Regular acts of kindness
Budding actress remembers her roots in directing a nonprofit to help orphans in Nepal.
By Shirley West
For Special Publications
Published: Midnight, Sept. 5
Arun Storrs laughs when asked if she’s making a living now that she’s 26, a Yale graduate, and has been in a movie, “Ninja Zombies.” Then she starts piecing together the list of things she’s working on — a vibrant tapestry with threads that reach back to her birthplace in Nepal and forward toward work as an actor.
At the top of Arun’s list is The Kumari Project, a nonprofit she founded to help orphaned children in Kathmandu, Nepal. She’s in the thick of organizing an art auction and dance performance at Cozmic Pizza, Friday, Sept. 7, one of several fundraising projects she’s coordinating with help from an international network of friends and supporters.
As executive director of The Kumari Project, Arun receives no salary — all funds raised are used to boost children’s nutrition, health and education — but she thinks of these children as her brothers and sisters.
“I was born in Kathmandu, taken to an orphanage when a few days old, then adopted at seven weeks,” Arun says. She was three months old when her mother, Beth, brought her back to Oregon.
“I grew up going back to Nepal every three years starting when I was five years old,” Arun says. “Basically my mom wanted me to go back because she wanted to keep me in touch with my birth culture.”
Flash forward to 2007. Arun, a graduate of South Eugene High School, was majoring in theater as well as ethnicity, race and migration at Yale University and was inspired by a dance professor to combine performing arts and social activism. She applied for and received a Yale College Public Research Grant to work with Tibetan refugee children in Nepal. The project became fodder for her senior thesis, a dance theater piece, but the trip started a larger journey.
“I was teaching performance art curriculum to kids who were in a reception center,” Arun says. “I started volunteering weekends at Bal Mandir, the orphanage I was adopted from. It exposed me to the great needs and how such a little bit will go a long way.”
An ongoing journey
When friends expressed interest in going to Nepal, Arun organized a trip during her senior year for five students to volunteer at Bal Mandir, doing art classes and donating clothing. The group continued the next year, with Arun’s help. By then she had graduated and began working at the Women Faculty Forum at Yale. Drawn back to Nepal, Arun led a third and fourth year volunteer trip.
“After getting to go back to Nepal year after year I realized … the students were getting more out of it than the children. We weren’t creating any sustainable, systemic change. I wanted to do something that would make a real difference for the kids there,” she says.
In late 2010 she officially launched The Kumari Project, fundraising and program planning while in the states and traveling back to Nepal in 2011 to assess needs. During that trip she was able to fund educational expenses for 16 children.
“I found out the kids weren’t getting very good nutrition. They weren’t getting fruit, they weren’t getting protein, no eggs, sometimes milk with their tea; two meals, which is traditional, but no snacks, and no vegetables except potatoes,” Arun muses.
In early 2012, The Kumari Project provided $3,600 to two orphanages — enough to meet the children’s nutritional needs at one orphanage for five and a half months and supplement nutrition for one month at two other orphanages.
“We also worked to pay school fees and will have paid for 50 kids by the end of 2012,” says Arun, adding, “We’re working to support 107 for 2012-13.”
Also on her list
“In the last year and a half I’ve gotten much more interested in film and going back to straight theater,” Arun admits.
Hence her work in the indie films, “Ninja Zombies” and “Underground Sonata,” both produced by a former Yale classmate. In March, Arun played Clarisse in the Lord Leebrick production of “Fahrenheit 451.” Regretfully she recently had to turn down a juicy part in a Portland-area production. She’s just a bit busy right now.
The upcoming Kumari benefit aside, Arun finishes listing other fundraising projects her nonprofit has planned.
There’s a 14-day charity trek in Nepal that she’ll lead starting in late December. “We’re still looking for people,” she adds.
There’s the “Survivor” style fundraiser, in which two Australian brothers each pledge to live on a Thai island with only 10 items. “If someone donates enough money they can choose an item,” Arun explains. (Read about it at email@example.com.)
Finally, Arun almost forgets to mention Khana Et al., a small company she started with two friends to sell high-quality brown rice to expatriates in Nepal.
“It’s a bag-for-a-bag model,” she says. “For every bag we sell, we donate a bag directly to the orphanages to make sure the kids have brown rice in their diets.”
Back to making a living, Arun remembers that she is still doing paid consulting work for a couple of international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
And she recently got licensed as a Zumba instructor.
As for the future, she plans to make the jump to Los Angeles to pursue acting, while continuing to manage The Kumari Project.
“We’re looking to fund the orphanages’ nutrition for a full year, and next year invest in farming … and look at ways to generate income and improve the quality of food for the kids.”
For now, she’s hoping for a big showing at the benefit auction that includes more than 120 items from local artists and businesses.
“The community has been really generous, and I’ve been really thankful.”
An evening of art, music and dance to benefit The Kumari Project, Cozmic Pizza, 199 W. Eighth Ave., Eugene, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 7. Features belly dance, bhangra, Nepali folk dancing and a silent auction with handcrafts and artwork. Entertainment begins at 7:15 p.m.
Copyright © 2012 — The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, USA
See full article here also: http://www.registerguard.com/web/specialdash/28479541-41/arun-nepal-bag-kumari-orphanages.html.csp