Please donate if you can – every penny will make a huge difference

We are already missing all the children and staff at the refuge immensely even though we’re enjoying a good rest.

I’m attaching a link to the donation page of the charity below. Funding is essential for these children to get what they so desperately need so please donate whatever you can. Philip works around the clock to raise money for the beautiful children the charity supports and it’s a tireless job. Thank you Philip on behalf of the children. The difference you make to their little lives is immeasurable!

https://www.giveasyoulive.com/donate?cid=47648

Group theraplay session with all the trauma survivors

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Final Day

It’s our last day here. We spent today at the refuge saying goodbye to everyone. Debbie ran her final therapy sessions and I had my final lesson with the Jhapa girls. We made water candles.

The staff and all the children held a really touching goodbye ceremony for us with a cake and presents and lots of hugs and tears. There was also lots of dancing and fun.

Debbie with Sailu and Anila – the therapy team!

It has been a tough month here working with such nice kids who have such hard lives. You want to be able to do so much more for them but you have to go home and get on with your own life. I hope our time here has made a difference to them, I think it has.

Trip to Pokhara after a busy week

The last weeks have been really full and I think we both feel that we’ve been here a lot longer than we actually have. Kathmandu is a challenging city – rain, dust, dangerous roads and so many people working hard to make a living. I don’t think we’ve seen the city at its best, partly because it’s monsoon season so the beautiful hills and mountains have often been shrouded in cloud and mist, and partly because of the work we’ve been doing, which has given us a sharp and unforgiving view in to the worst misfortunes and abuses of children and families in Nepal.

We spent David’s birthday weekend in Pokhara, the beautiful lake area of Nepal, about 200km from Kathmandu. I’m really pleased we did. It’s given us a good rest and the opportunity to see a completely different side to Nepali life. Pokhara is clean and quiet, has wide pavements lining a lakeside promenade of shops, restaurants and cafes, and sits on a tranquil green lake, surrounded by forested hills. To get between our hotel and the town we had to take a short boat or raft trip across the shining lake. The hotel was in stunning tropical gardens, and was a complete contrast to the manic hustle and bustle of Kathmandu. The nicest aspect of our weekend break was seeing Nepali families enjoying their holidays. It reminded us that normal life goes on all around the country, just as it does in any other part of the world. Needless to say, we had a really lovely couple of days!

The lakeside entrance to our hotel

We left for Pokhara after another busy week. Last Friday was again a particularly busy day at the refuge. After a planned session first thing with a fourteen year old boy who was rescued along with his little sister from the infamously cruel and abusive children’s ‘homes’ of Bihar in India, we had a visit from Shailaja about one of the young girls the charity is supporting. Shailaja has been helping this girl and her sister (now fourteen and seventeen years old) since they were tiny children. The sisters’ mother died when they were just eighteen months and four years of age. Their father quickly remarried and didn’t want to take care of his daughters. They were left to fend for themselves, sleeping outdoors and only allowed to eat the leftover food from their father’s house at the end of each day. It’s hard for us to imagine a four year old taking over the care of her year and a half old sister, but this is what happened. Whenever Shailaja visited to check on the girls, she would find the older sister carrying her little sibling around, feeding her and looking after her as best she could. Shailaja warned the girls’ father, who was frequently drunk, that it was his responsibility to look after the children. He was also beating his new wife and refusing to send his daughters or the new daughter he had with the second wife to school. When things didn’t improve as the girls grew, the charity took over their support, paying for them to go to school and live in Catholic convent close to the charity. The eldest girl excelled at her studies, graduating the top class with an A grade. She is now living on the ChoraChori compound and studying for the A level equivalent alongside the group of girls from Tipling. Her younger sister is still living in the convent, and although it’s just ten minutes from the refuge, hasn’t been able to see her sister for the past three or four months because the nuns are very strict about the girls they look after staying in the convent when not at school. The younger sister is really struggling with not being with her older sibling and has become very low and anxious. Shailaja brought her to the refuge to see her sister and to ask our advice. It’s been agreed that she’ll come to the refuge every Saturday to spend the day with her sister and to have a therapy session with Anila.

Bhaskar Karki, the Nepali CEO of the charity also came to visit on Friday. He wanted to talk with us about how to best prepare the girls who have survived rapes for their court appearances. Unbelievably, they can get as little as 24 hours notice of the court date, and then have to be rushed by Shailaja, Bhaskar and the the team back to their local district for the hearing. This is obviously deeply traumatic for the girl and her family, who are often intimidated by the process and have no preparation time. I was shocked by the appalling lack of consideration for these poor children who are very young and have been viciously raped and attacked, often by groups of men. Their sole support is coming from the charity. There is no social or government led structure around them. Bhaskar and Shailaja are desperate for social change, but it will be slow coming.

A priority for ChoraChori at the moment is raising money for a vehicle – currently the girls have to be taken on harrowingly long journeys by very poor public transport after their devastating ordeals in order to give evidence in court at extremely short notice. They are scared, exhausted and need more time and privacy. A vehicle would help to provide this. I know that any donations would go to such good use!

Third Week

This is my 3rd week with the Jhapa girls and they are now fairly proficient at candle making and there is a nice relaxed atmosphere.  They are excited as next week they will start with their formal textile training which is the main reason they are here.

Notable things that have happened – the charity have moved us as we were getting too depressed in the basic and damp guest house, we now have a very nice European style apartment for this week that is located in Patan, so we can go out in the evening.  At the weekend we will be going to the Lakes to the East and then we come back to a small hotel (again in Patan) to finish off next week.

We saw our fist accident, with a moped driver trying to overtake a water tanker and getting clipped by it’s back wheels (we now have to take a taxi to work and back from Patan to Godawari, about 6 miles).  There are nearly no rules on the roads so we are amazed its taken this long to see an accident but sad to see someone get hurt so needlessly.  Another traffic fact – we worked out why everyone walks with the traffic rather then on the opposite side of the road to the traffic. It’s because the motor bikes and mopeds all have their exhausts on the right side and if you walk with the traffic so you are on their left, there is less chance of getting burned by the exhaust when the bikes go past really close.

Debbie figured out how to watch Coronation Street online in Asia and is happily catching up on missed episodes!

I have caught a cold, there is lots of illness going around as it’s monsoon season.

We met our neighbours in the upstairs flat who are also from the UK. They are working here on a research project into adolescent depression and anxiety and have brought their 10 month old baby girl with them. They all popped down to say hi.  We got some lovely baby cuddles.

Feeling quite exhausted, not just with the cold, but the work within the refuge. It’s just so difficult to accept the hardship these kids are going through and the often horrific background they have come from.  I certainly was not prepared for the level of trauma, which was probably for the best as I could easily have had second thoughts about coming if I had realised just how desperate the children’s lives are.

The weather has got a bit better, we had mostly sunshine for the last 2 days.  The refuge is just at the end of the valley so is ringed by hills that we can now see.  It is really beautiful.

Last Friday

On Friday we had a very busy day at the refuge. There were three German visitors accompanied by a representative from Unity and Health, a charity who work in partnership with ChoraChori. They were third year psychology students from near Frankfurt who are going to study and gain clinical experience in Kathmandu for three months. The two young male students were extraordinarily tall by any standard, but to the Nepali children they looked like giants! Philip (co-founder of the charity) was also working on the compound on Friday, as was Shailaja, the operational director for the charity in Nepal. She actually rescues many of the children herself, and has worked with Philip for the last twenty years, rescuing literally hundreds of children.

The students were given a tour of the compound and shown the work that goes on. Later in the day during a theraplay session, one young girl began talking in a really animated way to Sailu, who was running the session. Sailu translated, telling me that our little client was telling her what a strange day it was because the place was ‘crawling with foreigners’! We both found this very sweet and funny, but it made me realise how much the children living in the refuge have to get used to. This little girl is a rape survivor from a remote village and had never seen a European before she arrived at the refuge, let alone six in one day – two of them easily six and a half feet tall! So much to adjust to away from home (she has a very poor but caring family who placed her with the charity for safety and therapy) on top of the terrible ordeal that has brought her to ChoraChori.

It seems such a big challenge for the charity to meet the different needs of the individual children in the refuge. Some have no known families – they were rescued (by Shailaja) from the horrors of Indian children’s ‘homes’. Some have learning disabilities and even their exact age is unknown. Others have been brought by their families for refuge and treatment after horrendous sexual assaults and even abduction. There are also two groups of vulnerable girls on the compound – David is teaching candle making to the Jhapa girls who are there for vocational training to help them escape the virtual slavery of the tea gardens. The other group of girls from Tipling are completing their education after floods caused devastation in their village a year ago. Such a lot to plan for and so many needs to meet! ChoraChori really is an exceptional organisation. I’m greatly in admiration of all the work that goes on and hope that I’ll be able to follow the progress of the children I’m currently involved with.

There was also a long power cut on the compound on Friday, and this seems to be a regular challenge to life in Nepal. Everything pretty much carried on as normal, but routines like preparing food for the children and the necessary office work must be difficult without power. We had no lights for our Friday afternoon group theraplay session with all the children, but luckily there was enough natural light. The session was great fun and it was very rewarding to see the children having a joyful time. David did a great job leading the boy’s hoky koky circle (the kids weren’t keen to hold hands with members of the opposite sex) and all the children particularly loved hoky kokying and also the ‘a tooty ta’ action song.

We have very much enjoyed spending our weekend in a luxurious flat in Patan Sundhara (an ancient area of the Kathmandu valley full of temples, statues and palaces) that Bev and Philip have organised for us. Thank you very much to the owner Kenda who is so kindly letting use the flat. We’re very grateful and enjoying your lovely flat so much.

Bev and Philip took us for a wonderful meal last night at a very unexpected authentic French restaurant called Chez Caroline, which is in a beautiful old Royal palace that is now a very exclusive arts and shopping complex. This was a completely different side to Kathmandu, and we had a delicious and very relaxed meal with Bev, Philip, their children Alisha and Joe and Lily, who is their good friend and the vocational director for the charity. Thank you Bev and Philip!