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Lost for words

Naresh back in his village with his uncle, grandmother and ChoraChori field staff Yogesh Dhami (left)

Lost for words

ChoraChori aims to return the children it rescues from India to their families. This makes for emotional reunions. When we reunited Naresh with his grandmother two weeks ago she was quite overwhelmed (see picture). Indeed, we believe it to be unprecedented for a Nepali grandmother to be lost for words.

Naresh2

Naresh back in his village with his uncle, grandmother and ChoraChori field staff member Yogesh Dhami (left)

Village boredom

A range of push factors drive Nepali kids to run away from home and seek a better life in India. Often they are attempting to escape grinding rural poverty or domestic abuse. In Naresh’s case the push factor was boredom. His parents and three brothers had migrated to Karnataka, southwest India, when he was 11 years old. But Naresh decided to stay behind with his maternal grandparents as he wanted to study at the village school. After a year though this became too dull and one day he took what he thought would be his chance for a more interesting life. He “borrowed” his grandfather’s bicycle and set off on the pretext of selling firewood.

India

Naresh crossed the border at a place called Gaddachowki, not far from his home near Mahendranagar in the far west of Nepal. He told ChoraChori that no one at the Gaddachowki crossing point checks people who are riding bikes. Then he sold the firewood to buy some food, before cycling for two days straight to a town called Bareilly that lies about 100 km from the border. On his first night there he ate at a temple which was providing free food and slept on the streets. His second night’s food came courtesy of a Muslim festival that he stumbled upon. On the third day he sold the bicycle and used the money to board a train to Delhi.

En route Naresh stopped off at a place called Ambala where he worked as a gardener for about two weeks. He became bored there too so resumed his journey to Delhi. However the Indian NGO Salaam Baalak Trust spotted him arriving at the railway station and took him to a children’s shelter. He spent three months there before ChoraChori field staff came to his rescue in March 2016.

ChoraChori reunites him successfully

After Naresh’s grandmother finally found her words, she was able to share her delight at his return. Apparently Naresh’s father, who works in a metal factory in Karnataka, will be returning home soon to meet him. He’ll then decide whether or not to take Naresh back with him to rejoin his mother and siblings. Whatever happens, Naresh seems to have learned his lesson and is currently studying in the eighth grade, aspiring to become a doctor.

Child sponsorship

There are still 22 children remaining at the ChoraChori refuge in Kathmandu pending tracing of families and/or completing rehabilitation. If you can help us with a regular donation through child sponsorship please let me know on [email protected] Failing that, please help us with a one off donation towards our other facility, the newly built Child Trauma Management Centre, using the button below. All donations to his appeal are matched at 50%. In other words £10 becomes £15 with donations accepted in all major currencies.

donate to ChoraChori

 

 

Return to the Kathmandu refuge

A failed attempt at child reunification

ChoraChori has returned most of the children it has rescued from India to their families. Usually parents and siblings have greeted returnees with open arms; this was the case with Bibash in my previous post.  Occasionally, and in spite of our best efforts, family reunification doesn’t work out and we have to consider returning a child to our Kathmandu refuge for long term care. Khem (name changed) is a case in point.

Running away from home

Like so many of the children ChoraChori helps, Khem had a very difficult upbringing. He was born in Dhangadhi, in the far west of Nepal, the son of his father’s second wife. She developed an alcohol problem and left home when Khem was very little, whereabouts still unknown. Soon afterwards his father’s first wife returned with her three children and Khem’s problems deepened. His father went to work in Mumbai and essentially Khem’s grandmother looked after him. She protected him as best she could from his abusive stepmother.

Eventually Khem had had enough and he ran away, stealing money from his home and from neighbours to fund his trip into India. He ended up in a children’s home in Delhi, from where ChoraChori rescued him in March 2016. We returned him to his family last October. It seemed to our field staff at the time that he could expect enough family support but this hasn’t happened.

A tough family visit

When they visited the family last week ChoraChori field staff members Yogesh (top right) and Pratap were shocked by Khem’s circumstances. He wasn’t attending school and living under the same roof as 24 other members from his extended family, including four uncles. The domestic environment was tense in the extreme, with Khem’s grandmother and stepmother bickering during the visit itself. Khem’s stepmother perceives his mother as being the source of the family’s problems and calls Khem a thief. Indeed, this is how the broader community sees him after his earlier thefts. No neighbour allows him into their home. Khem’s father is still working in Mumbai but the money he sends home isn’t enough to look after his children and send them to school.

Actually, Khem’s stepsister has admitted that he has been well-behaved since he returned to the family. But memories are long and Khem seems to have little future in his family and village under such a burden of stigma. Yogesh and Pratap noted that he was very quiet during the visit although he had been smart and outgoing while staying at our Kathmandu refuge. As they were leaving the family, Khem asked Yogesh and Pratap if he could return to Kathmandu.

The challenge for ChoraChori

These days children’s homes in Kathmandu are criticised for how they institutionalise children who could be better supported within their families and communities. Most of the time this criticism is entirely valid. Especially since opportunists set up homes just to raise money rather than to care for children. But here we have an example of how family reunification and support is doomed to failure, not helped by the remoteness of so many villages. Under these circumstances a refuge can provide an invaluable safety net when there are no other options.

Khem will be returning to our Kathmandu refuge. This is an expensive long term care requirement that hopefully we can cover through child sponsorship. Even then there is a significant risk. For during his earlier stay Khem and another boy ran away for a day and he could well do so again. For we don’t keep children behind bars as per the Indian “children’s shelters”. When this happens, as is the case from time to time, we have the worry of their welfare while still being our responsibility.

But let’s hope we can turn this boy’s life around. If you feel you can help, either with a donation or as a sponsor, please do e mail me on [email protected]

A ChoraChori home visit

Following up Bibash

Nepali boy Bibash with his parentsIn December 2015 ChoraChori repatriated fifteen year old Nepali boy Bibash Tamang along with 23 other children in a major child rescue operation.  Our field staff who reunited Bibash with his family the following January returned last week to see how he was getting along.

Why did he leave home?

Bibash’s family lives in Kanchanpur, the most westerly of Nepal’s 75 Districts. It takes 15 hours to get there by car, much longer by bus. His father, Durgalal, is blind while his mother, Phulmaya, is disabled through a leg deformity. Bibash told us that he became tired of his friends at school teasing him about his parents’ disabilities (Nepal can be a harsh place in this regard) so he left home to seek a better life in India. He crossed the border near his home at a spot that is a notorious smuggling spot. But his dreams came to an abrupt end when the Indian police picked him up to then spend several months in a dreadful Indian “children’s shelter”. ChoraChori’s intervention secured his freedom and return to Nepal shortly afterwards.

Why did ChoraChori return Bibash to his family?

Although Bibash’s parents are disabled and live in a small house they are not totally destitute by any means. For they own six khatta (2,028 square metres) of land which is farmed on their behalf as they are unable to till the land. This works under the Nepali Aadhiya system (aadhi means half) whereby the farmer and landowner divide the produce 50:50.  He also has a government disability allowance of 600 rupees (£4-5 per month) and supplements his income by acting as a “witch doctor” from time to time. We decided that with a 10,000 rupee (£80) grant from ChoraChori could support Bibash back into education. This is a much cheaper option than keeping him in our Kathmandu refuge. And of course he is back with his family where he really belongs.

How is he faring at school?

Bibash is currently studying in the eighth grade at the local Sri Durga Secondary School. His uncle, Dan Bir Moktan, happens to be one of his teachers. He tells us that Bibash has been very applied and one day aspires to join the British Army. He knows that to do that he’ll at least have to pass the 10th grade School Leaver’s Certificate (and a bit more besides!). But we will continue to support him up until this point at least.

Bibash’s father said to our field staff: “You have provided my son with a second chance at life. We are forever indebted to you. Like any parent, we do not expect anything from Bibash except for him to have a brighter future”.

Child sponsorship

Please consider helping a Nepali boy like Bibash, either at the refuge or back with their families, through our child sponsorship scheme. To find out more, just contact me on [email protected]

 

Volunteering in Nepal

Volunteering in Nepal

ChoraChori doesn’t operate an international volunteer programme for its Nepal projects. It’s not permitted for foreigners to work in Nepal while on a tourist visa and without a work permit. We understand and respect that legislation in a country where there’s a scarcity of jobs and no shortage of skilled local people in fields such as childcare. However, if visitors to the country have a skill or experience that isn’t locally available we’re happy to accept offers of volunteer support that can add value. One of our objectives is to build the capacity of our operational team and this is one of the most effective ways of doing so.

Melanie’s volunteer support

A great example of our approach to volunteering in action is through German visitor Melanie. Our German partner charity Hatemalo has asked her while in Nepal to call with ChoraChori-Nepal to gain an understanding of our child rescue and education programmes. This reflects Hatemalo Board members being responsible to their donors by obtaining some feedback through an external monitoring visit. Melanie has also kindly agreed to spend a few days writing a newsletter and updating the Hatemalo website based upon her research on the ground. Obviously a native German speaker has huge value in this regard.

One of Melanie’s other volunteer tasks is to assess first-hand the further needs of Kitini School. Hatemalo have just provided the school with a grant for the purchase of new computers. We’re keen that the school adds Chemistry and Physics labs to its new Biology lab that we’ve funded and Hatemalo may be able to help.

Happily, Melanie’s first perceptions have been extremely positive as she’s got to know the staff and beneficiaries. She has allowed me to share with you the message that she sent me yesterday:

Nepal volunteer“It’s May 2017 – a very exciting year for me so far, with many ups and downs and especially many changes in my small (but very fine) life. In brief, I decided to quit my secure job in a full-service digital agency in Cologne, Germany. Three months later I find myself at Amsterdam Schiphol boarding the plane which will carry me to Kathmandu, Nepal. 
In addition to football shoes for the kids, I carry also a large portion of respect, curiosity and excitement within my luggage. With what expectations do I travel to this distant and poor country in South Asia, haunted by the heaviest earthquake in 2015? I go without any, it is “only” the greatest respect. I actually travel without expectations. I prefer to take a picture directly.
And this image has been filling with many bright colours since I arrived. Colours that crystallise out of my impressions and experiences which go from white over pale pink to deep dark red and also black. It is a wealth of impressions: fragrances, noises, observations, gestures, looks, conversations and momentary impressions … I am in a feeling between shock and fascination!
These first impressions of my journey through the capital of Kathmandu and the warm welcome of my loving host, are crowned by my first visit to the ChoraChori house. It is in the district of Godawari, a somewhat more rural area on the edge of the great hustle and bustle. Many secret but curious glances are aimed at me – I cannot help but meet them with an open smile and a quiet “Namaste” … for what you give comes back, right?
The children’s trust grows with common board games, small conversational approaches, simple glances, support for their homework or first English conversations and especially with just being there. These are children who have already lost a piece of their childhood, tortured bodies and souls, who look at you with big eyes and, partly with cheeky hints, try to go over their anxiety and uncertainties. The most heartwarming moment just happened while we went to a nearby temple with a small group of the boys: They looked after me, their new Didi (sister in Nepali), watched my steps, showing me the way, the landscape with its beautiful nature while holding my hand and smiling at me. No need of more words.
Beside the boys of the ChoraChori house I share my time each day with 6 lovely girls from Tipling who came to Kathmandu to finish their school education. Even here, reticence, uncertainties, shy glances and hardly any words during our first meetings. The best thing on earth cuts this silence between us: sports! For now we are doing some exercises and small dance choreographies almost every day – and what emerges are smiling faces, a lot of laughter and pure happiness. I can’t believe those girls were never taught or shown any sports, one of the most essential things within my own life. 
To sum up all my feelings and thoughts up I like to quote the famous German author Hermann Hesse: “Luck is love, nothing else. The one who can love, is lucky.“ I am more than happy being able to be a part of ChoraChori as a Volunteer and be a one of the lucky ones who can love – Namaste.”

Can you volunteer?

If you are planning to visit Nepal you are most welcome to call by even for an hour or two, by appointment. That’s part of our transparency. But if, based upon reviewing our website, you think you have a relevant skill to volunteer while you are there then please let us know beforehand and we can explore possibilities. In the coming time we are particularly seeking visitors to Nepal who might offer us language skills, or have experience in areas as diverse as art psychotherapy and international fundraising. We are open to any suggestion that doesn’t conflict with what’s already available locally. And Nepali volunteers are always welcome!

The way to Mahendranagar

On the bus to Mahendranagar

The Way to Mahendranagar

After rescue and rehabilitation of trafficked and displaced children, ChoraChori’s main aim is to reunite them with their families. Field staff member Yogesh Dhami is currently on a reunification mission in west Nepal.

Boy on a Bike

displaced children

Reunification in Nepalgunj

In December we posted about Sudip. We took him into our care after the Nepal police found him cycling around Godawari on a rickety bike asking for directions to Mahendranagar. He’d been in domestic service – enslaved – with his cousin but had escaped. Sudip was desperate to return to his grandmother. The trouble was that Mahendranagar was almost 350 miles away. This involves a 15 hour car journey (much longer by bus). It’s taken us a little while to trace his grandmother and our small team has had major commitments over the past couple of months. But today he’s finally on his way home with Yogesh and two other children. One of these is a child whom we brought back from India in the mass rescue in March.

Reunification of displaced children is very time consuming. This is not only in terms of finding families and researching their circumstances. We of course have to ensure the safety and welfare of the reunited children. But also we have to rely on public transport. Yogesh is travelling by bus, stopping off en route in Nepalgunj to reunite another child with his sister and brother in law. He can expect to be away for five very uncomfortable days. But this is what we do and epitomises our values in going to great lengths – and distances – for even just one child (or in this case, three).

Increased capacity

The return of these three children brings the number staying at our transit refuge down to 24. A few days ago I’d have written that even with this drop in numbers we still didn’t have room to take on another major rescue for the foreseeable future. However, today I am delighted to report that we have acquired a former old people’s home that lies just down the way from our refuge and trauma management centre. This provides us with potentially a further 50 bed spaces. We still have the challenge of funding the cost of another rescue and subsequent care. With our sights firmly set on rescuing girls from the sex trade in India,we can only hope that a major longterm donor gets behind us.

Meantime, we are relying on our regular loyal supporters to keep our whole operation afloat. Please help us out using the button below!

donate to ChoraChori

Son of The Thief

ChoraChori rescues former street kid with a story to tell

This is the story of Ramesh, a former street kid in both Nepal and India. ChoraChori rescued him in March this year after Ramesh completed a tough journey, both literally and metaphorically.

Gulmi

Gulmi District

Son of The Thief

Ramesh was born 17 years ago in Gulmi District, 350 km and 11 hours’ drive west of Kathmandu. As you can see from the adjacent picture, it’s a beautiful hilly area, well known within Nepal for coffee growing. But Ramesh’s upbringing was far from idyllic. For his father was a notorious thief who robbed many of his neighbours before eloping with another woman. Ramesh was so young at the time that he doesn’t even remember his father’s name. His mother, Sita, remarried but Ramesh’s life was no happier. His mother and stepfather argued constantly and in the eyes of the villagers Ramesh was stigmatised as “The Son of The Thief”. Eventually at age 10 Ramesh had had enough. He ran away from home and headed for Butwal, a dusty bustling major town that lay 100km to the south.

Life as a Kawadi

Butwal

The streets of Butwal

In Butwal Ramesh became a street kid, working as a “Kawadi”. This is someone who collects and sells garbage – usually plastic bottles. He earned £1.50 per day but this wasn’t enough to get by on. So after three months he started working as a kind of agent for the local bus service, earning 30 pence commission for every passenger he procured. By day he stayed at the station, by night at a local night shelter for street children. This led him into smoking and abusing glue like the other kids. However he made friends with some of the station staff and three months later a bus driver gave him a lift to what Ramesh hoped would be the excitement of Kathmandu.

In Kathmandu he became a street kid again. During the day he was a Kawadi, at night he slept on the steps of a temple in Basantapur Durbar Square. He’d become vulnerable to bullying and older children stole his money. But his safety improved when he found a night shelter that was prepared to admit him. He spent the next five years in Kathmandu passing through two more children’s shelters. These helped him to reduce his smoking and glue-sniffing. He received some education and even training in Taekwondo. His confidence restored a little, his thoughts turned to his family.

Basantapur Durbar Square

Basantapur Durbar Square

Homecoming

When he was 15 Ramesh returned home for the major Hindu festival of Dashain. He looked forward to sharing his exciting stories of city life and “success” with his family. But, to his dismay, he discovered that his stepfather had also abandoned his mother. Depressed at her circumstances, Sita had descended into alcohol abuse, eking out a living by breaking stones to make gravel. She and her two children were living in abject poverty. Ramesh decided to leave home again and find the money his family needed.

He returned to Butwal where he worked first as a truck driver’s assistant and then as a bus conductor. After that he moved to Pokhara and eventually north into remote Mustang. Here his work was to load stones and boulders onto a trailer. He tells how one day the stones moved on their own as the first of two earthquakes struck Nepal in 2015. Soon afterwards Ramesh decided he would never find his fortune in Mustang and headed south for India.

India travels

India travels

Crossing the border at Bhairahawa, Ramesh’s first job was as a housekeeper and childminder to a doctor in Gorakhpur. With a smile he says that his tasks extended to ironing the doctor’s underwear. He quit two months later and his travels really began. First of all he spent a fruitless three days looking for work in Delhi, once again sleeping on the streets. Then he went to Mumbai where he found three months’ work on the busses. That didn’t pay enough so he crossed India to Chennai.

Two days later he was in Bangalore where his job-hunting came to an abrupt end. The Indian police are on the look-out for stray children at railway stations and they picked Ramesh up as soon as he stepped off the train. They took him to a children’s shelter in Bangalore where he spent two months before the authorities transferred him to a dreadful home in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. Six weeks later ChoraChori rescued him in its major child rescue operation last March.

Future plans

At the ChoraChori refuge in Kathmandu Ramesh has been a gregarious lad who, thanks to his non-formal education, even speaks some English. He says now that he would like to learn a trade so that he can provide for his family properly. Specifically he wants to become a motorcycle mechanic – an option that would offer plenty of work in Nepal! This would require a six month course followed by a further six months of vocational training. A full year of support from ChoraChori comes to £1,250, including his living expenses.

If you feel you can help Ramesh to realise his dream of returning to his family with money in his pocket then please donate using the button below. The site accepts donations in any major currency. Many thanks!

donate to ChoraChori

 

GlobalGiving matched funding campaign

ChoraChori’s response to the Nepal earthquake of 2015

Today is the second anniversary of the Nepal earthquake that killed 9,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless. But there was a less obvious consequence of this disaster and to a second earthquake that followed in May 2015. Hundreds of children fled the destruction and chaos to seek a better life in India while child trafficking spiked. Sadly, for the child migrants too often this became a case of “out of the frying pan, into the fire”. The Indian authorities picked up many children and effectively imprisoned them in squalid “children’s shelters”. And two years on most children who left Nepal are still missing.

Rescuing Nepali kids

Since August 2015 ChoraChori has been unique in sending rescue teams into India to find Nepal’s lost children and bring them home. So far we’ve rescued 105 children including 33 in one operation last month. We have been successful in our Aim of returning children to their families. Only 32 returnees are still in our care while we continue their rehabilitation. That’s because we are finding some children have returned with a legacy of mental trauma of a scale that is unprecedented in our work. We are having to manage little boys who have been diagnosed as being at risk of suicide. One girl in her early teens spent a year locked up in a brothel.

Our GlobalGiving campaign

To meet the need ChoraChori has built a child trauma management centre collocated with our Kathmandu refuge. We funded this capital project entirely through the “Taking the High Road” cycle challenge last year. Now we aim to launch the childcare programme through an online appeal using the GlobalGiving platform. To mark the second anniversary of the Nepal earthquake, GlobalGiving will be matching all online donations at 50%. In other words a £10 gift becomes £15 – or equivalent in any major currency – up to a maximum donation of £800 (i.e. US$1,000). The campaign went live at 2 p.m. UK time today. There is an added incentive for participating charities: GlobalGiving will also be awarding two prizes of £800 in the first 24 hours of the challenge. One will be for the most funds raised and the other for the most individual donors.

How to help us

ChoraChori child trauma management centre

The newly completed child trauma management centre

Please join me by donating and sharing this post as widely as you can. I would love ChoraChori to claim at least one of these prizes! You can find the appeal page using the button below:donate to ChoraChori

A science laboratory for Kitini School in Kathmandu

A boost for one of the top government schools in Nepal

The kids at our refuge attend Kitini College in Godawari, one of the top government schools in Nepal. Seventy percent of its pupils are girls because parents choose to send their sons to private schools. So ChoraChori decided to give the school the education that Nepali kids deserve!

ChoraChori helping education in Nepal

government schools in NepalAs part of its contribution to earthquake recovery, ChoraChori has been conducting a major education programme. The aim has been to restore and develop government schools in Nepal so that they are even better than before. So far, this has involved rebuilding three schools in the hills (job done!) and developing secondary education at Kitini College. Kitini serves these schools and many others within a wide catchment area. We have pledged to help Kitini replace its antiquated computers and set up science laboratories. These latter will allow the school to extend its curriculum into teaching science to Higher Secondary level (“Plus Two” = Grades 11 and 12). See the film above to hear from the pupils and headteacher, Mr Saroj KC, explaining the need.

government schools in NepalA great start at Kitini

This past week we’ve made a start thanks to a generous grant from a UK Foundation. This has paid for us to set up a biology laboratory and purchase some of the items the school needs for its future physics laboratory. The picture left shows the outstanding learning environment that students can now enjoy.

What we need next

Our educational needs are laid out in our education programme document, but our next priority is to raise £7,000 to complete the set up of the physics and biology labs. An equal priority is the need for £3,700 to government schools in Nepalreplace the antiquated computer suite (see picture left).

If you can help us with a small donation towards this project then please use the button below.

donate to ChoraChori

 

 

Nepali girl abduction

Nepali girl abduction a common crime

Nepali girl abduction is commonplace – indeed socially accepted – in some rural communities in Nepal. The UK’s Daily Mail reported on this two years ago, describing how it impacted upon Dalit (“untouchable”) girls in remote northwest Nepal. Young men abducted these girls to force them into child marriage while girls’ families offered little resistance. See this article.  We’ve come across the same practice further to the east in Tipling, Dhading District, which lies in the mountains bordering Tibet. In the midst of stunning scenery (see picture above) young men commit crimes against girls, robbing them of their childhoods and futures.

Tipling – a tough place for girls

It takes two days’ travel from Kathmandu to reach Tipling, its remoteness contributing to endemic grinding poverty. This is home to the people from the marginalised and historically downtrodden Tamang community. Family incomes are derived from subsistence farming, manual labour and from acting as porters. Women’s lives are particularly difficult with a high incidence of child marriage and early pregnancy. These are major contributing factors towards infant and maternal mortality. Families often can’t afford to educate their children. If they can, they will prioritise their sons’ schooling and send them to private boarding schools in large towns. Girls can only expect to attend local government schools that are chronically under-resourced. Eventually poverty forces many girls to drop out of school early to begin work. Or they may be forced into child marriage even though this is illegal in Nepal.

The thing is that there’s little protection for girls. There is no police post in the area; the nearest one is a day’s walk away. And often parents can be away from home, tending cattle in lowland pastures. So it’s easy for a young man or young men to kidnap a girl and claim her as a wife.

Abduction of two sisters

A young man kidnapped 22 year old Mara when her father was away from home working as a herdsman. Mara ran away from her captor four times before he turned up at her parents’ home. He offered alcohol as a goodwill gesture to the family and to obtain her father’s blessing. The family agreed and Mara’s fate was sealed. Later, another lad and some friends snatched Mara’s younger sister, Nanimaya. She escaped five times but each time her abductor went to her home to retrieve her with the family’s consent. After the sixth escape the young man gave up. But, bizarrely, he claimed £4 equivalent from Nanimaya’s father as “compensation” for the “divorce”.

In our society we’d quite correctly view these practices as kidnap and rape. Not necessarily so in rural Nepal and even if there is a police presence, they turn a blind eye to these crimes for fear of upsetting complicit villagers.

The ChoraChori Tipling Girls Project

Girls from Tipling learning craft skillsMara and Nanimaya’s youngest sister is one of ten girls who came to Kathmandu last July. ChoraChori responded to a request from a Jesuit priest in Tipling, Fr Norbert, that we give these girls a chance to complete their education in Kathmandu. For they had successfully passed the coveted Grade 10 School Leaver’s Certificate (SLC) examination at their school in Tipling. This was a remarkable achievement in spite of the 2015 earthquakes that had destroyed their homes. There was no option to complete higher secondary education (Grades 11 and 12) in Tipling. Moreover, lawlessness had become much worse after the quakes and these girls were very susceptible to abduction, child marriage or even human trafficking. Tamang girls are physically attractive and therefore highly sought-after for the sex trade.

The Tipling girls are now staying at ChoraChori Operational Director Shailaja’s home. In the mornings they attend college while in the afternoons we have been teaching them handicrafts. Soon we plan to extend their extra-curricular activities to English lessons. These will increase their future employability. And in June we expect a further ten or so girls to join the two year programme. A programme that will give these young women a chance of making something of their lives while providing essential protection from kidnappers.

To support this project and help us fight Nepali girl abduction please donate using the button below:

donate to ChoraChori

 

ChoraChori returns first group of rescued Nepalese children to their families

ChoraChori conducts medical checks on rescued Nepalese children at its Kathmandu refugeRescued Nepalese children returned to families

On the 17th March 2017 ChoraChori brought 33 trafficked and displaced Nepalese children back to Nepal. See this link. Working in conjunction with Nepal’s Central Child Welfare Board, we freed them from captivity in dreadful conditions at two children’s shelters in Bihar, north India. Since then we have been conducting basic medical checks on the children and, where necessary, providing essential medical care. We’ve also been finding out more about the children’s circumstances and how they ended up in India. And this past week we’ve successfully reunited the first nine of the returnees with their families.

Nepal’s Musahar community – the rat-catchers

These first nine children are from the Musahar caste. This word means “rat-catcher” or “rat-eater”. This caste lies within the “untouchable” community and the Musahar population straddles the border between India and Nepal. See this description of the Indian Musahar from Wikipedia. The 2014 Nepal census records 234,490 Musahar as living in Nepal. Their name stems from the belief that the people were so poor that they caught rats for food. That may not longer be the case but the Musahar still lead tough lives and experience terrible discrimination. As untouchables they are kept at the margins of society and may not share the same space as higher caste people. They undertake the most menial work and that includes, like their Bihari counterparts, going to north Indian States to find agricultural labour.

Caught in a trap

The nine children we returned to their homes in Siraha District told us of how, ironically, Musahar children find themselves in a trap. They have to attend separate schools, segregated from other children. Their school offered classes only up to the 5th grade. Further education would have involved transfer to a mixed caste school and that wasn’t allowed. So in desperation the children set off as a group to work  in a pizza shop in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Relatives who were working there already promised them a salary of 5,000 Indian rupees (£60) per month. The children left home with their parents’ permission but en route the Indian police intercepted them. The authorities placed them in Darbhanga children’s shelter where ChoraChori eventually rescued them.

Now these reunited children have no interest in education – it’s not available anyway. Instead they want to find work in Nepal or, when they are older, as migrant labour in the Middle East. One of the nine even wants to return to India once his citizenship papers are complete.  However bleak their prospects in life might be, at least these Nepalese children have the chance of a fresh start after their appalling experience as captives at Darbhanga children’s shelter.

Child trafficking

We are still researching the circumstances of the other rescued Nepalese children. Already there seems to be a significant child trafficking element involved. For obvious reasons we’ll not share anything on this while our investigations are underway. Also, two children are runaways from a Buddhist monastery in south India. They allege that they were being thrashed by the monks. This is not the first time that we have come across this allegation arising from a most unlikely place and this too requires our further research.

ChoraChori in the Nepali Times

Nepalese children captiveYesterday the Nepali Times published a powerful report on our joint operation with the Central Child Welfare Board. You can read this article and view the associated film by clicking on the image to the left.

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