Gates of Bronze

ChoraChori Founder Philip Holmes has published his memoir, Gates of Bronze, telling the remarkable story of how he responded to his first wife’s suicide by rescuing scores of Nepalese children from prisons, slavery, trafficking and exploitation.

In his book Philip quotes Winston Churchill who wrote “Success is the ability to move from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm” and that has been Philip’s mantra for his twenty years of charitable work in Nepal. Through Gates of Bronze he tells how he responded to the suicide of his first wife, Esther Benjamins, by leaving a promising career as a British Army dental officer to set up a children’s charity in her memory. Working with passionate and committed colleagues in Nepal, he headed up programmes that rescued children from prisons, circus slavery, trafficking, exploitation and abuse. Yes, there has been setback after setback, but Philip can now reflect on operations that rescued over 1,000 children, restoring freedom and childhoods and giving them a chance in life.

The dramatic and moving narrative is illustrated by Philip’s own sketches and by colour photographs, many of which were taken by professional photographers who covered Philip’s work. Gates of Bronze is published by Juntara and can be purchased through this site where there is also a download option. 10% of the sale price is donated to ChoraChori’s ongoing work in Nepal.

Journalist and historian biographer Anne Sebba writes:

“Philip Holmes is a natural storyteller but also a fighter with endless enthusiasm which shines through these pages. It’s impossible not to read this book without believing that some people have the power to move mountains. He may be one of them.”

Supporting Bibash

ChoraChori returns Nepali children to Nepal by the bus-load!

Regular readers may recognise the title picture as it shows a group of 29 boys whom ChoraChori rescued from Delhi in December 2015. All have now returned to their families or been moved on into work, but we continue to support them after repatriation. Children like Bibash.

Bibash was born in a village in Kanchanpur in Nepal’s far West. Growing up was tough as he was bullied and mocked by the other children for having a visually impaired father and a mother who had lost a leg. His frustration was taken out on his parents until eventually he ran away from home. At the age of 15 he ventured into the unknown when he crossed the border into India.

Before long, Bibash was picked up by the Indian authorities and placed in a grim “children’s shelter” in Delhi. But ChoraChori’s field team traced him and rescued him along with 28 other boys on Christmas Eve 2015. After his tough experiences in India, he was very glad to return home and expressed his desire to return to school. With ChoraChori’s support he is now in Grade 9 where he is doing well academically. Bibash wants to join the Army and to that end is close to gaining his black belt in karate!

His daily journey to school involved an hour’s walk each way in all weathers. So, ChoraChori recently bought him a bike and he’s very happy with that. Most interestingly, his parents say that he has become very polite towards them and is now a son to be proud of as he assumes family responsibilities.

The price of success is not necessarily that high in Nepal and we continue to transform children’s lives and possibilities through relatively modest, but targeted investments. But we are all too aware that there are still many kids like Bibash awaiting our rescue from India. We can only do that after we set up a new boys’ transit hostel in Kathmandu; we have had to suspend repatriations after we began taking child rape victims into our existing Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre and obviously the two beneficiary groups could not be accommodated on the same site.

We need your help! We have launched our Big Give summer appeal to help raise the funds we need for this new project and for new training opportunities for girls. Until the 28th May all online donations will double in value – one donation, twice the impact! Please use the button below to help us help more children like Bibash in the future. Many thanks!

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“Nims” Purja MBE – ChoraChori’s latest Ambassador

We are delighted to announce that distinguished mountaineer, ex-Gurkha and former Special Forces soldier “Nims” Purja MBE has become ChoraChori’s latest Ambassador.

Nirmal “Nims” Purja is a truly remarkable man in so many respects. He was the first Gurkha soldier to join elite special forces unit the Special Boat Service, the Royal Navy’s equivalent of the British Army’s SAS. But he’s established an enviable reputation as one of the world’s leading mountaineers after a comparatively short career. He holds three Guinness World Records for rapid ascents of Everest and adjacent mountains. During one of these he saved the life of a stricken female climber whom he found on the verge of death, bringing her off the mountain single-handed. In recognition of his contribution to climbing, Her Majesty the Queen appointed him MBE in 2016.

In February this year Nims completed 16 years of military service and re-mortgaged his home to help fund the most daunting of challenges. Through his Project Possible he is aiming to break a 31 year old record and summit 14 Himalayan peaks, all over 8,000m, in seven months. The previous record stands at seven YEARS, eleven months and 14 days. Three days ago he completed his third ascent, Mt Kanchenjunga, slightly behind schedule due to unseasonal adverse weather conditions and through being diverted to other rescues. But he is planning to complete three more summits in the coming fortnight.

Nims will be a wonderful Ambassador for ChoraChori in his capacity to raise awareness about our work, engage with supporters and act as a role model for our beneficiaries. He joins our existing Ambassadors Zack Feather and Amrita Acharia. If you would like to make a personal donation towards Nims’ expedition, just follow this link.

The ChoraChori Big Give summer appeal

From today your online donation towards our work will double in value through our special Big Give summer appeal.

Through this appeal we will be raising vital funds to expand our childcare and training facilities at our Kathmandu centre. Please check out our site where you can make a secure donation now. One donation, twice the impact!

The Aishworya “Children’s Home”

Late yesterday, ChoraChori-Nepal took a call from Nepal’s Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB) asking for support in its raid and rescue operation on the Aishworya “Children’s Home” in Kathmandu.

This is a developing story, but it seems that the authorities were notified following a complaint from a foreigner about neglected and unsupervised children at the centre. CCWB acted immediately and asked a number of NGOs, including ChoraChori, to help with rescuing 122 children from three premises that were being used by Aishworya.

Unsurprisingly, during the rescue the “management” of the home was nowhere to be found. The children were indeed in a bad way, many of them covered in scabies. It seems a lot of the children originate from Nepal’s deprived Humla District in the far northwest. Allegedly the Aishworya people were asking for contributions of NPR30,000 to NPR100,000 (£200 to £700) to have their children “cared for” and educated in Kathmandu at the expense of naïve but well-intentioned foreigners. This form of child trafficking and exploitation is just one aspect of Nepal’s orphan business that the authorities are now making steps towards dismantling, including through a new Children’s Act that prioritises alternative care arrangements with children’s homes becoming a last resort.

For now, the rescued children are being looked after at a number of centres by the NGOs Forget me Not, CWIN, Voice of Children, THIS and ChoraChori. We have admitted 16 boys and 4 girls, all under the age of 10, to our Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre which will be a stepping stone to family reintegration and support.

Please think twice before you support any orphanage in Nepal, however reputable it might seem. There are a few notable exceptions, but most so called orphanages are income generation centres for the greedy people who operate them. The Nepal government is now doing what it can but the orphan business can only be dismantled when it is denied the oxygen of Western donations.

ChoraChori rescues 26 Nepalese boys from Bihar

On Good Friday, the 18th April 2019, ChoraChori facilitated the rescue of 26 Nepalese boys from a children’s shelter in Bihar, north India.

The open border between Nepal and India makes it easy for children to be trafficked or for them to voluntarily cross into India in search of opportunities. On the 27th March the Indian authorities intercepted a group of 26 teenage boys who were on their way to alleged employment opportunities in Chennai. Such transfer of children concerns the Nepal authorities for good reason. Why would Nepalese children be offered employment when there are no shortage of potential employees in Chennai itself? The truth of the matter is that it is much easier to exploit children who are foreign nationals – one of the sad fundamentals of child trafficking.

All of the boys hailed from Districts in south central Nepal. The boys had been placed in a children’s shelter at Sitamadhi in Bihar (pictured) with the request that the Nepalese authorities arrange their repatriation and reunification with their families. Accordingly, Nepal’s Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB) immediately contacted District Child Welfare Boards in Dhanusha, Mahottari, Sarlahi and Siraha Districts to trace the boys’ families. This being achieved quickly, CCWB then requested that the Sitamadhi District Child Protection Unit hand over the boys to authorised persons. These were Sanjiv Mahato (CCWB), Saroj Kumar Ray (an independent social worker appointed by Dhanusha Child Welfare Board) and Shailaja CM, the Operational Director of ChoraChori-Nepal (right of picture). The reunification was effected quickly on Good Friday, with ChoraChori-Nepal covering the costs, including the hire of the bus. The boys have since been reunited with their families, relieved to be back home after their month-long detention. See this press report on the rescue.

Well done to Shailaja and our staff lawyer, Sunita Karki, on their success and compliments to all other involved parties on this smooth operation. This latest rescue brings to 203 the number of displaced and trafficked children whose repatriation ChoraChori has facilitated since late 2015. We aim to open a boys’ hostel in Kathmandu later this year which will give the rescue programme a further boost.

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.

ChoraChori supports a new major capital project at Kitini College

ChoraChori and its partners have provided funds for a new major capital project at Kitini College.

In 2015 Kitini College suffered some structural damage when two earthquakes struck Nepal in April and May. It could have been much worse; a neighbouring private school collapsed causing fatalities.

This government school is important within Lalitpur District as it serves a huge catchment area that extends into the adjacent Kavre and Kathmandu Districts. Many of the students come from low caste families and include the children of the desperately poor peripatetic population that provides seasonal labour in nearby brick kilns. And the children at the ChoraChori Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre also attend the school, part of their return to normality after the trauma they have endured. Therefore it has been important for us to reinforce the school, literally, by a major project that will make it resistant to future earthquakes.

Working alongside our new project partner, Gandys Foundation, we have been successful in securing all the funds necessary from major donors and two other grant-making Trusts for this four month long project. The local municipality has also contributed 25% of the project costs, so it has been great to see this local commitment to a great school.

As a Tiger in the Jungle returns to UK!

Nepalese contemporary circus performers Aman Tamang and Renu Ghalan return to UK to stage their acclaimed show about child trafficking, “As a Tiger in the Jungle”.

We are delighted to let you know that Cirkus Xanti (Norway) and Ali Williams Productions will once again present their poignant and heart-warming performance about rescued child slaves from Indian traditional circus. Through the show, two performers from Nepal, Renu and Aman, both child trafficking survivors, ask questions about life, love, poverty and greed. Using the spoken word, movement, circus and ceremony, they tell the story of how, against all odds, they survived child slavery to create their own destiny. To get a glimpse of their breath-taking skills, click on the image on the left for a preview.

Aman and Renu are just two of the 700 Nepalese children who were liberated from circus slavery during the period 2004-2011 when ChoraChori co-Founder Philip Holmes was based in Nepal and headed up the anti trafficking programme. This show highlights a tragedy that still befalls hundreds of Nepalese children every year, albeit into different situations.

Here are the venues and dates for your diary:

4 April:             Enableus Fest Sheffield University, Octagon Centre, Clarkson Street, Sheffield, S10 2TQ
16 April:           Ffwrnes Park Street, Llanelli, SA15 3YE
17 – 18 April:  Circomedia Portland Square, St Paul’s, Bristol,BS2 8SJ
2 – 3 May:       Riverfront Theatre King’s Way, Newport, NP60 1HG
9 May:              Lincoln Drill Hall Free School Lane, Lincoln, LN2 1EY
12 May:            Aberystwyth Arts Centre Penglais Campus, University of Aberystwyth SY23 3DE
17 May:            Stratford Circus Stratford Circus Arts Centre, Theatre Square, Stratford, London, E15 1BX
22 – 25 May:  Brighton Fringe Brighton Open Air Theatre, Park Dyke Road, Hove,BN3 6EH
29 May:           Warwick Arts Centre University of Warwick, Coventry,CV4 7AL
31 May:            The Civic in Barnsley Hanson Street, Barnsley, S70 2HZ
6 June:             Salisbury Festival Salisbury Playhouse
7 – 8 June:      Theatre Brycheniog Canal Wharf, Brecon, LD3 7EW
14 June:           Galeri Doc Victoria, Caernarfon, Gwynedd, LL55 1SQ
21 – 23 June: Theatr Mwldan Bath House Road, Cardigan SA43 1JY
26 – 30 June: Glastonbury Festival Worthy Farm, Worthy Lane, Pilton, Shepton Mallet, Somerset, BA4 4BY

The 17th May performance will be a special ticket-only event for ChoraChori supporters and friends. Please let us know if you would like to attend. If you can’t make any of these venues or dates please make a donation using the button below. Thanks!

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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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