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.

 

 

ChoraChori rescues 11 Nepali children from India

Return to Nepal

Shailaja CM, the Operational Director of ChoraChori in Nepal, looks tired as she arrives at our Kathmandu refuge from her latest child rescue operation to India. These seven new children that she has retrieved brings the number of children that ChoraChori has rescued from India to 118.

This past week has been a very busy one for ChoraChori with 11 new children joining our refuge in Kathmandu.

The week began with our friends at ChildLine India in Gorakhpur bringing four displaced Nepali boys directly to our refuge in Kathmandu. Two of the boys have spent three years in India, one of them passing through three children’s shelters in that time. After they had settled in, our rescue team went to Bihar to retrieve some more children leaving refuge staff to care for the first four and begin the process of tracing their families. This has led to an early success with one of the four boys, who suffers from quite severe autism, being reunited. His father was very happy to accept him back; this is not always the case with disabled children.

The rescue team went to two centres in Bihar, north India, Chapra and Muzaffarpur. At Chapra they were able to secure the release of four more boys, three of whom are pictured above. Often children run away from family poverty, seeking a better life in India, but this does not seem to have been the case with these boys. One boy’s father owns two houses. It seems that these children almost left home on a whim or to get away from school. In any case, prospects for family reunification look very good. Another boy’s uncle had gone to Chapra previously to try and get his nephew and been turned away. It helps the process immensely when families show such prior motivation to find their children.

At Muzaffarpur Shailaja and her colleague, Anila, finally brought three Nepali girls to freedom. It has taken months of negotiation and three visits to achieve this result, overcoming what seemed at times like insurmountable bureaucracy. One of the girls is six years old and has spent three years in Indian children’s shelters. She fled to India with her older brother to escape an abusive stepfather. Her actual father was in prison for murder and this may still be his situation. Clearly cases such as this require more time and effort but these new refuge children are all in the best of care now.

We are very grateful to all those supporters who donated to us in The Big Give Christmas Challenge and in doing so have allowed this vital work to go forward.

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!

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.

 

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.

 

 

Child trauma management at the ChoraChori children’s refuge in Nepal

child trauma NepalMilan’s story

Child trauma can present itself almost immediately in the Nepali kids we rescue from India. For example, ChoraChori-Nepal refuge staff member Sujit Thapa remembers all too well how Milan (name changed) was on his first day after we repatriated him from India. Sujit says “He was a loner who looked very scared and traumatised, speaking to no one and not answering any questions. He was also very aggressive and attacked staff members several times. It was very difficult to manage him”.

A violent father

Milan became particularly aggressive if anyone asked him about his home or family. However after spending time in the healing environment of the refuge and receiving counselling sessions from our newly appointed psychosocial counsellor, Sailu Rajbhandari, he has begun to open up about his past. We found out why he has scars on his head and legs. For Milan’s father would be drunk every day and used to beat his mother, siblings and himself, on occasions using fire tongs. One day his mother couldn’t take this anymore and fled with Milan’s younger sister and brother. Her whereabouts are unknown. This left six year old Milan to endure another four years of violence before he too ran away, in his case across the border into the abyss of India.

Trauma management

Sujit continues: “Milan has changed a lot since his arrival at the refuge. Now I think he has started to accept the facts about his father and find a place for it. He still isn’t sharing his address though, perhaps out of fear of being returned there.” As you can see from the picture above his interactions with the other children are improving too.

Milan is one of the 110 Nepalese children whom ChoraChori-Nepal has rescued from India. Most have experienced some degree of child trauma, be it physical, psychological or sexual. If, like Milan, this has arisen at home and caused them to run away then of course we can’t return them to that situation. Instead we need to continue to care for them at our refuge, including providing education and training, until they are able to look after themselves. Our Child Trauma Management Centre, which is on the same site as the refuge, is central to that care.

In August we were delighted to appoint Sailu as the Clinical Director at the Centre. As a former lecturer at the Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO) in Kathmandu she is very well qualified to take up the challenge of managing child trauma cases. She has been getting to know the refuge children and conducting individual and group assessments. Also she has been training the care staff in how to deal with behavioural problems. After she has settled in we look forward to applying the healing power of art to complement her therapy.

Hope for the future

As it happens, Milan enjoys art and dancing. He has been inspired by two of the other boys starting a vocational training course as motorbike mechanics and hopes to follow in their footsteps. However these courses are quite expensive and we are keen to identify supporters who might be able to offer short term training sponsorships. Supporters whose investment can change a teenager’s life for good. If you can help, please drop me a line.

Lost for words

Naresh back in his village with his uncle, grandmother and ChoraChori field staff Yogesh Dhami (left)

Lost for words

ChoraChori aims to return the children it rescues from India to their families. This makes for emotional reunions. When we reunited Naresh with his grandmother two weeks ago she was quite overwhelmed (see picture). Indeed, we believe it to be unprecedented for a Nepali grandmother to be lost for words.

Naresh2

Naresh back in his village with his uncle, grandmother and ChoraChori field staff member Yogesh Dhami (left)

Village boredom

A range of push factors drive Nepali kids to run away from home and seek a better life in India. Often they are attempting to escape grinding rural poverty or domestic abuse. In Naresh’s case the push factor was boredom. His parents and three brothers had migrated to Karnataka, southwest India, when he was 11 years old. But Naresh decided to stay behind with his maternal grandparents as he wanted to study at the village school. After a year though this became too dull and one day he took what he thought would be his chance for a more interesting life. He “borrowed” his grandfather’s bicycle and set off on the pretext of selling firewood.

India

Naresh crossed the border at a place called Gaddachowki, not far from his home near Mahendranagar in the far west of Nepal. He told ChoraChori that no one at the Gaddachowki crossing point checks people who are riding bikes. Then he sold the firewood to buy some food, before cycling for two days straight to a town called Bareilly that lies about 100 km from the border. On his first night there he ate at a temple which was providing free food and slept on the streets. His second night’s food came courtesy of a Muslim festival that he stumbled upon. On the third day he sold the bicycle and used the money to board a train to Delhi.

En route Naresh stopped off at a place called Ambala where he worked as a gardener for about two weeks. He became bored there too so resumed his journey to Delhi. However the Indian NGO Salaam Baalak Trust spotted him arriving at the railway station and took him to a children’s shelter. He spent three months there before ChoraChori field staff came to his rescue in March 2016.

ChoraChori reunites him successfully

After Naresh’s grandmother finally found her words, she was able to share her delight at his return. Apparently Naresh’s father, who works in a metal factory in Karnataka, will be returning home soon to meet him. He’ll then decide whether or not to take Naresh back with him to rejoin his mother and siblings. Whatever happens, Naresh seems to have learned his lesson and is currently studying in the eighth grade, aspiring to become a doctor.

Child sponsorship

There are still 22 children remaining at the ChoraChori refuge in Kathmandu pending tracing of families and/or completing rehabilitation. If you can help us with a regular donation through child sponsorship please let me know on [email protected] Failing that, please help us with a one off donation towards our other facility, the newly built Child Trauma Management Centre, using the button below. All donations to his appeal are matched at 50%. In other words £10 becomes £15 with donations accepted in all major currencies.

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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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