Community-based care in Nepal?

ChoraChori’s field team has rescued a child rape victim who was failed by family and community in east Nepal.

The 12 year old girl pictured left is from Phidim, the principal town of Panchthar District. Her miserable life stands in stark contrast to the dramatic natural beauty of Nepal’s most eastern District. She is homeless because, although her mother is alive and well, she is unwelcome at her step-father’s home. Therefore she has been wandering around the community, surviving by taking on domestic chores in return for food and shelter, her overnight accommodation being often nothing more than cow-sheds.

Panchthar lies within Nepal’s Province No 1, the Province with the highest rates of reported rape at 8.5 per 100,000 of population in the period July 17 to June 18. ChoraChori is currently analysing why this should be so, but in the meantime we are dealing with the consequences.

Tragically, this little girl became one of the statistics from last year. Her rapist has already been convicted and we will fight for him to remain in jail should this come to an appeal. But meantime we are working with the village authority to allow her transfer into our care in Kathmandu. She is of course severely traumatised by her experiences and we will need to manage the trauma as well as offer her a place of safety at our refuge.

So often we hear from respected authorities that children belong with families and communities. It’s not as easy as that in remote parts of Nepal and clearly in this case that arrangement has failed with such dire consequences; it is time for us to intervene and protect this child properly.

Next week you have an opportunity to do something to help this girl and the many others that ChoraChori has rescued. You can join me in making a donation towards our work through The Big Give Christmas Challenge through which all online donations will automatically be doubled in value. Please don’t donate now. If you leave us your e mail address here we will send you a reminder when the Appeal goes live.

Thank you.

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!

Theraplay in Nepal

With a vital training input from volunteer consultant Debbie Mintz, ChoraChori has started using theraplay as a powerful therapeutic tool at its child trauma management centre in Kathmandu.

In the past week ChoraChori has admitted a ninth victim of child rape to its child trauma management facility in Kathmandu. The task of therapeutic management of children who have experienced almost unbelievable horrors, including at Indian “children’s shelters”, is a daunting one. Our local staff are very highly trained but remain open to new therapeutic approaches that can help them meet the challenge of restoring children’s confidence in themselves and in humanity. Accordingly, we have been delighted to receive the very timely British volunteer consultant support of Debbie Mintz who has trained staff in the technique of theraplay.

Theraplay is a proactive, intensive, relationship-focused therapy, modelled on the natural patterns of early healthy interactions between parents and infant; the kind that lead to secure attachment and lifelong good mental health. Theraplay is uniquely suited to the treatment of complex trauma in children because the model focuses on developing a secure base, strong attachments, concrete guidance, support and nurturing. These are the foundations from which a child can utilise natural reparative mechanisms, address their traumatic history, and have a restorative experience.

Whilst theraplay treatment is often carried out with children and their parents, it is very suitable for use with children whose primary relationships have broken down. With an attuned therapist guiding the child sequentially through phases of treatment, safety and security are first established in the relationship, allowing trauma to be addressed directly, and finally allowing social reconnection with others. Theraplay functions to create a sense of safety for the child by anchoring them in a nurturing, safe, and structured relationship, thus addressing attachment concerns first. Once children establish a sense of feeling connected to one important other, the trauma work can proceed with greater ease since the emotional foundation is set.

The benefit has been immediate and dramatic. Debbie writes:

I have been in Nepal for almost two weeks now and my experiences have not necessarily met my expectations. Teaching the therapists here to use theraplay as a part of their therapeutic model was a pleasure and easier than I expected. They have a natural warmth, compassion and intuition that makes them ideally suited to the attachment-focused theraplay model. Beginning theraplay sessions with the children has been deeply moving and has not taken the course I expected at all. The usual curiosity that I see in children in the UK is very much present, but the natural resistance that often comes with it is not. I will have to think more about why this is, but my initial instinct is that these children are so desperate for safety and nurture that having found physical care and security with the dedicated staff at ChoraChori, they have almost been waiting for the engagement and nurture of theraplay. We have already seen remarkable results. Within the first week children unexpectedly and spontaneously shared previously undisclosed traumatic experiences of the most severe nature to their trusted therapists. This seems to have come much more speedily than expected on the safe foundations that the close and attuned interactions of theraplay have provided.

ChoraChori is making a very strong start into an area of childcare where few organisations and charities wish to venture; it is just too difficult, too harrowing and too demanding of a long term commitment. But alongside our partner Unity in Health we are laying the foundations of a therapeutic service that is so badly needed in Nepal given the scale of the problem that we need to address.

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.

 

 

Siblings reunited!

ChoraChori reunites displaced Nepali children with their families, but for once they have also reunited runaway siblings.

In an earlier post we told how in late April the ChoraChori rescue team had repatriated 11 Nepali children from shelters at Muzzafarpur, Bihar, north India. On that particular operation we had hoped to rescue a further six children from a different shelter at Darbanga but we had been unable to overcome bureaucratic hurdles. Those six children were finally brought home to Nepal last week, freeing them from de facto imprisonment. See the backdrop to the accompanying picture.

The boys arrived late at night at our transit shelter in Kathmandu and were straight away served a hot meal at the end of their long journey. But one of them, Umesh, was in for a surprise. For in walked his little seven year old sister, Rupu, whom we’d brought back from the previous rescue. He thought that after they became separated in India he’d never see her again and he was reduced to tears (see title picture).

The really hard work begins now. These siblings fled to India to escape an abusive alcoholic stepfather, their father in prison for murder. We will have to investigate how we can find alternative, safe, long term care arrangements for Umesh and Rupu, ideally elsewhere within the extended family.

 

 

No justice for child rape victims in Nepal – quite the opposite

Child rape victim betrayed in Nepal

After she was raped Radhika (name changed) sought support from village elders. It is hard to comprehend the decision that the elders took, supporting the rapist rather than the victim.

At the end of last month 15 year old Radhika felt very happy as she was returning home from a marriage ceremony. It had been a lovely celebration. In life, she had a great deal to look forward to, having just completed her grade 10 examinations. But as she was about to enter her house she was grabbed by a man who dragged her off to a nearby field. Stifling her cries for help with her shawl, he raped her three times.  No one heard the commotion as others had gone to the wedding too. It was only when Radhika’s eleven year old brother came looking for her that her assailant ran off. Radhika’s parents were away at the time as her mother was having an operation. So for five days she didn’t have their support and was too frightened to tell anyone what had happened. Eventually she confided in an aunt.

After his return, the girl’s father appealed for justice to the all-male “panchayat“, the village assembly. After three days the panchayat ruled unanimously that Radhika should marry her attacker. The committee members reasoned that there was no alternative as no one else would want to marry a rape victim and, conveniently, both victim and assailant were single. Worse still, Radhika’s father would have to pay her attacker a dowry of 300,000 rupees (£2,000), negotiated down by her father from an original suggestion of 500,000 rupees. The father felt that he had no alternative but to comply with the ruling for fear of being thrown out of the village.

Radhika’s family are not well-off – her father sells cosmetics from a roadside stall. He asked his neighbours for a loan but few would help him. In the end he had to sell his land to raise the dowry. A date of 12th May was set for the wedding with the father due to pay the rapist four days beforehand. However when he went to the rapist’s home he found that both he and his father had gone missing. At this point he did what he should have done in the first place and went to the police, filing a formal complaint against his daughter’s attacker. He also contacted the local media, telling them “I have been belittled by everyone because I am poor. They didn’t allow me to make decisions and I had to agree to what they said. But now I will not tolerate this and I will fight for my daughter’s rights. I need everyone’s help in this.”

In this case, “everyone” has included ChoraChori in Nepal. As it is too dangerous for Radhika to remain in her own village (witnesses to crime can go missing), we have admitted her to our refuge in Kathmandu where she is receiving support through our child trauma management centre. We will do all that we can to track down her assailant and bring him to justice. The panchayat has realised its mistake in that it should not have ruled on a criminal case and has promised to support us in finding the attacker. Meantime Radhika can stay with us for as long as is necessary and we will ensure that she has a chance to complete her education.

Radhika is the third child rape victim that we have admitted to our refuge in the past three weeks. We are investigating the circumstances of nine other cases, one of whom is an eight month old baby. Last week a ChoraChori field team successfully disrupted a child marriage ceremony that was being rushed through with an £800 dowry. And the next day directed the police to arrest another child rapist who had returned from India, thinking it was safe to do so.

If you would like to join us in helping Radhika and her family, please donate using the button below – and share. Thank you.

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A fairy tale ending for Bikram?

Displaced Nepali boy Bikram overjoyed to find his family roots.

When ChoraChori field staff took Bikram to Lamjung District this week to trace his family he was in for some surprises.

In December 2015 twelve year old Bikram Dulal wasn’t at all convinced that he wanted to return to Nepal. He was one of 29 children that ChoraChori was repatriating after rescuing them from hideous “children’s shelters” in Delhi. But Bikram had very little to return to. Or so he thought.

He came originally from a village in hilly Lamjung District, several hours’ drive to the west of Kathmandu. When he was four years old his father had gone off in search of work and just disappeared. His mother then left Bikram and his sister with her father and went her own way. Unfortunately his grandfather was an alcoholic and, neglected, Bikram drifted into a life on the streets. He roamed around the District town of Besisahar for several years, stealing when necessary, before he and some other boys decided they would try their luck in India. That journey ended with imprisonment in the children’s shelter in Delhi.

ChoraChori always tries to reunite children with their families and Bikram’s case proved to be one of the more difficult ones. This explains why he has been with us for just over two years. He maintained that he knew nothing about his father’s side of the family and that he had nothing to return to in Lamjung. It took a lot of convincing for him to set off on Wednesday this week with ChoraChori staff Shailaja and Anila to try and trace his family.

The trip involved a lot of detective work and some good fortune. First they found his mother’s sister who was working in a café in Besisahar. She directed them to the mother’s family home but en route they met Bikram’s maternal grandfather. It was 1 p.m. and he was already drunk. However he was able to tell the team where Bikram’s father’s family lived, a village called Kunchha. There they found the family home where Bikram met his grandmother (pictured above) and discovered that his real surname was Ghaire, not Dulal. He also met his aunt who was able to tell him that his sister was staying with another aunt in a different town. Bikram’s father had been the only son so Bikram was now the owner of a small plot of land (pictured left)! Everyone was overjoyed at seeing him again as indeed was Bikram at the interactions.

We have agreed that Bikram should return to our refuge to allow him to complete his Grade 6 at the local school. After that he can return to his family where his late father’s cousin will look after him with a little support from us to cover educational expenses. His family will also follow up obtaining his citizenship papers and inheritance rights.

What a result!

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!

Rescue from Varanasi

Kamala (green) and her father being counselled by ChoraChori-Nepal refuge manager, Rita Mokhtan (centre).

Varanasi is famous throughout India as a focus for pilgrims and tourists alike. Indeed, with its 2,000 temples it is known as the spiritual capital of India. But the ChoraChori-Nepal field team has just been there for another reason; to bring a girl trafficking victim home.

Sixteen year old Kamala (name changed) arrived at our Kathmandu refuge at midnight three days ago. It was the end of a long journey that began at the start of last year. At that time she was living at home in Rautahat, a District in south-central Nepal. She and a number of girls had been in touch by mobile with a boy who was encouraging them to join him in Kathmandu. Only Kamala decided to run away and join him, enticed by his proposal of marriage.

But once in Kathmandu the boy locked her in a room while he went to work in a bag factory. Soon afterwards they travelled to Nawalparasi, another border District, where again the boy locked her up while he sold ice lollipops on the street. From there they crossed the border in Uttar Pradesh and ended up in Varanasi. At this point Kamala begged to return home but the boy beat her and left saying he would return with a bus ticket. He never came back. The local Child Welfare Committee found out about Kamala’s predicament and admitted her to a girls’ hostel. Then they contacted ChoraChori-Nepal asking for our help with repatriation.

We managed to trace Kamala’s family without too much difficulty and her father and uncle travelled with our staff member Pratap Titung to secure her release.  At our Kathmandu refuge we have conducted health checks and counselled the family. Initially Kamala’s parents were saying that they would not accept her back home. Instead she would stay with an uncle pending marriage as soon as possible. However they have now come around to accepting her back with them, recognising that the girl has been a victim rather than a delinquent. Our next step is to find the boy and bring him to justice as this has been a case of trafficking.

Sadly, this is a story we hear all to often, with vulnerable girls being tempted by false promises. ChoraChori-Nepal is the only Nepal-based organisation that goes into India to retrieve and reintegrate them, giving girls like Kamala a second chance.

 

Return to the Kathmandu refuge

A failed attempt at child reunification

ChoraChori has returned most of the children it has rescued from India to their families. Usually parents and siblings have greeted returnees with open arms; this was the case with Bibash in my previous post.  Occasionally, and in spite of our best efforts, family reunification doesn’t work out and we have to consider returning a child to our Kathmandu refuge for long term care. Khem (name changed) is a case in point.

Running away from home

Like so many of the children ChoraChori helps, Khem had a very difficult upbringing. He was born in Dhangadhi, in the far west of Nepal, the son of his father’s second wife. She developed an alcohol problem and left home when Khem was very little, whereabouts still unknown. Soon afterwards his father’s first wife returned with her three children and Khem’s problems deepened. His father went to work in Mumbai and essentially Khem’s grandmother looked after him. She protected him as best she could from his abusive stepmother.

Eventually Khem had had enough and he ran away, stealing money from his home and from neighbours to fund his trip into India. He ended up in a children’s home in Delhi, from where ChoraChori rescued him in March 2016. We returned him to his family last October. It seemed to our field staff at the time that he could expect enough family support but this hasn’t happened.

A tough family visit

When they visited the family last week ChoraChori field staff members Yogesh (top right) and Pratap were shocked by Khem’s circumstances. He wasn’t attending school and living under the same roof as 24 other members from his extended family, including four uncles. The domestic environment was tense in the extreme, with Khem’s grandmother and stepmother bickering during the visit itself. Khem’s stepmother perceives his mother as being the source of the family’s problems and calls Khem a thief. Indeed, this is how the broader community sees him after his earlier thefts. No neighbour allows him into their home. Khem’s father is still working in Mumbai but the money he sends home isn’t enough to look after his children and send them to school.

Actually, Khem’s stepsister has admitted that he has been well-behaved since he returned to the family. But memories are long and Khem seems to have little future in his family and village under such a burden of stigma. Yogesh and Pratap noted that he was very quiet during the visit although he had been smart and outgoing while staying at our Kathmandu refuge. As they were leaving the family, Khem asked Yogesh and Pratap if he could return to Kathmandu.

The challenge for ChoraChori

These days children’s homes in Kathmandu are criticised for how they institutionalise children who could be better supported within their families and communities. Most of the time this criticism is entirely valid. Especially since opportunists set up homes just to raise money rather than to care for children. But here we have an example of how family reunification and support is doomed to failure, not helped by the remoteness of so many villages. Under these circumstances a refuge can provide an invaluable safety net when there are no other options.

Khem will be returning to our Kathmandu refuge. This is an expensive long term care requirement that hopefully we can cover through child sponsorship. Even then there is a significant risk. For during his earlier stay Khem and another boy ran away for a day and he could well do so again. For we don’t keep children behind bars as per the Indian “children’s shelters”. When this happens, as is the case from time to time, we have the worry of their welfare while still being our responsibility.

But let’s hope we can turn this boy’s life around. If you feel you can help, either with a donation or as a sponsor, please do e mail me on [email protected]

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