How do we respond to the challenge of COVID – through the three C’s of Creativity, Commitment and Collaboration!

You might be familiar with the above image that appeared in a seminal article from the Nepali Times of June 2018 and in many of my subsequent communications and presentations. Our strategy in addressing this dreadful state of affairs was to aim to take the fight against child rape as close to the point of crime as possible. At the start of this turbulent year, we were planning to set up a regional office in southeast Nepal and, in due course (subject to funding), also one in southwest Nepal.

As the first step in this strategy, I visited Dhanusha District (of which Janakpur is the capital) in February this year with a view to setting up a field office with a girls’ shelter and training centre. That was where I first met with the outstanding Mithila Wildlife Trust NGO. We agreed at that visit not to rush in with establishing a presence but instead to work towards building community confidence and networks. Many people in these rural areas are justifiably wary of outsiders.

That confidence building happened in a way that we could not have anticipated – because of COVID. The Mithila Wildlife Trust proved to be outstanding in delivering our lockdown food relief to 28,000 people across 15 Districts of southeast Nepal. The very same districts where child rape is rampant. This was a remarkable display of commitment. In parallel, we have been creative in setting up a new social enterprise, Lily’s Leaves, as one of our two partners in Kathmandu (the other being the highly acclaimed Himalayan Climate Initiative). Lily’s Leaves is operating our girls’ hostel and tailoring/jewellery workshops while providing mental health and livelihoods outreach to Province 2, southeast Nepal.

Our objectives are ambitious and are growing all the time but how do we manage to meet those given that ChoraChori has seen a 50% drop in income this year and the loss of funding partners whose support had hitherto seemed rock-solid? The answer lies in the C of collaboration.

Therefore, I am very pleased to announce that have set up new partnerships with two other small registered UK charities that have a specific interest in the same geographical area. These are Our Sansar and Little Feet. Our Sansar is already operating in Province 2 with a boys’ shelter for street children in Birgunj, further to the west of Janakpur. This week, we have agreed, in principle, on a joint venture between Our Sansar and ChoraChori with 50:50 funding of the operation of a new boys’ shelter and (separate) girls’ shelter in Janakpur. These could open their doors as early as January, but no later than February. Little Feet will be contributing to programme sustainability as they sponsor the care of individual children, should long-term care become necessary (sadly, this is almost inevitable for a few abuse victims).

Very often, we hear the comment that charities should cooperate more to pool resources and work more efficiently and cost-effectively. That’s what we’re doing. With our undimmed commitment, creativity and collaboration, this coalition will be unstoppable.