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“She was this small”

The ChoraChori-Nepal field team is intervening in support of an impoverished Nepalese family whose 8 year old daughter, Chanda, was raped and murdered.

Her face wet with tears, a Nepalese mother holds her hand up for our field team. “She was this small” she said.

Last month the woman and her husband went out to a festival as part of the Dashain celebrations, the highlight of the Hindu calendar. While they were out, two men lured their daughter away with the promise of noodles and ten rupees. When the parents returned home they could only hope that their missing daughter had gone to visit relatives. But next morning Chanda’s body was found in a nearby paddy field.

The rapists were quickly identified as neighbours had seen the men returning home, muddied and drunk. The police arrested them and ChoraChori was notified of the family’s plight. They are from the historically downtrodden Madhesi community and live in a very dilapidated house (see cover picture) in the south of the country, not far from Janakpur. The father is a labourer, whose paltry earnings have to feed his wife, two surviving daughters and two sons, the youngest of whom is two. They are very poor, owning only a buffalo and one item of “furniture”, the bed pictured left. The family is in no financial position to engage in a legal battle to get justice for their daughter. That is often the way of it in Nepal’s southern plains where rape victims are frequently from low caste, very poor families. Rapists can be from higher castes and can buy their way off the hook.

ChoraChori acted quickly with our legal team attending court to ensure that the rapists’ application for bail was refused. They remain in judicial custody and we will support the case all the way to conviction. In this regard the local community is fully behind us as the assailants were already notorious for their criminal behaviour. Meanwhile we will fund the education of Chanda’s siblings, none of whom attend school, doing what we can to empower them in this way.

You can help too. Next week our Christmas Appeal begins with The Big Give which launches at noon on the 27th November. For one week all online donations towards our vital work in Nepal will double in value. But please don’t donate now! If you would like a reminder when the Appeal goes live just take a moment to register here.

Thank you.

The 2018 Big Give Christmas Challenge – we need your help!

The Big Give Christmas Challenge 2018ChoraChori is fundraising for the 2019 operational costs of our Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre in Kathmandu through The Big Give Christmas Challenge 2018. We need your help!

Christmas thoughts in May

At ChoraChori preparations for The Big Give Christmas Challenge 2018 started in May as we began searching for individuals and organisations who would be willing to make pledges. Those pledges make up a matching fund that can allow doubling of all online donations that we receive during the public phase of the Challenge. This runs for one week from noon on the 27th November to noon on the 4th December. This year we’ve managed to find a staggering £20,000 in pledges from our own network and £10,000 from an anonymous “Champion” that the Big Give provided from its resources. Therefore our total fundraising, if successful, could raise £60,000 towards the operation of our Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre in Kathmandu. You can read the project outline through this link.

How you can help

We need your help if we are to make a success of this Appeal. First of all – and most importantly – don’t donate now! Online gifts won’t be doubled until the start of the Challenge on the 27th November. Instead, please visit the microsite we have set up specially for the Challenge. This tells you everything you need to know and gives an overview of our work. There’s also an appeal on behalf of child rape victims from actress Amrita Acharia who has acted in Game of Thrones and starred in The Good Karma Hospital. The idea is that at this stage visitors to the microsite can sign up to be given a reminder on the day that the Appeal starts.

Please share the microsite with friends and family. Think also about any organisation, school, place of worship, business or club that you might be able to introduce us to and that might wish to make their Christmas donations through us. If you have any ideas, just drop me a line.

 

Success at the Soroptimist International of Great Britain and Ireland conference

Soroptimist conference

Delegates at the Soroptimist International of Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI) Federation annual conference have chosen ChoraChori’s project “Empowering girls in Nepal” as the new Federation project for 2019 – 2022.

Yesterday Philip Holmes, CEO/Founder of ChoraChori, gave a joint presentation on our work with the President of Bridgend and District Soroptimist International Club, Helen Murdoch. They were going head to head with three other charities, including the excellent Rosie May Foundation and Act4Africa charities and the Women into Stem project in competition to be the chosen Federation charity for 2019-2022. Each presentation had to be for three minutes (at which point the microphone would cut out) followed by 4 minutes of questions. For Philip it felt rather like speed-dating with the 1200 attendees at the ACC conference centre in Liverpool!

Our presentation is outlined in this link, with our pitch being for £105,000 over three years towards giving girls a combination of skills and schooling towards gainful employment and the operation of a half-way house where girls can be safe during rehabilitation and training. The beneficiaries would be a combination of child rape survivors and vulnerable girls from the tea plantations of Jhapa, a follow on from the pilot project we began in July.

Being well-rehearsed, we completed our presentation on time and without any problems. But the nerve-wracking part was the vote that followed. Delegates were able to record their votes using key pads the outcome of which was shown on the big screen behind the stage. At the first count we came in second place behind Women into STEM. However the rules stated that the winning charity had to have at least 51% of the vote so the third and fourth place charities were eliminated and we had a second vote to endure. We almost felt like watching the ten second countdown on the screen through our fingers! The final score was 53% for ChoraChori and 47% for Women into Stem. We’d won and it was hugs all round.

We are of course thrilled by this outcome and feel privileged to work with our friends at SIGBI Federation in the coming time. For this is not a grant; rather it is a collaboration that will be fulfilling for all of us and life-changing for the girls. We will have to fundraise together which should be huge fun while we at ChoraChori will still need to find the funds elsewhere for the other elements of our Nepal programmes, including child trauma management.

For now though, it’s time for a little celebration. Huge thanks must go to Helen Murdoch and Rayner Rees and their fellow club members at Bridgend who have been awesome in the build up to this success. And a wee thank you to New Zealand Soroptimists Sarah Lucas-Broughton and Valda McBeth who gave us the introduction to the wonderful world of Soroptimists in the first place!

Some scenes from yesterday:

Guest speaker Terry Waite who presented just before us.

 

It didn’t seem to matter that I forgot to do up my tie!

Bridgend President, Helen Murdoch, keeping me in order

 

Fingers on pads for the vote….

A handshake of congratulations from Mary Storrie, Founder of the Rosie May Foundation

And a well-deserved hug to Rayner Rees! 

 

London Marathon 2019

We’re inviting participants in next year’s London Marathon to join ChoraChori Founder Philip Holmes and run in support of our work in Nepal.

This week Philip Holmes was shocked to secure a place in the 2019 London Marathon through the public ballot. After failing to do so for the past three years and with Father Time catching up on him he’d resigned himself to settling for his three previous medals – 2011, 2012 and 2015. But no, it’s time to stock up on the Lucozade Sport – that ceases to be enjoyable after the first bottle – and the various other bits and pieces that will (hopefully) ensure his survival.

With 414,000 applicants in the London Marathon public ballot there are an awful lot of disappointed aspiring runners out there and we wish we could help but unfortunately we never have an allocation of guaranteed places. Those are restricted to the older charities that were there at the ground floor when the London Marathon was first set up. However, if you are one of the lucky ones, perhaps you’d consider joining Philip in crossing the start line on the 28th April 2019? We don’t offer any fancy support packages – we’re not that sort of charity; instead we hope that a bit of mutual moral support during training and the knowledge that you’re running for such a worthwhile charity is enough to encourage you to join us.

If you’d like to become part of the team then drop Philip a line through this link.

Amrita Acharia

Game of Thrones” and “The Good Karma Hospital” actress Amrita Acharia will be supporting ChoraChori in this year’s Big Give Christmas Challenge.

Amrita Acharia, Nepal, ChoraChoriSorry to mention Christmas in mid-September, but we are excited to announce that Amrita Acharia will be supporting us in this year’s Big Give Christmas Challenge. Through the Challenge we are aiming to raise £80,000 towards our Child Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Kathmandu. In the week beginning 27th November all online donations will be automatically doubled in value through matching pledges we have been securing throughout the summer. On the 27th evening we will be launching the Appeal with a special fundraising dinner night to be held at The Victory Services Club, near Marble Arch in London. Diners will have the chance to meet not only Amrita herself but also the Trustees and some of the wonderful volunteers who’ve supported us this year. If you would like to join us for what will be a very special evening then please drop me a line.

Amrita has a Nepalese father and a Ukrainian mother. She grew up in Ukraine, Kathmandu and England before moving with her family to Norway at the age of 13. Amrita is probably best known for her role as “Irri” in the award-winning HBO series “Game of Thrones” and Norwegian crime drama “Acquitted”. She is also the leading character “Dr Ruby Walker” in the ITV’s primetime medical drama “The Good Karma Hospital” (centre of title picture). It is currently filming its third series that is due for release in early 2019. Amrita’s film credits include Norway ‘s critically acclaimed “I am Yours”, cult classic “Dead Snow 2”, the new Sci-Fi saga “Genesis” alongside Olivia Grant and John Hannah, and British indie “White Chamber” directed by Paul Raschid. Her first animated feature “Missing Link“, from Lionsgate featuring an all-star voice cast including Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana, Emma Thompson, and Stephen Fry, is due to be out early next year.

Amrita will be making a long-overdue visit to Nepal over Christmas and New Year when she can expect the warmest of welcomes from our wonderful team and some very excited children at our refuge.

#ChristmasChallenge18

 

Computers for Shree Ganesh School!

This week ChoraChori-UK visitor to Nepal, Caroline Milne, saw for herself the impact of fundraising that she has supported when she accompanied a special delivery of computers to a terribly under-resourced government school in Kathmandu valley.

How can a school teach computer science when it doesn’t have any computers?

This is not an unusual challenge in under-resourced government schools in Nepal. And it’s often girls that ultimately lose out as parents frequently choose to send their sons to private schools while their daughters make-do at the local government school. This is gender discrimination within families.

One such school has been Shree Ganesh School which is in a village on the edge of Kathmandu valley. It is attended by 147 students, 85 of them girls and 62 boys. Most of the children are from the low caste “Danuwar” community. The Danuwars once earned their living through fishing but the local river became polluted and these days they undertake unskilled labour work. It gets worse. Danuwars are generally considered “matwalli” a derogatory term for the caste that abuse alcohol. The principal of the school tells us that the parents drink all day and often give it to their children too.

This week ChoraChori has done what it can to level the educational playing field for Danuwar children of both sexes by delivering ten computers to the school. These will benefit around 70 children in Grades 6-8. Inspired by the delivery, the school committee is now planning to extend the curriculum to include Grades 9 and 10. This is a great result and we’re most thankful to Nexus International School in Singapore and to a UK Trust that has provided the funding.

To find out more click on the image!

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

 

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