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Child trauma management at the ChoraChori children’s refuge in Nepal

child trauma NepalMilan’s story

Child trauma can present itself almost immediately in the Nepali kids we rescue from India. For example, ChoraChori-Nepal refuge staff member Sujit Thapa remembers all too well how Milan (name changed) was on his first day after we repatriated him from India. Sujit says “He was a loner who looked very scared and traumatised, speaking to no one and not answering any questions. He was also very aggressive and attacked staff members several times. It was very difficult to manage him”.

A violent father

Milan became particularly aggressive if anyone asked him about his home or family. However after spending time in the healing environment of the refuge and receiving counselling sessions from our newly appointed psychosocial counsellor, Sailu Rajbhandari, he has begun to open up about his past. We found out why he has scars on his head and legs. For Milan’s father would be drunk every day and used to beat his mother, siblings and himself, on occasions using fire tongs. One day his mother couldn’t take this anymore and fled with Milan’s younger sister and brother. Her whereabouts are unknown. This left six year old Milan to endure another four years of violence before he too ran away, in his case across the border into the abyss of India.

Trauma management

Sujit continues: “Milan has changed a lot since his arrival at the refuge. Now I think he has started to accept the facts about his father and find a place for it. He still isn’t sharing his address though, perhaps out of fear of being returned there.” As you can see from the picture above his interactions with the other children are improving too.

Milan is one of the 110 Nepalese children whom ChoraChori-Nepal has rescued from India. Most have experienced some degree of child trauma, be it physical, psychological or sexual. If, like Milan, this has arisen at home and caused them to run away then of course we can’t return them to that situation. Instead we need to continue to care for them at our refuge, including providing education and training, until they are able to look after themselves. Our Child Trauma Management Centre, which is on the same site as the refuge, is central to that care.

In August we were delighted to appoint Sailu as the Clinical Director at the Centre. As a former lecturer at the Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO) in Kathmandu she is very well qualified to take up the challenge of managing child trauma cases. She has been getting to know the refuge children and conducting individual and group assessments. Also she has been training the care staff in how to deal with behavioural problems. After she has settled in we look forward to applying the healing power of art to complement her therapy.

Hope for the future

As it happens, Milan enjoys art and dancing. He has been inspired by two of the other boys starting a vocational training course as motorbike mechanics and hopes to follow in their footsteps. However these courses are quite expensive and we are keen to identify supporters who might be able to offer short term training sponsorships. Supporters whose investment can change a teenager’s life for good. If you can help, please drop me a line.

In memory of Zoe Carss

ChoraChori helps ensure that Zoe Carss is remembered in Nepal

British woman Zoe Carss died in a tragic swimming accident in Thailand in 1996. Just beforehand she had spent part of her gap year teaching in a school at Godawari, on the southeast of Kathmandu valley. In response to her loss, Zoe’s parents Richard and Tessa set up an education charity in her memory. Ever since The Zoe Carss Education Trust has been making grants towards education projects in Nepal and South Africa.

ChoraChori values highly “in memoriam” projects. Earlier this year we were honoured to be able to set up Physics and Biology laboratories at Kitini Higher Secondary School in memory of Lucy Monro who died in a cycling accident in Dubai in 2015. And now Kitini School can teach all science subjects to the highest grades thanks to the Chemistry lab that we’ve founded in Zoe’s memory. This is especially appropriate as the school where Zoe taught was just along the way from Kitini and she would have known the area well. Now, just like Lucy’s picture is on the wall of the Biology lab so also will Zoe’s picture go on the wall of the new Chemistry classroom.

2017 has been a really successful year in our relationship with Kitini School and in our Nepal education projects. Not only have we established the science department but we have also set up a new computer suite, thanks to grant funding from Hatemalo in Germany. We have even rebuilt one of its associated primary schools in memory of Christian Kaesler. As we look ahead to plans for 2018 we will continue to support education in our local area and are very open to suggestions for doing so in memory of other special people who loved Nepal. Just drop us a line if you would like to explore commemoration possibilities with us.

Handicrafts training brings opportunity to Nepali girls

Opportunity for Nepali girls

Handicrafts training is being developed by ChoraChori to improve options for a group of disadvantaged Nepali girls.

BackgroundHandicrafts training for Nepali girls

In an earlier post we described the challenges faced by girls from the Tipling area, close to the Tibet border. The 2015 earthquakes made the region’s grinding poverty even worse; all its buildings were destroyed. So in July 2016 ChoraChori intervened to bring a group of 10 girls to Kathmandu to allow them to complete their education. We selected these ten because they had shown the commitment to successfully complete their Grade 10 examinations. There was no possibility of going beyond that in Tipling as the nearest school that was still standing was three hours’ walk away from their village.

Recent developments, handicrafts plans

ChoraChori has followed up on this initiative by admitting a further nine girls to the programme in June. This (and future plans) became possible only through the generous financial support of the Soroptimist International President’s Appeal 2015-2017, “Educate to Lead”. Not only will this vital funding be providing full academic support to the girls but it will also train them in handicrafts through inputs from Western visitors who know the overseas market. October programme visitors Lara Hilder and Ben Harvey will build upon the product development initiated by Alice Alderson in January. Lara has a degree in textile design while Ben has a degree in womenswear design and technology. They will be followed by Dutch visitor Aagje Hoekstra who has a Bachelor’s in product design. Exciting times indeed!

Inspiration for one beneficiary

One Tamang girl said to us:

“My mother passed away when I was just seven days old. My father re-married within a month and abandoned me. After that my aunt raised me until I was 12 years old. When I turned 13, I came to Kathmandu to study. I was excited to be independent and live the city life. My dreams shattered when I couldn’t afford my studies in Kathmandu and my father didn’t support me financially. With a heavy heart, I went back to my village and re-joined my old school.

After 10th Grade, when I learnt that ChoraChori is helping us to come to Kathmandu to study, I was excited but nervous at the same time. I was scared that I might not be able to afford to live in Kathmandu like before. Especially since after the earthquake we didn’t have any money as our house had collapsed. Initially I was very anxious but I as joined High School and met ChoraChori staff I breathed a sigh of relief. I still can’t believe that I am being helped to this extent to fulfil my dreams. I am glad that I have received an opportunity like this to study and also get involved in training programmes. 

When I finish my studies I want to become a teacher and go back to my village so that no girls and boys are deprived of education. If I stay in the city, I want to be like the staff members of ChoraChori-Nepal and help others.”

An escape from the prospect of abduction

And a girl from the Ghale community said:

“I remember one terrifying event when a friend was married to her maternal uncle’s son. In our culture marriage by abduction is very common. If the boy likes the girl, he comes and kidnaps her and that’s how they are married. My friend didn’t like her husband at all. But a girl’s consent doesn’t matter and she is forced to live with him forever. Well, that is how my mother was married to my father too but thankfully they are happy now.

Hadn’t ChoraChori helped me come to Kathmandu and study, I would have faced the same fate as my friend. I would have been forcefully married and never gotten a change to go to school again. No one would listen to me when I tried to tell them that I wanted to study further. I am very grateful to be receiving this opportunity. Right now, I feel that the training that I am getting with other girls will be very useful in future and that it’s helping to empower us. I see a great prospect for my future because I want to be a designer after I complete my studies.” 

Can you help?

If you think you might be able to help our wonderful handicrafts programme in any way, please do drop me a line. Donations, as ever, very welcome through the button below.

donate to ChoraChori

Former circus slaves on tour in the UK with “As a Tiger in the Jungle”

Ali with the kidsA very special circus tour

Former circus slaves Aman and Renu are about to tour the UK with their poignant contemporary circus show “As a Tiger in the Jungle”. The dynamic Ali Williams (pictured left) is hosting them and clearly catering for their every need.

Nepali child slaves inside Indian circuses

Aman and Renu are but two of hundreds of trafficked Nepali children who were trapped in a life of slavery and exploitation as “performers” inside Indian circuses. ChoraChori team members Philip Holmes, Shailaja CM, Rita Mokhtan and Bhaskar Karki were involved in securing their freedom through dangerous rescue operations launched in conjunction with the Indian and Nepali authorities. Aman was one of the first five children to be freed in January 2004. Philip and Shailaja freed Renu from the misery of the Raj Mahal Circus in June 2008. At the time of their rescue Aman and Renu couldn’t have guessed what lay ahead for them.

circus slavesCircus Kathmandu

Most former circus slaves returned to their families after repatriation. However for many it was just too dangerous to return them for the risk of re-trafficking. Other education and training options had to be considered. One of these – and the most bizarre – was the creation of Circus Kathmandu. This was a contemporary circus group as opposed to the “traditional” style of the Indian circus. Circus Kathmandu gave young people the chance to enjoy the stardom that traffickers had promised them falsely. The group went on tour to Australia, Dubai, Norway and in 2014 played at the world-famous Glastonbury Festival in the UK.

As a Tiger in the Jungle

Ali Williams was a central figure in the development of Circus Kathmandu, spending a year in Kathmandu in 2013 as its Creative Director. After her return to UK Ali used her background at NoFitState Circus in Wales and professional contacts at Circus Xanti in Norway to create “As a Tiger in the Jungle”. This dazzling new show is due to tour in both Norway and UK in late 2017. Aman and Renu will perform alongside a Vietnamese performer, Loan Tp Hoang, in a very poignant show. Through the medium of contemporary circus they will recount tales of lost childhood (the tiger is a metaphor for the trafficker) and their ultimate triumph over tragedy.

UK tour dates

If you are in UK don’t miss the chance to see the show at one of the following venues:

20th September   The Black-E Liverpool

22nd/23rd September   Birmingham Repertory Theatre

8th October   Pontio, Bangor, Wales

10th/11th October   Jacksons Lane, Highgate, London

15th/16th October   Circomedia Bristol

24th/25th October   WMC, Cardiff

At the official UK premiere on the 22nd September Philip Holmes will be bursting with pride in the audience!

 

Vocational training gives ChoraChori beneficiaries real prospects for the future

Finding a way ahead for ChoraChori’s kids in Nepal

IMG_8017

Uday and Ramesh with ChoraChori staff member Sujit (centre) on their first day at a vocational training school in Nepal

Since August 2015 ChoraChori has rescued 105 trafficked and displaced Nepali children from India. We have reunited over 80% of these with their families. However some cannot go back to families as they don’t have stable and safe domestic circumstances. For these kids we have to offer a different pathway in life and vocational training is a valuable option.

Managing refuge children’s aspirations

For all returnees our initial approach is to reintroduce them to attending school. Some of the children have the academic ability but others don’t. It can be just too difficult after having been away from Nepal so long and understandably they feel disinclined to sit in class with pupils who might be much younger than them. Other children may just want to get into work as quickly as possible to earn an income for themselves and their families. After all that might be the reason they left Nepal in the first place.

Vocational training course requirements

The problem is that in Nepal the bar can be set very high in terms of the academic qualifications required for admission. Also, the cost of the courses would be preclusive for children who come from very poor families. Nevertheless we have found accessible courses at Sano Thimi Technical School in Bhaktapur on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Pictured above are refuge boys Uday and Ramesh this morning with ChoraChori’s Assistant Refuge Manager, Sujit Thapa (centre). Uday and Ramesh have joined a light vehicle service mechanic course and a motorcycle service course respectively. These residential six month courses cost £720 each. Put another way that’s £60 a month leading into a huge work opportunity.

Become a child sponsor

Uday and Ramesh are fortunate to have ChoraChori supporters as sponsors for their courses. There are six other adolescents, including one girl, who are awaiting the same kind of vocational training opportunity as Uday and Ramesh. If you (or a group of friends) could help us with a six month commitment we could make that donation go a very long way. Indeed, here’s a chance to make an investment that can turn around the life of a child through teaching them skills for life.

If you would like to become a sponsor then please drop me a line. Many thanks!

 

 

ChoraChori responds to landslide devastation in Nepal

Landslide and flood in Nepal

Boulders sweep away homes

Boulders sweep away homes

The unseasonal torrential rain in Nepal has brought flood chaos to Nepal’s southern plains. But in the hills to the north the rain has had a different impact with landslides being just as deadly. Houses have collapsed under a surge of boulders and mud and villagers have lost everything. In response, ChoraChori is concentrating its initial efforts on a village area in Makwanpur District, south Nepal.

Chipleti and Pratappur

The ChoraChori Operational Director Shailaja CM has gone with field worker Pratap Titung to visit Chipleti and Pratappur. These lie around 40km from the District town of Hetauda. They got there by a half hour motor bike ride followed by a two hour hike uphill.

Pratap Titung conducting a family assessment

Pratap Titung conducting a family assessment

Chipleti, which consisted of 127 households, is perched on a hillside that has been destroyed by a landslide. The ground is full of crevasses and very unstable. The only road access – a gravel track – has gone. So far only the police had been able to get to the village (briefly). Shailaja and Pratap found the villagers in a desperate state, getting by on a diet of maize. Just about all of the houses have been damaged. Everyone has accepted that there is an immediate need to relocate to lower ground and rebuild their village there.

Pratappur consists of 20 households. Homes have been swept away by both landslide and flood so people are now living in temporary shelters they’ve constructed and cooking in the open. The Red Cross has visited and given each family 10kg of rice, some lentils, beaten rice and tarpaulins. But this is not nearly enough. The villagers have been surviving on one meal a day to make the rations last. Meantime children are falling sick.

Emergency Relief

Shailaja (right) supervises the delivery of emergency supplies

Shailaja (right) supervises the delivery of emergency supplies

Thanks to our Appeal we have been able to send £5,000 straight away for the purchase of food and essential supplies. However this is just half of what we need to provide one month’s worth of food security to the villagers while they rebuild their lives. We need to deliver 50kg of rice, 25kg of lentils, 10kg of beaten rice and 5kg of salt to each household. The cost of that is £10,345. Please help us overcome the impact of the landslide by donating below:

donate to ChoraChori

Floods in Nepal

20930479_10214276156604740_568220741_oFloods wreak havoc in south Asia

A humanitarian crisis is unfolding across parts of south Asia with 16 million people in India, Nepal and Bangladesh affected by monsoon floods.

Nepal devastated

Floods have swamped one third of Nepal following the worst monsoon rainfall in fifteen years. See the grim statistics in the image on the left. Now an estimated 5 million people have to manage as best they can after losing loved ones and homes to floods and landslides, their crops destroyed. You can’t fail to be moved by the harrowing pictures in this report of how a father unable to bury his child just released the child’s body into the flooded river.

A “one-door” policy

There was an added risk of this natural disaster being compounded by a manmade element when the Government of Nepal announced a “one-door” policy. This meant that all relief work would have to be channelled through a central body. This is fine in principle (to avoid inefficiency and duplication of effort) but the Government attempted this approach previously after the 2015 earthquakes and it failed badly. Such a strategy only delays essential emergency relief getting to the point of need due to red tape. Moreover it only serves to antagonise (or criminalise) those genuine individuals and NGOs that do respond with a sense of urgency. The legacy of a “one-door” policy is a long and painful one. Two years down the line an Asia Foundation survey has found that earthquake recovery work has been painfully slow.

Happily the Nepal Supreme Court has now instructed the Government not to implement this policy and relief supplies can now flow.

ChoraChori’s response

How can a small children’s charity like ChoraChori respond in a meaningful way to a disaster of this scale? First of all we can’t not respond given the scale of the crisis. And we have always prided ourselves in being a “can-do” charity. Whilst we can’t reach out to five million people we can certainly focus our efforts on village areas that we know well. These are communities in the south to whom we have returned children rescued from India. The ChoraChori-Nepal Operational Director, Shailaja CM, is currently making a needs assessment and this morning we transferred our first grant across to Nepal to begin to address the hardship she has identified.

The floods are now receding somewhat but the landscape has been lain waste and families left vulnerable with lack of shelter, food and water. There have already been reports of outbreaks of disease. We suspect that the worst is yet to come. Please help ChoraChori to deliver resources to the flood victims and desperate children before it’s too late using the button below.

A further report to follow.

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A tenner well invested for Nepalese kids

This letter has just come in with a marvellous donation of £169.50 towards our work. The content of the letter speaks for itself. In response I have suggested to the three girls who raised this gift that their initiative could raise even more funds if their idea is copied by other schools. Let’s see!Letter Dulwich 001

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]

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