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!