In February this year, the Nepal Government finally agreed for Forget Me Not to formally assess the second largest orphanage in the country, Asha Orphanage in the tourist capital of Chitwan. Forget Me Not was engaged to carry out the task over what we thought would be a 5-day period with our two assessing officers.
The initial findings were shocking.
The orphanage was overcrowded with children found starving, sick and suffering. The operators had very limited information about the children and were regularly bringing tourists and volunteers to the orphanage. The record keeping and financial management was virtually non-existent.
The children themselves told their own stories of abuse and violence including hard labour, constant hunger, threats and suffering.
Our team called for back up and Country Director Anju immediately joined with four more staff. The assessment took seven staff 15 days straight!
The final number of children found in the home was 301 of which there were only 23 orphans amongst the cohort. The children are aged between 4 and 18 years old many trafficked up to 15 years ago with no family connection since that time and others as recently as two years, post-quake.
The assessment of Asha Orphanage is being hailed an historic marker in Nepal as the Government, post civil war and two massive earthquakes later, takes definitive steps towards responsibility for child protection and deinstitutionalisation.
As a result of the strong and loyal support we were able be precisely where we were needed at this critical time!
Forget Me Not was able to take the lead in driving the assessment recommendations and reach agreement to prioritise rescue and family reconnection for these children.
We are now working intensively with each child held at Asha Orphanage and to date we have assessed 157 families and 91 children have returned home.
Our collaborative approach, with four other aid agencies, has assisted immensely with this initial phase including provision of health camps. However, it is proudly Forget Me Not championing the cause, leading the charge with family assessments and economic strengthening requirements for reunified children to remain at home and in school into the future.
Thank you for your loyalty and commitment to this work – We can’t do it without you!