Anjali’s second career

Through its advanced vocational training programme, ChoraChori offers second career opportunities.

In my memoir, Gates of Bronze, I described how – bizarrely – we set up a contemporary circus group for young people whom my then charity had rescued from slavery inside Indian circuses. Many children had been lured into this miserable existence by traffickers who promised them the bright lights and stardom. After we rescued these children (700 of them in the period 2004 to 2011) we had to provide education and training that would allow them to be reintegrated into Nepalese society. It’s a bit of a long story, but in 2011/2012 we ended up offering to re-train returnees (who were interested) in contemporary circus skills, adapting the more traditional skills that they had learned the hard way. And so was born Circus Kathmandu.

The initiative (to my great surprise) proved to be hugely popular, as through Circus Kathmandu, these young people were able to realise the dreams that had been mis-sold to them. They found those bright lights through tours to Australia, Dubai, Norway and the UK. The performers ended up also earning a great deal of money through public and private shows. However, with time and having lived the dream, some moved on, getting married and wishing to settle down. One such performer was Anjali, back row, third left in the title picture. She is now a young mum living near our Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre in Kathmandu, which has made it easy for her to attend the in-house vocational training that we offer on the site. Anjali has completed the six months basic tailoring course and this week, after a further six months training, she received her advanced tailoring certificate.

In yesterday’s post, I described how Josephina returned to Jhapa District after her basic tailoring course. She is happy with that, but, like Anjali, she and other basic course graduates have the possibility to go into higher training. This takes them to a standard where they are very employable in the big cities, earning a great income as they make quality clothes, including for the international market.

Visiting Josephina

Yesterday, a ChoraChori field team visited Josephina, one of the girls who completed her basic tailoring training course with us earlier this year.

These pictures were taken yesterday of the head of our vocational training, Lily (centre), and staff lawyer, Sunita (right), visiting Josephina in Jhapa. This is the District in Nepal with the highest incidence of sexual assault and girl suicide. School drop-out Josephina was one of the first group of students who attended our six-month residential basic tailoring course at the end of last year. On completing it in January, she returned home with her sewing machine as a gift from ChoraChori to help her set up in the village. This sewing machine cost us 22,500 rupees (£160). Josephina is now earning 2,000 to 3,000 rupees (approximately £20) per month through tailoring that helps support herself and her family. So you could say that after one year this investment (including training costs) has largely paid for itself and a girl like Josephina has a skill and income for life.

Lily and Sunita are continuing their visit this week, accepting applications from other girls who wish to follow in Josephina’s footsteps. We are proud to be able to support this wonderful work, including through our three-year SIGBI collaboration “Empowering Girls in Nepal” that launched at the end of last month.

 

Our manifesto for 2020!

2019 has been a remarkable year so far for ChoraChori in Nepal; we’re aiming higher in 2020.

 Girls in the garden of ChoraChori’s Child Trauma Management Centre in Kathmandu

At a time when the UK is gripped with enthusiasm (not) at the prospect of a pre-Christmas general election, it is perhaps timely to illustrate what we have achieved in the real world in the past year and present our brief and achievable manifesto for 2020. Please take a few minutes to review this no-frills document that highlights ChoraChori achievements and objectives and think about how you might be able to help us.

Do remember that we do not receive any government funding and are entirely reliant on grants and donations, including through gifts in wills.

Any ideas, please do send them to ChoraChori’s Founder, Philip Holmes.

 

ChoraChori’s new girls’ hostel identified

ChoraChori has identified premises to rent as its new girls’ hostel in Kathmandu.

After an exhaustive search of the neighbourhood of our existing Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre on the outskirts of Kathmandu, we have finally identified the building that will be our future girls’ hostel at the right price.

We aim to take this over as soon as possible and that comes with setup costs – including the need to repaint the building to a colour that is a bit gentler on the eye! There are four bedrooms on the first floor and three on the ground floor. With the use of bunk beds, we can accommodate 30-35 girls, as per our plans. The building is secure with a good wall and gate and there is a decent piece of outside space for recreation, such as badminton. This has only become possible through our three-year collaboration with the Soroptimist International Federation of Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI) that launched last month.

The budget for the setup and operating costs is here. We hope that our Soroptimist Christmas appeal will at least allow us to cover the setup costs and with anything more than that raised used to offset our hostel running costs into next year. The appeal will include participation in our Big Curry event on the 7th December.

To find out more about our collaboration with SIGBI, or make a donation to the Appeal, just visit the project microsite.  If you have any thoughts on how you might help, then please drop me a line.

He made it – congratulations Nims!

ChoraChori Ambassador Nirmal “Nims” Purja MBE today entered the mountaineering history books after completing his “Project Possible”.

This morning we awoke to the wonderful news that Nims had successfully summited Shishapangma, the 14th and final peak in his Project Possible challenge. He has absolutely smashed the previous record for climbing all of these peaks. Nims took six months and six days where the previous record-holder required just under eight years. For the full background, read this excellent report in today’s Guardian newspaper.

We look forward to congratulating Nims in person when he joins us for our Big Curry lunch on the 7th December. This will be live-streamed to our supporters and if you set up a parallel lunch at home or at your local Nepalese restaurant, we may allow you to ask him a question directly….

Shabash Nims!

Project launch at the Soroptimist International annual conference in Bournemouth

This weekend’s Soroptimist International of Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI) Federation annual conference was the setting for the launch of our three-year collaborative project, “Empowering Girls in Nepal”.

Time flies. It is hard to believe that it’s a year since ChoraChori was chosen as the SIGBI charity for the 2019-2022 collaboration “Empowering Girls in Nepal” – see this link. The past few months have been particularly busy as I have worked in collaboration with Soroptimist Project Liaison Officers Helen Murdoch and Rayner Rees (from the Bridgend Club) to get our ducks in a row ready for last Saturday’s launch.

Before we came on stage we heard a final presentation from the previous charity, and how together with SIGBI they had raised a staggering £161k in three years for their project in Kenya. The bar has been set very high for our project but we’ll try to surpass that. Our need is great as we try to move our work onto another level, moving up a gear from providing training into creating employment for our girl beneficiaries. Working with our project partners Unity in Health, Gandys Foundation and Her Future Coalition I am confident that we can accomplish that. A core contribution from SIGBI will be the funding of the training of at least 45 girls per year and a new girls’ hostel in Kathmandu.

Our presentation that launched the project went like a dream, thanks to a joint effort with Helen, Rayner and Rojika Maharjan who joined us from ChoraChori-Nepal for this memorable occasion. Our progress can be followed on this dedicated microsite and blog.

A little bit of magic comes to our children’s centre in Kathmandu

Leading international magician Drummond Money-Coutts has brought magic to ChoraChori’s kids in Kathmandu.

In Nepal, school ends for the week at Friday lunchtime. Normally, at our Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre (CRRC) in Kathmandu, Friday afternoons are fairly relaxed, maybe with a bit of sport thrown in to burn up some surplus energy. But last Friday our kids were in for a real unexpected treat – a definite break from the norm – when international magician Drummond Money-Coutts called by to lay on a short performance.

Drummond Money-Coutts (DMC) has been making a name for himself with performances all around the world, including to the British royal family. His Netflix series “Death by Magic” is absolutely captivating. There were no death-defying feats on Friday and a quick head-count at the end revealed that none of the children had mysteriously vanished. But this visit from the distinctive 6 foot 4 man with “Love, courage and belief” tattooed in Hindi on his scalp was one that the audience will never forget!

Mental health art workshop at ChoraChori in Nepal

This month ChoraChori has hosted Colombian artist Dairo Vargas who has led a mental health art workshop at our facility in Nepal.

It’s been an exciting and colour-filled month at the ChoraChori Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre (CRRC) in Kathmandu. For we have been delighted to host leading London-based Colombian artist, Dairo Vargas, who has held mental health art workshops at CRRC and at the nearby Kitini College. The visit has been supported by our partner charity Gandys Foundation, with Dairo being accompanied by the Foundation’s Trustee Preet Legha. Dairo has extensive experience in the use of art in managing mental health and in conducting workshops. These have included interacting with former FARC guerillas in his native Colombia. See how he operates his initiative #TheArtListens through this link.

Needless to say, this support has been invaluable in helping our management of children who have experienced extremes of abuse, including child rape, but also in raising awareness of mental health issues within the general population. This has included through coverage in The Nepali Times.

We’ll tell you more about these exciting workshops during our Big Give Christmas Appeal week from 3-10 December. Watch this space!

 

Join us for The Big Curry!

ChoraChori invites you to join us for The Big Curry fundraiser in December!

On December 7th 2019 we will be holding a very special international “Big Curry” event as part of our Christmas Big Give Appeal. Through the Appeal, we invite supporters to sit down for the perfect curry, wherever they are in the world, and afterwards donate a minimum of £5 online through the Big Give microsite. This will then double in value under the rules of The Big Give. Any major currency will be accepted on the site.

There will be a central lunch at The Gurkha Durbar restaurant in Grayshott, Hampshire, UK at 12.30 on the 7th. Friends around the world will be invited to join us – breakfast in America and dinner in Kathmandu and the Far East. Essentially we are inviting our supporters around the world to either get together with friends at a nearby Nepalese restaurant or, better still, cook the perfect curry for friends and family. Click on the adjacent image to see TV presenter and theatre actor Mark Curry (who else with a name like that?) show you how to cook the perfect curry with the guidance of Sudha Rai, the owner of The Gurkha Durbar.

At 1.30 p.m. on the day supporters can join us through the Appeal microsite for a live stream from The Gurkha Durbar where ChoraChori Founder, Philip Holmes, will tell you why we need these funds. And, surprise, surprise, he will introduce you to world record-breaking Himalayan mountaineer and former Gurkha/Special Forces soldier Nirmal (“Nims”) Purja MBE. At the time of writing Nims is at Base Camp of Shishapangma, the 14th and final peak of his incredible challenge, “Project Possible“. No doubt he’ll have some great experiences to share on the day!

Two of our Trustees, Phil Hunter and Rory Buckworth will be on a visit to Nepal on that date and they will host the evening function there. Hopefully, we can live stream that as well, although such connections are less predictable from Nepal….

 

 

Follow up visit to Kitini College

ChoraChori Founder/CEO Philip Holmes today paid an evaluation and monitoring visit to Kitini College; he was greeted by a very happy Headteacher, staff and pupils.

Saroj KC, Headteacher of Kitini College, NepalIt is incumbent upon us to follow up the projects we fund; this is a task that includes through visits by the CEO and Trustees of the charity. The Treasurer makes an annual visit to review the local finances. Today Philip Holmes visited Kitini College which has received tens of thousands of pounds of funding from ChoraChori towards making this one of the top state schools in Nepal. Through grants secured from Foundations and some community fundraising, we have been able to pay for science laboratories and a computer lab that have allowed the school to extend its curriculum. Indeed it is currently making the transition from being a Nepali medium school to an English medium school. This represents a major step-up for Kitini.

The most recent project has been the retrofitting of the school to make it resistant to future earthquakes. Three-quarters of the £68k project has been funded through us by our UK partner Foundations while the remainder has been donated by a grant from the local municipality. The building works began in February and should be completed by the end of next month. There has been a slight delay due to the water supply drying up – a sign of the times, sadly, as in the recent past this part of the valley provided water to the rest of Kathmandu.

The Headteacher, Mr Saroj KC, pictured above with Bhaskar Karki and Shailaja CM of ChoraChori-Nepal, was beaming with delight. These works have meant so much to him not only for professional reasons but for very personal ones. For he told us today that he is a former pupil of the school and his father was once the Vice-Principal. This sense of ownership explains why he is so passionate about taking the school forward.

There was one other marker of success apart from the tangible ones that we saw today. Somewhat surprisingly, when we started working at the school we found that 70% of the pupils were girls. This is because parents were sending their sons to private schools so that they could have a better education. In the space of three years that percentage has dropped to 60% although the numbers of students at the school have increased substantially. Essentially, our enhancements are levelling the playing field and boys are now being transferred from nearby private schools to Kitini. Mr KC is confident that the proportion will be 50:50 very soon.

Our next major project at the school will be to establish a bursary scheme to begin at the start of the next academic year in April 2020. This will benefit children from the poorest families, irrespective of gender.

 

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