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.


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.

Teaching crafts to girls from Tipling

Alongside supporting girls from Tipling, near the Tibet border (pictured left), ChoraChori has been teaching them crafts that lead to an income.

Our programme in support of the trafficking-prone girls from Tipling, Dhading District, began soon after the 2015 earthquakes. These destroyed just about all of the homes and schools in the area. Our short-term response was to bring a group of girls to Kathmandu where they could complete their higher secondary education at Kitini College while staying at our Kathmandu refuge. In parallel, last year we trained them in crafts, beginning with working in felt.

Then in October a Dutch business woman, Aagje Hoekstra, began a short voluntary consultancy with us, teaching the girls how to make eye-catching carrier bags out of old rice and lentil sacks. This has been a huge success with their products already finding a good market in Holland and Germany. See the film on the left.

As the first group of girls is due to complete their higher secondary education in May we are now thinking ahead to the next steps. Reena, who features in the film, and two other girls want to train to become community medical assistants so that they can return to Tipling and help the village and surrounding area. The training is expensive with the 18 month course costing £3,000 (including the girls’ keep). But that is the price of training leaders as well as CMAs. We are actively seeking sponsors who can help with defraying these costs.

Once again we are grateful to the Soroptimist International President’s Appeal 2015-17 for their funding thus far under their Educate to Lead programme. And of course to Aagje for her incredible personal contribution in time, skill and passion.



Floods in Nepal

20930479_10214276156604740_568220741_oFloods wreak havoc in south Asia

A humanitarian crisis is unfolding across parts of south Asia with 16 million people in India, Nepal and Bangladesh affected by monsoon floods.

Nepal devastated

Floods have swamped one third of Nepal following the worst monsoon rainfall in fifteen years. See the grim statistics in the image on the left. Now an estimated 5 million people have to manage as best they can after losing loved ones and homes to floods and landslides, their crops destroyed. You can’t fail to be moved by the harrowing pictures in this report of how a father unable to bury his child just released the child’s body into the flooded river.

A “one-door” policy

There was an added risk of this natural disaster being compounded by a manmade element when the Government of Nepal announced a “one-door” policy. This meant that all relief work would have to be channelled through a central body. This is fine in principle (to avoid inefficiency and duplication of effort) but the Government attempted this approach previously after the 2015 earthquakes and it failed badly. Such a strategy only delays essential emergency relief getting to the point of need due to red tape. Moreover it only serves to antagonise (or criminalise) those genuine individuals and NGOs that do respond with a sense of urgency. The legacy of a “one-door” policy is a long and painful one. Two years down the line an Asia Foundation survey has found that earthquake recovery work has been painfully slow.

Happily the Nepal Supreme Court has now instructed the Government not to implement this policy and relief supplies can now flow.

ChoraChori’s response

How can a small children’s charity like ChoraChori respond in a meaningful way to a disaster of this scale? First of all we can’t not respond given the scale of the crisis. And we have always prided ourselves in being a “can-do” charity. Whilst we can’t reach out to five million people we can certainly focus our efforts on village areas that we know well. These are communities in the south to whom we have returned children rescued from India. The ChoraChori-Nepal Operational Director, Shailaja CM, is currently making a needs assessment and this morning we transferred our first grant across to Nepal to begin to address the hardship she has identified.

The floods are now receding somewhat but the landscape has been lain waste and families left vulnerable with lack of shelter, food and water. There have already been reports of outbreaks of disease. We suspect that the worst is yet to come. Please help ChoraChori to deliver resources to the flood victims and desperate children before it’s too late using the button below.

A further report to follow.

donate to ChoraChori

GlobalGiving matched funding campaign

ChoraChori’s response to the Nepal earthquake of 2015

Today is the second anniversary of the Nepal earthquake that killed 9,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless. But there was a less obvious consequence of this disaster and to a second earthquake that followed in May 2015. Hundreds of children fled the destruction and chaos to seek a better life in India while child trafficking spiked. Sadly, for the child migrants too often this became a case of “out of the frying pan, into the fire”. The Indian authorities picked up many children and effectively imprisoned them in squalid “children’s shelters”. And two years on most children who left Nepal are still missing.

Rescuing Nepali kids

Since August 2015 ChoraChori has been unique in sending rescue teams into India to find Nepal’s lost children and bring them home. So far we’ve rescued 105 children including 33 in one operation last month. We have been successful in our Aim of returning children to their families. Only 32 returnees are still in our care while we continue their rehabilitation. That’s because we are finding some children have returned with a legacy of mental trauma of a scale that is unprecedented in our work. We are having to manage little boys who have been diagnosed as being at risk of suicide. One girl in her early teens spent a year locked up in a brothel.

Our GlobalGiving campaign

To meet the need ChoraChori has built a child trauma management centre collocated with our Kathmandu refuge. We funded this capital project entirely through the “Taking the High Road” cycle challenge last year. Now we aim to launch the childcare programme through an online appeal using the GlobalGiving platform. To mark the second anniversary of the Nepal earthquake, GlobalGiving will be matching all online donations at 50%. In other words a £10 gift becomes £15 – or equivalent in any major currency – up to a maximum donation of £800 (i.e. US$1,000). The campaign went live at 2 p.m. UK time today. There is an added incentive for participating charities: GlobalGiving will also be awarding two prizes of £800 in the first 24 hours of the challenge. One will be for the most funds raised and the other for the most individual donors.

How to help us

ChoraChori child trauma management centre

The newly completed child trauma management centre

Please join me by donating and sharing this post as widely as you can. I would love ChoraChori to claim at least one of these prizes! You can find the appeal page using the button below:donate to ChoraChori

Nepal International Marathon

Nepal International MarathonNepal International Marathon

ChoraChori is recruiting runners to take part in this year’s Nepal International Marathon. This challenging, scenic trail running event takes place each November and is held in the hills above Kathmandu.

Fancy taking on the run of a lifetime?

Applications are now open for this year’s Nepal International Marathon that the Impact Marathon Series will manage between 13th and 19th November 2017. The idea of the Nepal International Marathon is that you can run in support of a chosen Nepal charity project. During the course of the week you’ll get the opportunity to visit your project and get your hands dirty with a short local volunteering task. The magical part is that you and 120 fellow runners will stay in a pop up camp that the organisers set up in a stunning hill-top location.

Choose your camping style and running distance

There are three options – taking your own tent (£495), glamping (£645) or luxe glamping (£795). You can select a 10km, half marathon or full marathon route over trails that involve significant Nepalese undulations. Click the picture above left to get an idea of what it’s all about and to sense the amazing atmosphere. Not to mention the pain and the triumph of crossing the finish line!

Helping Nepali schools

Nepal International Marathon

Children enjoying a free lunch at a ChoraChori supported school

By choosing ChoraChori you will be raising sponsorship towards our education programme. Through this we have been reinstating education in the wake of the Nepal earthquakes of 2015. Those two massive earthquakes had a devastating impact on Nepali children. But we’ve risen to the challenge, rebuilding three schools. Additionally, we’ve provided vital short term revenue support to encourage attendances and reduce drop outs. That initiative makes children less vulnerable to trafficking.

Our preferred fundraising platform for UK participants is BT MyDonate. Although it has fewer bells and whistles than the other fundraising sites, it is undoubtedly the most cost-effective. You can find out more about the Nepal International Marathon and sign up through the button below. But please remember that November is a peak time to visit Nepal and flights become more expensive to book the longer you wait!

Find out more

Remembering Christian Kaesler in Nepal

imgonline-com-ua-piconpic-7QzpRNMCgXJ9Yesterday was one of those really heart-warming days that we are privileged to experience from time to time in Nepal. It was the occasion of the official opening of the new TulsaDevi school that ChoraChori rebuilt after the earthquake. But it was special also in that the inauguration was in memory of Christian Kaesler, whose parents were major donors towards the project. Click on the image on the left to watch the film and find out more.

Tattoos in Gent

15871264_10154743648870520_31276458_nOver the years I’ve been delighted to embrace the arts as a way of fundraising and for therapeutic purposes or income generation in Nepal. But this is a first….

On the 12th January the tattoo studio Noir in Gent, Belgium, will spend the whole day tattooing and piercing to raise funds for our Tipling girls project. Everything they raise on that day will go towards the support of ten girls from the remote village of Tipling, Dhading District, whose homes were destroyed in the 2015 earthquakes. They are now completing their higher secondary education in Kathmandu and in their free time about to start training in arts and crafts (the subject of a future blog post). In June they’ll be joined by another ten girls from their village as we expand the programme, giving girls from a trafficking-prone community the chance in life that they deserve.

Many thanks to former Nepal volunteer Toby for setting up the fundraising effort, inspired by his time in Nepal that included a visit to Tipling itself.

A visit to Tipling

A high point in the trek

Tipling village tipling-maplies to the northwest of Kathmandu, very close to the Tibet border. It’s home to the Tamang community, one that is traditionally prone to child trafficking. The region was devastated by the April 2015 earthquake as it’s not far from the epicentre – hardly a home wasn’t damaged or flattened. This also increased the risk of trafficking. Following a plea from local Jesuit priest, Father Norbert, ChoraChori has taken ten sixteen year old girls from the village to complete their education in Kathmandu. All have passed the coveted School Leaver’s Certificate (SLC) examination and, following the destruction in Tipling, they couldn’t progress any further in their home area. They are now staying in Shailaja’s home, full of hope for the future.

This month they returned to their village for the Dashain festival and two of our local staff, Yogesh and Pratap, took visitor Toby Foggo to catch up with them. Here is Toby’s letter and pictures received this morning.

“After a week of travel we’re back from our Tipling visit! 
Tipling is a little village close to the foot of mount Ganesh in the north of Nepal, about one day’s walk from the Chinese border, where ChoraChori is helping out by giving 10 girls a chance to study near Kathmandu. A lot in this village has been destroyed by the earthquake last year including the educational facilities. This is why ChoraChori is helping them out and arranged a field trip. And I was allowed to join Yogesh and Pratap to get a sense of their livelihood and to document their living conditions.
To get there we travelled two days. One day by bus and jeep followed by an almost 14 hour hike through the mountains. We passed many tiny villages, some consisting of no more than 3 or 4 families. It’s good we had brother Dom as our guide because the terrains are crazy. He is a cook from Tipling who guided us the entire way there.
When we arrived in Tipling it was clear that the people who live there are very poor and live off what the land allows them to grow. Mainly potatoes, corn, mushrooms and millet. They also have chickens, goats and buffaloes. To transport supplies there is very costly so they mainly survive on the bare minimum. 
We stayed there with father Norbert. He is an amazing man who has lived in Tipling for a few years now and is trying to help out by educating them and finding organisations who can help Tipling and the surrounding villages. We spoke a lot about the problems in these areas. Child marriage, hunger, poverty and the cold. 
We also talked to the families of the ‘Tipling girls and took many pictures of the destruction and their living conditions. A lot of girls get married at a very young age and live their entire lives in these villages without education. Survival is the main drive. But they were all so friendly and every door was open to us where we got invited in for tea or potatoes.
Then after two days there we made our way back via a different route. Over the mountains! Our highest landmark was at 3850 meters, that’s almost half the height of mount Everest! It took us around 14 hours to get to a town called Somdang. Where we stayed the night and got a good 15 hours of public transport (jeep and bus) back to Kathmandu. 
There’s so much we have experienced in these 6 days, too much to put into words. This field trip has opened my eyes to how people can survive with so little and how much there can be done to improve their lives. It has humbled me and has given me a new appreciation of how people can be happy with close to nothing. The friendliness and generosity of everyone we met along the way, to me, has been unequaled. I have learnt a lot from this experience and I am very grateful.”
Toby’s is fundraising for ChoraChori and “The Tipling Girls” through the Justgiving link below:
A Tipling house

A Tipling house

Earthquake damage to a Tipling home turns it into a death trap for future tremors

Earthquake damage to a Tipling home turns it into a death trap for future tremors

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Tipling hospitality

Tipling hospitality

Tipling village with a landslide in the background

Tipling village with a landslide in the background

Domestic chores

Domestic chores

View inside the village

View inside the village

A temporary home made from wood

A temporary home made from wood

Subsistence farming

Subsistence farming

The Tipling Girls

Seven excited girls have arrived in Kathmandu ready to start an education and training programme that is being launched by ChoraChori-Nepal. The girls, who are in the age range 17 to 19, come from Tipling, Dhading District. This is a remote part of west Nepal, quite close to the Tibet border, that was near the epicentre of the April 2015 earthquake. 98% of homes in their area were destroyed and the girls’ families are still living in makeshift tents. Three more girls from the area are due to join them soon, delayed in their travel because of landslides that have followed the arrival of this year’s monsoon.

Why these ten in the midst of so much need? They have been referred to us by our contact in Tipling, Father Norbert, who lives and teaches in the local school. The reason he has selected them is that all have passed the coveted 10th Grade School Leaver’s Certificate (SLC) examination, one of them at A+ standard, but there is no Higher Secondary (Grades 11 and 12) provision in the area. We feel these girls have more than earned the opportunity to continue with their studies. The alternative is early marriage – most of their peers are already married with babies – and there is a risk of being trafficked as all the girls are from the trafficking-prone Tamang community.

This project will run for three years, with a further ten girls due to join us in mid 2017. They will study but also have the chance to learn vocational skills after we reinstate a silver jewellery workshop from January next year. Those who show the aptitude and interest may take this up as their profession. For others we will teach business skills as a second string to their bow.

The girls have all settled well into their new situation in Godawari, been given pocket money and met with our very good supporter, Saroj KC, who is the Principal of the local Kitini School that they’ll be attending. The thing that is remarkable is that all the girls have been accommodated in the home of the Operational Director of ChoraChori-Nepal, Shailaja CM. Once again Shailaja is being welcoming and hospitable to young people in need – this makes her and us special!

If you would like to donate towards this project, here is the link.

Seven girls from Tipling Tipling girls cooking


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