Kathmandu.Cheers.

  5. I could have sworn that I commented on this before, maybe it was one of those days my internet was misbehaving. I loved this story to bits. I have known some guys like this. They worked with the refugees when I was volunteering with the Red Cross a couple of years ago. It was marvellous to see how the guys lost themselves in the music and forgot their troubles for a while.

    I actually looked up this story today, because I am teaching a young woman English. She isn’t a refugee, just a friend of a friend, and is Spanish, but she wants to learn English because she is going to travel soon in India and Nepal, and I thought your stories would be good for her to practise translating because she will be interested. Dunno, just thought you’d like to know that :=)

    • Oh my Islandmomma! I knew my site was being used in many traditional ways,
      but this is a new twist on things! Thanks for sharing!


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