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.

Child trauma management at the ChoraChori children’s refuge in Nepal

child trauma NepalMilan’s story

Child trauma can present itself almost immediately in the Nepali kids we rescue from India. For example, ChoraChori-Nepal refuge staff member Sujit Thapa remembers all too well how Milan (name changed) was on his first day after we repatriated him from India. Sujit says “He was a loner who looked very scared and traumatised, speaking to no one and not answering any questions. He was also very aggressive and attacked staff members several times. It was very difficult to manage him”.

A violent father

Milan became particularly aggressive if anyone asked him about his home or family. However after spending time in the healing environment of the refuge and receiving counselling sessions from our newly appointed psychosocial counsellor, Sailu Rajbhandari, he has begun to open up about his past. We found out why he has scars on his head and legs. For Milan’s father would be drunk every day and used to beat his mother, siblings and himself, on occasions using fire tongs. One day his mother couldn’t take this anymore and fled with Milan’s younger sister and brother. Her whereabouts are unknown. This left six year old Milan to endure another four years of violence before he too ran away, in his case across the border into the abyss of India.

Trauma management

Sujit continues: “Milan has changed a lot since his arrival at the refuge. Now I think he has started to accept the facts about his father and find a place for it. He still isn’t sharing his address though, perhaps out of fear of being returned there.” As you can see from the picture above his interactions with the other children are improving too.

Milan is one of the 110 Nepalese children whom ChoraChori-Nepal has rescued from India. Most have experienced some degree of child trauma, be it physical, psychological or sexual. If, like Milan, this has arisen at home and caused them to run away then of course we can’t return them to that situation. Instead we need to continue to care for them at our refuge, including providing education and training, until they are able to look after themselves. Our Child Trauma Management Centre, which is on the same site as the refuge, is central to that care.

In August we were delighted to appoint Sailu as the Clinical Director at the Centre. As a former lecturer at the Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO) in Kathmandu she is very well qualified to take up the challenge of managing child trauma cases. She has been getting to know the refuge children and conducting individual and group assessments. Also she has been training the care staff in how to deal with behavioural problems. After she has settled in we look forward to applying the healing power of art to complement her therapy.

Hope for the future

As it happens, Milan enjoys art and dancing. He has been inspired by two of the other boys starting a vocational training course as motorbike mechanics and hopes to follow in their footsteps. However these courses are quite expensive and we are keen to identify supporters who might be able to offer short term training sponsorships. Supporters whose investment can change a teenager’s life for good. If you can help, please drop me a line.

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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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

A chess grandmaster in the making

img_1412We’re not exactly sure how Yousain ended up in India and he isn’t at all clear about that himself. But we know that he was very young when he found himself there and in domestic service. After two years of slavery and physical abuse he managed to escape, to follow a precarious lifestyle of hitching rides on trains and sleeping at train stations. He did this for an unbelievable nine years, surviving by collecting waste plastic bottles and selling them for a few rupees. But his run came to an end when one day he was accused of theft and attacked by an angry crowd. The Indian police arrested him and he was placed in a “shelter home”. It was there that he learned the Nepali language from another Nepali boy. Following that Yousain, who is very clever, went on to learn English and start a non-formal education programme at the shelter. Two years later he was picked up by ChoraChori-Nepal this time last year to join our Kathmandu refuge and he is now in 8th grade at the local school. He has shown a flair for chess (including beating this blog author!) and aspires to win every game he plays.

Unfortunately because we know nothing of Yousain’s family he’s going to have to stay with us for a while until we can make some other long term arrangements. That’s why we need your financial support through our Christmas Appeal. You can donate using the button below. Many thanks.

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Boy on a bike

img_1445This is Sudip, age 12, who has just this week joined our Kathmandu refuge. He was picked up by the Kathmandu police cycling around on a rickety bicycle with no brakes (not a good idea on the Nepal roads) asking people for directions to Mahendranagar. This is a town in the far west of Nepal, 350 miles from Kathmandu! Sudip had been living there with his grandmother and two younger siblings, after his father left home (whereabouts unknown) and his mother having gone to Bangalore to work as a “masseuse”, taking Sudip’s 16 year old sister with her. Sudip’s cousin, a former policeman, had offered to take Sudip to his home in Kathmandu where he was promised a good education. Instead he found himself in domestic service (slavery) looking after his cousin’s children and working in his hotel for no payment. Sudip managed to befriend a local shopkeeper who gave him the small amount of money he needed to buy this old bike and escape. He’s now desperate to rejoin his grandmother.

This has been a case of trafficking – often a victim’s relative becomes their worst enemy – and slavery. ChoraChori will look after Sudip until we can trace the grandmother and reunite him and support his education. Please help us to support Sudip and others at our Kathmandu refuge through our Christmas Appeal. Thank you.

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Raksha Bandhan at our Kathmandu refuge

IMG_2487 IMG_2488The annual Hindu ceremony of Raksha Bandhan is observed in Nepal, north and west India. It is also a secular festival which celebrates the love and duty between brothers and sisters and is popularly used to celebrate any brother-sister relationship between men and women who are relatives or biologically unrelated. In our case the “sisters” are the girls whom we have brought to Kathmandu from Tipling, Dhading District, to continue their higher education and, funds permitting, to start jewellery training in January. The “brothers” are of course the boys whom we’ve rescued from India who have had to remain at our Kathmandu refuge in the absence of family circumstances conducive for reunification.

In the ceremony the sister ties a rakhi (sacred thread) on her brother’s wrist. This symbolises the sister’s love and prayers for her brother’s well-being, and the brother’s lifelong vow to protect her. ChoraChori observes the practice to allow children to build relationships where these are weak or have been lost altogether, restoring a sense of stability and security.

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Tying the sacred thread in Nepal

Birthday celebrations at the Kathmandu boys’ refuge

Birthday celebrations are important at our Kathmandu refuge as they’re more than an excuse for a party (not that this is needed!). They also serve as a statement of identity and individuality for our lads. Each month there is a party for the children whose birthdays fall within that month and here are July’s three celebrants. I think they missed the point that cake is for EATING rather than slapstick.

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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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