Final words on “As a Tiger in the Jungle” – and the future challenge for ChoraChori

Nepal performers Aman Tamang and Renu Ghalan in circus performanceBetween April and June 2019, contemporary circus show “As a Tiger in the Jungle” enjoyed a hugely successful tour of top venues across England and Wales, including the Glastonbury Festival. Nepalese performers Aman and Renu have now returned to Nepal but leave behind a powerful legacy of memorable performances and poignant messages.

Through “As a Tiger in the Jungle” Aman and Renu shared their experience of being trafficked from Nepal into slavery as “child performers”. See this previous blog post that gives the detail of this remarkable production. Between performances, they would take time out to give interviews on television and radio, ensuring that their message wasn’t confined only to those who attended the shows. Click on the image above to see their appearance on BBC Southeast during their visit to Brighton.

In May they laid on a special charity performance at Stratford Circus in London in support of ChoraChori’s Big Give summer appeal. Afterwards, ChoraChori Founder Philip Holmes addressed the audience in which he reflected on his organisation’s previous rescue work of Philip Holmes, Founder ChoraChorihundreds of children, including Aman and Renu, and how the contemporary circus training had started out in 2011. Then he called for public support for the greater challenge that lies ahead, as ChoraChori tackles the burgeoning issue of child rape in Nepal. When you read press articles such as this one from last week’s Kathmandu Post, it brings sharply into focus just how much needs to be done – even in ensuring appropriate police management of survivors. You can see an extract of Philip’s speech by clicking on his image above.

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ChoraChori opens silver jewellery workshop

USA jeweller Nancy Edwards joins ChoraChori as a volunteer consultant at its new jewellery training workshopChoraChori is delighted to announce that it is setting up a new silver jewellery workshop at its Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre (CRRC) in Nepal.

At our CRRC we provide protection, support, education and training to children from a range of backgrounds. These include trafficked and displaced Nepalese children whom we have rescued from India, child rape survivors from Nepal itself and vulnerable girls from deprived rural communities where trafficking and sexual assault are endemic. Our in-house vocational training, that began in August 2018, has up until now focussed primarily on tailoring training. But this month, in a Joint Venture with our great friends at U.S. nonprofit Her Future Coalition, we have opened a silver jewellery workshop that will provide training and an income in a shiny new discipline.

The arrangement with Her Future Coalition is that we will provide the workshop space, materials and beneficiaries and they will provide the professional expertise. The latter will be through visiting volunteer consultants from the USA and through trainers who will be seconded from time to time from the existing Her Future Coalition’s workshop in Calcutta. We are very pleased that the first of the visiting consultants, Nancy Edwards, will join us next month. Nancy (pictured above) left her career as a research scientist to pursue her passion as a designer and entrepreneur in jewellery. Ten years later, she is now a highly experienced trainer (including in metalsmithing) who works with other designers as well as creating her own wonderful pieces. However, she says that her most rewarding work so far has been to provide this training to vulnerable girls through Her Future Coalition.

The workshop will have twelve bench spaces on offer to girls who have already received training through Philip’s previous programme with The Esther Benjamins Trust (of which he is the Founder) and to new trainees. This will allow the workshop to produce jewellery for immediate sale while at the same time providing training at advanced and beginners’ levels. The initial workforce will consist of seven young women, five of whom are deaf. In Nepal deafness is highly stigmatised, seen as punishment for misdeeds in a previous life. Deaf people are often nicknamed “lato” which means “stupid”. Our experience has been that, on the contrary, perhaps able to work without auditory distractions, deaf workers are highly skilled and focussed and become wonderful jewellers. The two other women are from vulnerable families – their siblings were trafficked into India. The remaining five places will be reserved for rape survivors, to offer them therapeutic and ultimately income generation training.

This workshop is but a small step in a fascinating direction as we embed a skill within the local community that can offer training and employment to many more in the future. The programme’s launch was made possible through a combination of funds raised in our summer Big Give appeal and from our friends at Nexus International School in Singapore.

ChoraChori’s legal team fighting child rape cases in Nepal

ChoraChori’s support to child rape victims in Nepal includes ensuring that they obtain justice.

ChoraChori provides support to child rape victims and their families in Nepal that includes protection, material support (children from low caste families are often vulnerable through extreme poverty) and psychosocial counselling at our Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre in Kathmandu. But an equally important element is ensuring that victims are able to access justice and that legal cases are prosecuted properly in the courts rather than being “resolved” through illegal financial settlements between the rapist and the victim’s family. Victims may come under huge pressure to take this option by threats or even with the encouragement of NGOs or the police. See this link.

In Nepal the punishment for rape can be quite severe; indeed, a couple of months ago a child rapist was given a life sentence with the instruction that life should mean life. The challenge is to get cases registered in the first place and to ensure witness protection and support through the legal procedures and in the courtroom itself. We have two staff lawyers who have been dealing with 16 rape cases, five of these being gang rapes. So far there have been nine convictions (all involving jail sentences), the most recent being on the 17th March when a rapist was given an eight year prison sentence and ordered to pay 50,000 rupees (£350) to his victim.

Nevertheless, to see successful convictions our legal team has to be prepared for postponement of hearings, procedural failings and ineptitude. But his is nothing compared to how victims – traumatised children – still have to run the gauntlet of intrusive questioning in public situations and in hostile male-dominated environments such as at police stations and in the courts themselves. This parallels the experience in India where there is a risk of rapists escaping justice through little girls being unable to describe what has happened to them either because of the trauma or through lack of the necessary vocabulary. See this report on ganda kaam (“dirty work”) that has appeared in the India media. This relates to the Muzaffarpur children’s shelter sex abuse scandal, a location from which we rescued Nepali girls last year.

So much more needs to be done in both countries to ensure that child rape victims are dealt with sensitively and that justice prevails. And through our legal support we also need to make the point that rapists cannot act with impunity.

Extra support required for ChoraChori’s Kathmandu refuge

Home again!

ChoraChori’s Founder, Philip Holmes, is running the London Marathon to raise funds for additional care needs at the ChoraChori refuge in Kathmandu.

What do you buy a masochist for Christmas?

Today my brand new Garmin Forerunner 30 runner’s watch tracked my time, distance, calories etc in a training run for this year’s London Marathon. My strategy during training is to ignore speed and distance in favour of building up endurance. Today’s goal was to run for two hours. It was bitterly cold, but the sun was shining and 2 hours and 22 minutes later (sustained by one bottle of raspberry flavour Lucozade Sport – yuk) I’d completed just over half marathon distance without stopping. Factor in those notorious Devon hills – the climb out of Thurlestone was particularly memorable in this regard – and that time was pretty reasonable. My watch even grudgingly told me that my fitness level was “good”. The cheek of it.

No pain, no gain and I am putting myself through this to raise funds for ChoraChori to meet additional care costs in Nepal that have arisen this week. I’d thought we were OK for a while following our very successful Big Give Christmas Challenge (thanks if you donated!). But yesterday my friend and colleague at ChoraChori-Nepal, Bhaskar Karki, e mailed me to say that he needed to recruit additional staff members, adding to our already overstretched budget. The reason for that was that in November we admitted two very traumatised little girls who are both rape victims. One of them had been thrown out of the family home by her stepfather and after months of sleeping rough she seems to be semi-feral. Although only nine, she is already grey-haired. Bhaskar tells me that, such is the scale of these girls’ needs, they require one-to-one care, 24/7, hence his additional staffing request.

I am very aware that we have taken up a challenge that has taken us into turbulent, uncharted waters where few others would dare to venture. And that challenge necessitates a long term commitment that other NGOs would baulk at. But this is what we do and, historically, we’ve done that very well. Now we are dealing with unprecedented degrees of child trauma and if we have to find the funds for one-to-one care then so be it. A carer costs in the region of £110 per month and for two highly disturbed girls we need 4 carers for 24 hour cover. £440 times 12 comes to £5,280 which is my revised target in this year’s Marathon.

Please support me and the hard-pressed local staff in Kathmandu by using the button below that will take you straight to my online sponsorship page. The site accepts donations in any major currency that will convert into sterling.

Very many thanks.


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Working with Unity In Health

ChoraChori is very proud to work with another small UK-registered charity, Unity in Health, in its management of child trauma in Nepal.

“Why don’t small charities pool their resources rather than having a situation of lots of them doing their own thing? Couldn’t cooperation, even merger, lead to economy of scale?” This is a commonly heard challenge and one that ChoraChori accepts up to a point. Whilst the identities and heritage of small grassroots charities can be a source of strength in themselves (engendering a family spirit within the team and its supporters), collaboration can certainly lead to reduction of waste and a tremendous synergy.

A case in point is our partnership with Unity In Health, which works alongside us in managing child trauma and mental health issues at our Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre (CRRC) in Kathmandu. Unity in Health has a central role in clinical support to our team at the child trauma management centre by Skype and through visits. Indeed, the Founder of Unity In Health, Joao Marcal-Grilo is in Nepal at the time of writing. His charity also covers the salary costs of one of the key staff members at the centre who will be heading up a Unity In Health inspired follow-up programme in the coming time. And last month, following a successful fundraiser in Singapore, Unity In Health was able to buy a jeep that has become a shared asset, with ChoraChori able to use it for field visits and to transport beneficiaries between their homes and our centre.

To read more about Unity In Health, see this very well-written article that has just been published. Partnerships are the way ahead in 2019. In a previous post we described the forthcoming collaboration with The Soroptimist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland and we are working on a further exciting partnership at the time of writing (watch this space!).

Before you leave this page please visit our Christmas Appeal and be prepared to be amazed at how we’re getting along. Then leave a little gift and share!

The Big Give 2018

For the third successive year ChoraChori is taking part in The Big Give Christmas Challenge, our major annual fundraising drive.

At ChoraChori we began thinking about Christmas in June, searching for Trusts, corporates and individuals who’d be willing to make matching pledges towards this year’s Big Give Christmas Challenge. And we were very successful, building a “pot” of £30,000 ready to match online donations from supporters this week. The Challenge started today at noon and runs until noon on the 4th December during which time we hope to meet our overall target of £60,000 through the powerful incentive of gifts automatically doubling in value. These are funds that we so badly need to continue our child rescue and rehabilitation work in 2019, including providing support to child rape victims and their families.

This year the charity is benefiting from an online appeal by Nepalese-Ukrainian actress Amrita Acharia. Amrita, has Amrita Acharia, Nepal, ChoraChoriacted in HBO’s “Game of Thrones”, UK TV series “The Good Karma Hospital”, the Norwegian TV series “Acquitted” and in the forthcoming animation “The Missing Link”. She has been very ready to provide her support to a charity and a cause that are very close to her heart. Amrita says “One of the biggest things that gave me the chance to pursue my career was the fact my father was educated, and he made sure we were educated and taught self-respect. When we moved away from Nepal, it was the fruit of the education that gave us stability and the chance to follow our dreams in less stable careers. I love it that ChoraChori works on empowering young girls after these experiences and gives them tools rather than just rescuing and dumping them in an orphanage”.

Amrita was born in Kathmandu but her family moved to England when she was six years old. She spent some of her early life in the Ukraine and attended High School in Norway where her father is an Obstetrician. Amrita is now looking forward to a long overdue return visit to Nepal at Christmas – her first in 16 years. In Kathmandu she’ll be joined by ChoraChori’s Founder, Lt Col Philip Holmes, for a New Year visit to ChoraChori’s facilities in Thaukel.

To see Amrita’s appeal and double your money in a gift to ChoraChori just click on the image!

 

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.

“She was this small”

The ChoraChori-Nepal field team is intervening in support of an impoverished Nepalese family whose 8 year old daughter, Chanda, was raped and murdered.

Her face wet with tears, a Nepalese mother holds her hand up for our field team. “She was this small” she said.

Last month the woman and her husband went out to a festival as part of the Dashain celebrations, the highlight of the Hindu calendar. While they were out, two men lured their daughter away with the promise of noodles and ten rupees. When the parents returned home they could only hope that their missing daughter had gone to visit relatives. But next morning Chanda’s body was found in a nearby paddy field.

The rapists were quickly identified as neighbours had seen the men returning home, muddied and drunk. The police arrested them and ChoraChori was notified of the family’s plight. They are from the historically downtrodden Madhesi community and live in a very dilapidated house (see cover picture) in the south of the country, not far from Janakpur. The father is a labourer, whose paltry earnings have to feed his wife, two surviving daughters and two sons, the youngest of whom is two. They are very poor, owning only a buffalo and one item of “furniture”, the bed pictured left. The family is in no financial position to engage in a legal battle to get justice for their daughter. That is often the way of it in Nepal’s southern plains where rape victims are frequently from low caste, very poor families. Rapists can be from higher castes and can buy their way off the hook.

ChoraChori acted quickly with our legal team attending court to ensure that the rapists’ application for bail was refused. They remain in judicial custody and we will support the case all the way to conviction. In this regard the local community is fully behind us as the assailants were already notorious for their criminal behaviour. Meanwhile we will fund the education of Chanda’s siblings, none of whom attend school, doing what we can to empower them in this way.

You can help too. Next week our Christmas Appeal begins with The Big Give which launches at noon on the 27th November. For one week all online donations towards our vital work in Nepal will double in value. But please don’t donate now! If you would like a reminder when the Appeal goes live just take a moment to register here.

Thank you.

Nepali Times on Theraplay

Earlier this month The Nepali Times gave our Theraplay activity some very welcome exposure in a major article. Our volunteer consultant, Debbie Mintz, asked if we could just provide some clarification via a letter to the Editor. 

Here is the link to the original article from the August 17th edition of the paper. Debbie’s excellent response is too long to be published so we are linking to this post in the comments section underneath the online version of the story.

Debbie writes:

“Dear Editor,

Thank you for sending your reporter Sewa to meet with the therapy team at ChoraChori and for taking an interest in the recent addition of Theraplay to the methods being used to help the rescued and traumatised children to build trusting bonds and heal from their horrendous ordeals.

Although Theraplay is new to Nepal, this evidenced-based therapy was developed in the 1960’s in the U.S., and is currently practiced in over 50 countries.

The model focuses on developing secure relationships, strong attachments, adult structure and support, and the sort of nurturing that is imperative for all children, and has often been lacking for traumatised children. Establishing a secure relationship with a trusted adult allows a child to access and utilise natural reparative mechanisms. Therefore, in Theraplay treatment an attuned therapist guides the child sequentially through the phases of treatment so that safety and security can be established in the relationship. Once a child feels connected to their therapist, the trauma work can proceed with greater ease since the emotional foundation is set, and the traumatic history of the child can then be addressed directly within therapy sessions. This is different from other types of therapies that are focused on the child’s ‘problems’, as building on the relationship itself will lead to positive change; Theraplay is about doing repair, not thinking or talking about it.

I would like to address one small aspect of your original article, which is about the use of touch in Theraplay. Touch is a normal, natural and positive aspect of a healthy parent/child relationship. Therefore, various types of touch are essential to Theraplay treatment, where the safety and needs of the child are always the central goal for the therapist. At ChoraChori we used the trauma protocol for sessions, where use of touch is planned and initiated with particular sensitivity to the needs of chronically abused and neglected children, or children who have suffered severe trauma. Physical contact is initiated slowly, with primary focus on establishing a safe, engaging and playful experience in sessions for the child. However, once this safety is established, respectful touch that meets the individual needs of the child is very important.

Therapeutic touch is important because children who have been physically or sexually abused have been touched in a way that is detrimental to their health and development, so it is the therapist’s job to establish a new and positive experience for the child, where careful and respectful use of touch is actively planned and assessed to promote the recovery, emotional development and self-esteem of the child. There is no risk of abuse in Theraplay sessions. The risk is rather that children who have only been exposed to abusive physical contact will either become completely avoidant of all touch, or will seek or expect abusive physical contact because that is all they know. Theraplay is one of the only relational therapies that directly addresses this, and is always carried out with the utmost purpose and care.

My experience of working with the therapists at ChoraChori in this area was wholly positive and very moving. I think that I can speak for the charity’s Clinical Director, Sailu Rajbhandari, and counsellor, Anila Dangol, when I say that they were astonished by the connection that using Theraplay provided, and by how quickly this happened.

Theraplay continues at ChoraChori, with me supporting Sailu, Anila and the rest of the team to keep developing their skills and confidence via Skype. I hope to return to Nepal soon to provide what help I can.”

Keep up the good work, Debbie and the Nepali Times!

Au revoir Debbie and David

Yesterday ChoraChori in Nepal held a farewell party for a husband and wife team whose impact upon our work has been nothing short of transformative.

For the past three weeks we have been benefiting from the volunteer inputs of Debbie and David Mintz from the UK. Their role has been to train and support the local staff, developing their capacity to do their jobs ever better. The impact has been dramatic as Debbie has trained our child trauma management centre staff in the powerful Theraplay technique that is new to Nepal and has now become central to our management of child rape survivors. When our tenth child rape survivor arrives at the centre on Friday the staff will be better prepared than ever to manage her trauma. As for David, he has introduced candle-making as a new strand to our income generation activity that is helping the girls from Jhapa who joined us at the end of last month.

All great things must come to an end, for now, and yesterday Debbie and David had an emotional farewell party when they were presented with the mandatory T shirts signed by all the staff and children. I expect these garments will never be washed.

Bon voyage and au revoir!

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