ChoraChori opens silver jewellery workshop

USA jeweller Nancy Edwards joins ChoraChori as a volunteer consultant at its new jewellery training workshopChoraChori is delighted to announce that it is setting up a new silver jewellery workshop at its Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre (CRRC) in Nepal.

At our CRRC we provide protection, support, education and training to children from a range of backgrounds. These include trafficked and displaced Nepalese children whom we have rescued from India, child rape survivors from Nepal itself and vulnerable girls from deprived rural communities where trafficking and sexual assault are endemic. Our in-house vocational training, that began in August 2018, has up until now focussed primarily on tailoring training. But this month, in a Joint Venture with our great friends at U.S. nonprofit Her Future Coalition, we have opened a silver jewellery workshop that will provide training and an income in a shiny new discipline.

The arrangement with Her Future Coalition is that we will provide the workshop space, materials and beneficiaries and they will provide the professional expertise. The latter will be through visiting volunteer consultants from the USA and through trainers who will be seconded from time to time from the existing Her Future Coalition’s workshop in Calcutta. We are very pleased that the first of the visiting consultants, Nancy Edwards, will join us next month. Nancy (pictured above) left her career as a research scientist to pursue her passion as a designer and entrepreneur in jewellery. Ten years later, she is now a highly experienced trainer (including in metalsmithing) who works with other designers as well as creating her own wonderful pieces. However, she says that her most rewarding work so far has been to provide this training to vulnerable girls through Her Future Coalition.

The workshop will have twelve bench spaces on offer to girls who have already received training through Philip’s previous programme with The Esther Benjamins Trust (of which he is the Founder) and to new trainees. This will allow the workshop to produce jewellery for immediate sale while at the same time providing training at advanced and beginners’ levels. The initial workforce will consist of seven young women, five of whom are deaf. In Nepal deafness is highly stigmatised, seen as punishment for misdeeds in a previous life. Deaf people are often nicknamed “lato” which means “stupid”. Our experience has been that, on the contrary, perhaps able to work without auditory distractions, deaf workers are highly skilled and focussed and become wonderful jewellers. The two other women are from vulnerable families – their siblings were trafficked into India. The remaining five places will be reserved for rape survivors, to offer them therapeutic and ultimately income generation training.

This workshop is but a small step in a fascinating direction as we embed a skill within the local community that can offer training and employment to many more in the future. The programme’s launch was made possible through a combination of funds raised in our summer Big Give appeal and from our friends at Nexus International School in Singapore.

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.

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! 

 

Two more boys complete their vocational training

Two more of ChoraChori’s oldest beneficiaries, both rescued from Indian children’s shelters, have successfully completed their vocational training in Kathmandu and started work.

Of the 147 Nepalese children that ChoraChori has rescued from “children’s shelters” in India, all but eight have been reunited with their families. Some children have no homes to go to, or had been running away from dire poverty or domestic abuse. For these children we have a duty of care to look after them while providing education or vocational training towards self-sufficiency.

In a December 2016 we published blog posts about “Raju” and Yousain, two of the older boys for whom we’d have to go this extra mile. Happily Raju (title picture) has now completed his welding training and begins on-the-job training next week into guaranteed work. Yousain, pictured left with Shailaja and Bhaskar, has completed six months’ training to be a chef at the excellent Global Academy of Tourism and Hospitality Education (GATE) institute. He too is already in employment.

Although we have now completed our commitment to them, both boys remain part of the ChoraChori family and are welcome to return to the refuge for events. There can be no better role models to inspire the other children.

This has all been accomplished through the support of individual sponsors. If you feel that you can help us in this way and invest in a boy’s future, drop me a line using the button below!

Vocational training success!

Uday completes his vocational training and starts a first job.

When ChoraChori rescued runaway Uday from India at the start of 2017 he had nothing, least of all a family, to return to. Now he has a vocational training certificate and a job to show for his diligence and our support.

Uday was one of 33 children whom ChoraChori rescued from India in March 2017. We have successfully reunited most with their families but were left with a residual challenge; what to do with those whose families couldn’t be found or where there was no functional family unit to return to? We always prioritise academic education but some returnees lack the ability to succeed in school or have been out of the system for just too long to have any prospect of catch up. For such children we consider vocational training options, both in-house and contracted out.

Last August we placed two lads at the highly regarded Sano Thimi vocational training college in Bhaktapur on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Unfortunately one of them packed his bags a few weeks later and left in the night for reasons unknown. The other, Uday, stuck with the course and has now passed the college exams, securing a first division pass at 77.8%. He has moved seamlessly into his first job as a light vehicle service mechanic at a workshop where he is excited to be earning a salary. Two more refuge boys, Raja and Prakash, are following in his wake as they embark on a six month residential course, also to become light service vehicle mechanics (pictured left). Like Uday, they know nothing of their families’ whereabouts and now is their chance to make good too.

In three days’ time a third refuge boy, Youshan, will be joining a six month Culinary Arts course at the Global Academy of Tourism and Hospitality Education (GATE). Graduates from GATE are guaranteed jobs in top hotels in Nepal and abroad, so the world could soon by Youshan’s oyster.

Training and hostel fees for Raja and Prakash costs £500 each, while Youshan’s course and support costs will be £1,150. If you can help us by becoming a short term sponsor, a champion, for one of these boys then please contact Philip Holmes using the button below.

 

 

 

New vocational training

vocational training NepalA new year brings a new vocational training opportunity to our Kathmandu refuge, as five boys begin training in welding and working in metalwork.

In a post from last year we described how we’d found places for two boys on vocational training courses at a college in Kathmandu. The boys had joined the residential course full of enthusiasm. Yet just a month later one of the boys packed his things and left without saying a word to anyone.

We were bitterly disappointed at this but had to settle for reminding ourselves that we had done our very best for him. We had not only secured his freedom from India but given him the opportunity of a fresh start and a trade. Perhaps he yearned for the false freedom of the streets again in preference to the discipline of studying and conforming to a timetable. Thankfully the college refunded his course costs and we will be able to fund another boy through training later this year.

Nevertheless, we learned an important lesson: Before sending a teenager on an expensive external course we need to have evidence that he or she is likely to be up to the challenge. This has been one of our motives for setting up low-cost in house vocational training this month. A local trainer has introduced a group of five of our older boys to welding and metalwork. The coordinator, ChoraChori-Nepal staff member Lily Katuwal, tells us that they have shown a great deal of early enthusiasm and aptitude, making a ladder, table and bench. They have learned skills but Lily has seen how their communication skills and confidence have also developed.

There is a second motivation. We are planning to extend the in-house programme for boys to include basic plumbing and electrician training. And for both sexes we aim to introduce beginners and advanced tailoring courses. To that end we are in discussion with the Head Teacher at our local school, Kitini College, to establish how such training might benefit his pupils. Although Kitini has an excellent academic record many students drop out, unable to cope with their studies. We would like to target training at this group while still benefiting our own refuge kids.

Watch this space!

Vocational training gives ChoraChori beneficiaries real prospects for the future

Finding a way ahead for ChoraChori’s kids in Nepal

IMG_8017

Uday and Ramesh with ChoraChori staff member Sujit (centre) on their first day at a vocational training school in Nepal

Since August 2015 ChoraChori has rescued 105 trafficked and displaced Nepali children from India. We have reunited over 80% of these with their families. However some cannot go back to families as they don’t have stable and safe domestic circumstances. For these kids we have to offer a different pathway in life and vocational training is a valuable option.

Managing refuge children’s aspirations

For all returnees our initial approach is to reintroduce them to attending school. Some of the children have the academic ability but others don’t. It can be just too difficult after having been away from Nepal so long and understandably they feel disinclined to sit in class with pupils who might be much younger than them. Other children may just want to get into work as quickly as possible to earn an income for themselves and their families. After all that might be the reason they left Nepal in the first place.

Vocational training course requirements

The problem is that in Nepal the bar can be set very high in terms of the academic qualifications required for admission. Also, the cost of the courses would be preclusive for children who come from very poor families. Nevertheless we have found accessible courses at Sano Thimi Technical School in Bhaktapur on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Pictured above are refuge boys Uday and Ramesh this morning with ChoraChori’s Assistant Refuge Manager, Sujit Thapa (centre). Uday and Ramesh have joined a light vehicle service mechanic course and a motorcycle service course respectively. These residential six month courses cost £720 each. Put another way that’s £60 a month leading into a huge work opportunity.

Become a child sponsor

Uday and Ramesh are fortunate to have ChoraChori supporters as sponsors for their courses. There are six other adolescents, including one girl, who are awaiting the same kind of vocational training opportunity as Uday and Ramesh. If you (or a group of friends) could help us with a six month commitment we could make that donation go a very long way. Indeed, here’s a chance to make an investment that can turn around the life of a child through teaching them skills for life.

If you would like to become a sponsor then please drop me a line. Many thanks!

 

 

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!

donate to ChoraChori

 

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