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!

 

Vocational training success!

Uday completes his vocational training and starts a first job.

When ChoraChori rescued runaway Uday from India at the start of 2017 he had nothing, least of all a family, to return to. Now he has a vocational training certificate and a job to show for his diligence and our support.

Uday was one of 33 children whom ChoraChori rescued from India in March 2017. We have successfully reunited most with their families but were left with a residual challenge; what to do with those whose families couldn’t be found or where there was no functional family unit to return to? We always prioritise academic education but some returnees lack the ability to succeed in school or have been out of the system for just too long to have any prospect of catch up. For such children we consider vocational training options, both in-house and contracted out.

Last August we placed two lads at the highly regarded Sano Thimi vocational training college in Bhaktapur on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Unfortunately one of them packed his bags a few weeks later and left in the night for reasons unknown. The other, Uday, stuck with the course and has now passed the college exams, securing a first division pass at 77.8%. He has moved seamlessly into his first job as a light vehicle service mechanic at a workshop where he is excited to be earning a salary. Two more refuge boys, Raja and Prakash, are following in his wake as they embark on a six month residential course, also to become light service vehicle mechanics (pictured left). Like Uday, they know nothing of their families’ whereabouts and now is their chance to make good too.

In three days’ time a third refuge boy, Youshan, will be joining a six month Culinary Arts course at the Global Academy of Tourism and Hospitality Education (GATE). Graduates from GATE are guaranteed jobs in top hotels in Nepal and abroad, so the world could soon by Youshan’s oyster.

Training and hostel fees for Raja and Prakash costs £500 each, while Youshan’s course and support costs will be £1,150. If you can help us by becoming a short term sponsor, a champion, for one of these boys then please contact Philip Holmes using the button below.

 

 

 

Teaching crafts to girls from Tipling

Alongside supporting girls from Tipling, near the Tibet border (pictured left), ChoraChori has been teaching them crafts that lead to an income.

Our programme in support of the trafficking-prone girls from Tipling, Dhading District, began soon after the 2015 earthquakes. These destroyed just about all of the homes and schools in the area. Our short-term response was to bring a group of girls to Kathmandu where they could complete their higher secondary education at Kitini College while staying at our Kathmandu refuge. In parallel, last year we trained them in crafts, beginning with working in felt.

Then in October a Dutch business woman, Aagje Hoekstra, began a short voluntary consultancy with us, teaching the girls how to make eye-catching carrier bags out of old rice and lentil sacks. This has been a huge success with their products already finding a good market in Holland and Germany. See the film on the left.

As the first group of girls is due to complete their higher secondary education in May we are now thinking ahead to the next steps. Reena, who features in the film, and two other girls want to train to become community medical assistants so that they can return to Tipling and help the village and surrounding area. The training is expensive with the 18 month course costing £3,000 (including the girls’ keep). But that is the price of training leaders as well as CMAs. We are actively seeking sponsors who can help with defraying these costs.

Once again we are grateful to the Soroptimist International President’s Appeal 2015-17 for their funding thus far under their Educate to Lead programme. And of course to Aagje for her incredible personal contribution in time, skill and passion.

 

 

New vocational training

vocational training NepalA new year brings a new vocational training opportunity to our Kathmandu refuge, as five boys begin training in welding and working in metalwork.

In a post from last year we described how we’d found places for two boys on vocational training courses at a college in Kathmandu. The boys had joined the residential course full of enthusiasm. Yet just a month later one of the boys packed his things and left without saying a word to anyone.

We were bitterly disappointed at this but had to settle for reminding ourselves that we had done our very best for him. We had not only secured his freedom from India but given him the opportunity of a fresh start and a trade. Perhaps he yearned for the false freedom of the streets again in preference to the discipline of studying and conforming to a timetable. Thankfully the college refunded his course costs and we will be able to fund another boy through training later this year.

Nevertheless, we learned an important lesson: Before sending a teenager on an expensive external course we need to have evidence that he or she is likely to be up to the challenge. This has been one of our motives for setting up low-cost in house vocational training this month. A local trainer has introduced a group of five of our older boys to welding and metalwork. The coordinator, ChoraChori-Nepal staff member Lily Katuwal, tells us that they have shown a great deal of early enthusiasm and aptitude, making a ladder, table and bench. They have learned skills but Lily has seen how their communication skills and confidence have also developed.

There is a second motivation. We are planning to extend the in-house programme for boys to include basic plumbing and electrician training. And for both sexes we aim to introduce beginners and advanced tailoring courses. To that end we are in discussion with the Head Teacher at our local school, Kitini College, to establish how such training might benefit his pupils. Although Kitini has an excellent academic record many students drop out, unable to cope with their studies. We would like to target training at this group while still benefiting our own refuge kids.

Watch this space!

Attempted rape in Tipling

ChoraChori-Nepal has intervened in a case of attempted rape in Tipling, Dhading District, ensuring that the police filed a case against the girl’s attacker. 

Since June 2016 ChoraChori has been supporting the education of girls from Tipling, which lies close to the Tibet border in Dhading District. This had been the scene of widespread devastation after the 2015 earthquakes. In spite of passing the challenging Grade 10 School Leaver’s Certificate (SLC) exams girls from this community could take their education no further. For them, the nearest school was three hours’ walk away. So we gave these motivated girls a chance to complete Grades 11 and 12 by bringing the to our Kathmandu refuge and enrolling them at the nearby excellent state school, Kitini College. At the end of last year we added a string to their bow by teaching them craft skills. As well as excelling at school the girls have been earning money by selling their craft products in Holland and Germany.

This has been particularly gratifying as the girls – who are mainly from the marginalised Tamang ethnic community – were very vulnerable even before the earthquakes. It is common practice for girls to be abducted by aspiring husbands (this can lead to rape) who then subsequently arrange a “marriage” with the girl’s family. One of the girls whom we brought down to Kathmandu had run away from this scenario three times. And of course, in that area there wasn’t much law enforcement, least of all after the earthquakes.

ChoraChori-Nepal CEO Bhaskar Karki meeting with Parbati’s family

On Sunday Bhaskar Karki, ChoraChori-Nepal CEO (pictured left) took a call from a Catholic priest in Tipling asking for ChoraChori-Nepal support. A 35 year old NGO worker had allegedly attempted to rape a partially sighted 14 year old Tamang girl, Parbati (name changed) who had been orphaned five years ago. She has 5 or 6 older siblings and been staying with her 22 year old brother. He is away most days working as a porter. The assailant – who had allegedly previously molested both Parbati and her older sister – allegedly seized Parbati during a visit to her home last Saturday after finding her alone. She told us how she fought him off with a kick to the crotch and hit him with a kettle before screaming for help. Local villagers caught the man and took him to Dhading police station. Parbati is a feisty girl and was determined to bring him to book by giving evidence against him. The situation at the police station became very tense with the assailant’s friends turning up in an attempt to intimidate the police and influence them so that a case would not be registered. They argued that what had happened was normal practice in Tipling area.

Bhaskar downed tools straight away and went with one of our field staff, Pratap Titung, to support Parbati. In spite of yesterday being a public holiday, they managed to find a lawyer who has been interviewing the girl and her family. Today the police filed the case against the man. It remains to be seen if he is remanded in custody or gets bail. Parbati is going to remain with her family for now but she is likely to join our programme when the next group of new students comes to the refuge.

For sure, whatever the outcome of the case, we have already helped send out a powerful message that young men in the mountains of Dhading are not above the law and rape is rape. A message that is being echoed around the world these days, including in Hollywood.

 

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