Nepali Times on Theraplay

Earlier this month The Nepali Times gave our Theraplay activity some very welcome exposure in a major article. Our volunteer consultant, Debbie Mintz, asked if we could just provide some clarification via a letter to the Editor. 

Here is the link to the original article from the August 17th edition of the paper. Debbie’s excellent response is too long to be published so we are linking to this post in the comments section underneath the online version of the story.

Debbie writes:

“Dear Editor,

Thank you for sending your reporter Sewa to meet with the therapy team at ChoraChori and for taking an interest in the recent addition of Theraplay to the methods being used to help the rescued and traumatised children to build trusting bonds and heal from their horrendous ordeals.

Although Theraplay is new to Nepal, this evidenced-based therapy was developed in the 1960’s in the U.S., and is currently practiced in over 50 countries.

The model focuses on developing secure relationships, strong attachments, adult structure and support, and the sort of nurturing that is imperative for all children, and has often been lacking for traumatised children. Establishing a secure relationship with a trusted adult allows a child to access and utilise natural reparative mechanisms. Therefore, in Theraplay treatment an attuned therapist guides the child sequentially through the phases of treatment so that safety and security can be established in the relationship. Once a child feels connected to their therapist, the trauma work can proceed with greater ease since the emotional foundation is set, and the traumatic history of the child can then be addressed directly within therapy sessions. This is different from other types of therapies that are focused on the child’s ‘problems’, as building on the relationship itself will lead to positive change; Theraplay is about doing repair, not thinking or talking about it.

I would like to address one small aspect of your original article, which is about the use of touch in Theraplay. Touch is a normal, natural and positive aspect of a healthy parent/child relationship. Therefore, various types of touch are essential to Theraplay treatment, where the safety and needs of the child are always the central goal for the therapist. At ChoraChori we used the trauma protocol for sessions, where use of touch is planned and initiated with particular sensitivity to the needs of chronically abused and neglected children, or children who have suffered severe trauma. Physical contact is initiated slowly, with primary focus on establishing a safe, engaging and playful experience in sessions for the child. However, once this safety is established, respectful touch that meets the individual needs of the child is very important.

Therapeutic touch is important because children who have been physically or sexually abused have been touched in a way that is detrimental to their health and development, so it is the therapist’s job to establish a new and positive experience for the child, where careful and respectful use of touch is actively planned and assessed to promote the recovery, emotional development and self-esteem of the child. There is no risk of abuse in Theraplay sessions. The risk is rather that children who have only been exposed to abusive physical contact will either become completely avoidant of all touch, or will seek or expect abusive physical contact because that is all they know. Theraplay is one of the only relational therapies that directly addresses this, and is always carried out with the utmost purpose and care.

My experience of working with the therapists at ChoraChori in this area was wholly positive and very moving. I think that I can speak for the charity’s Clinical Director, Sailu Rajbhandari, and counsellor, Anila Dangol, when I say that they were astonished by the connection that using Theraplay provided, and by how quickly this happened.

Theraplay continues at ChoraChori, with me supporting Sailu, Anila and the rest of the team to keep developing their skills and confidence via Skype. I hope to return to Nepal soon to provide what help I can.”

Keep up the good work, Debbie and the Nepali Times!

Supporters celebrating their birthdays!

Two of our supporters are celebrating their birthdays by inviting friends to donate to ChoraChori rather than giving them presents.

This month, for the first time, two of our Facebook supporters have invited donations to ChoraChori in lieu of birthday presents from friends and family. Niraj Bhattarai is married to former ChoraChori-Nepal staff member Abha Karki and the couple are now living in California. Danni Nicholls is a professional singer-songwriter who along with a group of friends volunteered in Kathmandu and Hetauda back in 2006. I remember Danni’s singing voice from that time as she serenaded the refuge kids and since then she hasn’t looked back in her career. Here’s her website.

Click on the image below to watch Danni performing one of her favourite songs, “Beautifully Broken”. Unfortunately there are currently no YouTube films available of Niraj singing, but it’s still early days for him and we await keenly his musical debut.

Huge thanks and a very happy birthday to both Niraj and Danni. Presents from strangers most welcome too! And please remember us when your next birthday comes around.

Au revoir Debbie and David

Yesterday ChoraChori in Nepal held a farewell party for a husband and wife team whose impact upon our work has been nothing short of transformative.

For the past three weeks we have been benefiting from the volunteer inputs of Debbie and David Mintz from the UK. Their role has been to train and support the local staff, developing their capacity to do their jobs ever better. The impact has been dramatic as Debbie has trained our child trauma management centre staff in the powerful Theraplay technique that is new to Nepal and has now become central to our management of child rape survivors. When our tenth child rape survivor arrives at the centre on Friday the staff will be better prepared than ever to manage her trauma. As for David, he has introduced candle-making as a new strand to our income generation activity that is helping the girls from Jhapa who joined us at the end of last month.

All great things must come to an end, for now, and yesterday Debbie and David had an emotional farewell party when they were presented with the mandatory T shirts signed by all the staff and children. I expect these garments will never be washed.

Bon voyage and au revoir!

The tea plantations of Jhapa District, southeast Nepal

In August 2018 a ChoraChori research team visited a tea plantation in Jhapa District, southeast Nepal, to see living and working conditions for themselves.

Just over two years ago Jesuit priest Fr Norbert (pictured left), requested us to help a group of girls in Tipling, Dhading District. The girls’ school had been destroyed in the 2015 earthquakes and we agreed to bring them to Kathmandu to complete their grades 11 and 12 while learning some income generation skills. That was the start of a programme that is ongoing. Since then Fr Norbert has been transferred from Tipling to Jhapa District in the southeast where he is teaching at the Moran Memorial School. It was set up by the Jesuits in 1999 to support the children of impoverished tea plantation workers. Last month Fr Norbert asked if we could admit a group of Jhapa girls – school drop-outs – to our income generation programme and seven of them start tailoring training this month following a short course in candle-making.

When he isn’t teaching “moral science” Fr Norbert is touring the tea estate, meeting with workers and their children, hearing their problems and helping them where he can. Yesterday we were privileged to join him as he did his rounds. He showed us the mud huts that provide only the most rudimentary of shelter in an area where there is no sanitation and open defecation remains common practice. The school is doing its best to educate the children but obviously the home environment is dreadful rendering home study almost impossible. Exam results are therefore only average and drop out rates are high.

We saw men and women (no children) plucking tea for which they receive $2 per day for an eight hour shift that yields 26kg of tea per person. The tea is weighed on a basic set of scales and from there taken to the nearby factory (which we also visited) where it is processed on the spot. Plucking tea is laborious but the workers are threatened by the impact of mechanisation. For we also saw a machine being operated that skims the tops of the tea bushes, albeit without the delicacy of the hand. Since their jobs are potentially on the line, the workers are in no position to complain about the pittance that they are paid.

Fr Norbert does the best that he can to jolly the workers along but the over-riding sentiment within the estates is one of hopelessness. The poverty is obvious but the misery is compounded by alcohol abuse and depression is widespread. Jhapa has the highest girl suicide rate of any District in Nepal.

ChoraChori is pleased to support Fr Norbert and the community by teaching skills for life to Jhapa girls at our training centre in Kathmandu. This will give them and their future families a chance to escape the cycle of poverty and de facto slavery.

A “creche” at the tea plantation in Jhapa


Two more boys complete their vocational training

Two more of ChoraChori’s oldest beneficiaries, both rescued from Indian children’s shelters, have successfully completed their vocational training in Kathmandu and started work.

Of the 147 Nepalese children that ChoraChori has rescued from “children’s shelters” in India, all but eight have been reunited with their families. Some children have no homes to go to, or had been running away from dire poverty or domestic abuse. For these children we have a duty of care to look after them while providing education or vocational training towards self-sufficiency.

In a December 2016 we published blog posts about “Raju” and Yousain, two of the older boys for whom we’d have to go this extra mile. Happily Raju (title picture) has now completed his welding training and begins on-the-job training next week into guaranteed work. Yousain, pictured left with Shailaja and Bhaskar, has completed six months’ training to be a chef at the excellent Global Academy of Tourism and Hospitality Education (GATE) institute. He too is already in employment.

Although we have now completed our commitment to them, both boys remain part of the ChoraChori family and are welcome to return to the refuge for events. There can be no better role models to inspire the other children.

This has all been accomplished through the support of individual sponsors. If you feel that you can help us in this way and invest in a boy’s future, drop me a line using the button below!

Theraplay in Nepal

With a vital training input from volunteer consultant Debbie Mintz, ChoraChori has started using theraplay as a powerful therapeutic tool at its child trauma management centre in Kathmandu.

In the past week ChoraChori has admitted a ninth victim of child rape to its child trauma management facility in Kathmandu. The task of therapeutic management of children who have experienced almost unbelievable horrors, including at Indian “children’s shelters”, is a daunting one. Our local staff are very highly trained but remain open to new therapeutic approaches that can help them meet the challenge of restoring children’s confidence in themselves and in humanity. Accordingly, we have been delighted to receive the very timely British volunteer consultant support of Debbie Mintz who has trained staff in the technique of theraplay.

Theraplay is a proactive, intensive, relationship-focused therapy, modelled on the natural patterns of early healthy interactions between parents and infant; the kind that lead to secure attachment and lifelong good mental health. Theraplay is uniquely suited to the treatment of complex trauma in children because the model focuses on developing a secure base, strong attachments, concrete guidance, support and nurturing. These are the foundations from which a child can utilise natural reparative mechanisms, address their traumatic history, and have a restorative experience.

Whilst theraplay treatment is often carried out with children and their parents, it is very suitable for use with children whose primary relationships have broken down. With an attuned therapist guiding the child sequentially through phases of treatment, safety and security are first established in the relationship, allowing trauma to be addressed directly, and finally allowing social reconnection with others. Theraplay functions to create a sense of safety for the child by anchoring them in a nurturing, safe, and structured relationship, thus addressing attachment concerns first. Once children establish a sense of feeling connected to one important other, the trauma work can proceed with greater ease since the emotional foundation is set.

The benefit has been immediate and dramatic. Debbie writes:

I have been in Nepal for almost two weeks now and my experiences have not necessarily met my expectations. Teaching the therapists here to use theraplay as a part of their therapeutic model was a pleasure and easier than I expected. They have a natural warmth, compassion and intuition that makes them ideally suited to the attachment-focused theraplay model. Beginning theraplay sessions with the children has been deeply moving and has not taken the course I expected at all. The usual curiosity that I see in children in the UK is very much present, but the natural resistance that often comes with it is not. I will have to think more about why this is, but my initial instinct is that these children are so desperate for safety and nurture that having found physical care and security with the dedicated staff at ChoraChori, they have almost been waiting for the engagement and nurture of theraplay. We have already seen remarkable results. Within the first week children unexpectedly and spontaneously shared previously undisclosed traumatic experiences of the most severe nature to their trusted therapists. This seems to have come much more speedily than expected on the safe foundations that the close and attuned interactions of theraplay have provided.

ChoraChori is making a very strong start into an area of childcare where few organisations and charities wish to venture; it is just too difficult, too harrowing and too demanding of a long term commitment. But alongside our partner Unity in Health we are laying the foundations of a therapeutic service that is so badly needed in Nepal given the scale of the problem that we need to address.


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