Final words on “As a Tiger in the Jungle” – and the future challenge for ChoraChori

Nepal performers Aman Tamang and Renu Ghalan in circus performanceBetween April and June 2019, contemporary circus show “As a Tiger in the Jungle” enjoyed a hugely successful tour of top venues across England and Wales, including the Glastonbury Festival. Nepalese performers Aman and Renu have now returned to Nepal but leave behind a powerful legacy of memorable performances and poignant messages.

Through “As a Tiger in the Jungle” Aman and Renu shared their experience of being trafficked from Nepal into slavery as “child performers”. See this previous blog post that gives the detail of this remarkable production. Between performances, they would take time out to give interviews on television and radio, ensuring that their message wasn’t confined only to those who attended the shows. Click on the image above to see their appearance on BBC Southeast during their visit to Brighton.

In May they laid on a special charity performance at Stratford Circus in London in support of ChoraChori’s Big Give summer appeal. Afterwards, ChoraChori Founder Philip Holmes addressed the audience in which he reflected on his organisation’s previous rescue work of Philip Holmes, Founder ChoraChorihundreds of children, including Aman and Renu, and how the contemporary circus training had started out in 2011. Then he called for public support for the greater challenge that lies ahead, as ChoraChori tackles the burgeoning issue of child rape in Nepal. When you read press articles such as this one from last week’s Kathmandu Post, it brings sharply into focus just how much needs to be done – even in ensuring appropriate police management of survivors. You can see an extract of Philip’s speech by clicking on his image above.

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ChoraChori to train its own social worker in Nepal

We are very pleased to announce that, thanks to generous supporter sponsorship, ChoraChori will be training its own social worker in Nepal – a young woman with quite a story to tell.

Twenty-year-old Chhukit Lama knows all about the extreme vulnerability that can accompany childhood in Nepal.

She hails from Humla, a remote, sparsely-populated District in Nepal’s remote northwest, next to the Tibet border.  Even at “the best of times” it’s a tough place to grow up with a chronic lack of healthcare provision and education. It has the lowest literacy rate in Nepal (47.8%), an infant mortality rate of over 30% and an average life expectancy of just 58. But back in 2004, when Chhukit was just five, the District was in the midst of the worst of times, with the ten-year-long Maoist “People’s War” at its height. Schools were shut down and children were being conscripted into the “People’s Army”. Parents were desperate to get their children to a place of safety and find an education – and an apparent saviour came to their aid.

As described in Philip Holmes’ newly published memoir Gates of Bronze, self-confessed child trafficker DB Phadera began to prey on the families. He offered false hope, taking children out of the District, with some adopted abroad without their parents’ knowledge or consent. He took older girls, like Chhukit, across the border to Tamil Nadu in India’s deep south where he admitted them to the Michael Job Centre. Operated by self-styled “India’s Billy Graham”, the late Dr PP Job, this fake orphanage was an extreme “Christian” indoctrination centre. Dr Job’s agenda was to bring up these children in his version of the faith so that they could return to their home areas as missionaries, with, in his words, “a bible in one hand and a degree in the other”. The Centre was supported by a keen, but naive, band of international radical evangelists who believed Dr Job’s lies that the children at the Centre were the orphan daughters of Christian martyrs. In fact, for the most part, the children’s parents were alive and well and they came from Hindu or Buddhist families.

Phadera took five-year-old Chhukit, her older sister and four other girls from the village on the long journey south. So began her eight-year sentence that ended only after her parents responded to her sister’s desperate telephone appeals and paid the trafficker to return their daughters to them. Soon afterwards, in September 2011, Philip and his team went to the Centre and brought all of the Nepalese girls out of this fraudulent arrangement. See this report from the Nepali Times and this one from the UK’s Daily Telegraph. Chhukit then joined the returnees in completing her education in an excellent school in Kathmandu, funded by Philip’s former charity, The Esther Benjamins Trust.

Chhukit excelled at school, passing her School Leaving Certificate (a remarkable achievement in itself for a girl from Humla) and her Plus Two exams (the equivalent of A-Levels). Now, thanks to two very generous ChoraChori sponsors, she will start a four-year full-time course towards her Bachelor’s in Social Work. The total cost will be £7,800 but this will represent not only a tremendous investment in this talented young woman’s future but also help us build local capacity in Nepal – the latter being part of ChoraChori-UK’s remit. While she is studying, Chhukit will also “pay-back” by spending time supporting the child rape survivors at our Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre (CRRC) in Kathmandu.

ChoraChori trainee social worker at the Children's Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal

Blind man’s buff at the CRRC

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.

ChoraChori rescues 26 Nepalese boys from Bihar

On Good Friday, the 18th April 2019, ChoraChori facilitated the rescue of 26 Nepalese boys from a children’s shelter in Bihar, north India.

The open border between Nepal and India makes it easy for children to be trafficked or for them to voluntarily cross into India in search of opportunities. On the 27th March the Indian authorities intercepted a group of 26 teenage boys who were on their way to alleged employment opportunities in Chennai. Such transfer of children concerns the Nepal authorities for good reason. Why would Nepalese children be offered employment when there are no shortage of potential employees in Chennai itself? The truth of the matter is that it is much easier to exploit children who are foreign nationals – one of the sad fundamentals of child trafficking.

All of the boys hailed from Districts in south central Nepal. The boys had been placed in a children’s shelter at Sitamadhi in Bihar (pictured) with the request that the Nepalese authorities arrange their repatriation and reunification with their families. Accordingly, Nepal’s Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB) immediately contacted District Child Welfare Boards in Dhanusha, Mahottari, Sarlahi and Siraha Districts to trace the boys’ families. This being achieved quickly, CCWB then requested that the Sitamadhi District Child Protection Unit hand over the boys to authorised persons. These were Sanjiv Mahato (CCWB), Saroj Kumar Ray (an independent social worker appointed by Dhanusha Child Welfare Board) and Shailaja CM, the Operational Director of ChoraChori-Nepal (right of picture). The reunification was effected quickly on Good Friday, with ChoraChori-Nepal covering the costs, including the hire of the bus. The boys have since been reunited with their families, relieved to be back home after their month-long detention. See this press report on the rescue.

Well done to Shailaja and our staff lawyer, Sunita Karki, on their success and compliments to all other involved parties on this smooth operation. This latest rescue brings to 203 the number of displaced and trafficked children whose repatriation ChoraChori has facilitated since late 2015. We aim to open a boys’ hostel in Kathmandu later this year which will give the rescue programme a further boost.

As a Tiger in the Jungle returns to UK!

Nepalese contemporary circus performers Aman Tamang and Renu Ghalan return to UK to stage their acclaimed show about child trafficking, “As a Tiger in the Jungle”.

We are delighted to let you know that Cirkus Xanti (Norway) and Ali Williams Productions will once again present their poignant and heart-warming performance about rescued child slaves from Indian traditional circus. Through the show, two performers from Nepal, Renu and Aman, both child trafficking survivors, ask questions about life, love, poverty and greed. Using the spoken word, movement, circus and ceremony, they tell the story of how, against all odds, they survived child slavery to create their own destiny. To get a glimpse of their breath-taking skills, click on the image on the left for a preview.

Aman and Renu are just two of the 700 Nepalese children who were liberated from circus slavery during the period 2004-2011 when ChoraChori co-Founder Philip Holmes was based in Nepal and headed up the anti trafficking programme. This show highlights a tragedy that still befalls hundreds of Nepalese children every year, albeit into different situations.

Here are the venues and dates for your diary:

4 April:             Enableus Fest Sheffield University, Octagon Centre, Clarkson Street, Sheffield, S10 2TQ
16 April:           Ffwrnes Park Street, Llanelli, SA15 3YE
17 – 18 April:  Circomedia Portland Square, St Paul’s, Bristol,BS2 8SJ
2 – 3 May:       Riverfront Theatre King’s Way, Newport, NP60 1HG
9 May:              Lincoln Drill Hall Free School Lane, Lincoln, LN2 1EY
12 May:            Aberystwyth Arts Centre Penglais Campus, University of Aberystwyth SY23 3DE
17 May:            Stratford Circus Stratford Circus Arts Centre, Theatre Square, Stratford, London, E15 1BX
22 – 25 May:  Brighton Fringe Brighton Open Air Theatre, Park Dyke Road, Hove,BN3 6EH
29 May:           Warwick Arts Centre University of Warwick, Coventry,CV4 7AL
31 May:            The Civic in Barnsley Hanson Street, Barnsley, S70 2HZ
6 June:             Salisbury Festival Salisbury Playhouse
7 – 8 June:      Theatre Brycheniog Canal Wharf, Brecon, LD3 7EW
14 June:           Galeri Doc Victoria, Caernarfon, Gwynedd, LL55 1SQ
21 – 23 June: Theatr Mwldan Bath House Road, Cardigan SA43 1JY
26 – 30 June: Glastonbury Festival Worthy Farm, Worthy Lane, Pilton, Shepton Mallet, Somerset, BA4 4BY

The 17th May performance will be a special ticket-only event for ChoraChori supporters and friends. Please let us know if you would like to attend. If you can’t make any of these venues or dates please make a donation using the button below. Thanks!

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Rescue from Varanasi

Kamala (green) and her father being counselled by ChoraChori-Nepal refuge manager, Rita Mokhtan (centre).

Varanasi is famous throughout India as a focus for pilgrims and tourists alike. Indeed, with its 2,000 temples it is known as the spiritual capital of India. But the ChoraChori-Nepal field team has just been there for another reason; to bring a girl trafficking victim home.

Sixteen year old Kamala (name changed) arrived at our Kathmandu refuge at midnight three days ago. It was the end of a long journey that began at the start of last year. At that time she was living at home in Rautahat, a District in south-central Nepal. She and a number of girls had been in touch by mobile with a boy who was encouraging them to join him in Kathmandu. Only Kamala decided to run away and join him, enticed by his proposal of marriage.

But once in Kathmandu the boy locked her in a room while he went to work in a bag factory. Soon afterwards they travelled to Nawalparasi, another border District, where again the boy locked her up while he sold ice lollipops on the street. From there they crossed the border in Uttar Pradesh and ended up in Varanasi. At this point Kamala begged to return home but the boy beat her and left saying he would return with a bus ticket. He never came back. The local Child Welfare Committee found out about Kamala’s predicament and admitted her to a girls’ hostel. Then they contacted ChoraChori-Nepal asking for our help with repatriation.

We managed to trace Kamala’s family without too much difficulty and her father and uncle travelled with our staff member Pratap Titung to secure her release.  At our Kathmandu refuge we have conducted health checks and counselled the family. Initially Kamala’s parents were saying that they would not accept her back home. Instead she would stay with an uncle pending marriage as soon as possible. However they have now come around to accepting her back with them, recognising that the girl has been a victim rather than a delinquent. Our next step is to find the boy and bring him to justice as this has been a case of trafficking.

Sadly, this is a story we hear all to often, with vulnerable girls being tempted by false promises. ChoraChori-Nepal is the only Nepal-based organisation that goes into India to retrieve and reintegrate them, giving girls like Kamala a second chance.

 

Child reunification and rescue at Christmas

ChoraChori conducts child reunification and rescue before Christmas.

ChoraChori’s main aim is to reunite displaced children it rescues from India with their families. This follows a period of care, rehabilitation, education and training at its transit refuge in Kathmandu.

Parbati’s story

British volunteer teaching Nepali girls screen printingParbati is one of 33 children whom ChoraChori rescued from a very bad children’s shelter in Bihar, north India, in March. She’d gone originally to India with a boyfriend who had subsequently abandoned her. When she joined us she was very withdrawn and unwilling to speak about her past. However, during her time at the refuge she has blossomed. She has benefited from training provided by British volunteers Ben and Lara. Ben has taught her how to use the electric sewing machine while Lara has trained Parbati in screen printing techniques. See the adjacent films.

Nepal girl trainingMeantime ChoraChori has been tracing families and preparing the way for the reunification that took place on Saturday. Parbati is one of two girls from our refuge who were successfully returned to their families. You can see from the title picture that Parbati’s return to her village caused quite a stir. Especially when she proudly showed off a screen print shoulder bag that she had made. Parbati is welcome to return to the refuge next year to continue her training, if she so wishes.

ChoraChori finds more displaced Nepali children in India.

Nepal, children, ChoraChori, charity

After this reunification, the ChoraChori team moved across the border into the neighbouring Indian state of Bihar. There they visited a girls’ shelter and a boys’ shelter. Through interviews it is important to confirm nationalities as ChoraChori would be unable to offer reunification of Indian children to their families. And it can be difficult to establish nationality given that ethnic Indian people live in south Nepal and ethnic Nepalis live in northeast India.

Following the interviews ChoraChori determined that four little girls and eight boys can be returned to Nepal and to our transit refuge as their first port of call. Unfortunately this could not happen straight away due to the local Child Welfare Committee being involved in other business and given that a forthcoming Nepal election will restrict movements in the country. So ChoraChori will now have the added expense of a return visit later this week to bring the children home.

ChoraChori rescues young women too.

Rescue operations often deliver the unexpected and this trip has been no exception. For at the girls’ shelter the team found an 18 year old woman who is three months’ pregnant. She told Shailaja our staff how two women had drugged her in Nepal for her to awake in India and enter a forced marriage. Therefore this is a human trafficking case. The woman is keen to get justice and she knows all the people involved in her abduction and subsequent rape. ChoraChori will help her pursue the case.

A deaf Nepali woman and her child found at a girls’ shelter in Bihar

ChoraChori’s field team has brought this woman back to Nepal along with another woman that they found at the shelter. She is 23 years old and both deaf and dumb. She has with her a three year old boy who looks severely malnourished (pictured left). The woman told the team that she too had escaped from an abusive relationship. ChoraChori’s Nepal staff has very good experience in working with hearing impaired people and we should be able to help this woman (and indirectly her child) with some income generation training.

Needless to say these two adult cases will add significantly to our long term care and training costs. This expense is over and above the immediate transfer, and short/medium term care costs of the 12 children we will bring home later in the week. Please help us now with a donation by clicking on the logo below. Under the Big Give Christmas Challenge which runs until 12 noon on the 5th December all gifts can be doubled in value. Thank you for supporting our wonderful reunification and rescue staff in this way.

 

 

Something for the tooth fairy…

ChoraChori trains vulnerable Nepalese girls how to make unique felt products

In a previous blog post we explained how earlier this year British volunteer Alice Alderson supported our “Tipling girls” through training them in cutting and sewing techniques. This work has matured into a final product that is now ready to go under the pillow – a felt heart for the tooth fairy!

A great idea

So here it is: a hand-stitched felt heart that has a little pocket, containing a note with the name of the girl who made it. The felt heart comes in a transparent mesh bag that also contains an information card about the charity and three blank notes (two as spares) for the child to write a personal message to the fairy. The bag is then sealed with a tie label. All the design work has been done by Alice. So after a few months of hard work by our girls and volunteers it’s now over to the tooth-fairy. And to you! We are offering these distinctive Christmas stocking fillers at £4.50 each. 100% of the profit goes to ChoraChori. There is a minimum order of five with an additional £2.50 to cover postage and packing for European sales only. To place an order just drop me a line.

We are very grateful to The Soroptimists International President’s Appeal 2015-2017 “Educate to Lead” whose generous grant funding has funded this project within our broader programme of educational and training support to vulnerable girls in Nepal. Also to UK supporter Clare Hilder for the original idea!

Felt product from Nepal

Nepali girl abduction

Nepali girl abduction a common crime

Nepali girl abduction is commonplace – indeed socially accepted – in some rural communities in Nepal. The UK’s Daily Mail reported on this two years ago, describing how it impacted upon Dalit (“untouchable”) girls in remote northwest Nepal. Young men abducted these girls to force them into child marriage while girls’ families offered little resistance. See this article.  We’ve come across the same practice further to the east in Tipling, Dhading District, which lies in the mountains bordering Tibet. In the midst of stunning scenery (see picture above) young men commit crimes against girls, robbing them of their childhoods and futures.

Tipling – a tough place for girls

It takes two days’ travel from Kathmandu to reach Tipling, its remoteness contributing to endemic grinding poverty. This is home to the people from the marginalised and historically downtrodden Tamang community. Family incomes are derived from subsistence farming, manual labour and from acting as porters. Women’s lives are particularly difficult with a high incidence of child marriage and early pregnancy. These are major contributing factors towards infant and maternal mortality. Families often can’t afford to educate their children. If they can, they will prioritise their sons’ schooling and send them to private boarding schools in large towns. Girls can only expect to attend local government schools that are chronically under-resourced. Eventually poverty forces many girls to drop out of school early to begin work. Or they may be forced into child marriage even though this is illegal in Nepal.

The thing is that there’s little protection for girls. There is no police post in the area; the nearest one is a day’s walk away. And often parents can be away from home, tending cattle in lowland pastures. So it’s easy for a young man or young men to kidnap a girl and claim her as a wife.

Abduction of two sisters

A young man kidnapped 22 year old Mara when her father was away from home working as a herdsman. Mara ran away from her captor four times before he turned up at her parents’ home. He offered alcohol as a goodwill gesture to the family and to obtain her father’s blessing. The family agreed and Mara’s fate was sealed. Later, another lad and some friends snatched Mara’s younger sister, Nanimaya. She escaped five times but each time her abductor went to her home to retrieve her with the family’s consent. After the sixth escape the young man gave up. But, bizarrely, he claimed £4 equivalent from Nanimaya’s father as “compensation” for the “divorce”.

In our society we’d quite correctly view these practices as kidnap and rape. Not necessarily so in rural Nepal and even if there is a police presence, they turn a blind eye to these crimes for fear of upsetting complicit villagers.

The ChoraChori Tipling Girls Project

Girls from Tipling learning craft skillsMara and Nanimaya’s youngest sister is one of ten girls who came to Kathmandu last July. ChoraChori responded to a request from a Jesuit priest in Tipling, Fr Norbert, that we give these girls a chance to complete their education in Kathmandu. For they had successfully passed the coveted Grade 10 School Leaver’s Certificate (SLC) examination at their school in Tipling. This was a remarkable achievement in spite of the 2015 earthquakes that had destroyed their homes. There was no option to complete higher secondary education (Grades 11 and 12) in Tipling. Moreover, lawlessness had become much worse after the quakes and these girls were very susceptible to abduction, child marriage or even human trafficking. Tamang girls are physically attractive and therefore highly sought-after for the sex trade.

The Tipling girls are now staying at ChoraChori Operational Director Shailaja’s home. In the mornings they attend college while in the afternoons we have been teaching them handicrafts. Soon we plan to extend their extra-curricular activities to English lessons. These will increase their future employability. And in June we expect a further ten or so girls to join the two year programme. A programme that will give these young women a chance of making something of their lives while providing essential protection from kidnappers.

To support this project and help us fight Nepali girl abduction please donate using the button below:

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ChoraChori rescues 33 Nepali kids from two Indian orphanages

ChoraChori rescues 33 Nepali kids in Bihar!

The picture above shows Narayan Bhatta thanking us for rescuing his son, Mahesh, along with 32 other Nepali kids from two children’s homes in India. Read more

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