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!

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.

 

 

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]

A ChoraChori home visit

Following up Bibash

Nepali boy Bibash with his parentsIn December 2015 ChoraChori repatriated fifteen year old Nepali boy Bibash Tamang along with 23 other children in a major child rescue operation.  Our field staff who reunited Bibash with his family the following January returned last week to see how he was getting along.

Why did he leave home?

Bibash’s family lives in Kanchanpur, the most westerly of Nepal’s 75 Districts. It takes 15 hours to get there by car, much longer by bus. His father, Durgalal, is blind while his mother, Phulmaya, is disabled through a leg deformity. Bibash told us that he became tired of his friends at school teasing him about his parents’ disabilities (Nepal can be a harsh place in this regard) so he left home to seek a better life in India. He crossed the border near his home at a spot that is a notorious smuggling spot. But his dreams came to an abrupt end when the Indian police picked him up to then spend several months in a dreadful Indian “children’s shelter”. ChoraChori’s intervention secured his freedom and return to Nepal shortly afterwards.

Why did ChoraChori return Bibash to his family?

Although Bibash’s parents are disabled and live in a small house they are not totally destitute by any means. For they own six khatta (2,028 square metres) of land which is farmed on their behalf as they are unable to till the land. This works under the Nepali Aadhiya system (aadhi means half) whereby the farmer and landowner divide the produce 50:50.  He also has a government disability allowance of 600 rupees (£4-5 per month) and supplements his income by acting as a “witch doctor” from time to time. We decided that with a 10,000 rupee (£80) grant from ChoraChori could support Bibash back into education. This is a much cheaper option than keeping him in our Kathmandu refuge. And of course he is back with his family where he really belongs.

How is he faring at school?

Bibash is currently studying in the eighth grade at the local Sri Durga Secondary School. His uncle, Dan Bir Moktan, happens to be one of his teachers. He tells us that Bibash has been very applied and one day aspires to join the British Army. He knows that to do that he’ll at least have to pass the 10th grade School Leaver’s Certificate (and a bit more besides!). But we will continue to support him up until this point at least.

Bibash’s father said to our field staff: “You have provided my son with a second chance at life. We are forever indebted to you. Like any parent, we do not expect anything from Bibash except for him to have a brighter future”.

Child sponsorship

Please consider helping a Nepali boy like Bibash, either at the refuge or back with their families, through our child sponsorship scheme. To find out more, just contact me on [email protected]

 

The way to Mahendranagar

On the bus to Mahendranagar

The Way to Mahendranagar

After rescue and rehabilitation of trafficked and displaced children, ChoraChori’s main aim is to reunite them with their families. Field staff member Yogesh Dhami is currently on a reunification mission in west Nepal.

Boy on a Bike

displaced children

Reunification in Nepalgunj

In December we posted about Sudip. We took him into our care after the Nepal police found him cycling around Godawari on a rickety bike asking for directions to Mahendranagar. He’d been in domestic service – enslaved – with his cousin but had escaped. Sudip was desperate to return to his grandmother. The trouble was that Mahendranagar was almost 350 miles away. This involves a 15 hour car journey (much longer by bus). It’s taken us a little while to trace his grandmother and our small team has had major commitments over the past couple of months. But today he’s finally on his way home with Yogesh and two other children. One of these is a child whom we brought back from India in the mass rescue in March.

Reunification of displaced children is very time consuming. This is not only in terms of finding families and researching their circumstances. We of course have to ensure the safety and welfare of the reunited children. But also we have to rely on public transport. Yogesh is travelling by bus, stopping off en route in Nepalgunj to reunite another child with his sister and brother in law. He can expect to be away for five very uncomfortable days. But this is what we do and epitomises our values in going to great lengths – and distances – for even just one child (or in this case, three).

Increased capacity

The return of these three children brings the number staying at our transit refuge down to 24. A few days ago I’d have written that even with this drop in numbers we still didn’t have room to take on another major rescue for the foreseeable future. However, today I am delighted to report that we have acquired a former old people’s home that lies just down the way from our refuge and trauma management centre. This provides us with potentially a further 50 bed spaces. We still have the challenge of funding the cost of another rescue and subsequent care. With our sights firmly set on rescuing girls from the sex trade in India,we can only hope that a major longterm donor gets behind us.

Meantime, we are relying on our regular loyal supporters to keep our whole operation afloat. Please help us out using the button below!

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ChoraChori returns first group of rescued Nepalese children to their families

ChoraChori conducts medical checks on rescued Nepalese children at its Kathmandu refugeRescued Nepalese children returned to families

On the 17th March 2017 ChoraChori brought 33 trafficked and displaced Nepalese children back to Nepal. See this link. Working in conjunction with Nepal’s Central Child Welfare Board, we freed them from captivity in dreadful conditions at two children’s shelters in Bihar, north India. Since then we have been conducting basic medical checks on the children and, where necessary, providing essential medical care. We’ve also been finding out more about the children’s circumstances and how they ended up in India. And this past week we’ve successfully reunited the first nine of the returnees with their families.

Nepal’s Musahar community – the rat-catchers

These first nine children are from the Musahar caste. This word means “rat-catcher” or “rat-eater”. This caste lies within the “untouchable” community and the Musahar population straddles the border between India and Nepal. See this description of the Indian Musahar from Wikipedia. The 2014 Nepal census records 234,490 Musahar as living in Nepal. Their name stems from the belief that the people were so poor that they caught rats for food. That may not longer be the case but the Musahar still lead tough lives and experience terrible discrimination. As untouchables they are kept at the margins of society and may not share the same space as higher caste people. They undertake the most menial work and that includes, like their Bihari counterparts, going to north Indian States to find agricultural labour.

Caught in a trap

The nine children we returned to their homes in Siraha District told us of how, ironically, Musahar children find themselves in a trap. They have to attend separate schools, segregated from other children. Their school offered classes only up to the 5th grade. Further education would have involved transfer to a mixed caste school and that wasn’t allowed. So in desperation the children set off as a group to work  in a pizza shop in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Relatives who were working there already promised them a salary of 5,000 Indian rupees (£60) per month. The children left home with their parents’ permission but en route the Indian police intercepted them. The authorities placed them in Darbhanga children’s shelter where ChoraChori eventually rescued them.

Now these reunited children have no interest in education – it’s not available anyway. Instead they want to find work in Nepal or, when they are older, as migrant labour in the Middle East. One of the nine even wants to return to India once his citizenship papers are complete.  However bleak their prospects in life might be, at least these Nepalese children have the chance of a fresh start after their appalling experience as captives at Darbhanga children’s shelter.

Child trafficking

We are still researching the circumstances of the other rescued Nepalese children. Already there seems to be a significant child trafficking element involved. For obvious reasons we’ll not share anything on this while our investigations are underway. Also, two children are runaways from a Buddhist monastery in south India. They allege that they were being thrashed by the monks. This is not the first time that we have come across this allegation arising from a most unlikely place and this too requires our further research.

ChoraChori in the Nepali Times

Nepalese children captiveYesterday the Nepali Times published a powerful report on our joint operation with the Central Child Welfare Board. You can read this article and view the associated film by clicking on the image to the left.

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It’s as easy as clicking the button below. And just now we badly need your support to allow our vital work to continue. We have to rescue, rehabilitate and reunite many more Nepalese children from India. And there’s so much follow up required from this operation alone, including finding Nepalese child traffickers.

Donations can be made in through this secure system and in any major currency (BT MyDonate back converts £ donations into the donor’s own currency). And if you are a UK taxpayer Gift Aid can be added on automatically. U.S. donors can make tax efficient donations through GlobalGiving. Many thanks!

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ChoraChori rescues 33 Nepali kids from two Indian orphanages

ChoraChori rescues 33 Nepali kids in Bihar!

The picture above shows Narayan Bhatta thanking us for rescuing his son, Mahesh, along with 32 other Nepali kids from two children’s homes in India. Read more

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