NGN Reintegration Officers Continue Their Challenging Field Missions All Over Nepal
Nepal’s mountainous terrain and poor infrastructure make it difficult to travel and search for the families of children who have been trafficked and displaced from their homes into the hundreds of abusive children’s homes scattered throughout Kathmandu and other major Nepali cities. Nevertheless, NGN’s reintegration officers continue to trek across precarious and difficult terrain to find the families of rescued children and to monitor the children who have already been reunified with their families.
The story doesn’t end there. Once a child has been reunified, there is still work that needs to be done. Every effort is made to ensure a smooth reintegration process. Many of the children need ongoing psycho-social support from their families, schools and communities. NGN continues to visit these children and help them adjust after being freed from the abuse they have experienced for years. Even after they have been reunified, it can often take years for a child to feel safe. Our team also continues to assess the economic situation of families during field visits to make sure they have enough food and are being given the resources to support their children.
Despite all the challenges, these field missions are an essential part of a successful reintegration, and are the reason that in all the years NGN has been rescuing and reunifying children. Not one child has been re-trafficked. It is with this in mind that the NGN team makes sure that they leave no stone unturned nor any lead unfollowed in guaranteeing the safety and wellbeing of each of these reunified children.
Through the NGN team’s determination and with the continuous support from our donors, NGN has successfully reintegrated hundreds of displaced children with their families. NGN’s work continues, and we are on track to rescue many more children who have been displaced and are being kept in abusive conditions. NGN’s aspiration is to end child trafficking and bring every trafficked child home.
NGN's Community Anti-trafficking Project Continues to Raise Awareness
As 2017 gets underway, the NGN Community Anti-trafficking (CAT) project team continues to travel to remote, earthquake-affected villages in the district of Sindhupalchowk to inform local communities about the dangers of children being trafficked into illegal institutions. The team does this through performing educational street dramas, giving talks in schools and many other activities that engage and empower local communities.
In January alone, 1,792 local communities were reached through our street dramas and learned how traffickers operate. By using informative and engaging narrative, our team appeals to a wide range of audiences and is able to educate them about the dangers of children being displaced from their families and communities.
Hundreds of young people in vulnerable communities are also being reached through our school programs. These short, informative and interactive talks work by engaging students through discussions and group interaction while assessing their awareness about the dangers of trafficking in their communities.
Along with street dramas and school talks, our CAT check-post monitors inspect hundreds of vehicles every day to stop traffickers preying on children from these rural communities. In addition to these community-engagement activities, NGN has educated thousands of locals in Sindhupalchowk through our community radio programs, which have been successful in reaching very remote villages where our teams are not able to travel due to landslides and roads being destroyed.
Through such community based initiatives, NGN has been able to prevent many at-risk and vulnerable children from being taken into abusive orphanages far away from their families. Our team continues to monitor and educate local communities to make sure that all children are safe, with their families, and free from all of the horrors that child trafficking brings.
Priya: Aspiring to Reach the Top and Serve her Family and Homeland
It has been many years since NGN rescued Priya and brought her under our care. In that time, we’ve seen a young and vulnerable girl transform into a talented and determined young woman.
Under the NGN Empowerment Project, Priya has been able to delve deep into her education and pursue her dreams. She has used the opportunities afforded to her by NGN to set lofty goals for herself and she is well on her way to achieving them. NGN has reconnected Priya with her family and she maintains close ties with them, and, as part of our Empowerment Project, she has also been provided with the support and resources she’s needed to pursue her secondary education in Kathmandu.
Priya and her younger brother, also an Empowerment Project youth
Last year, Priya passed her 12th grade final exam, scoring in the first division. After graduation, she went home to her village to visit her relatives and friends before starting a bachelor program. It had been awhile since she had been back, and she was overcome by the beauty of her village. She decided she wanted to share that beauty with the world, while at the same time working to raise her community out of poverty.
After returning from her village, Priya made up her mind to pursue a degree in tourism and travel management to promote sustainable tourism in her village, and help draw attention and recognition of its immense natural beauty. She studied hard for the admissions test and applied to one of the most prestigious colleges in Nepal. All her hard work paid off and she was delighted to be accepted into such a respected program.
Priya is only in her first year of college, but she is already dreaming of becoming a successful tourism entrepreneur and bringing thousands of visitors into Nepal. She sees huge potential for the travel sector of Nepal and believes that responsible tourism can be a way to bring her remote community out of poverty. Eventually, she plans to go back to live in her village and serve her community from within, but first she knows she must get the best possible education so that she can do the most good. Priya is on the right path to become a successful woman, and there is no doubt that she will achieve her dreams to serve her community and her nation.
Back Home After the Darkness of Life at an Abusive Orphanage
© Next Generation Nepal
Born in one of Nepal’s many remote villages, Lalit is the oldest of four children, and he loves his younger siblings and family very much. Hoping to provide Lalit with a quality education, Lalit’s father paid hundreds of dollars to send his son to a boarding school in Kathmandu. It was a huge strain on the family’s extremely limited finances, but Lalit’s father wanted only the best for his son. What Lalit’s father didn’t know was that the man who promised to ensure his son a quality education in the country’s capital was a trafficker. Instead of enrolling Lalit in a boarding school, he placed Lalit in a mismanaged and filthy Kathmandu orphanage, far from the love and comfort of his home and family.
The orphanage was no place for anyone, let alone a young and vulnerable child like Lalit. There was no permanent staff, only a few untrained volunteers to take care of the 22 children who lived at the children’s home. Devastatingly, the owner of the orphanage and her family physically abused the children and frequently beat them.
It was extremely challenging for a young child like Lalit to grow and thrive in such a dirty and abusive environment. At first, when NGN rescued Lalit and the other children, he was afraid to come with the NGN team, but after some counseling he felt comfortable and safe enough to accompany our reintegration officers to the NGN transit home.
© Ella Campbell
There, Lalit and the other rescued kids were given the care and support they needed to heal from the trauma of continuous abuse and neglect. When Lalit arrived, he was very fragile and needed a lot of care and counseling before he started trusting our reintegration team and home staff. Building this trust and providing emotional support is an important part of ensuring a successful reintegration process. It is only in this way that the children open up and provide clues about their families and where they are from.
Armed with the clues that Lalit shared, the NGN team went in search of the boy’s family in the remote corners of Nepal. NGN found them and reconnected Lalit, first by phone with his parents, and, finally, when everything was in place, the NGN team took an excited Lalit to his village where his family and friends were waiting for him. In the months and years to come, our team will continue to monitor Lalit and provide necessary support to help him adjust in his new environment and help him grow up to be a happy and healthy boy.
Children's Day Awareness Rally in Sindhupalchowk
© Next Generation Nepal
NGN works across the district of Sindhupalchowk to prevent child trafficking at the community level through outreach and education programs. On the occasion of National Children’s Day, NGN, along with the Government of Nepal organized awareness rallies in Chautara, the district headquarters of Sindhupalchowk. More than 330 people, including 290 children, took part in the rally.
Organizing rallies like the one held on National Children’s Day are a great way to raise awareness about child protection and child rights in order to prevent trafficking from these vulnerable communities. After the devastation caused by last year’s massive earthquakes and the blockade of essential supplies coming from India, remote communities in Sindhupalchowk have become vulnerable to child traffickers. Parents often don’t know the risks of trafficking, and, in desperation, the possibility of displacement of young children into illegal orphanages is very high. Through its Community Anti-Trafficking project (CAT), NGN is working to fight this danger at the local level.
Following the rally, the awareness program continued, with children from various communities and private schools acting out dramas and singing group songs to highlight the issues of child marriage, child trafficking and the need to protect child rights. A huge number of people from the local communities gathered to watch the dramas in which government officials and leading NGO organizations took an active role. The local government authorities also took the opportunity to honor NGN for its work to control child trafficking in Nepal by presenting NGN with a certificate of appreciation.
The Children’s Day event was successful in raising awareness in the local communities and building a strong working relationship between communities, the government and child protection organizations. It was a collective event, and all the parties did a great job to make the event a success. The rally was an effective tool to communicate directly with the communities and raise awareness not only among the students, children, teachers and officials, but also among the local community families, businesses and other social institutions.
Indra's Story: Rescued from an Abusive "Orphanage" and Reunited with his Family
Indra, reunited with his mother. © Next Generation Nepal
A trafficker approached Indra’s mother promising what appeared to be a “golden” opportunity for her son. He told her that Indra would go to a boarding school in a big city, and receive a high quality education all the way up through his School Leaving Certificate (SLC). Unfortunately, what appeared an opportunity was only lies.
Indra is the youngest child and only boy among the six siblings in his family. He is very close to his mom and his five sisters, all of whom have always wanted the best for Indra. Despite their lack of financial resources, Indra’s family managed to raise the money the trafficker was charging for what they believed would be an amazing opportunity for Indra and the family.
Two days after the trafficker took Indra, his mother wanted to speak with him, but when she tried to call she was not allowed. Instead, she could only hear the cries of her son in the background on the other end of the phone, begging to speak with her. The trafficker would sometimes come to the village and give her updates on Indra, but she was never able to have direct contact with him.
Indra was not taken to a boarding school as the family was promised, but to an “orphanage” that was not even a home for orphan children. It was in southern Nepal near the Indian border, far from his home. He did go to school, but the school was worse than the one in his own village. He just wanted to go home. But how?
NGN rescued Indra and 16 other children in August from this deplorable “orphanage” and brought them to NGN’s transit home for care and safety. The task of bringing these children back to both emotional and physical health is the first step that NGN takes with them. All the children begin to open up and tell their stories without fear. They told the NGN team about being forced to lie and tell people who came to visit the home that their parents had died. They told of not being given enough food to eat, and being threatened and punished if they mentioned they had parents.
Over time, the children began to share their memories of their parents, siblings and village with NGN’s counselors. Through these memories NGN was able to find glimpses of where they were from. The NGN team soon went into the field with enough information to find their families. They found Indra’s family in a remote village in the hills of western Nepal and were able to meet with them and relate the stories that Indra had shared. They had no idea of what their son had gone through. They only wanted him safely back home with them.
It has now been several months since Indra has been reunified with his family, and he is doing great! He and his mom are as close as ever, and Indra, when not in school can be found playing happily with his friends in the village. The nightmare of his past time in the “orphanage” is behind him, and he is at last safe and happy.
NGN Turns 10: A Decade of Rescuing and Reunifying Trafficked Children with their Families
With your help, we have brought over 500 children home, raised awareness and started an initiative to stop trafficking before it begins.
© Next Generation Nepal
Dear Friend of Next Generation Nepal,
It has been 12 years since I first arrived in Nepal for what I thought would be a small blip in my story. Little did I know that I was about to embark down a path that would change the entire trajectory of my life in ways I couldn’t imagine.
This journey began in 2004 when I volunteered at Little Princes Children’s Home on the outskirts of Kathmandu and met a group of boys and girls who would change my life forever. I’d been led to believe that these kids were orphans, which invoked heartfelt empathy and a strong desire for me to bring them joy in their young lives. I soon learned the truth—they had mothers and fathers, siblings and communities where they once had a full and happy life which they had been taken from. I was shocked to know these kids had been trafficked. It was because of this realization that I made a promise to do whatever possible to bring them and as many others back home. Out of that promise the seed that would grow into Next Generation Nepal was planted.
It took two years of commitment and hard work, but, in 2006, NGN was finally able to open the doors of its official office in Nepal and rescue the Little Princes. Soon after, I set off to the remote district of Humla in search of their families. This was the first rescue and reunification that NGN did.
Over the last 10 years, NGN has continued to grow. Today we work in 31 districts and have helped reconnect over 500 children with their families! In addition to our reintegration work, NGN is now considered an expert on ethical volunteering in Nepal, and our Community Anti-Trafficking (CAT) project works to prevent children from being trafficked in the first place.
NGN has persevered through a civil war, earthquakes and constant political unrest, but we have not let anything stand in our way in accomplishing our mission. Our teams continue to rescue, care and search in the remotest parts of Nepal for the families of these children so that we can bring them home.
NGN is celebrating the joy of 10 years of rescuing and reunifying trafficked children as well as broadening NGN’s reach into bringing awareness to families and communities of the causes of trafficking and stopping it before it begins.
There are still thousands of children who have been displaced from their families and living in abusive conditions for the financial gain of their captors. Please help us to begin this next 10 years by supporting NGN’s work so we can not only bring hundreds more children home, but to stop child trafficking at its core.
President, Next Generation Nepal
The Great Nepal Earthquake: One Year After
NGN’s Country Director in Kathmandu, Martin Punaks, remembers the great earthquake of 2015 and what it meant for the children of Nepal. He explains how NGN responded and reviews what NGN has achieved in the year since that fateful day.
April 25, 2016—It was one of those warm sunny Saturdays that make Kathmandu so pleasant in April. I was with my own family, talking to my 5-year-old son, when I noticed something was not right. There was a strange noise, the birds were flying frantically... I looked up... the buildings!
“Earthquake,” my wife said calmly over the deafening rumble and fuzzy air.
We sat on the ground and bent our heads forwards. My son sat between my legs as I tried to cover as much of his body as I could with my own. The ground shook violently back and forth like a ship on stormy waters. The air was filled with the roar of destruction. The shaking just kept going and going and going at incredible intensity. Then gradually the ground calmed and the noise reduced. We stood up and looked around. We were all alive.
It took us a few hours to fully appreciate the magnitude of what had happened. I wandered the streets along with thousands of other shell-shocked people, gaping bewilderedly at the fallen buildings.
Thankfully, at NGN, we had prepared for this day. We had a comprehensive earthquake plan, and, one-by-one, I received text messages from our staff confirming that they—and the children in our care—were safe and well. Nevertheless I had to check for myself, so I drove to the NGN transit home where I was overjoyed to find 17 children playing games in a make-shift tent of tarpaulins, and being cared for by our staff and—believe it or not—the Little Princes! Yes, the now young adults whom NGN Founder Conor Grennan had made famous as children in his book, “Little Princes,” had kept their promise that in the event of an earthquake they would protect the younger children. In addition to this we had a four-week supply of food, water and medicines, so even if the roads and airport were shut off, we could all still survive.
Within the heavily cracked walls of a room at the Central Child Welfare Board, I joined the Government and other NGOs to plan what our response would be for affected children. We knew that the situation in Kathmandu was not as bad as the rural areas. But we also knew that the traffickers were already prowling the villages looking for children to remove them from their frightened parents and place them in profit-making children’s homes. To make matters worse, several children’s homes were already announcing hundreds of new places for children to come to Kathmandu. It was like the previous decade’s civil war all over again—families would be torn apart by hollow promises of safety and education, only to be used as fundraising tools by organizations wishing to profit from the millions of dollars of disaster aid money flowing into the country. All these unscrupulous organizations needed to succeed in their plans were children to be falsely presented as “earthquake orphans.” We had to act fast.
The Government announced new rules banning the movement of children over district borders, and banning the intake of new children into children’s homes. This bought us time—but now we had to get out to the villages.
Our Program Director, Samjyor Lama, led the first mission to Sindhupalchowk; the worst affected district of Nepal. We loaded a truck with food, clothes and medicines, and—together with some of the Little Princes, Bikash, Dawa, Subha and Anish, who had volunteered to help—the team set off into the areas of massive destruction. They risked their lives from looters, aftershocks and landslides, but they were determined to serve their country and its’ people in its time of need. A few days later, Anna Howe, our 70-year-old Executive Director, arrived from the United States, and before any of us could stop her, she had also jumped onto a bus and was headed out to Sindhupalchowk!
What Samjyor, Anna and the team found in Sindhupalchowk was shocking. Almost every home had been destroyed, thousands had died or been injured, and the people were desperate for help. They quickly realized that trying to “spread awareness” of trafficking in this dire situation would be insensitive—the people needed tangible support. So we established our first ever child-friendly space in a town called Barabise.
A child-friendly space is a basically a large tent that acts as a safe space for children after a disaster. In the NGN child-friendly spaces, the children were offered structured play and learning activities, psycho-social counseling and locally-prepared nutritious meals. This gave them the opportunity to regain a sense of normality in their lives, and allowed their parents some much-needed respite. But our child-friendly spaces were more than this—they also built trust with the local community, which, in time, allowed NGN to start raising awareness within the community of the dangers of child trafficking and the importance of family preservation.
By July we had established 11 child-friendly spaces in hard-hit villages where we had assessed there was a high risk of trafficking. We had also supported the Nepal Police to establish two transport check posts where we could intercept buses to search for children who might be being trafficked to Kathmandu. When we found unaccompanied children on the buses, we rescued them, and the local government returned them to their families.
By now we were also able to roll out our awareness-raising campaigns. These included a traveling acting troupe that performed a street drama about child traffickers pretending to be representatives of NGOs to lure vulnerable children to the city; several passionate street rallies led by school children demanding an “end to child trafficking”; leaflets and posters; competitions and speeches; and a radio jingle to reach the most remote families whom we could not access by road or foot.
Throughout all of this we worked closely with local Government officials who were incredibly helpful despite the problems they themselves were facing in their personal lives. We also hired Nepali staff who understood the local culture, and who appreciated being employed after the earthquake so they could earn some money to rebuild their houses and livelihoods. Some of these local staff became heroes themselves—one of them went all the way to Kathmandu to rescue a boy who had gone missing, and he did it before we even knew about it!
Government statistics show that there were in fact only 156 children who lost both parents in the earthquake, and for all these children, efforts were made to place them in adequate care with other relatives, community members or reputable organizations. So the claims by some organizations that thousands of children would be left to fend for themselves—insinuating that they should be placed in children’s homes—were simply not true. However, the risks of children being separated from their families by traffickers so they could be presented as “earthquake orphans” was very real. To counter these false perceptions, NGN’s team in Kathmandu worked closely with the international media. We worked through newspapers and television companies to spread awareness of how orphanage trafficking works in Nepal and the importance of keeping children with their families. We warned people of the risks of paying to volunteer in illicit children’s homes, and thus inadvertently fuelling the corrupt orphanage business. We also argued strongly in favor of more ethical ways of volunteering and “giving back” to Nepal.
As we reach the one-year anniversary of the Great Nepal Earthquake, NGN feels honored to have had the opportunity to help Nepal in its darkest hour. One year later we have achieved the following:
• We have directly supported over 1,400 children in child-friendly spaces.
• We have searched over 27,000 vehicles for children being trafficked.
• We have intercepted 74 at-risk children being transported in vehicles without their parents.
• We have reached nearly 46,000 local families through awareness-raising to warn them of the dangers of trafficking.
• We have supported 31 media articles and features about child trafficking and the risks of orphanage voluntourism in post-earthquake Nepal.
All of this has only been possible because of the incredible generosity by kind individuals and organizations around the world who chose to support NGN. To them—to you—all of us at NGN say a heartfelt “thank you.” We say thank you for thinking about the children of Nepal. We say thank you for believing in NGN. We say thank you for caring about your fellow human beings in their time of need. We could not have done any of this without you.
NGN Country Director
NGN's Empowerment Project: Education Beyond the Classroom
© Next Generation Nepal
There are many ways to learn, not all of which take place inside the four walls of a classroom. Instead, sometimes it is important to get out and explore the world around you. And that is just what the youth under NGN’s Empowerment Project did recently when they were given the special chance to take part in an educational camping trip.
Over the course of two days, they packed in as much activity as one could hope. They visited cultural sites and hiked through the lush wilderness that expands just beyond the densely urban Kathmandu. They were able to visit a sacred temple as well as a political site that holds symbolic importance in the modern history of Nepal. They visited places steeped in the rich history and culture of Nepal and were able to learn about local industry.
None of the youth had visited a hydropower dam or power station before and they were all excited to learn how electricity is produced. After the process was explained to them, they were able to hike along the dam and experience the strength and power of water in action.
The NGN youth are an incredibly hardworking and dedicated group of young men and women. They take each challenge that comes their way in stride, and are able to adapt to whatever the world puts before them. As with everyone here in Kathmandu, these youth’s lives have been affected by the fuel crisis. For some, the doors of their colleges were closed for a while and they had to work independently on assignments given in advance by their professors. For others, they’ve had to be proactive and adaptable to make sure that they have gas to cook with.
NGN realizes that success in life requires more than just a formal education. It involves nurturing curiosity, exposure to the world around us and strong mentoring and support. The Empowerment Project provides all of this to the youth in the program. On this camping trip, they not only built friendships and strengthened interpersonal skills around the campfire, they also explored Nepali culture, heritage and history as well as learned about Nepal’s national parks and industry. Experiences like this will help mold them into capable and independent adults. Adults we look forward to knowing.
Education Means Everything
© Next Generation Nepal
Education has always been incredibly important to Nepali families, and kids take their studies very seriously. They see education as a path to a better future. Most of the kids who arrive at our transit home from an illegal orphanage have not been allowed to attend school regularly. They miss their families, they are hungry, sick and tired from work that they are forced to do in the illegal “orphanage” where they have been kept. Under these conditions, how could they even think about studying?
For NGN, one of the most crucial elements in the rescue of trafficked children is to provide a sense of normalcy, in addition to safety and comfort. A significant part of that normalcy is going to school. We make sure the kids feel safe in their new home with us and that they have everything they need to attend school daily. We also provide tutors so they can catch up on studies in which they’ve fallen behind due to their circumstances. The children love to do homework and prefer it to soccer practice! You can almost always find them at their desks in the study room practicing writing and reading.
NGN's tutors are patient and caring and spend hours helping the kids to catch up to the grade they would normally be in. The older NGN students are also very helpful to these younger children and know very well what they have come from away from their families and village.
Uncles Provide Hope and Home for Two Rescued Children
© Next Generation Nepal
Putali and Paras are from a village in the far eastern hills of Nepal not far from the famous tea estates of Darjeeling and Ilam. It has been a long time since they’ve smelled that fresh crisp mountain air that surrounded their home. They were rescued by NGN in March 2015 from a cramped and dirty “orphanage” where they were forced to live beside a bus park surrounded by prostitution and drug use.
Occasionally, NGN is unable to reunify children with their parents because of unfortunate circumstances. Putali and Paras had lost both their mother and father to tuberculosis several years ago. After their father died but before their mother passed away, she took her young children to a place that she thought would provide for them in her absence. Unfortunately, they did not receive the love and care that all mothers want for their children.
Losing one’s parents is a horrible thing for any child. In such situations it becomes even more important for children to have a loving family who will support them. Some children may not have parents to care for them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have other relatives that are eager and able to be their guardians. And so it was for Putali and Paras, whose uncles could not have been more excited to open their arms, hearts and homes, for their niece and nephew.
It won’t be long now until the two are permanently reunified with their family and living again in the village that is their home. Their uncles were ready to take the siblings immediately, but before NGN can do that there is a thorough assessment that must take place to ensure that the children will be safe and their needs provided for.
During this assessment period, the children had a number of in-person reconnections with their uncles and other family members. NGN’s Reintegration Officer, Ajit, went to assess the family in their village, and was met with warmth and hospitality from the family that was grateful to know the lengths that NGN went through to make sure that Putali and Paras were safe and being cared for in our transit home. Paras is asking to see family photos and cannot wait to be back with them. Soon he won’t need to look at photos of his family because those smiling faces will be all around him.
Aadesh: Growing Up and Flourishing
Trafficked at 8 and rescued from an abusive "orphanage," Aadesh is now flourishing in NGN’s Empowerment Program.
© Next Generation Nepal
Aadesh was only 8 years old when he was trafficked and taken from his home in a rural mountain village in the Humla District of Nepal. He and three other boys were brought to an illegal and deplorable orphanage in Kathmandu. He suffered several years in this “orphanage” where he was neglected and abused before being rescued. NGN brought him to our transit home where we provided care and early educational opportunities in his home district of Humla.
After Aadesh completed grade school, NGN gave him the opportunity to return to Kathmandu and live in the Junior Youth Flat where he could attend classes and prepare for his School Leaving Certificate exams. Aadesh has been a great student and recently completed those exams with flying colors, scoring in the top division! During Aadesh's school break, he made the long journey home to spend time with his family and childhood friends. His mother is very proud of her grown-up son, and cooked a feast to celebrate his achievements.
Summer break is almost over and Aadesh has elected to pursue a higher education under NGN’s Empowerment Program. He has moved into one of NGN’s Senior Youth Flats where he can attend the diploma program that will certify him as a Medical Health Assistant. Students in the Senior Youth Flat have more autonomy and responsibility for themselves but also receive the kind of guidance and resources that every teenager needs. While he’s waiting for school to start in the fall, Aadesh has been making good use of his spare time in NGN’s resource room, brushing up on his technical skills and taking computer lessons.
Once he completes his studies, Aadesh plans to return to his village in Humla where medical care is extremely limited and he can put his Health Assistant diploma to good use. There’s no doubt that Aadesh will succeed in his academic studies and his personal endeavors. Since he walked through NGN’s doors so many years ago, Aadesh has grown into a smart, considerate, and determined young man.
Meet the Gatekeepers of Bandeu
Sangit and Kalpana are part of the NGN team working with the Communities Anti-Trafficking Project to prevent child trafficking in post-earthquake Nepal.
© Next Generation Nepal
At a busy intersection in Bandeu, Sindhupalchowk, a young man and woman sit behind a wooden desk under a tarpaulin that protects them from the beating sun or pounding rain. Every few minutes they jump up and run to the buses that barrel down the road on their way to Kathmandu. They climb the steps and walk down the narrow aisles while they scan the seats for any children who are traveling with someone other than their parents or without the proper paperwork. Their job is invaluable. They are there to act as gatekeepers. To stop the trafficking of children before they end up lost in an “orphanage” in Kathmandu, a brothel on the border or a circus in India.
These monitors have not come far to do this job. They are members of the community they’re supporting. They heard there was an opportunity to help protect children in the aftermath of the tragic earthquakes that struck Nepal and they stepped up to volunteer. Now they are a part of the Next Generation Nepal team working on the Communities Anti-Trafficking Project (CAT). Their names are Sangit and Kalpana. They are both around 20 years old, though their youthful features belie this fact. And while they are sweet and may seem delicate at first, they don’t hesitate to take the necessary actions to ensure no children get past their watch.
They face many challenges, not the least of which are the bus drivers. Often in a rush to keep to their schedule, bus drivers do not tend to want to take the time to stop while their vehicles are searched. As a result, on many occasions, Sangit and Kalpana must disembark from the bus once it has started moving again, no small feat. But they do this because they are not going to let any child slip through the cracks!
The landscape in Nepal has changed, not just physically, but in many other ways as well over the last few months. The terrain is different, and NGN is responding to those changes accordingly. With so many people having lost homes and facing food insecurity, children are increasingly at risk of being trafficked. Desperate parents who want to ensure that their children are cared for are vulnerable to the false promises made by traffickers who say they can guarantee safety for their children in Kathmandu or other big cities. This is why Sangit and Kalpana have such an important job. Their vigilance in checking buses for children will have a lasting impact on keeping families together through this challenging time.
After a harrowing start to life, one boy’s heartbreak turns to promise and happiness.
© Next Generation Nepal
By the time Raju was 2 he had lost both of his parents. His brother, just 11 years old, was not in a position to care for his young siblings. Unable to buy sufficient food for himself, let alone anyone else, he borrowed money to send Raju, barely 3, and his sister, away from their village in Humla for what he hoped were greener pastures in the big city. In a story we’ve heard too many times, Raju was displaced from his home and taken, not to a safe place, but to a place of insecurity and abuse. His road to safety was long and rough, but he is now in a safe and nurturing place under the care of Next Generation Nepal (NGN) and The Himalayan Innovative Society (THIS). He has since been reconnected with his brother who is married and with a family of his own, and visits him and his family in Humla whenever he can.
Raju is now in grade 8 and hopes to be a social worker and teacher when he grows up, He wants to help kids who have been through experiences similar to his to have bright futures. He does well in school and works hard on his studies, but it’s important to remember that education takes place outside the four walls of a classroom as well. Over winter break, Raju enjoyed excursions with his fellow youths at the Junior Youth Flat. They went to the Narayanhity Palace Museum where they learned about the Shah dynasty that once ruled the former Kingdom of Nepal, and they visited a weaving company to learn about the process of making those luxurious Pashminas for which Nepal is famous.
And just because he is a good student and is on track to give back to society when he grows up doesn’t mean he can’t have some fun in the meantime! His extracurricular interests also help him work off some of the energy teenagers have in excess. He likes to play sports, particularly badminton and football (or soccer for the Americans among us). He also took part in hosting and organizing the Second Annual Volleyball Tournament at the JYF this year over the Dashain/Tihar holiday, which was a great success.
This active youth’s real passion is modern dance. He doesn’t have any formal training but that hasn’t stopped him from practicing regularly to teach himself some moves. It doesn’t matter that he may not show off his talent to the world as a pro dancer; the important thing is that he has the freedom to explore all of his interests and the encouragement to dream big.
Raju says part of his drive to do well is due to his desire to make his family proud. It’s safe to say he has already done this and so much more!
A young boy rescued from an abusive orphanage by NGN is reunited with his family after three long years.
© Next Generation Nepal
Kaylan was 5 when he was taken from his family. The trafficker took him, promising Kaylan parents that he would be enrolled in a boarding school in Kathmandu and have a bright future.
Instead, Kaylan was taken to a small orphanage in a small village two hours from Kathmandu—brimming with children who were neglected, sick and undernourished. Kaylan cried a lot and didn’t want to stay at the orphanage but the trafficker dropped him there and disappeared.
Kaylan missed his mother, father, sister and brother back in the village. He kept thinking that the trafficker would come to take him back home. Three dark years passed and Kaylan learned to survive with very little—do what you are told or you will be in trouble, do not ask for food, do not think about going home to your family. But Kaylan's thoughts often wandered toward his family, thinking silently, "Are they okay? Surely something must have happened. Otherwise, they would come for me...."
In November 2013, Kaylan and 17 other children were rescued by Next Generation Nepal after hours of negotiation and heated arguments with the orphanage owners and the police.
Kaylan packed quickly and held on to his small plastic bag for hours. That first night at the NGN transit home was strange and he wondered if things would be different now. He was hungry and was given a lot of dal bhat, but he felt exhausted and fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.
When the sun came up, Kaylan remembers hearing voices of his friends chirping around the room and down the corridors, joking, pushing, yelling. Then there was the smell of freshly cooked food; he was up!
That first day at the transit home was so different than anything he had experienced. Food and snacks appeared every time he was hungry and he had water, clean bathrooms, showers, new and warm clothes, his own bed and staff talking and playing with them all the time. There were also medical checks and medication for his ears that had been aching for a long time. His caretaker was gentle and gave him his medicine every night, and, finally, after a week he started to feel better.
That is when Kaylan’s personality started to emerge. He became a lively, smart boy with a beautiful smile that can diffuse any situation.
One day after school his caretaker at the transit home called him in to the office. She explained that the NGN reintegration staff had traveled to his village and had found his parents. “As a matter of fact,” she said, “we can call them now. Do you want to speak to you mother?”
Kaylan did not reply. His mind wandered between a hazy picture of his mother’s face, and whether he was in trouble for telling people about his family. When the caretaker handed him the phone and he heard her voice, it was like a dream, and just like in dreams, he could not speak. The words built up into a swell at the back of his throat, until it ached. It took several minutes until he started replying to his mother, first a simple “yes” and “no” and then “me, too, mum.”
After that first phone call, Kaylan spoke to his family two more times. The reintegration officers brought him news and pictures of his family. He had so many questions and every answer would bring up five more questions.
In April, Kaylan was reunited with his family. Kaylan is a happy 8-year-old, trying to catch up on the lost three years without his family. He enjoys school, has made many friends and his family couldn't be happier to have him back—for good.
Laxman Is Back Home in Humla and Flourishing
One year after being reunified with his family, Laxman is a happy, playful 12-year-old.
© Next Generation Nepal
This is Laxman. He was reunified over a year ago with his family in Humla. Recently, Reintegration Officers Sandup and Pravhujan went on a monitoring visit to see how he and many of the other NGN kids are doing living back at home.
Laxman is from a small village in Humla, about a one-and-a-half-hour walk from the capital, Simikot. Laxman, however, spends much of his time in Simikot where his father works as a tailor and where Laxman attends school.
Laxman had been living under the care of the nonprofit Umbrella Foundation, which had approached NGN to carry out a reunification. Now, Laxman is a happy, playful 12-year-old boy who adores his grandmother and grandfather and loves to spend his school holidays in the family village. He is also doing well at school, and really enjoys learning. Sandup and Pravhujhan describe Laxman as one of the happiest post-reunification children they know.
Monitoring visits like these take place throughout the year to ensure that children who have been rescued and returned to their families are doing well at home and are at no risk from re-trafficking or exploitation.
Laxman’s is a good news story. He is flourishing back in his village and loves to be in the company of his friends and his family members. We wish Laxman all the very best and look forward to another visit to his home in Humla in the future.
NGN’s work reconnecting lost children with their families, providing care and education, is only possible with your support. Please donate here to NGN’s ongoing work if you can, and help more children like Laxman find their way home.
Mission Possible: The Gift of Giving Back
A former trafficked child helps others to reconnect with their families.
© Next Generation Nepal
When Krish was 7, he was trafficked to Kathmandu from Humla and eventually went to live in the Little Princes Children’s Home. It was there his mother found him, setting in motion a series of events that led to the founding of NGN.
Now 17 and studying under NGN’s scholarship project for a diploma in civil engineering, Krish is at the top of his class and winning awards for his efforts. But Krish’s academic achievements are not the only thing that sets him apart. Last summer, he was one of several teens under NGN’s care who volunteered to assist with NGN missions to reconnect newly rescued children with their families. He and others who had been through the process wanted to help those who were daunted by it.
The care and enthusiasm Krish showed was overwhelming and an incredibly effective method for supporting difficult meetings between a trafficked child and his or her family. What was it like for Krish to be involved in an activity so close to his heart? Here’s Krish, in his own words:
“I had been longing to take a move into something out of my regular experience, something of an adventure or something that could teach me more about life. On September 6, that something appeared: an opportunity to help [NGN Reintegration Officer] Rupa didi and two of our recently rescued children on a mission of reunification in Surkhet, a district in the mid-western development region of Nepal adorned by natural beauty.
First, the trip taught me the importance of a family to a child—how different a child will be if there is no one to care for him, to look upon him and make him happy whenever he is sad, and to teach him when he makes some silly mistakes. Second, I came to the realization that poverty has become one of the major causes for many of the immoral and illegal acts prevalent in our society. Poverty creates such critical circumstances that one tolerates being far away from a loved one. However, it was pleasant to meet people who still love their children, who still want to keep their children with them despite their poverty. After all, “love is the reason to live.” Likewise, after this trip I was clearer about the role of NGN’s reunification project. I really thank NGN for what it has been doing in Nepal.
It is quite complicated to work with and integrate normal children (normal in the sense that the child has grown up with his parents, got the love of his family, rarely been exploited and so on). It is a thousand times more difficult to adjust with a child who has been trafficked, exploited, discouraged and in some ways hated. So, from that point of view I really respect and praise Rupa didi. Her way of convincing, dealing with and cooperating with both adults and children is so perfect and motivating that it can set an example for us.
Although the trip felt short, it was great in regard to what I have experienced. I might not have learned much, but what I learned was enough. In a nutshell, the trip was really amazing!”
Kasauli Goes Back Where She Belongs: Home
Trafficked at 8 and separated from her family for 14 long months, Kasauli is reconnected with the help of NGN.
© Next Generation Nepal
The process of reconnection and reunification is a delicate one, and is different for every child. Sometimes it can take years to locate, assess and reconnect a child with his or her parents. Other times, the pieces just fall into place (with the incredible hard work and dedication of our reintegration officers, of course). The wellbeing and best interest of each child is first and foremost, and it is only when we are sure that they are entering into a loving and caring environment do we officially transfer guardianship to the family.
In June 2013, Kasauli, along with seven other children, was rescued from an exploitive children’s home and brought to NGN’s transit home in Kathmandu. It had been 14 months since she had been trafficked from her village and had last seen her family; that can seem like a lifetime for an 8-year-old young girl.
In July, Reintegration Officer Rupa set out to locate and conduct an initial assessment of Kasauli’s family. What she found was a family overjoyed to learn that their daughter and sister was safe. They had tried on many occasions to find Kasauli and bring her home, but to no avail. They were eager to talk to Kasauli and elated at the prospect of her homecoming. Over the next month, Kasauli spoke regularly with her eldest sister who made many calls to request that she be brought back home. Kasauli, too, was ready to return home.
When she first arrived in her village a month later, the normally bubbly and smiley Kasauli was a bit shy and reserved. This didn’t stop her mother from smothering her daughter with hugs and kisses, and it wasn’t long before Kasauli had relaxed back into her family and could be found happily playing outside with her sisters the next day.
No time was wasted in bringing her back into the fold of her family, giving her structure and putting her on a regular routine; her eldest sister immediately enrolled her in school and she started Class One the following day. Shortly after Kasauli’s return home she was legally reunified with her family. Regular monitoring will continue for a long time, but it is clear already that after an unfortunate detour in her life Kasauli is back where she should be—home.
Little Januka Finds Her Way Home
May 28th, 2013
Trafficked at age 2, rescued at 10, a joyful young girl rediscovers what it means to have a family.
Zarina's Happy Reunion
March 25th, 2013
Released from an exploitive orphanage, a trafficked 14-year-old girl reconnects with her family after eight years.
Trafficked, Reunited, Empowered
February 20th, 2013
One of the original Little Princes is now an NGN scholar who’s committed to building a better future for her rural homeland.
A Happy Reunion Tinged with Sadness
December 20th, 2012
A young boy finds his family—and discovers what he lost.
Two Sisters, Two Families, One Life-Affirming Moment
September 17th, 2012
Torn apart by trafficking and separated by thousands of miles, two sisters—and two families—come together in Nepal.
NGN''s Scholarship Program: Education for a Better Future
July 26th, 2012
By Sandup Lama
In April, I needed to go from Kathmandu, where I live and work, to Humla, in the far northwest corner of the country, to help four formerly trafficked children enroll in Next Generation Nepal’s scholarship program.
This trip is not a simple one: a 14-hour bus journey along the longest highway in Nepal to Nepalganj, and then a 45-minute flight t ...
Changing Nepal: The New NGN Plan
June 4th, 2012
By Martin Punaks
Nepal Country Director
I am sitting in a café in Kathmandu drinking cups of tea while Farid drags on a cigarette. We are strategizing on the future of NGN in Nepal. My first task as Country Director is to design a plan for how we completely abolish child trafficking into illegal orphanages—no small task! Farid is tired and will soon be returning to France. He has ...
An International Adoption Clouded in Deception
February 19th, 2012
February 20, 2012: Imagine a complete stranger telling you that your adopted daughter, who you always believed was an orphan, was actually not. "Surreal and heart wrenching" is how Ana would describe it.
A Miraculous Reunion: One Young Girl Reconnected with Family Against All Odds
February 10th, 2012
February 9, 2012: During a recent walk near the Karnali Home in Kathmandu, Shruti ran ahead of the other children, making a beeline for the tallest hill in sight. "Up there!" she exclaimed, pointing to the top. "Let\'s go."
An Interview with a Family Recently Reunited by Next Generation Nepal
October 6th, 2011
by NANCY WONG
September 9, 2011: Hidden in many illegal or sub-standard orphanages in the Kathmandu Valley are thousands of heartbreaking tales of child abuse, neglect, prostitution, illegal adoption, forced labor and organized panhandling schemes. But for Archana and Balaji, two rescued children NGN reunited with their father Manish in August, "home sweet home" does not even begin to describe their joy of being back home. The reunification brought renewed hope for everyone, and Manish is motivated to do everything possible to keep his children safe, healthy, and happy.
NGN Filmed for Al Jazeera's Special Report on Child Trafficking
September 13th, 2011
August 23, 2011: Despite thousands of trafficked children in Nepal, general awareness on the issue is still lacking, especially internationally. NGN was invited to shed light on the issue by Al Jazeera English for a report on child trafficking and illegal international adoption.
Two More Children Reunited with their Father
September 13th, 2011
Names have been changed in the story to protect the privacy of those involved.