The challenges of selecting trainees

In Nepal it’s easy to find appropriate girl trainees for an all-expenses-paid residential tailoring course, right? Wrong.

ChoraChori’s basic tailoring course offers a very attractive training package for a girl from an impoverished rural community. A trainee can join a six-month-long residential course with all costs met by ChoraChori and even receive a small training allowance that gives some pocket money (as a little further empowerment!). The challenge comes down to finding young women who are in genuine need and who are brave enough to swap tranquil rural life for the bustle of Kathmandu. It would be very easy to fill course places by remote recruitment through liaising with other organisations but we make doubly sure that these expensive charity places go to bona fide candidates by paying home visits.

To that end, ChoraChori’s head of vocational training, Lily Katuwal, and legal officer, Sunita Karki, were in Jhapa, southeast Nepal, last week. Their field visit was intended to not only followed up previous course attendees but also select new girls for training. The first challenge was getting there – 13 hours on a bus! The visit was coordinated through Fr Norbert, a local Jesuit priest, and Siril, a social worker based in Maheshpur, Jhapa District. This led to meetings with community leaders and a local school teacher but the ultimate selection could only follow all-important home visits to confirm domestic circumstances.

In spite of visiting 13 families, only two girls could be identified. Another major challenge was that since this trip was at the end of two major festivals, a few girls were still absent from their villages, visiting relatives. A further one was that girls were worried about going to the cold of Kathmandu as the winter season approaches – even though it can be quite cold in south Nepal too. Perhaps this was more a reflection of anxiety at being in the big city. These girls can be considered for the follow-on summer vocational training courses which may allay their seasonal concerns.

The first girl to join the course is 21-year-old Alisha, pictured top with her niece. She lives in a tea company house with her mother and father and a younger sister. Her parents eke out a living as labourers in the tea plantations, so Alisha is delighted at having this opportunity. The second girl, 19-year-old Ranjita lives in a little house with her mother and father, two elder brothers and their wives, their children and a younger brother. This very full house is the reality of rural poverty in southeast Nepal. Ranjita has previously been trained in dhaka weaving, but this didn’t lead to any employment and she is really keen to begin tailoring for which there is no shortage of work.

Lily’s search for trainees will, for now, continue nearer to home in Kathmandu valley. Well done Lily and Sunita on your stamina and commitment!

This programme has been made possible through our collaboration with the Soroptimist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI) – see this link.

 

Preet’s visit to ChoraChori

Gandys Foundation Trustee Preet Legha bowled over by visit to ChoraChori in Nepal.

Over the past year, we have been privileged to work alongside UK partner charity, The Gandys Foundation. The Foundation has joined us in providing funding for the set up our new Boys’ Hostel and the retrofit of Kitini College in Kathmandu. The coordination on behalf of Gandys has been done with huge attention to detail by its Trustee, Preet Legha.

At the end of last month, passionate dancer Preet had the opportunity to visit the ChoraChori Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre to see how our joint funds have been allocated. Afterwards, she reported back to us as follows:

“In October I left the UK for a month to work with ChoraChori Nepal on an art and dance project. I was nervous about what to expect and how I would emotionally handle the traumatic stories of the children. I was welcomed by amazing and supportive staff and the kindest, loving and beautiful children. I never imagined the amount of fun, laughter and connection I would have with the girls and the joy of dancing, playing and painting with them was beyond my expectations. The more time we spent together the more energetic, open and cheeky we all became! The strength, courage and sisterhood of these girls continue to inspire me and I miss the girls so much.”

Preet is pictured above at the children’s art exhibition that rounded off the assignment. We expect a return visit soon!

Anjali’s second career

Through its advanced vocational training programme, ChoraChori offers second career opportunities.

In my memoir, Gates of Bronze, I described how – bizarrely – we set up a contemporary circus group for young people whom my then charity had rescued from slavery inside Indian circuses. Many children had been lured into this miserable existence by traffickers who promised them the bright lights and stardom. After we rescued these children (700 of them in the period 2004 to 2011) we had to provide education and training that would allow them to be reintegrated into Nepalese society. It’s a bit of a long story, but in 2011/2012 we ended up offering to re-train returnees (who were interested) in contemporary circus skills, adapting the more traditional skills that they had learned the hard way. And so was born Circus Kathmandu.

The initiative (to my great surprise) proved to be hugely popular, as through Circus Kathmandu, these young people were able to realise the dreams that had been mis-sold to them. They found those bright lights through tours to Australia, Dubai, Norway and the UK. The performers ended up also earning a great deal of money through public and private shows. However, with time and having lived the dream, some moved on, getting married and wishing to settle down. One such performer was Anjali, back row, third left in the title picture. She is now a young mum living near our Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre in Kathmandu, which has made it easy for her to attend the in-house vocational training that we offer on the site. Anjali has completed the six months basic tailoring course and this week, after a further six months training, she received her advanced tailoring certificate.

In yesterday’s post, I described how Josephina returned to Jhapa District after her basic tailoring course. She is happy with that, but, like Anjali, she and other basic course graduates have the possibility to go into higher training. This takes them to a standard where they are very employable in the big cities, earning a great income as they make quality clothes, including for the international market.

Visiting Josephina

Yesterday, a ChoraChori field team visited Josephina, one of the girls who completed her basic tailoring training course with us earlier this year.

These pictures were taken yesterday of the head of our vocational training, Lily (centre), and staff lawyer, Sunita (right), visiting Josephina in Jhapa. This is the District in Nepal with the highest incidence of sexual assault and girl suicide. School drop-out Josephina was one of the first group of students who attended our six-month residential basic tailoring course at the end of last year. On completing it in January, she returned home with her sewing machine as a gift from ChoraChori to help her set up in the village. This sewing machine cost us 22,500 rupees (£160). Josephina is now earning 2,000 to 3,000 rupees (approximately £20) per month through tailoring that helps support herself and her family. So you could say that after one year this investment (including training costs) has largely paid for itself and a girl like Josephina has a skill and income for life.

Lily and Sunita are continuing their visit this week, accepting applications from other girls who wish to follow in Josephina’s footsteps. We are proud to be able to support this wonderful work, including through our three-year SIGBI collaboration “Empowering Girls in Nepal” that launched at the end of last month.

 

Our manifesto for 2020!

2019 has been a remarkable year so far for ChoraChori in Nepal; we’re aiming higher in 2020.

 Girls in the garden of ChoraChori’s Child Trauma Management Centre in Kathmandu

At a time when the UK is gripped with enthusiasm (not) at the prospect of a pre-Christmas general election, it is perhaps timely to illustrate what we have achieved in the real world in the past year and present our brief and achievable manifesto for 2020. Please take a few minutes to review this no-frills document that highlights ChoraChori achievements and objectives and think about how you might be able to help us.

Do remember that we do not receive any government funding and are entirely reliant on grants and donations, including through gifts in wills.

Any ideas, please do send them to ChoraChori’s Founder, Philip Holmes.

 

ChoraChori’s new girls’ hostel identified

ChoraChori has identified premises to rent as its new girls’ hostel in Kathmandu.

After an exhaustive search of the neighbourhood of our existing Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre on the outskirts of Kathmandu, we have finally identified the building that will be our future girls’ hostel at the right price.

We aim to take this over as soon as possible and that comes with setup costs – including the need to repaint the building to a colour that is a bit gentler on the eye! There are four bedrooms on the first floor and three on the ground floor. With the use of bunk beds, we can accommodate 30-35 girls, as per our plans. The building is secure with a good wall and gate and there is a decent piece of outside space for recreation, such as badminton. This has only become possible through our three-year collaboration with the Soroptimist International Federation of Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI) that launched last month.

The budget for the setup and operating costs is here. We hope that our Soroptimist Christmas appeal will at least allow us to cover the setup costs and with anything more than that raised used to offset our hostel running costs into next year. The appeal will include participation in our Big Curry event on the 7th December.

To find out more about our collaboration with SIGBI, or make a donation to the Appeal, just visit the project microsite.  If you have any thoughts on how you might help, then please drop me a line.

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