Thursday, 28 August 2008
Reading that book and the emotions that it generated took me back to my honeymoon in South Africa in 2002. After covering The Garden Route, doing some whale spotting and the like I went with Bev at the end of the trip to visit Robben Island, the former prison of Nelson Mandela. I had gone there really as a tourist but was impressed with how rather than its being a museum it had become a living testament to reconciliation. The staff numbered amongst them both former prisoners and guards working side by side. I will never forget how one former inmate, who had become a guide, described with such dignity the indignities that had been visited upon him and his fellow prisoners. He told in a measured way of the harsh punishments that would be meted out by the prison regime for the most trivial of misdemeanours. A very rare thing happened to me then as I listened to him; tears came to my eyes as I really felt for the first time the pettiness and inhumanity of apartheid.
There is talk now of Nepal having to go through a "truth and reconciliation" process in the post conflict situation. That should be difficult given that in my experience the truth of any situation seems to be very difficult to arrive at in Nepal and reconciliation, shaking hands and moving on, certainly doesn't come naturally to the locals. I hope the Trust has a role to play in that overall process, focussing on picking up the pieces of children's lives that have been broken through the violence. This month we have taken our first three "conflict affected children" into refuge care - all lost their fathers through their being killed by the security forces for being Maoists or suspected Maoists. A huge legacy of child trauma must lie out there, unrecognised, and if we can manage at least some of that then we'll be continuing to make a worthwhile contribution towards humanity.
Tuesday, 26 August 2008
Monday, 25 August 2008
Last Friday I called down to Bhairahawa to see how British art tutor volunteers Dan Newnham and Zoe Childerley were getting along. They have been supporting the art workshop for deaf school leavers for the past month and I was treated to a demonstration of how to mount wall mosaics. I was particularly thrilled to see the first ever mosaic that is specific to Bhairahawa!
There are now 25 deaf young people on the course and they're loving it. I believe that there are clear local income-earning opportunities for these young men and women after they complete their training.
We owe so much to Dan and Zoe for their amazing contribution; I hope to be able to raise the funds to cover their costs for a 6-12 month attachment in Bhairahawa next year. That will give the initiative the boost that it needs and merits.
I was very pleased with Dean's coverage even though it seems to have led to just one or two donations, although more journalistic interest has followed. But maybe someone out there was considering writing their Will around the time that they read the article. One never knows and you can only keep trying.
An example of this is the interception of a leading child trafficking agent, 68 year old Kirta Tamang, earlier this month. We had received a tip off from a villager in the south of the country that Tamang was heading to India with nine children that he was taking to the Rambo Circus. My partner Director in Nepal, Shailaja, responded immediately by leading a team of our field staff in hot pursuit. After a lot of searching at two railway stations in the northern state of Bihar, they found the agent hiding in bushes with the children. He was apprehended and the party returned to Nepal with the children. It transpired that Tamang was grandfather to two of the children that he was trafficking; it is not unusual for traffickers to be related to their victims.
Kirta Tamang is now in police custody (the adjacent picture shows him handcuffed and in the back of a police vehicle) and he now faces a trial that could lead to the maximum prison sentence of 20 years. The children have come to our refuge in Godawari, near Kathmandu, as they are at risk of being re-trafficked or, more imminently, of being influenced by Tamang's family members to concoct a story as to what they were doing in India. Perhaps some kind of a family excursion with dear old grandad?
The fundraising challenge that was dropped on me was to find the additional care costs of the children (pictured right with Shailaja, centre back). This amounts to £45 per child, per month. That's means a total of £405 per month or £4860 per year has been suddenly added to the budget. And of course there is every possibility that these children will stay with us until they come of age so multiply the total annual figure by 10 and you're getting close to the actual long term costs. Already one kind supporter (and blog reader) has responded by covering the first month of costs.
The fight against child trafficking comes at a price. Any takers for another month?
Sunday, 24 August 2008
Passing through Bhairahawa domestic airport on Friday I found myself with an excess of time awaiting my Buddha Air flight that allowed me to study the advertisements in the departure terminal. Don't believe everything that you see in Nepali advertising. In the midst of uninspiring advertisements for cooking oil and dry cell batteries there's a board there pushing the dubious delights of the Hotel Maharaja Palace which is on the airport road in Kathmandu. The architecture, as you can see from the adjacent picture, could best be described as neo-Stalinist however note the backdrop of the Himalayas which is surely a strong point in the hotel's favour? It would be if this wasn't a doctored image. In reality there isn't a mountain in sight.