Back home to Jhapa

Last weekend ChoraChori returned a group of girls from Jhapa to their homes after completing their six month tailoring training course at our Kathmandu centre. ChoraChori supporter Caroline Milne joined them for the trip and shares what she saw along the way.

After spending six months at the ChoraChori refuge in Godawari, Kathmandu it was time for eight girls to return home to Jhapa. Six months may not seem like a long time, but it’s long enough to make new friends and feel sad when you have to say goodbye. There were hugs and tears as the girls packed up last Sunday afternoon and got ready for the long journey ahead.

As well as all their personal belongings, the girls each had a sewing machine to take home with them so that they can put their new tailoring skills to good use at home and hopefully provide a source of income. By the time everything was loaded onto the minibus, it was packed both inside and outside. There was a big send off from the children and staff left at the refuge and the journey began (cover picture).

The main town in Jhapa, Birtamode, is only around 440km away, but due to the mountainous roads and difficult driving conditions it can take over twelve hours to get there. Driving through the night with passengers, thankfully not the driver, sleeping on the way and a stop for food around 10:30 pm, we made it to the first drop-off at 2:30 am. The necessary hand-over paperwork was done we were on our way again. After a deliberately slow remaining journey and a few hours sleeping in the bus by the side of the road, we finally arrived in Birtamode around 6:30 am.

No rest for the wicked. Bags were left in the hotel, a quick attempt at freshening up and we were on our way again to drop the other girls at various locations. Fortunately, there was time for some tea and a taste of a local roadside delicacy, bhakka. The girls gradually left us to complete their journeys via auto-rickshaw and we reached our final destination in the tea plantations at 9 am.

The final stop was at the Jesuit School and this provided an opportunity to meet Father Norbert who has helped ChoraChori find the girls who will benefit most from the vocational training in Kathmandu. One of the girls was really excited to finally be almost home and very quickly disappeared on a bicycle, complete with a rather heavy sewing machine. We found her later at home, happily reunited with family.

We should not underestimate the challenges these girls face on returning home. Their lives have been very different for the last six months in Kathmandu; living with friends and having a good support network. This is not always the case back in the tea plantation. Living conditions are basic and, in some cases, key family members are working overseas leaving the girls potentially feeling isolated and alone. It is important that as an organisation we continue to monitor the situation and provide further support to allow the girls to successfully use their new skills if it is needed.

This is not the end; it is just the beginning.

The tea plantations of Jhapa District, southeast Nepal

In August 2018 a ChoraChori research team visited a tea plantation in Jhapa District, southeast Nepal, to see living and working conditions for themselves.

Just over two years ago Jesuit priest Fr Norbert (pictured left), requested us to help a group of girls in Tipling, Dhading District. The girls’ school had been destroyed in the 2015 earthquakes and we agreed to bring them to Kathmandu to complete their grades 11 and 12 while learning some income generation skills. That was the start of a programme that is ongoing. Since then Fr Norbert has been transferred from Tipling to Jhapa District in the southeast where he is teaching at the Moran Memorial School. It was set up by the Jesuits in 1999 to support the children of impoverished tea plantation workers. Last month Fr Norbert asked if we could admit a group of Jhapa girls – school drop-outs – to our income generation programme and seven of them start tailoring training this month following a short course in candle-making.

When he isn’t teaching “moral science” Fr Norbert is touring the tea estate, meeting with workers and their children, hearing their problems and helping them where he can. Yesterday we were privileged to join him as he did his rounds. He showed us the mud huts that provide only the most rudimentary of shelter in an area where there is no sanitation and open defecation remains common practice. The school is doing its best to educate the children but obviously the home environment is dreadful rendering home study almost impossible. Exam results are therefore only average and drop out rates are high.

We saw men and women (no children) plucking tea for which they receive $2 per day for an eight hour shift that yields 26kg of tea per person. The tea is weighed on a basic set of scales and from there taken to the nearby factory (which we also visited) where it is processed on the spot. Plucking tea is laborious but the workers are threatened by the impact of mechanisation. For we also saw a machine being operated that skims the tops of the tea bushes, albeit without the delicacy of the hand. Since their jobs are potentially on the line, the workers are in no position to complain about the pittance that they are paid.

Fr Norbert does the best that he can to jolly the workers along but the over-riding sentiment within the estates is one of hopelessness. The poverty is obvious but the misery is compounded by alcohol abuse and depression is widespread. Jhapa has the highest girl suicide rate of any District in Nepal.

ChoraChori is pleased to support Fr Norbert and the community by teaching skills for life to Jhapa girls at our training centre in Kathmandu. This will give them and their future families a chance to escape the cycle of poverty and de facto slavery.

A “creche” at the tea plantation in Jhapa

 

Handicrafts training brings opportunity to Nepali girls

Opportunity for Nepali girls

Handicrafts training is being developed by ChoraChori to improve options for a group of disadvantaged Nepali girls.

BackgroundHandicrafts training for Nepali girls

In an earlier post we described the challenges faced by girls from the Tipling area, close to the Tibet border. The 2015 earthquakes made the region’s grinding poverty even worse; all its buildings were destroyed. So in July 2016 ChoraChori intervened to bring a group of 10 girls to Kathmandu to allow them to complete their education. We selected these ten because they had shown the commitment to successfully complete their Grade 10 examinations. There was no possibility of going beyond that in Tipling as the nearest school that was still standing was three hours’ walk away from their village.

Recent developments, handicrafts plans

ChoraChori has followed up on this initiative by admitting a further nine girls to the programme in June. This (and future plans) became possible only through the generous financial support of the Soroptimist International President’s Appeal 2015-2017, “Educate to Lead”. Not only will this vital funding be providing full academic support to the girls but it will also train them in handicrafts through inputs from Western visitors who know the overseas market. October programme visitors Lara Hilder and Ben Harvey will build upon the product development initiated by Alice Alderson in January. Lara has a degree in textile design while Ben has a degree in womenswear design and technology. They will be followed by Dutch visitor Aagje Hoekstra who has a Bachelor’s in product design. Exciting times indeed!

Inspiration for one beneficiary

One Tamang girl said to us:

“My mother passed away when I was just seven days old. My father re-married within a month and abandoned me. After that my aunt raised me until I was 12 years old. When I turned 13, I came to Kathmandu to study. I was excited to be independent and live the city life. My dreams shattered when I couldn’t afford my studies in Kathmandu and my father didn’t support me financially. With a heavy heart, I went back to my village and re-joined my old school.

After 10th Grade, when I learnt that ChoraChori is helping us to come to Kathmandu to study, I was excited but nervous at the same time. I was scared that I might not be able to afford to live in Kathmandu like before. Especially since after the earthquake we didn’t have any money as our house had collapsed. Initially I was very anxious but I as joined High School and met ChoraChori staff I breathed a sigh of relief. I still can’t believe that I am being helped to this extent to fulfil my dreams. I am glad that I have received an opportunity like this to study and also get involved in training programmes. 

When I finish my studies I want to become a teacher and go back to my village so that no girls and boys are deprived of education. If I stay in the city, I want to be like the staff members of ChoraChori-Nepal and help others.”

An escape from the prospect of abduction

And a girl from the Ghale community said:

“I remember one terrifying event when a friend was married to her maternal uncle’s son. In our culture marriage by abduction is very common. If the boy likes the girl, he comes and kidnaps her and that’s how they are married. My friend didn’t like her husband at all. But a girl’s consent doesn’t matter and she is forced to live with him forever. Well, that is how my mother was married to my father too but thankfully they are happy now.

Hadn’t ChoraChori helped me come to Kathmandu and study, I would have faced the same fate as my friend. I would have been forcefully married and never gotten a change to go to school again. No one would listen to me when I tried to tell them that I wanted to study further. I am very grateful to be receiving this opportunity. Right now, I feel that the training that I am getting with other girls will be very useful in future and that it’s helping to empower us. I see a great prospect for my future because I want to be a designer after I complete my studies.” 

Can you help?

If you think you might be able to help our wonderful handicrafts programme in any way, please do drop me a line. Donations, as ever, very welcome through the button below.

donate to ChoraChori

Laying the foundations of a new project for ChoraChori!

At long last we’ve been able to get started with preparing the foundations of our new girls’ trauma management centre that is being built adjacent to our boys’ refuge in Godawari, Kathmandu. This 12 bed residential facility should be complete in ten weeks’ time and will allow us to expand the rehabilitation services that support our rescue operations in India. This is not designed to become another girls’ hostel but rather a place where specialist support can be applied to acute trauma situations. Beyond that we will also offer a referral service and support to other child welfare organisations and to Nepal’s Central Child Welfare Board. To do this we will be drawing upon the expertise of professionals in Nepal and abroad, including some provided by our German partner, Hatemalo.

This project has only been possible through the efforts of some great guys from the UK – Philip Hunter, Rory Buckworth, Sam Day, Arthur Woods and Jonathan Davies. The first three raised the funds we needed to build the centre through their sponsored cycle ride from Shanghai to Kathmandu – “Taking the High Road” – while Arthur and Jonny have done their bit with key volunteer support on the ground.

Now we are working hard to raise the funds we need to operate the centre and networking with potential project partners. All suggestions welcome!Foundations markings

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

Grand designs in Nepal

Architect's drawing of the future ChoraChori-Nepal's girls' refuge in Nepal

These are the drawings received this morning from volunteer architect Jonny Davies based upon a design by our colleagues at Good Earth Nepal in Kathmandu. We are hoping to start building this 40 bed facility for girl trafficking survivors from 1 June and will be fundraising in the meantime. We are well on the way to reaching our £75,000 fundraising requirement thanks to the remarkable efforts of our three cyclists who are two thirds of the way through their sponsored cycle ride from Shanghai to Kathmandu. Please support them through this link.

The future ChoraChori-Nepal girls' refuge

The future ChoraChori-Nepal girls’ refuge aerial view

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