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.

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!

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.

 

 

 

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!

Child reunification and rescue at Christmas

ChoraChori conducts child reunification and rescue before Christmas.

ChoraChori’s main aim is to reunite displaced children it rescues from India with their families. This follows a period of care, rehabilitation, education and training at its transit refuge in Kathmandu.

Parbati’s story

British volunteer teaching Nepali girls screen printingParbati is one of 33 children whom ChoraChori rescued from a very bad children’s shelter in Bihar, north India, in March. She’d gone originally to India with a boyfriend who had subsequently abandoned her. When she joined us she was very withdrawn and unwilling to speak about her past. However, during her time at the refuge she has blossomed. She has benefited from training provided by British volunteers Ben and Lara. Ben has taught her how to use the electric sewing machine while Lara has trained Parbati in screen printing techniques. See the adjacent films.

Nepal girl trainingMeantime ChoraChori has been tracing families and preparing the way for the reunification that took place on Saturday. Parbati is one of two girls from our refuge who were successfully returned to their families. You can see from the title picture that Parbati’s return to her village caused quite a stir. Especially when she proudly showed off a screen print shoulder bag that she had made. Parbati is welcome to return to the refuge next year to continue her training, if she so wishes.

ChoraChori finds more displaced Nepali children in India.

Nepal, children, ChoraChori, charity

After this reunification, the ChoraChori team moved across the border into the neighbouring Indian state of Bihar. There they visited a girls’ shelter and a boys’ shelter. Through interviews it is important to confirm nationalities as ChoraChori would be unable to offer reunification of Indian children to their families. And it can be difficult to establish nationality given that ethnic Indian people live in south Nepal and ethnic Nepalis live in northeast India.

Following the interviews ChoraChori determined that four little girls and eight boys can be returned to Nepal and to our transit refuge as their first port of call. Unfortunately this could not happen straight away due to the local Child Welfare Committee being involved in other business and given that a forthcoming Nepal election will restrict movements in the country. So ChoraChori will now have the added expense of a return visit later this week to bring the children home.

ChoraChori rescues young women too.

Rescue operations often deliver the unexpected and this trip has been no exception. For at the girls’ shelter the team found an 18 year old woman who is three months’ pregnant. She told Shailaja our staff how two women had drugged her in Nepal for her to awake in India and enter a forced marriage. Therefore this is a human trafficking case. The woman is keen to get justice and she knows all the people involved in her abduction and subsequent rape. ChoraChori will help her pursue the case.

A deaf Nepali woman and her child found at a girls’ shelter in Bihar

ChoraChori’s field team has brought this woman back to Nepal along with another woman that they found at the shelter. She is 23 years old and both deaf and dumb. She has with her a three year old boy who looks severely malnourished (pictured left). The woman told the team that she too had escaped from an abusive relationship. ChoraChori’s Nepal staff has very good experience in working with hearing impaired people and we should be able to help this woman (and indirectly her child) with some income generation training.

Needless to say these two adult cases will add significantly to our long term care and training costs. This expense is over and above the immediate transfer, and short/medium term care costs of the 12 children we will bring home later in the week. Please help us now with a donation by clicking on the logo below. Under the Big Give Christmas Challenge which runs until 12 noon on the 5th December all gifts can be doubled in value. Thank you for supporting our wonderful reunification and rescue staff in this way.

 

 

Something for the tooth fairy…

ChoraChori trains vulnerable Nepalese girls how to make unique felt products

In a previous blog post we explained how earlier this year British volunteer Alice Alderson supported our “Tipling girls” through training them in cutting and sewing techniques. This work has matured into a final product that is now ready to go under the pillow – a felt heart for the tooth fairy!

A great idea

So here it is: a hand-stitched felt heart that has a little pocket, containing a note with the name of the girl who made it. The felt heart comes in a transparent mesh bag that also contains an information card about the charity and three blank notes (two as spares) for the child to write a personal message to the fairy. The bag is then sealed with a tie label. All the design work has been done by Alice. So after a few months of hard work by our girls and volunteers it’s now over to the tooth-fairy. And to you! We are offering these distinctive Christmas stocking fillers at £4.50 each. 100% of the profit goes to ChoraChori. There is a minimum order of five with an additional £2.50 to cover postage and packing for European sales only. To place an order just drop me a line.

We are very grateful to The Soroptimists International President’s Appeal 2015-2017 “Educate to Lead” whose generous grant funding has funded this project within our broader programme of educational and training support to vulnerable girls in Nepal. Also to UK supporter Clare Hilder for the original idea!

Felt product from Nepal

Handicrafts training brings opportunity to Nepali girls

Opportunity for Nepali girls

Handicrafts training is being developed by ChoraChori to improve options for a group of disadvantaged Nepali girls.

BackgroundHandicrafts training for Nepali girls

In an earlier post we described the challenges faced by girls from the Tipling area, close to the Tibet border. The 2015 earthquakes made the region’s grinding poverty even worse; all its buildings were destroyed. So in July 2016 ChoraChori intervened to bring a group of 10 girls to Kathmandu to allow them to complete their education. We selected these ten because they had shown the commitment to successfully complete their Grade 10 examinations. There was no possibility of going beyond that in Tipling as the nearest school that was still standing was three hours’ walk away from their village.

Recent developments, handicrafts plans

ChoraChori has followed up on this initiative by admitting a further nine girls to the programme in June. This (and future plans) became possible only through the generous financial support of the Soroptimist International President’s Appeal 2015-2017, “Educate to Lead”. Not only will this vital funding be providing full academic support to the girls but it will also train them in handicrafts through inputs from Western visitors who know the overseas market. October programme visitors Lara Hilder and Ben Harvey will build upon the product development initiated by Alice Alderson in January. Lara has a degree in textile design while Ben has a degree in womenswear design and technology. They will be followed by Dutch visitor Aagje Hoekstra who has a Bachelor’s in product design. Exciting times indeed!

Inspiration for one beneficiary

One Tamang girl said to us:

“My mother passed away when I was just seven days old. My father re-married within a month and abandoned me. After that my aunt raised me until I was 12 years old. When I turned 13, I came to Kathmandu to study. I was excited to be independent and live the city life. My dreams shattered when I couldn’t afford my studies in Kathmandu and my father didn’t support me financially. With a heavy heart, I went back to my village and re-joined my old school.

After 10th Grade, when I learnt that ChoraChori is helping us to come to Kathmandu to study, I was excited but nervous at the same time. I was scared that I might not be able to afford to live in Kathmandu like before. Especially since after the earthquake we didn’t have any money as our house had collapsed. Initially I was very anxious but I as joined High School and met ChoraChori staff I breathed a sigh of relief. I still can’t believe that I am being helped to this extent to fulfil my dreams. I am glad that I have received an opportunity like this to study and also get involved in training programmes. 

When I finish my studies I want to become a teacher and go back to my village so that no girls and boys are deprived of education. If I stay in the city, I want to be like the staff members of ChoraChori-Nepal and help others.”

An escape from the prospect of abduction

And a girl from the Ghale community said:

“I remember one terrifying event when a friend was married to her maternal uncle’s son. In our culture marriage by abduction is very common. If the boy likes the girl, he comes and kidnaps her and that’s how they are married. My friend didn’t like her husband at all. But a girl’s consent doesn’t matter and she is forced to live with him forever. Well, that is how my mother was married to my father too but thankfully they are happy now.

Hadn’t ChoraChori helped me come to Kathmandu and study, I would have faced the same fate as my friend. I would have been forcefully married and never gotten a change to go to school again. No one would listen to me when I tried to tell them that I wanted to study further. I am very grateful to be receiving this opportunity. Right now, I feel that the training that I am getting with other girls will be very useful in future and that it’s helping to empower us. I see a great prospect for my future because I want to be a designer after I complete my studies.” 

Can you help?

If you think you might be able to help our wonderful handicrafts programme in any way, please do drop me a line. Donations, as ever, very welcome through the button below.

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