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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.

The ChoraChori Big Give summer appeal

From today your online donation towards our work will double in value through our special Big Give summer appeal.

Through this appeal we will be raising vital funds to expand our childcare and training facilities at our Kathmandu centre. Please check out our site where you can make a secure donation now. One donation, twice the impact!

The Aishworya “Children’s Home”

Late yesterday, ChoraChori-Nepal took a call from Nepal’s Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB) asking for support in its raid and rescue operation on the Aishworya “Children’s Home” in Kathmandu.

This is a developing story, but it seems that the authorities were notified following a complaint from a foreigner about neglected and unsupervised children at the centre. CCWB acted immediately and asked a number of NGOs, including ChoraChori, to help with rescuing 122 children from three premises that were being used by Aishworya.

Unsurprisingly, during the rescue the “management” of the home was nowhere to be found. The children were indeed in a bad way, many of them covered in scabies. It seems a lot of the children originate from Nepal’s deprived Humla District in the far northwest. Allegedly the Aishworya people were asking for contributions of NPR30,000 to NPR100,000 (£200 to £700) to have their children “cared for” and educated in Kathmandu at the expense of naïve but well-intentioned foreigners. This form of child trafficking and exploitation is just one aspect of Nepal’s orphan business that the authorities are now making steps towards dismantling, including through a new Children’s Act that prioritises alternative care arrangements with children’s homes becoming a last resort.

For now, the rescued children are being looked after at a number of centres by the NGOs Forget me Not, CWIN, Voice of Children, THIS and ChoraChori. We have admitted 16 boys and 4 girls, all under the age of 10, to our Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre which will be a stepping stone to family reintegration and support.

Please think twice before you support any orphanage in Nepal, however reputable it might seem. There are a few notable exceptions, but most so called orphanages are income generation centres for the greedy people who operate them. The Nepal government is now doing what it can but the orphan business can only be dismantled when it is denied the oxygen of Western donations.

ChoraChori rescues 26 Nepalese boys from Bihar

On Good Friday, the 18th April 2019, ChoraChori facilitated the rescue of 26 Nepalese boys from a children’s shelter in Bihar, north India.

The open border between Nepal and India makes it easy for children to be trafficked or for them to voluntarily cross into India in search of opportunities. On the 27th March the Indian authorities intercepted a group of 26 teenage boys who were on their way to alleged employment opportunities in Chennai. Such transfer of children concerns the Nepal authorities for good reason. Why would Nepalese children be offered employment when there are no shortage of potential employees in Chennai itself? The truth of the matter is that it is much easier to exploit children who are foreign nationals – one of the sad fundamentals of child trafficking.

All of the boys hailed from Districts in south central Nepal. The boys had been placed in a children’s shelter at Sitamadhi in Bihar (pictured) with the request that the Nepalese authorities arrange their repatriation and reunification with their families. Accordingly, Nepal’s Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB) immediately contacted District Child Welfare Boards in Dhanusha, Mahottari, Sarlahi and Siraha Districts to trace the boys’ families. This being achieved quickly, CCWB then requested that the Sitamadhi District Child Protection Unit hand over the boys to authorised persons. These were Sanjiv Mahato (CCWB), Saroj Kumar Ray (an independent social worker appointed by Dhanusha Child Welfare Board) and Shailaja CM, the Operational Director of ChoraChori-Nepal (right of picture). The reunification was effected quickly on Good Friday, with ChoraChori-Nepal covering the costs, including the hire of the bus. The boys have since been reunited with their families, relieved to be back home after their month-long detention. See this press report on the rescue.

Well done to Shailaja and our staff lawyer, Sunita Karki, on their success and compliments to all other involved parties on this smooth operation. This latest rescue brings to 203 the number of displaced and trafficked children whose repatriation ChoraChori has facilitated since late 2015. We aim to open a boys’ hostel in Kathmandu later this year which will give the rescue programme a further boost.

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