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Plans for Dhanusha

Through an extension of The Big Give, ChoraChori is raising seed funding for a new girls’ shelter at Dhanusha in southeast Nepal.

In my last blog post “Empowering Liza” I described how ChoraChori was able to empower child rape victim “Liza” into taking action against her attackers. Child rape is endemic in Liza’s home District of Dhanusha in southeast Nepal – see for example this harrowing report from February this year. This article from last month’s Nepali Times gives a very useful insight into the issues that are fuelling the rape crisis in that part of Nepal.

Speaking this morning to Bhaskar Karki, Executive Director and co-Founder of ChoraChori-Nepal, he repeated the importance of our establishing a presence in Dhanusha as soon as funds become available. Only then can we properly engage with the girls, families, communities and stakeholders that will allow us to make a difference to this unacceptable situation.

We have managed to secure some additional pledges that will allow donations towards this initiative to be matched up until 11 a.m. GMT on the 21st December when the Big Give will finally end for this year. Please use the button below to double your gift and help us make this major step forward.

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Empowering Liza

ChoraChori has empowered 17 year old Liza from Dhanusha District, southeast Nepal, into taking action against those who gang-raped her.

When Liza (name changed) first came to ChoraChori’s Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre (CRRC) in June this year she was profoundly traumatised, withdrawn and suffering from panic attacks. For she had just been the victim of gang rape after having been abducted by four boys from a nearby village. During her ordeal she was held captive at the home of one of the culprits and then subsequently across the border at Muzaffarpur in Bihar, north India. During those 53 days she was beaten and raped every day before she managed to escape and return to Nepal. Her family reported the rape to the local police but they took no action. The danger wasn’t over for Liza and her family as one of the assailants came from a prominent local family and she was under threat to keep quiet.

At this point, ChoraChori found out about the case and immediately stepped in to support her. After we brought her to the safety of CCRC, it emerged that she also had a serious heart condition and was in very poor shape physically. Under our care she has received good food and medical care, psychosocial counselling in both individual and group sessions (title picture) and commenced vocational training on a basic tailoring course.

This has been transformative and our staff now report that she has a glow to her face and a ready smile.  She gained sufficient physical strength and confidence to be able to return to the court hearing in Janakpur, south Nepal, to give evidence. She was also able, for the first time, to name two of the other culprits as only one of them had been charged and arrested. The case is ongoing and complex, but ChoraChori’s legal team is fully behind her and the family in our bid to get the rapists the long jail sentences they deserve.

One of our goals for next year is to set up a regional girls’ shelter, office and field team in Dhanusha District. Sexual assault and rape is endemic in this part of Nepal and if we are to make the impact that we intend in the coming time we need to be closer to the point of need. Currently, our legal team and support services are 10-12 hours’ drive away and, clearly, that is highly unsatisfactory. You can help us with raising the seed money we need to set up this centre by donating using the button below. Our main Big Give appeal has just ended very successfully. But happily we managed to secure some late pledges that will still allow us to automatically double any gifts in the run up to Christmas – or noon on the 21st December to be precise. Many thanks!

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ChoraChori rescues displaced Nepalese children from Delhi

After a long time away from home, a ChoraChori field team has returned from Delhi to Kathmandu with seven rescued displaced Nepalese boys.

Success – at last – and after a very arduous trip to Delhi. Here is the anatomy of what happened to give you an idea of just how challenging a cross-border rescue operation can be.

  •    On the 17th November ChoraChori-Nepal Operational Director Shailaja CM and Deputy Director Roma Bhandaree left Kathmandu for the long road trip to Delhi. Their mission was to find as many displaced and trafficked Nepalese children as possible who were forgotten inside “children’s shelters” and bring them home.
  •    Upon arriving in Delhi they visited the Nepalese embassy to request an authorisation letter that would allow them to approach the Indian child welfare authorities to research stranded Nepalese children. The Embassy, as ever, was very cooperative and provided the letter.
  •    Armed with the letter, Shailaja and Roma visited ten Child Welfare Committees (CWC’s) over the ensuing three days – CWCs are responsible for child welfare within different parts of the city. Six of the Committees shared information straight away, four said that they would do so within a few days.
  •    Meantime, Shailaja and Roma began visiting the children’s shelters that they knew about and were authorised to visit. In total they found nine children who were keen to return home. Others were unwilling as they were runaways from broken homes and were not prepared to risk returning to step-parents (this is not a valid concern).
  •    Shailaja shared what she knew of the children’s addresses with the team in Kathmandu who successfully traced all of their families. Then ChoraChori-Nepal asked the Nepalese National Child Rights Council (NCRC) for permission to repatriate the children. The NCRC had to write to the Nepal Foreign Ministry to get it to instruct the Nepal Embassy in Delhi to issue a letter that would facilitate the repatriation. This latter process took five working days.
  •    Shailaja returned with the Embassy letter to the four CWC’s that were responsible for the nine children to obtain release paperwork, medical reports and escort orders. The CWCs were unable to release paperwork for two of the boys as their legal cases (one of bonded labour and one of parentage) were ongoing.
  •    On the 4th/5th December Shailaja and Roma left Delhi with seven boys to complete the 36-hour road trip to Kathmandu where the boys entered our new transit Boys’ Hostel opened in conjunction with Gandys Foundation. There they joined three other boys who had been rescued from just across the border at Gorakhpur a few days before. Reunifications can now start almost immediately, where appropriate. Clearly, some boys will require our future education and training support, but that’s fine.

Roma Bhandaree with the newly rescued boys on their way home to Nepal

This has been an exhausting trip and, on the face of it, in terms of “bangs for bucks” it has a low return in respect of numbers rescued. But we know that kids such as these boys live in dire conditions in these shelters and can remain there as de facto prisoners for years if no one comes looking for them. We will go to such lengths even for one lost child. No organisation does what we do with so much focus (understandably) on girls and for sure, no one does it better.

We need your help! Please donate now to our Big Give Christmas Appeal to allow our rescue work to continue using the button below. All donations before noon GMT on Tuesday 10th December will double in value. Shailaja, Roma and all of us will value your support and recognition.

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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.

 

CONTACT US!

If you would like to find out more or join our mailing list please get in touch