A new partner organisation for ChoraChori

ChoraChori is very pleased to announce that we have joined hands with a second Nepalese NGO partner, the Mithila Wildlife Trust.

In a blog post last December, we stated our intention to extend our work in support of the victims of child rape into Dhanusha, south Nepal. That remains our goal however, following a visit to the District earlier this month, we reached the conclusion that we would have to approach the challenge in a more measured way that we had envisaged. The Musahar and Dom communities are very closed castes and cautious of outsiders, including Nepali people. This is hardly surprising, considering some of the injustices that have been visited upon them in the past. First, we have to build confidence by making a tangible difference to the people and specifically to the well-being of the women and children.

On our visit we were joined by Maya Rai of the Kathmandu-based Nepal Knotcraft Centre who introduced us to women from the villages and who demonstrated their existing basket-weaving techniques. Maya’s company is keen that we train these talented women in modern techniques and contemporary designs, using natural fibres that are available locally. This will give excellent employment possibilities and community upliftment

Our other host was Dev Narayan Mandal who is a keen conservationist and the Founder of the Mithila Wildlife Trust. Dev is a local man who spent nine years in India before resolving to return to his home area and help the community which relies on the nearby forest for so much of its welfare. Sadly, that forest has been severely damaged by illegal logging but, through his Trust, this can be restored. Dev also explained the need for education to break the village poverty that has been such a central factor in child marriage. The (illegal) dowry system is being sustained in large part because the younger the girl at the time of marriage, the lower the dowry payment. Although the legal age for marriage in Nepal is 20, girls from this community were marrying between the ages of 12 and 16. Education offers the only way out.

In response we have agreed to fund the construction of a study facility that will support over 200 children outside of school hours, improving school retention rates. This will cost £9,500 and that sum has been kindly gifted by major donors in the UK. We have also provided £1,600 towards setting up a low-cost training space for the women, this through our “Empowering Girls in Nepal” collaboration with SIGBI. Both facilities should be constructed within three months and in good time before this year’s monsoon season.

This is just the first step in what is sure to be a productive and rewarding partnership!

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.

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.

Success at the Soroptimist International of Great Britain and Ireland conference

Soroptimist conference

Delegates at the Soroptimist International of Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI) Federation annual conference have chosen ChoraChori’s project “Empowering girls in Nepal” as the new Federation project for 2019 – 2022.

Yesterday Philip Holmes, CEO/Founder of ChoraChori, gave a joint presentation on our work with the President of Bridgend and District Soroptimist International Club, Helen Murdoch. They were going head to head with three other charities, including the excellent Rosie May Foundation and Act4Africa charities and the Women into Stem project in competition to be the chosen Federation charity for 2019-2022. Each presentation had to be for three minutes (at which point the microphone would cut out) followed by 4 minutes of questions. For Philip it felt rather like speed-dating with the 1200 attendees at the ACC conference centre in Liverpool!

Our presentation is outlined in this link, with our pitch being for £105,000 over three years towards giving girls a combination of skills and schooling towards gainful employment and the operation of a half-way house where girls can be safe during rehabilitation and training. The beneficiaries would be a combination of child rape survivors and vulnerable girls from the tea plantations of Jhapa, a follow on from the pilot project we began in July.

Being well-rehearsed, we completed our presentation on time and without any problems. But the nerve-wracking part was the vote that followed. Delegates were able to record their votes using key pads the outcome of which was shown on the big screen behind the stage. At the first count we came in second place behind Women into STEM. However the rules stated that the winning charity had to have at least 51% of the vote so the third and fourth place charities were eliminated and we had a second vote to endure. We almost felt like watching the ten second countdown on the screen through our fingers! The final score was 53% for ChoraChori and 47% for Women into Stem. We’d won and it was hugs all round.

We are of course thrilled by this outcome and feel privileged to work with our friends at SIGBI Federation in the coming time. For this is not a grant; rather it is a collaboration that will be fulfilling for all of us and life-changing for the girls. We will have to fundraise together which should be huge fun while we at ChoraChori will still need to find the funds elsewhere for the other elements of our Nepal programmes, including child trauma management.

For now though, it’s time for a little celebration. Huge thanks must go to Helen Murdoch and Rayner Rees and their fellow club members at Bridgend who have been awesome in the build up to this success. And a wee thank you to New Zealand Soroptimists Sarah Lucas-Broughton and Valda McBeth who gave us the introduction to the wonderful world of Soroptimists in the first place!

Some scenes from yesterday:

Guest speaker Terry Waite who presented just before us.

 

It didn’t seem to matter that I forgot to do up my tie!

Bridgend President, Helen Murdoch, keeping me in order

 

Fingers on pads for the vote….

A handshake of congratulations from Mary Storrie, Founder of the Rosie May Foundation

And a well-deserved hug to Rayner Rees! 

 

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