Empowering Liza

ChoraChori has empowered 17 year old Liza from Dhanusha District, southeast Nepal, into taking action against those who gang-raped her.

When Liza (name changed) first came to ChoraChori’s Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre (CRRC) in June this year she was profoundly traumatised, withdrawn and suffering from panic attacks. For she had just been the victim of gang rape after having been abducted by four boys from a nearby village. During her ordeal she was held captive at the home of one of the culprits and then subsequently across the border at Muzaffarpur in Bihar, north India. During those 53 days she was beaten and raped every day before she managed to escape and return to Nepal. Her family reported the rape to the local police but they took no action. The danger wasn’t over for Liza and her family as one of the assailants came from a prominent local family and she was under threat to keep quiet.

At this point, ChoraChori found out about the case and immediately stepped in to support her. After we brought her to the safety of CCRC, it emerged that she also had a serious heart condition and was in very poor shape physically. Under our care she has received good food and medical care, psychosocial counselling in both individual and group sessions (title picture) and commenced vocational training on a basic tailoring course.

This has been transformative and our staff now report that she has a glow to her face and a ready smile.  She gained sufficient physical strength and confidence to be able to return to the court hearing in Janakpur, south Nepal, to give evidence. She was also able, for the first time, to name two of the other culprits as only one of them had been charged and arrested. The case is ongoing and complex, but ChoraChori’s legal team is fully behind her and the family in our bid to get the rapists the long jail sentences they deserve.

One of our goals for next year is to set up a regional girls’ shelter, office and field team in Dhanusha District. Sexual assault and rape is endemic in this part of Nepal and if we are to make the impact that we intend in the coming time we need to be closer to the point of need. Currently, our legal team and support services are 10-12 hours’ drive away and, clearly, that is highly unsatisfactory. You can help us with raising the seed money we need to set up this centre by donating using the button below. Our main Big Give appeal has just ended very successfully. But happily we managed to secure some late pledges that will still allow us to automatically double any gifts in the run up to Christmas – or noon on the 21st December to be precise. Many thanks!

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ChoraChori rescues displaced Nepalese children from Delhi

After a long time away from home, a ChoraChori field team has returned from Delhi to Kathmandu with seven rescued displaced Nepalese boys.

Success – at last – and after a very arduous trip to Delhi. Here is the anatomy of what happened to give you an idea of just how challenging a cross-border rescue operation can be.

  •    On the 17th November ChoraChori-Nepal Operational Director Shailaja CM and Deputy Director Roma Bhandaree left Kathmandu for the long road trip to Delhi. Their mission was to find as many displaced and trafficked Nepalese children as possible who were forgotten inside “children’s shelters” and bring them home.
  •    Upon arriving in Delhi they visited the Nepalese embassy to request an authorisation letter that would allow them to approach the Indian child welfare authorities to research stranded Nepalese children. The Embassy, as ever, was very cooperative and provided the letter.
  •    Armed with the letter, Shailaja and Roma visited ten Child Welfare Committees (CWC’s) over the ensuing three days – CWCs are responsible for child welfare within different parts of the city. Six of the Committees shared information straight away, four said that they would do so within a few days.
  •    Meantime, Shailaja and Roma began visiting the children’s shelters that they knew about and were authorised to visit. In total they found nine children who were keen to return home. Others were unwilling as they were runaways from broken homes and were not prepared to risk returning to step-parents (this is not a valid concern).
  •    Shailaja shared what she knew of the children’s addresses with the team in Kathmandu who successfully traced all of their families. Then ChoraChori-Nepal asked the Nepalese National Child Rights Council (NCRC) for permission to repatriate the children. The NCRC had to write to the Nepal Foreign Ministry to get it to instruct the Nepal Embassy in Delhi to issue a letter that would facilitate the repatriation. This latter process took five working days.
  •    Shailaja returned with the Embassy letter to the four CWC’s that were responsible for the nine children to obtain release paperwork, medical reports and escort orders. The CWCs were unable to release paperwork for two of the boys as their legal cases (one of bonded labour and one of parentage) were ongoing.
  •    On the 4th/5th December Shailaja and Roma left Delhi with seven boys to complete the 36-hour road trip to Kathmandu where the boys entered our new transit Boys’ Hostel opened in conjunction with Gandys Foundation. There they joined three other boys who had been rescued from just across the border at Gorakhpur a few days before. Reunifications can now start almost immediately, where appropriate. Clearly, some boys will require our future education and training support, but that’s fine.

Roma Bhandaree with the newly rescued boys on their way home to Nepal

This has been an exhausting trip and, on the face of it, in terms of “bangs for bucks” it has a low return in respect of numbers rescued. But we know that kids such as these boys live in dire conditions in these shelters and can remain there as de facto prisoners for years if no one comes looking for them. We will go to such lengths even for one lost child. No organisation does what we do with so much focus (understandably) on girls and for sure, no one does it better.

We need your help! Please donate now to our Big Give Christmas Appeal to allow our rescue work to continue using the button below. All donations before noon GMT on Tuesday 10th December will double in value. Shailaja, Roma and all of us will value your support and recognition.

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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.

Please do make a donation towards our vital work using the button below:

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ChoraChori update report, January – June 2019: “On fire”

ChoraChori can reflect upon a very, very positive first half of 2019 with remarkable progress in both the UK and Nepal.

Here is our update report that provides an excellent overview of our work and achievements at home and in Nepal. We have made a lasting difference to the lives of children and young people – like the graduates (pictured above) from our basic tailoring vocational training course. Huge thanks to our supporters without whom none of this would be possible!

Please note that we are now inviting pledges towards the Big Give Christmas appeal (sorry to mention Christmas in July – needs must). Before 31st August we need to find £25,000 in pledges from individuals, corporates and Trusts/Foundations that will provide a pot that can match online public donations during the appeal week that begins on the 3rd December. The minimum pledge is £100, with the pledge not payable until after the appeal ends on the 10th December. To make a pledge – and effectively double the impact of your donation – please visit this link.

Let’s ensure that this success continues!

 

Supporting Bibash

ChoraChori returns Nepali children to Nepal by the bus-load!

Regular readers may recognise the title picture as it shows a group of 29 boys whom ChoraChori rescued from Delhi in December 2015. All have now returned to their families or been moved on into work, but we continue to support them after repatriation. Children like Bibash.

Bibash was born in a village in Kanchanpur in Nepal’s far West. Growing up was tough as he was bullied and mocked by the other children for having a visually impaired father and a mother who had lost a leg. His frustration was taken out on his parents until eventually he ran away from home. At the age of 15 he ventured into the unknown when he crossed the border into India.

Before long, Bibash was picked up by the Indian authorities and placed in a grim “children’s shelter” in Delhi. But ChoraChori’s field team traced him and rescued him along with 28 other boys on Christmas Eve 2015. After his tough experiences in India, he was very glad to return home and expressed his desire to return to school. With ChoraChori’s support he is now in Grade 9 where he is doing well academically. Bibash wants to join the Army and to that end is close to gaining his black belt in karate!

His daily journey to school involved an hour’s walk each way in all weathers. So, ChoraChori recently bought him a bike and he’s very happy with that. Most interestingly, his parents say that he has become very polite towards them and is now a son to be proud of as he assumes family responsibilities.

The price of success is not necessarily that high in Nepal and we continue to transform children’s lives and possibilities through relatively modest, but targeted investments. But we are all too aware that there are still many kids like Bibash awaiting our rescue from India. We can only do that after we set up a new boys’ transit hostel in Kathmandu; we have had to suspend repatriations after we began taking child rape victims into our existing Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre and obviously the two beneficiary groups could not be accommodated on the same site.

We need your help! We have launched our Big Give summer appeal to help raise the funds we need for this new project and for new training opportunities for girls. Until the 28th May all online donations will double in value – one donation, twice the impact! Please use the button below to help us help more children like Bibash in the future. Many thanks!

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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.

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!

Rape at an Indian children’s shelter

In our blog post of 30th April we reported on our rescue of three Nepali girls from an Indian children’s shelter at Muzaffarpur. This followed months of negotiation and three visits to overcome what seemed at the time to be insurmountable bureaucracy. Now we know the reason for this obstructive behaviour. As we suspected, the shelter had something to hide. According to a media report in today’s Times of India eight staff members have been arrested on charges of sexual abuse and rape. Two men, one of whom heads up the NGO that runs the shelter and the other a member of the local Child Welfare Committee, have been charged with rape. It will take time for the full scale of the horror to be revealed as there were 46 (Indian) minors at the shelter who will need to be interviewed and counselled by the Indian authorities. However, media reports elsewhere suggest that the female staff were complicit too, forcing girls into same-sex activity.

ChoraChori has rescued a total of six Nepali girls from this shelter over the past year, four of whom are still being supported at our children’s refuge and trauma management centre in Kathmandu. Sadly, this is unlikely to be an isolated case which explains why our cross-border rescue programme is so vitally important.

Please help us to continue what we do by donating through the button below.

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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.

 

 

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