May 3, 2017 Philip Holmes

Son of The Thief

ChoraChori rescues former street kid with a story to tell

This is the story of Ramesh, a former street kid in both Nepal and India. ChoraChori rescued him in March this year after Ramesh completed a tough journey, both literally and metaphorically.

Gulmi

Gulmi District

Son of The Thief

Ramesh was born 17 years ago in Gulmi District, 350 km and 11 hours’ drive west of Kathmandu. As you can see from the adjacent picture, it’s a beautiful hilly area, well known within Nepal for coffee growing. But Ramesh’s upbringing was far from idyllic. For his father was a notorious thief who robbed many of his neighbours before eloping with another woman. Ramesh was so young at the time that he doesn’t even remember his father’s name. His mother, Sita, remarried but Ramesh’s life was no happier. His mother and stepfather argued constantly and in the eyes of the villagers Ramesh was stigmatised as “The Son of The Thief”. Eventually at age 10 Ramesh had had enough. He ran away from home and headed for Butwal, a dusty bustling major town that lay 100km to the south.

Life as a Kawadi

Butwal

The streets of Butwal

In Butwal Ramesh became a street kid, working as a “Kawadi”. This is someone who collects and sells garbage – usually plastic bottles. He earned £1.50 per day but this wasn’t enough to get by on. So after three months he started working as a kind of agent for the local bus service, earning 30 pence commission for every passenger he procured. By day he stayed at the station, by night at a local night shelter for street children. This led him into smoking and abusing glue like the other kids. However he made friends with some of the station staff and three months later a bus driver gave him a lift to what Ramesh hoped would be the excitement of Kathmandu.

In Kathmandu he became a street kid again. During the day he was a Kawadi, at night he slept on the steps of a temple in Basantapur Durbar Square. He’d become vulnerable to bullying and older children stole his money. But his safety improved when he found a night shelter that was prepared to admit him. He spent the next five years in Kathmandu passing through two more children’s shelters. These helped him to reduce his smoking and glue-sniffing. He received some education and even training in Taekwondo. His confidence restored a little, his thoughts turned to his family.

Basantapur Durbar Square

Basantapur Durbar Square

Homecoming

When he was 15 Ramesh returned home for the major Hindu festival of Dashain. He looked forward to sharing his exciting stories of city life and “success” with his family. But, to his dismay, he discovered that his stepfather had also abandoned his mother. Depressed at her circumstances, Sita had descended into alcohol abuse, eking out a living by breaking stones to make gravel. She and her two children were living in abject poverty. Ramesh decided to leave home again and find the money his family needed.

He returned to Butwal where he worked first as a truck driver’s assistant and then as a bus conductor. After that he moved to Pokhara and eventually north into remote Mustang. Here his work was to load stones and boulders onto a trailer. He tells how one day the stones moved on their own as the first of two earthquakes struck Nepal in 2015. Soon afterwards Ramesh decided he would never find his fortune in Mustang and headed south for India.

India travels

India travels

Crossing the border at Bhairahawa, Ramesh’s first job was as a housekeeper and childminder to a doctor in Gorakhpur. With a smile he says that his tasks extended to ironing the doctor’s underwear. He quit two months later and his travels really began. First of all he spent a fruitless three days looking for work in Delhi, once again sleeping on the streets. Then he went to Mumbai where he found three months’ work on the busses. That didn’t pay enough so he crossed India to Chennai.

Two days later he was in Bangalore where his job-hunting came to an abrupt end. The Indian police are on the look-out for stray children at railway stations and they picked Ramesh up as soon as he stepped off the train. They took him to a children’s shelter in Bangalore where he spent two months before the authorities transferred him to a dreadful home in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. Six weeks later ChoraChori rescued him in its major child rescue operation last March.

Future plans

At the ChoraChori refuge in Kathmandu Ramesh has been a gregarious lad who, thanks to his non-formal education, even speaks some English. He says now that he would like to learn a trade so that he can provide for his family properly. Specifically he wants to become a motorcycle mechanic – an option that would offer plenty of work in Nepal! This would require a six month course followed by a further six months of vocational training. A full year of support from ChoraChori comes to £1,250, including his living expenses.

If you feel you can help Ramesh to realise his dream of returning to his family with money in his pocket then please donate using the button below. The site accepts donations in any major currency. Many thanks!

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