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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.

ChoraChori’s legal team fighting child rape cases in Nepal

ChoraChori’s support to child rape victims in Nepal includes ensuring that they obtain justice.

ChoraChori provides support to child rape victims and their families in Nepal that includes protection, material support (children from low caste families are often vulnerable through extreme poverty) and psychosocial counselling at our Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre in Kathmandu. But an equally important element is ensuring that victims are able to access justice and that legal cases are prosecuted properly in the courts rather than being “resolved” through illegal financial settlements between the rapist and the victim’s family. Victims may come under huge pressure to take this option by threats or even with the encouragement of NGOs or the police. See this link.

In Nepal the punishment for rape can be quite severe; indeed, a couple of months ago a child rapist was given a life sentence with the instruction that life should mean life. The challenge is to get cases registered in the first place and to ensure witness protection and support through the legal procedures and in the courtroom itself. We have two staff lawyers who have been dealing with 16 rape cases, five of these being gang rapes. So far there have been nine convictions (all involving jail sentences), the most recent being on the 17th March when a rapist was given an eight year prison sentence and ordered to pay 50,000 rupees (£350) to his victim.

Nevertheless, to see successful convictions our legal team has to be prepared for postponement of hearings, procedural failings and ineptitude. But his is nothing compared to how victims – traumatised children – still have to run the gauntlet of intrusive questioning in public situations and in hostile male-dominated environments such as at police stations and in the courts themselves. This parallels the experience in India where there is a risk of rapists escaping justice through little girls being unable to describe what has happened to them either because of the trauma or through lack of the necessary vocabulary. See this report on ganda kaam (“dirty work”) that has appeared in the India media. This relates to the Muzaffarpur children’s shelter sex abuse scandal, a location from which we rescued Nepali girls last year.

So much more needs to be done in both countries to ensure that child rape victims are dealt with sensitively and that justice prevails. And through our legal support we also need to make the point that rapists cannot act with impunity.

ChoraChori supports a new major capital project at Kitini College

ChoraChori and its partners have provided funds for a new major capital project at Kitini College.

In 2015 Kitini College suffered some structural damage when two earthquakes struck Nepal in April and May. It could have been much worse; a neighbouring private school collapsed causing fatalities.

This government school is important within Lalitpur District as it serves a huge catchment area that extends into the adjacent Kavre and Kathmandu Districts. Many of the students come from low caste families and include the children of the desperately poor peripatetic population that provides seasonal labour in nearby brick kilns. And the children at the ChoraChori Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre also attend the school, part of their return to normality after the trauma they have endured. Therefore it has been important for us to reinforce the school, literally, by a major project that will make it resistant to future earthquakes.

Working alongside our new project partner, Gandys Foundation, we have been successful in securing all the funds necessary from major donors and two other grant-making Trusts for this four month long project. The local municipality has also contributed 25% of the project costs, so it has been great to see this local commitment to a great school.

As a Tiger in the Jungle returns to UK!

Nepalese contemporary circus performers Aman Tamang and Renu Ghalan return to UK to stage their acclaimed show about child trafficking, “As a Tiger in the Jungle”.

We are delighted to let you know that Cirkus Xanti (Norway) and Ali Williams Productions will once again present their poignant and heart-warming performance about rescued child slaves from Indian traditional circus. Through the show, two performers from Nepal, Renu and Aman, both child trafficking survivors, ask questions about life, love, poverty and greed. Using the spoken word, movement, circus and ceremony, they tell the story of how, against all odds, they survived child slavery to create their own destiny. To get a glimpse of their breath-taking skills, click on the image on the left for a preview.

Aman and Renu are just two of the 700 Nepalese children who were liberated from circus slavery during the period 2004-2011 when ChoraChori co-Founder Philip Holmes was based in Nepal and headed up the anti trafficking programme. This show highlights a tragedy that still befalls hundreds of Nepalese children every year, albeit into different situations.

Here are the venues and dates for your diary:

4 April:             Enableus Fest Sheffield University, Octagon Centre, Clarkson Street, Sheffield, S10 2TQ
16 April:           Ffwrnes Park Street, Llanelli, SA15 3YE
17 – 18 April:  Circomedia Portland Square, St Paul’s, Bristol,BS2 8SJ
2 – 3 May:       Riverfront Theatre King’s Way, Newport, NP60 1HG
9 May:              Lincoln Drill Hall Free School Lane, Lincoln, LN2 1EY
12 May:            Aberystwyth Arts Centre Penglais Campus, University of Aberystwyth SY23 3DE
17 May:            Stratford Circus Stratford Circus Arts Centre, Theatre Square, Stratford, London, E15 1BX
22 – 25 May:  Brighton Fringe Brighton Open Air Theatre, Park Dyke Road, Hove,BN3 6EH
29 May:           Warwick Arts Centre University of Warwick, Coventry,CV4 7AL
31 May:            The Civic in Barnsley Hanson Street, Barnsley, S70 2HZ
6 June:             Salisbury Festival Salisbury Playhouse
7 – 8 June:      Theatre Brycheniog Canal Wharf, Brecon, LD3 7EW
14 June:           Galeri Doc Victoria, Caernarfon, Gwynedd, LL55 1SQ
21 – 23 June: Theatr Mwldan Bath House Road, Cardigan SA43 1JY
26 – 30 June: Glastonbury Festival Worthy Farm, Worthy Lane, Pilton, Shepton Mallet, Somerset, BA4 4BY

The 17th May performance will be a special ticket-only event for ChoraChori supporters and friends. Please let us know if you would like to attend. If you can’t make any of these venues or dates please make a donation using the button below. Thanks!

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Extra support required for ChoraChori’s Kathmandu refuge

Home again!

ChoraChori’s Founder, Philip Holmes, is running the London Marathon to raise funds for additional care needs at the ChoraChori refuge in Kathmandu.

What do you buy a masochist for Christmas?

Today my brand new Garmin Forerunner 30 runner’s watch tracked my time, distance, calories etc in a training run for this year’s London Marathon. My strategy during training is to ignore speed and distance in favour of building up endurance. Today’s goal was to run for two hours. It was bitterly cold, but the sun was shining and 2 hours and 22 minutes later (sustained by one bottle of raspberry flavour Lucozade Sport – yuk) I’d completed just over half marathon distance without stopping. Factor in those notorious Devon hills – the climb out of Thurlestone was particularly memorable in this regard – and that time was pretty reasonable. My watch even grudgingly told me that my fitness level was “good”. The cheek of it.

No pain, no gain and I am putting myself through this to raise funds for ChoraChori to meet additional care costs in Nepal that have arisen this week. I’d thought we were OK for a while following our very successful Big Give Christmas Challenge (thanks if you donated!). But yesterday my friend and colleague at ChoraChori-Nepal, Bhaskar Karki, e mailed me to say that he needed to recruit additional staff members, adding to our already overstretched budget. The reason for that was that in November we admitted two very traumatised little girls who are both rape victims. One of them had been thrown out of the family home by her stepfather and after months of sleeping rough she seems to be semi-feral. Although only nine, she is already grey-haired. Bhaskar tells me that, such is the scale of these girls’ needs, they require one-to-one care, 24/7, hence his additional staffing request.

I am very aware that we have taken up a challenge that has taken us into turbulent, uncharted waters where few others would dare to venture. And that challenge necessitates a long term commitment that other NGOs would baulk at. But this is what we do and, historically, we’ve done that very well. Now we are dealing with unprecedented degrees of child trauma and if we have to find the funds for one-to-one care then so be it. A carer costs in the region of £110 per month and for two highly disturbed girls we need 4 carers for 24 hour cover. £440 times 12 comes to £5,280 which is my revised target in this year’s Marathon.

Please support me and the hard-pressed local staff in Kathmandu by using the button below that will take you straight to my online sponsorship page. The site accepts donations in any major currency that will convert into sterling.

Very many thanks.


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Back home to Jhapa

Last weekend ChoraChori returned a group of girls from Jhapa to their homes after completing their six month tailoring training course at our Kathmandu centre. ChoraChori supporter Caroline Milne joined them for the trip and shares what she saw along the way.

After spending six months at the ChoraChori refuge in Godawari, Kathmandu it was time for eight girls to return home to Jhapa. Six months may not seem like a long time, but it’s long enough to make new friends and feel sad when you have to say goodbye. There were hugs and tears as the girls packed up last Sunday afternoon and got ready for the long journey ahead.

As well as all their personal belongings, the girls each had a sewing machine to take home with them so that they can put their new tailoring skills to good use at home and hopefully provide a source of income. By the time everything was loaded onto the minibus, it was packed both inside and outside. There was a big send off from the children and staff left at the refuge and the journey began (cover picture).

The main town in Jhapa, Birtamode, is only around 440km away, but due to the mountainous roads and difficult driving conditions it can take over twelve hours to get there. Driving through the night with passengers, thankfully not the driver, sleeping on the way and a stop for food around 10:30 pm, we made it to the first drop-off at 2:30 am. The necessary hand-over paperwork was done we were on our way again. After a deliberately slow remaining journey and a few hours sleeping in the bus by the side of the road, we finally arrived in Birtamode around 6:30 am.

No rest for the wicked. Bags were left in the hotel, a quick attempt at freshening up and we were on our way again to drop the other girls at various locations. Fortunately, there was time for some tea and a taste of a local roadside delicacy, bhakka. The girls gradually left us to complete their journeys via auto-rickshaw and we reached our final destination in the tea plantations at 9 am.

The final stop was at the Jesuit School and this provided an opportunity to meet Father Norbert who has helped ChoraChori find the girls who will benefit most from the vocational training in Kathmandu. One of the girls was really excited to finally be almost home and very quickly disappeared on a bicycle, complete with a rather heavy sewing machine. We found her later at home, happily reunited with family.

We should not underestimate the challenges these girls face on returning home. Their lives have been very different for the last six months in Kathmandu; living with friends and having a good support network. This is not always the case back in the tea plantation. Living conditions are basic and, in some cases, key family members are working overseas leaving the girls potentially feeling isolated and alone. It is important that as an organisation we continue to monitor the situation and provide further support to allow the girls to successfully use their new skills if it is needed.

This is not the end; it is just the beginning.

Working with Unity In Health

ChoraChori is very proud to work with another small UK-registered charity, Unity in Health, in its management of child trauma in Nepal.

“Why don’t small charities pool their resources rather than having a situation of lots of them doing their own thing? Couldn’t cooperation, even merger, lead to economy of scale?” This is a commonly heard challenge and one that ChoraChori accepts up to a point. Whilst the identities and heritage of small grassroots charities can be a source of strength in themselves (engendering a family spirit within the team and its supporters), collaboration can certainly lead to reduction of waste and a tremendous synergy.

A case in point is our partnership with Unity In Health, which works alongside us in managing child trauma and mental health issues at our Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre (CRRC) in Kathmandu. Unity in Health has a central role in clinical support to our team at the child trauma management centre by Skype and through visits. Indeed, the Founder of Unity In Health, Joao Marcal-Grilo is in Nepal at the time of writing. His charity also covers the salary costs of one of the key staff members at the centre who will be heading up a Unity In Health inspired follow-up programme in the coming time. And last month, following a successful fundraiser in Singapore, Unity In Health was able to buy a jeep that has become a shared asset, with ChoraChori able to use it for field visits and to transport beneficiaries between their homes and our centre.

To read more about Unity In Health, see this very well-written article that has just been published. Partnerships are the way ahead in 2019. In a previous post we described the forthcoming collaboration with The Soroptimist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland and we are working on a further exciting partnership at the time of writing (watch this space!).

Before you leave this page please visit our Christmas Appeal and be prepared to be amazed at how we’re getting along. Then leave a little gift and share!

Remembering ChoraChori in your Will

Remembering ChoraChori in your will is a low cost way of making a major difference to our future work in Nepal, transforming the lives of vulnerable girls for years to come. Here’s some advice.

A will is not something that we like to think about much, but any reputable Financial Advisor will tell you that it’s the first step in drawing up a watertight personal financial plan. Dying intestate passes on an administrative and emotional burden to loved ones that can take months or even years to resolve and result in an outcome that can be substantially to the benefit of the taxman. So, above all, please do write a will and take proper professional advice (i.e. a solicitor) to ensure that your final wishes are implemented properly and that there can be no disputes.

From a charity point of view, leaving a part or your entire estate to ChoraChori can reduce, and in some situations, eliminate your Inheritance Tax liability. If you leave something towards our work in your will, then it won’t count towards the total taxable value of your estate. This is called leaving a ‘charitable legacy’. You can also cut the Inheritance Tax rate on the rest of your estate from 40% to 36%, if you leave at least 10% of your ‘net estate’ to us.

To illustrate how this would work, let’s say that when you died:

  • your net estate was worth £425,000
  • in your will, you left it all to your partner who lives with you
  • you have your full Inheritance Tax allowance (currently £325,000 for the 2018/19 tax year)
  • you weren’t married or in a civil partnership (the spouse exemption is not available if you are not married)
  • thus, the ‘net estate’ is £100,000 (i.e. £425,000 minus £325,000). And there is Inheritance Tax to pay on £100,000 at a rate of 40%
  • so, your estate’s would have to pay a tax bill of £40,000 (i.e. 40% of £100,000).

But if you wanted to reduce the tax bill by making a charitable gift:

  • you’d leave your partner £415,000, and
  • £10,000 to ChoraChori in your will (which is 10% of your ‘net value’ of £100,000)
  • the estate would then pay 36% on £90,000 worth of assets instead. This means that your estate would pay £32,400 in Inheritance Tax.

While this would mean your partner receives less when you die, in this example making a charitable legacy would shave off £7,600 from the Inheritance Tax bill. This is worth considering if you’re keen to support us even after your death.

There’s of course nothing to stop you from giving to ChoraChori right away and any donation won’t be counted as part of your estate when you die. Again, this could cut or even eliminate any Inheritance Tax there is to pay upon death with of course associated Gift Aid benefits while you are still alive.

If you want to leave us a gift in your will, you can leave it either as:

  • a fixed amount of money, known as a ‘pecuniary legacy’
  • a share of what’s left of your estate once all costs and other legacies are paid out, known as a ‘residuary legacy’.

The former can of course effectively decrease in value between the time of the will being written and its being proved, so the latter may give a better reflection of your original charitable intentions.

When you are writing the will make sure that you, or the person writing your will, includes all the information your executor will need to understand what you want to happen. This should include:

  • our name “ChoraChori”, spelled correctly (so there are no arguments!)
  • our registered number – 1159770 – and address – Three Ways, Ledstone, Kingsbridge TQ7 2HQ UK
  • a receipt clause so that our treasurer can accept the bequest
  • a merger clause so if we have merged or ceased to exist, your executor can pay the legacy to the new charity or a charity with similar charitable values.

At the moment we would like to build a fund that will be primarily for the education of vulnerable girls in Nepal, including child rape victims, but of course programmes and priorities can change. So, it would help if interests are stated while leaving the final decisions to the discretion of the Trustees.

If you would like to discuss specific wishes or have any further confidential guidance please contact ChoraChori Founder Philip Holmes using this link.

 

The Big Give 2018

For the third successive year ChoraChori is taking part in The Big Give Christmas Challenge, our major annual fundraising drive.

At ChoraChori we began thinking about Christmas in June, searching for Trusts, corporates and individuals who’d be willing to make matching pledges towards this year’s Big Give Christmas Challenge. And we were very successful, building a “pot” of £30,000 ready to match online donations from supporters this week. The Challenge started today at noon and runs until noon on the 4th December during which time we hope to meet our overall target of £60,000 through the powerful incentive of gifts automatically doubling in value. These are funds that we so badly need to continue our child rescue and rehabilitation work in 2019, including providing support to child rape victims and their families.

This year the charity is benefiting from an online appeal by Nepalese-Ukrainian actress Amrita Acharia. Amrita, has Amrita Acharia, Nepal, ChoraChoriacted in HBO’s “Game of Thrones”, UK TV series “The Good Karma Hospital”, the Norwegian TV series “Acquitted” and in the forthcoming animation “The Missing Link”. She has been very ready to provide her support to a charity and a cause that are very close to her heart. Amrita says “One of the biggest things that gave me the chance to pursue my career was the fact my father was educated, and he made sure we were educated and taught self-respect. When we moved away from Nepal, it was the fruit of the education that gave us stability and the chance to follow our dreams in less stable careers. I love it that ChoraChori works on empowering young girls after these experiences and gives them tools rather than just rescuing and dumping them in an orphanage”.

Amrita was born in Kathmandu but her family moved to England when she was six years old. She spent some of her early life in the Ukraine and attended High School in Norway where her father is an Obstetrician. Amrita is now looking forward to a long overdue return visit to Nepal at Christmas – her first in 16 years. In Kathmandu she’ll be joined by ChoraChori’s Founder, Lt Col Philip Holmes, for a New Year visit to ChoraChori’s facilities in Thaukel.

To see Amrita’s appeal and double your money in a gift to ChoraChori just click on the image!

 

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