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New Developments in Chora Chori

Chora Chori serves to rescue children from trafficking and abusive situations, reintegrate back into society and provide rehabilitation. The extent of our work is beyond just simple tasks, and wouldn’t be possible without our ever committed team from Chora Chori Nepal (CCN). This month, CCN welcomed two team members into Chora Chori for its capacity enhancement.

Ms. Roma Bhandaree

“I am Roma Bhandaree, appointed as Deputy Director for Chora Chori Nepal. I am a master’s graduate in Social work from Tribhuwan University, and have been working in the child protection sector of Nepal for the past 6 years. Here at CCN, I am responsible for the holistic management, as well as coordinate with the Executive Director to oversee the operations, government liaison and administration in the organization.

Working at CCN for this last month has given me more exposure to how a work must be done with passion and dedication in a friendly environment, and taught me to work in coordination with other colleagues as well. Being a social worker, I always longed to work for humanity, which is exactly what our organization has been working for, so I am excited to work here with regards to my personal development field as well.”

Ms. Rojika Maharjan

“This is Rojika Maharjan, and I am the Development and Communications officer for Chora Chori. I recently graduated with my Master’s in Social Work, with specialization in children and family studies under the Erasmus program in Europe. I oversee the overall communications activity including child-centred communication strategic planning, website and blog management, social media management, assist in fundraising and reporting.

I am enlivened in my new role at CCN, where I have found the hopeful light of passion, love and dedication to help the children living in adverse conditions in Nepal. I really look forward to contribute in the child protection of Nepal, through my work in the communications. My role also gives me the opportunity to be creative and innovative as much as possible, and I love it.”

Chora Chori Nepal is actively developing major projects this year, and with that, it shall be reinforcing an equally dedicated team. It also seeks to establish a regional office in near future, to decentralize the work systematically.

Keep following our blog for more updates.

 

 

 

 

 

Follow up visit to Kitini College

ChoraChori Founder/CEO Philip Holmes today paid an evaluation and monitoring visit to Kitini College; he was greeted by a very happy Headteacher, staff and pupils.

Saroj KC, Headteacher of Kitini College, NepalIt is incumbent upon us to follow up the projects we fund; this is a task that includes through visits by the CEO and Trustees of the charity. The Treasurer makes an annual visit to review the local finances. Today Philip Holmes visited Kitini College which has received tens of thousands of pounds of funding from ChoraChori towards making this one of the top state schools in Nepal. Through grants secured from Foundations and some community fundraising, we have been able to pay for science laboratories and a computer lab that have allowed the school to extend its curriculum. Indeed it is currently making the transition from being a Nepali medium school to an English medium school. This represents a major step-up for Kitini.

The most recent project has been the retrofitting of the school to make it resistant to future earthquakes. Three-quarters of the £68k project has been funded through us by our UK partner Foundations while the remainder has been donated by a grant from the local municipality. The building works began in February and should be completed by the end of next month. There has been a slight delay due to the water supply drying up – a sign of the times, sadly, as in the recent past this part of the valley provided water to the rest of Kathmandu.

The Headteacher, Mr Saroj KC, pictured above with Bhaskar Karki and Shailaja CM of ChoraChori-Nepal, was beaming with delight. These works have meant so much to him not only for professional reasons but for very personal ones. For he told us today that he is a former pupil of the school and his father was once the Vice-Principal. This sense of ownership explains why he is so passionate about taking the school forward.

There was one other marker of success apart from the tangible ones that we saw today. Somewhat surprisingly, when we started working at the school we found that 70% of the pupils were girls. This is because parents were sending their sons to private schools so that they could have a better education. In the space of three years that percentage has dropped to 60% although the numbers of students at the school have increased substantially. Essentially, our enhancements are levelling the playing field and boys are now being transferred from nearby private schools to Kitini. Mr KC is confident that the proportion will be 50:50 very soon.

Our next major project at the school will be to establish a bursary scheme to begin at the start of the next academic year in April 2020. This will benefit children from the poorest families, irrespective of gender.

 

Final words on “As a Tiger in the Jungle” – and the future challenge for ChoraChori

Nepal performers Aman Tamang and Renu Ghalan in circus performanceBetween April and June 2019, contemporary circus show “As a Tiger in the Jungle” enjoyed a hugely successful tour of top venues across England and Wales, including the Glastonbury Festival. Nepalese performers Aman and Renu have now returned to Nepal but leave behind a powerful legacy of memorable performances and poignant messages.

Through “As a Tiger in the Jungle” Aman and Renu shared their experience of being trafficked from Nepal into slavery as “child performers”. See this previous blog post that gives the detail of this remarkable production. Between performances, they would take time out to give interviews on television and radio, ensuring that their message wasn’t confined only to those who attended the shows. Click on the image above to see their appearance on BBC Southeast during their visit to Brighton.

In May they laid on a special charity performance at Stratford Circus in London in support of ChoraChori’s Big Give summer appeal. Afterwards, ChoraChori Founder Philip Holmes addressed the audience in which he reflected on his organisation’s previous rescue work of Philip Holmes, Founder ChoraChorihundreds of children, including Aman and Renu, and how the contemporary circus training had started out in 2011. Then he called for public support for the greater challenge that lies ahead, as ChoraChori tackles the burgeoning issue of child rape in Nepal. When you read press articles such as this one from last week’s Kathmandu Post, it brings sharply into focus just how much needs to be done – even in ensuring appropriate police management of survivors. You can see an extract of Philip’s speech by clicking on his image above.

Please do make a donation towards our vital work using the button below:

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ChoraChori update report, January – June 2019: “On fire”

ChoraChori can reflect upon a very, very positive first half of 2019 with remarkable progress in both the UK and Nepal.

Here is our update report that provides an excellent overview of our work and achievements at home and in Nepal. We have made a lasting difference to the lives of children and young people – like the graduates (pictured above) from our basic tailoring vocational training course. Huge thanks to our supporters without whom none of this would be possible!

Please note that we are now inviting pledges towards the Big Give Christmas appeal (sorry to mention Christmas in July – needs must). Before 31st August we need to find £25,000 in pledges from individuals, corporates and Trusts/Foundations that will provide a pot that can match online public donations during the appeal week that begins on the 3rd December. The minimum pledge is £100, with the pledge not payable until after the appeal ends on the 10th December. To make a pledge – and effectively double the impact of your donation – please visit this link.

Let’s ensure that this success continues!

 

Everest Base Camp trek and marathon 2020

In May 2020 ChoraChori supporters will have the opportunity to join Founder Philip Holmes on a trek to Everest Base Camp with the option of taking part in the annual Everest Marathon on the 29th May.

These days, with so many summiting Everest, a trek to Everest Base Camp (EBC) may seem like a comparatively modest undertaking. That is far from being the case, with many fit people underestimating the challenge and failing to reach EBC through altitude sickness. Tragically, each year there are a number of fatalities. For at 5,364m above sea level, the air is very thin with oxygen levels just 50% of what they are at sea level. But for those who trek with a reputable, safe company, the risks are minimal while the rewards are outstanding and unforgettable.

Next year ChoraChori, in conjunction with Nepal partner The Gandys Foundation, offer this trek of a lifetime between 19th and 31st May. This, of course, is also a fundraising activity that will be central to raising the funds we need next year, including through an associated Big Give summer appeal. At the end of the trek, the really fit members of the group, suitably acclimatised, can take on the Everest Marathon, which is held on the 29th May each year (the anniversary of Hillary and Tenzing’s reaching the summit). Downhill all the way from EBC, what could be easier? Finally, before returning home trekkers will have the opportunity to visit our remarkable Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre (CRRC) in Kathmandu to see what the fundraising has been all about.

Full details, costs and itinerary can be found here. If you would like to join us, please don’t delay in contacting Philip as now is the time to be aiming off and preparing for such a major personal challenge.

 

ChoraChori opens silver jewellery workshop

USA jeweller Nancy Edwards joins ChoraChori as a volunteer consultant at its new jewellery training workshopChoraChori is delighted to announce that it is setting up a new silver jewellery workshop at its Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre (CRRC) in Nepal.

At our CRRC we provide protection, support, education and training to children from a range of backgrounds. These include trafficked and displaced Nepalese children whom we have rescued from India, child rape survivors from Nepal itself and vulnerable girls from deprived rural communities where trafficking and sexual assault are endemic. Our in-house vocational training, that began in August 2018, has up until now focussed primarily on tailoring training. But this month, in a Joint Venture with our great friends at U.S. nonprofit Her Future Coalition, we have opened a silver jewellery workshop that will provide training and an income in a shiny new discipline.

The arrangement with Her Future Coalition is that we will provide the workshop space, materials and beneficiaries and they will provide the professional expertise. The latter will be through visiting volunteer consultants from the USA and through trainers who will be seconded from time to time from the existing Her Future Coalition’s workshop in Calcutta. We are very pleased that the first of the visiting consultants, Nancy Edwards, will join us next month. Nancy (pictured above) left her career as a research scientist to pursue her passion as a designer and entrepreneur in jewellery. Ten years later, she is now a highly experienced trainer (including in metalsmithing) who works with other designers as well as creating her own wonderful pieces. However, she says that her most rewarding work so far has been to provide this training to vulnerable girls through Her Future Coalition.

The workshop will have twelve bench spaces on offer to girls who have already received training through Philip’s previous programme with The Esther Benjamins Trust (of which he is the Founder) and to new trainees. This will allow the workshop to produce jewellery for immediate sale while at the same time providing training at advanced and beginners’ levels. The initial workforce will consist of seven young women, five of whom are deaf. In Nepal deafness is highly stigmatised, seen as punishment for misdeeds in a previous life. Deaf people are often nicknamed “lato” which means “stupid”. Our experience has been that, on the contrary, perhaps able to work without auditory distractions, deaf workers are highly skilled and focussed and become wonderful jewellers. The two other women are from vulnerable families – their siblings were trafficked into India. The remaining five places will be reserved for rape survivors, to offer them therapeutic and ultimately income generation training.

This workshop is but a small step in a fascinating direction as we embed a skill within the local community that can offer training and employment to many more in the future. The programme’s launch was made possible through a combination of funds raised in our summer Big Give appeal and from our friends at Nexus International School in Singapore.

ChoraChori to train its own social worker in Nepal

We are very pleased to announce that, thanks to generous supporter sponsorship, ChoraChori will be training its own social worker in Nepal – a young woman with quite a story to tell.

Twenty-year-old Chhukit Lama knows all about the extreme vulnerability that can accompany childhood in Nepal.

She hails from Humla, a remote, sparsely-populated District in Nepal’s remote northwest, next to the Tibet border.  Even at “the best of times” it’s a tough place to grow up with a chronic lack of healthcare provision and education. It has the lowest literacy rate in Nepal (47.8%), an infant mortality rate of over 30% and an average life expectancy of just 58. But back in 2004, when Chhukit was just five, the District was in the midst of the worst of times, with the ten-year-long Maoist “People’s War” at its height. Schools were shut down and children were being conscripted into the “People’s Army”. Parents were desperate to get their children to a place of safety and find an education – and an apparent saviour came to their aid.

As described in Philip Holmes’ newly published memoir Gates of Bronze, self-confessed child trafficker DB Phadera began to prey on the families. He offered false hope, taking children out of the District, with some adopted abroad without their parents’ knowledge or consent. He took older girls, like Chhukit, across the border to Tamil Nadu in India’s deep south where he admitted them to the Michael Job Centre. Operated by self-styled “India’s Billy Graham”, the late Dr PP Job, this fake orphanage was an extreme “Christian” indoctrination centre. Dr Job’s agenda was to bring up these children in his version of the faith so that they could return to their home areas as missionaries, with, in his words, “a bible in one hand and a degree in the other”. The Centre was supported by a keen, but naive, band of international radical evangelists who believed Dr Job’s lies that the children at the Centre were the orphan daughters of Christian martyrs. In fact, for the most part, the children’s parents were alive and well and they came from Hindu or Buddhist families.

Phadera took five-year-old Chhukit, her older sister and four other girls from the village on the long journey south. So began her eight-year sentence that ended only after her parents responded to her sister’s desperate telephone appeals and paid the trafficker to return their daughters to them. Soon afterwards, in September 2011, Philip and his team went to the Centre and brought all of the Nepalese girls out of this fraudulent arrangement. See this report from the Nepali Times and this one from the UK’s Daily Telegraph. Chhukit then joined the returnees in completing her education in an excellent school in Kathmandu, funded by Philip’s former charity, The Esther Benjamins Trust.

Chhukit excelled at school, passing her School Leaving Certificate (a remarkable achievement in itself for a girl from Humla) and her Plus Two exams (the equivalent of A-Levels). Now, thanks to two very generous ChoraChori sponsors, she will start a four-year full-time course towards her Bachelor’s in Social Work. The total cost will be £7,800 but this will represent not only a tremendous investment in this talented young woman’s future but also help us build local capacity in Nepal – the latter being part of ChoraChori-UK’s remit. While she is studying, Chhukit will also “pay-back” by spending time supporting the child rape survivors at our Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre (CRRC) in Kathmandu.

ChoraChori trainee social worker at the Children's Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal

Blind man’s buff at the CRRC

Gates of Bronze

ChoraChori Founder Philip Holmes has published his memoir, Gates of Bronze, telling the remarkable story of how he responded to his first wife’s suicide by rescuing scores of Nepalese children from prisons, slavery, trafficking and exploitation.

In his book Philip quotes Winston Churchill who wrote “Success is the ability to move from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm” and that has been Philip’s mantra for his twenty years of charitable work in Nepal. Through Gates of Bronze he tells how he responded to the suicide of his first wife, Esther Benjamins, by leaving a promising career as a British Army dental officer to set up a children’s charity in her memory. Working with passionate and committed colleagues in Nepal, he headed up programmes that rescued children from prisons, circus slavery, trafficking, exploitation and abuse. Yes, there has been setback after setback, but Philip can now reflect on operations that rescued over 1,000 children, restoring freedom and childhoods and giving them a chance in life.

The dramatic and moving narrative is illustrated by Philip’s own sketches and by colour photographs, many of which were taken by professional photographers who covered Philip’s work. Gates of Bronze is published by Juntara and can be purchased through this site where there is also a download option. 10% of the sale price is donated to ChoraChori’s ongoing work in Nepal.

Journalist and historian biographer Anne Sebba writes:

“Philip Holmes is a natural storyteller but also a fighter with endless enthusiasm which shines through these pages. It’s impossible not to read this book without believing that some people have the power to move mountains. He may be one of them.”

Supporting Bibash

ChoraChori returns Nepali children to Nepal by the bus-load!

Regular readers may recognise the title picture as it shows a group of 29 boys whom ChoraChori rescued from Delhi in December 2015. All have now returned to their families or been moved on into work, but we continue to support them after repatriation. Children like Bibash.

Bibash was born in a village in Kanchanpur in Nepal’s far West. Growing up was tough as he was bullied and mocked by the other children for having a visually impaired father and a mother who had lost a leg. His frustration was taken out on his parents until eventually he ran away from home. At the age of 15 he ventured into the unknown when he crossed the border into India.

Before long, Bibash was picked up by the Indian authorities and placed in a grim “children’s shelter” in Delhi. But ChoraChori’s field team traced him and rescued him along with 28 other boys on Christmas Eve 2015. After his tough experiences in India, he was very glad to return home and expressed his desire to return to school. With ChoraChori’s support he is now in Grade 9 where he is doing well academically. Bibash wants to join the Army and to that end is close to gaining his black belt in karate!

His daily journey to school involved an hour’s walk each way in all weathers. So, ChoraChori recently bought him a bike and he’s very happy with that. Most interestingly, his parents say that he has become very polite towards them and is now a son to be proud of as he assumes family responsibilities.

The price of success is not necessarily that high in Nepal and we continue to transform children’s lives and possibilities through relatively modest, but targeted investments. But we are all too aware that there are still many kids like Bibash awaiting our rescue from India. We can only do that after we set up a new boys’ transit hostel in Kathmandu; we have had to suspend repatriations after we began taking child rape victims into our existing Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre and obviously the two beneficiary groups could not be accommodated on the same site.

We need your help! We have launched our Big Give summer appeal to help raise the funds we need for this new project and for new training opportunities for girls. Until the 28th May all online donations will double in value – one donation, twice the impact! Please use the button below to help us help more children like Bibash in the future. Many thanks!

donate to ChoraChori

 

“Nims” Purja MBE – ChoraChori’s latest Ambassador

We are delighted to announce that distinguished mountaineer, ex-Gurkha and former Special Forces soldier “Nims” Purja MBE has become ChoraChori’s latest Ambassador.

Nirmal “Nims” Purja is a truly remarkable man in so many respects. He was the first Gurkha soldier to join elite special forces unit the Special Boat Service, the Royal Navy’s equivalent of the British Army’s SAS. But he’s established an enviable reputation as one of the world’s leading mountaineers after a comparatively short career. He holds three Guinness World Records for rapid ascents of Everest and adjacent mountains. During one of these he saved the life of a stricken female climber whom he found on the verge of death, bringing her off the mountain single-handed. In recognition of his contribution to climbing, Her Majesty the Queen appointed him MBE in 2016.

In February this year Nims completed 16 years of military service and re-mortgaged his home to help fund the most daunting of challenges. Through his Project Possible he is aiming to break a 31 year old record and summit 14 Himalayan peaks, all over 8,000m, in seven months. The previous record stands at seven YEARS, eleven months and 14 days. Three days ago he completed his third ascent, Mt Kanchenjunga, slightly behind schedule due to unseasonal adverse weather conditions and through being diverted to other rescues. But he is planning to complete three more summits in the coming fortnight.

Nims will be a wonderful Ambassador for ChoraChori in his capacity to raise awareness about our work, engage with supporters and act as a role model for our beneficiaries. He joins our existing Ambassadors Zack Feather and Amrita Acharia. If you would like to make a personal donation towards Nims’ expedition, just follow this link.

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