The challenges of selecting trainees

In Nepal it’s easy to find appropriate girl trainees for an all-expenses-paid residential tailoring course, right? Wrong.

ChoraChori’s basic tailoring course offers a very attractive training package for a girl from an impoverished rural community. A trainee can join a six-month-long residential course with all costs met by ChoraChori and even receive a small training allowance that gives some pocket money (as a little further empowerment!). The challenge comes down to finding young women who are in genuine need and who are brave enough to swap tranquil rural life for the bustle of Kathmandu. It would be very easy to fill course places by remote recruitment through liaising with other organisations but we make doubly sure that these expensive charity places go to bona fide candidates by paying home visits.

To that end, ChoraChori’s head of vocational training, Lily Katuwal, and legal officer, Sunita Karki, were in Jhapa, southeast Nepal, last week. Their field visit was intended to not only followed up previous course attendees but also select new girls for training. The first challenge was getting there – 13 hours on a bus! The visit was coordinated through Fr Norbert, a local Jesuit priest, and Siril, a social worker based in Maheshpur, Jhapa District. This led to meetings with community leaders and a local school teacher but the ultimate selection could only follow all-important home visits to confirm domestic circumstances.

In spite of visiting 13 families, only two girls could be identified. Another major challenge was that since this trip was at the end of two major festivals, a few girls were still absent from their villages, visiting relatives. A further one was that girls were worried about going to the cold of Kathmandu as the winter season approaches – even though it can be quite cold in south Nepal too. Perhaps this was more a reflection of anxiety at being in the big city. These girls can be considered for the follow-on summer vocational training courses which may allay their seasonal concerns.

The first girl to join the course is 21-year-old Alisha, pictured top with her niece. She lives in a tea company house with her mother and father and a younger sister. Her parents eke out a living as labourers in the tea plantations, so Alisha is delighted at having this opportunity. The second girl, 19-year-old Ranjita lives in a little house with her mother and father, two elder brothers and their wives, their children and a younger brother. This very full house is the reality of rural poverty in southeast Nepal. Ranjita has previously been trained in dhaka weaving, but this didn’t lead to any employment and she is really keen to begin tailoring for which there is no shortage of work.

Lily’s search for trainees will, for now, continue nearer to home in Kathmandu valley. Well done Lily and Sunita on your stamina and commitment!

This programme has been made possible through our collaboration with the Soroptimist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI) – see this link.

 

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.

Visiting Josephina

Yesterday, a ChoraChori field team visited Josephina, one of the girls who completed her basic tailoring training course with us earlier this year.

These pictures were taken yesterday of the head of our vocational training, Lily (centre), and staff lawyer, Sunita (right), visiting Josephina in Jhapa. This is the District in Nepal with the highest incidence of sexual assault and girl suicide. School drop-out Josephina was one of the first group of students who attended our six-month residential basic tailoring course at the end of last year. On completing it in January, she returned home with her sewing machine as a gift from ChoraChori to help her set up in the village. This sewing machine cost us 22,500 rupees (£160). Josephina is now earning 2,000 to 3,000 rupees (approximately £20) per month through tailoring that helps support herself and her family. So you could say that after one year this investment (including training costs) has largely paid for itself and a girl like Josephina has a skill and income for life.

Lily and Sunita are continuing their visit this week, accepting applications from other girls who wish to follow in Josephina’s footsteps. We are proud to be able to support this wonderful work, including through our three-year SIGBI collaboration “Empowering Girls in Nepal” that launched at the end of last month.

 

ChoraChori’s new girls’ hostel identified

ChoraChori has identified premises to rent as its new girls’ hostel in Kathmandu.

After an exhaustive search of the neighbourhood of our existing Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre on the outskirts of Kathmandu, we have finally identified the building that will be our future girls’ hostel at the right price.

We aim to take this over as soon as possible and that comes with setup costs – including the need to repaint the building to a colour that is a bit gentler on the eye! There are four bedrooms on the first floor and three on the ground floor. With the use of bunk beds, we can accommodate 30-35 girls, as per our plans. The building is secure with a good wall and gate and there is a decent piece of outside space for recreation, such as badminton. This has only become possible through our three-year collaboration with the Soroptimist International Federation of Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI) that launched last month.

The budget for the setup and operating costs is here. We hope that our Soroptimist Christmas appeal will at least allow us to cover the setup costs and with anything more than that raised used to offset our hostel running costs into next year. The appeal will include participation in our Big Curry event on the 7th December.

To find out more about our collaboration with SIGBI, or make a donation to the Appeal, just visit the project microsite.  If you have any thoughts on how you might help, then please drop me a line.

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! 

 

SEE (SLC) examination success

Alongside our child rescue and rehabilitation work in Nepal, ChoraChori also provides material and educational support to some very poor girls within the local community. One such girl, Rina, has responded by achieving a remarkable result in the latest Secondary Education Examination (SEE).

In late 2014 ChoraChori-Nepal’s Founder and Operational Director, Shailaja CM, found these two sisters wandering destitute in the Godawari hills to the southeast of Kathmandu valley. Their alcoholic father was living in a shack (see feature image) and their stepmother had thrown them out. At Shailaja’s request we took the two girls into our care and paid for their education at the nearby Kitini School, one of the best state schools in Nepal. The cost of this was subsequently picked up by our friends at The Soroptimist International on Devon – Taranaki Club in New Zealand.

The elder of the two sisters, Rina (name changed), has just achieved a remarkable success in the Secondary Education Examination (SEE), the Grade 10 examination that up until recently was known as the School Leaving Certificate (SLC). Her “A” grade means that she has scored between 80% and 90% – which is interpreted as “Excellent” – putting Rina within the top third of students who sat the examination. This should be interpreted against the sad backdrop of the number of children who drop out of school before Grade 10 due to extreme poverty or poor schooling opportunities while others are not permitted to write the examination if they are considered likely to fail.

Rina is now moving on to Grade 11 – “Plus Two” – at Kitini College where she has chosen management as her academic stream for the next two years. While staying at the ChoraChori refuge she will supplement her academic education with training in the arts and crafts.

 

 

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