Kids living on the streets

Part 1

 

Please allow me to ask you a simple question. What thoughts come to you when you see a homeless man or woman on the street? Maybe you think that they are drunk or that they lost everything they had by gambling. Often we wonder why a person is in such a situation.

Now, here is a second question. What would you think if instead of a man or woman it was a little girl or boy, aged around five who was sleeping on the street, collecting rubbish to resell and fighting for survival every single day? That’s a whole different ball game, isn’t it?

Children just like this live on the streets of Kathmandu and thousands are added to their number every year. They are the “street kids”. We are working with these children. Along with my wife, our main focus is to try to help children in this dire situation and try to prevent this from happening to even more children.

Do we stand a chance?

Not really.

But we have decided to try to impact as many of these small children’s lives as possible.

Many of these children share similar stories. Perhaps their mum died and their dad remarried but the new stepmother doesn’t like them so sends them to work in the fields or in the house. Does this remind you of Cinderella? In some ways, but this is not just a story. Here in Nepal this is the sad reality for many kids and it doesn’t have a fairy tale ending.

Or maybe both their parents died in the recent landslide or other natural disaster. Their relatives aren’t bothered or perhaps are unable to support them. Many of these children face the threat of starvation so they leave their village to chance their luck in the capital, Kathmandu. What awaits them in the big city is not what they hope for. All too often these children are picked up by organised gangs, who exploit their begging potential. Leaders of these gangs have no qualms about increasing the begging capacity of a child by maiming them so that they generate more income from sympathetic donors, particularly western tourists who visit Kathmandu on their way to other trekking destinations in the country. These people give, believing that they are helping; little do they know that most of the money they give will end up in the hands of the gang leaders and will be spent on glue and other substances for older members to inhale. Some children are sold into slavery or become sex workers over the border in India. Sadly, there is a market for such activities and these vulnerable children are a mere commodity.

It is very easy to identify children in Kathmandu who could fall victim to these crimes. They are usually under the age of six, very dirty, sitting somewhere in the tourist area or a busy area of the city where they beg for money, with a plastic plate on the ground in front of them. As they grow older, they move on to collecting collect plastic and paper items for resale. Sometimes they will tell very sad stories to foreigners, along the lines of them needing 2000 rupees to buy a baby sibling some milk. Once they have the money, they will sell the milk back to the shopkeeper and with any left over cash, they often buy glue to sniff.

I once met a five year old girl, carrying a bag, eyeing up some fruit, the likes of which she had probably never tasted before. It was a heartbreaking scene.

One day, Leena and I were distributing food to some of these street children when we met three young brothers.

I will tell you more about them next time.

 

God Bless You

 

Peter Kuruc

 

 

 

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The 12 year Old Girl Who Saved Herself from Slavery by Running Away

Today I would like to write the story of a little girl, little Sapna (The name is not correct), who served in her master’s house since she was six years old, in a section of Kathmandu.

Today Sapna is 12 years old and is one of the children that we look after in the orphanage. No one would disagree that this is not the ideal life for a child, but… compared to the conditions in which she lived in before, she is very happy and satisfied.

We noticed Sapna right away on the first day that Leena and I visited the previously mentioned orphanage. At that time we did not know that we would be there permanently. The truth is, it was not so difficult to notice the little 12 year old girl who brought us a tray of three teas (It is not so easy to make the traditional Nepal “milk tea”) along with a pile of biscuits. Personally I was surprised that she walked four flights of stairs without spilling one drop of the tea. I would really have had a problem with that.

I wondered if this little girl, who smiled at Leena and me, was born with this ability, or if it was learned. The second was true. As we talked with Sapna, tears came to our eyes, which happens quite often.

Sapna comes from eastern Nepal, from one of the villages, which takes two days by bus from the capital city and after that a few days of walking. The small village on one of the Himalayan peaks is completely isolated, where wild animals wish you “good night”, and bugs along with spiders wish you a “good morning”. Sapna comes from the lowest class and lost her parents when she was only four years old, in a landslide. Her friends and relatives tried to care for her, but they also had enough children to care for themselves, and their small fields often did not even produce enough for themselves. Private fields in Nepal are mostly owned by the Brahmin (The highest class) and the lower classes often have very tiny fields. The best is owned by the former king of Nepal, who is one of the five largest landholders in the world.

So at six years old little Sapna ended up with a wealthy family in Kathmandu. She doesn’t remember the reasons why she ended up there, and they are not known, but maybe she just does not want to say. But you do not need to worry that there will not be a “happy ending”. Little Sapna, like so many other children in Asia, served as a house “slave”. I do not know how else to describe the situation of a little six year old girl, whose one purpose at this young age was to clean the house, care for other kids, cook and do everything that she could manage. And if that was not enough, her new family did not allow her to go to school, because there would not be enough time for their own requirements.

In this house, Sapna held on for around four years until she turned 10, when at that age, besides cleaning, cooking, and serving the family, she would be required to become the toy of her “owner”. Sapna decided instead to run away to the streets. During one of the daily shopping trips, she ran away and never came back. Fortunately she was only on the streets for a short time, just around a few months. During that time the owners of the mentioned orphanage found her and took her in with them.

Sapna is in the orphanage for almost two years. She often cares for the younger children, and likes to cook and clean. Sometimes we worry that she is doing it to earn our care and love, but it seems to make her happy. And one more things that she really enjoys….she enjoys going to school.

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