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.

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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.

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.

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!

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!

Two more boys complete their vocational training

Two more of ChoraChori’s oldest beneficiaries, both rescued from Indian children’s shelters, have successfully completed their vocational training in Kathmandu and started work.

Of the 147 Nepalese children that ChoraChori has rescued from “children’s shelters” in India, all but eight have been reunited with their families. Some children have no homes to go to, or had been running away from dire poverty or domestic abuse. For these children we have a duty of care to look after them while providing education or vocational training towards self-sufficiency.

In a December 2016 we published blog posts about “Raju” and Yousain, two of the older boys for whom we’d have to go this extra mile. Happily Raju (title picture) has now completed his welding training and begins on-the-job training next week into guaranteed work. Yousain, pictured left with Shailaja and Bhaskar, has completed six months’ training to be a chef at the excellent Global Academy of Tourism and Hospitality Education (GATE) institute. He too is already in employment.

Although we have now completed our commitment to them, both boys remain part of the ChoraChori family and are welcome to return to the refuge for events. There can be no better role models to inspire the other children.

This has all been accomplished through the support of individual sponsors. If you feel that you can help us in this way and invest in a boy’s future, drop me a line using the button below!

Supporting the girls from Jhapa

ChoraChori is providing skills training to a group of highly vulnerable girls from Jhapa District in southeast Nepal.

A Nepali Times article of July 2016 described how Nepal at that time had the seventh highest suicide rate in the world and the third highest rate of girl suicide. And the District with the highest suicide rate was Jhapa in the southeast, with an annual rate of 31 per 100,000 compared to the national average of 24.9 per 100,000.

A number of factors contribute to these dreadful figures including inward migration, natural disasters (floods), gender discrimination, grinding poverty and lack of employment prospects. One of Jhapa District’s major sources of employment is the tea plantations and these pay the women workers an absolute pittance for back-breaking labour. Another key factor is alcohol and drug abuse that, according to another Nepali Times article from June this year, makes Jhapa also a hotspot for sexual abuse and child rape. Alongside assisting child rape victims and supporting prosecution of offenders, ChoraChori will also be extending assistance to vulnerable girls in Jhapa and other Districts.

This week we admitted seven Jhapa girls (school drop-outs) to our refuge/training centre in Kathmandu. British (volunteer) consultant David Mintz is training them in candle-making skills appropriate to the Western market. The girls will also receive six months’ worth of tailoring training, life and language skills before they return to Jhapa each with their own sewing machine. It’s a small initial step but a significant one.

On Monday the girls were very excited to meet their first-ever foreigners, Beverley and Philip Holmes, the Founders of ChoraChori. And then, like London buses, David arrived on the scene two days later….

SEE (SLC) examination success

Alongside our child rescue and rehabilitation work in Nepal, ChoraChori also provides material and educational support to some very poor girls within the local community. One such girl, Rina, has responded by achieving a remarkable result in the latest Secondary Education Examination (SEE).

In late 2014 ChoraChori-Nepal’s Founder and Operational Director, Shailaja CM, found these two sisters wandering destitute in the Godawari hills to the southeast of Kathmandu valley. Their alcoholic father was living in a shack (see feature image) and their stepmother had thrown them out. At Shailaja’s request we took the two girls into our care and paid for their education at the nearby Kitini School, one of the best state schools in Nepal. The cost of this was subsequently picked up by our friends at The Soroptimist International on Devon – Taranaki Club in New Zealand.

The elder of the two sisters, Rina (name changed), has just achieved a remarkable success in the Secondary Education Examination (SEE), the Grade 10 examination that up until recently was known as the School Leaving Certificate (SLC). Her “A” grade means that she has scored between 80% and 90% – which is interpreted as “Excellent” – putting Rina within the top third of students who sat the examination. This should be interpreted against the sad backdrop of the number of children who drop out of school before Grade 10 due to extreme poverty or poor schooling opportunities while others are not permitted to write the examination if they are considered likely to fail.

Rina is now moving on to Grade 11 – “Plus Two” – at Kitini College where she has chosen management as her academic stream for the next two years. While staying at the ChoraChori refuge she will supplement her academic education with training in the arts and crafts.

 

 

A man amongst mushrooms

Growing mushrooms at our Kathmandu refuge

The boys and girls at our Kathmandu refuge have been getting their hands dirty recently as we have embarked upon a new income generation activity: mushroom cultivation!

Mushrooms are grown quite widely in Nepal. They are a high value crop that can grow in areas where the land quality – or total absence of soil – prevents other forms of agricultural production.

Supported by ChoraChori-UK visitors Ben and Toby (isn’t that a type of ice cream?), the girls have been learning how to grow oyster mushrooms. The technique involves soaking and sterilising straw before converting this into balls that are inoculated with the mushroom spawn. All you need then is a dark space, modest watering and patience for two or three weeks to allow the first of three yields to appear.

Two small unused sheds at the refuge have been rodent-proofed for the first 80 mushroom balls. A piece of adjacent land has been cleared and levelled for a third shed that will be made from bamboo. As you can see the first attempt has been a great success with plenty of mushrooms growing that can help feed the refuge children with a surplus available for sale. The Tipling girls now have yet another skill to take back to their village after they have completed their education!

 

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