I spent this morning in hospital.
I saw a young girl who is five months pregnant collapse and smash her head on a marble floor. When we arrived at the hospital we were told it was not an emergency, and that we should go the ante-natal unit, but we must pay before we would be seen. So we queued for over an hour. This is Nepal.
I spent the afternoon with a young mother who is recovering from tuberculosis. Tomorrow morning she has to start the nine hour bus journey to go and get some medicine for her and her baby. The room which is her home has a massive crack down one wall and right across the ceiling. She has been sleeping here since the place she was staying in her village was destroyed. But at least this place has a roof. This is post-earthquake Nepal.
For the past few years I have had the honour of working alongside Circus Kathmandu, a breath-taking group of young people who have been rescued from human trafficking and other vulnerable situations. Most of them were stolen or sold as babies or toddlers into circuses in India. These are the ones who want to carry on performing. I have written about their story previously here
and here http://heardinlondon.co.uk/content/one-little-girl
I have been part of a team helping them set up their own business and helping them grow into an internationally acclaimed professional performing arts company. But devastation has struck. I am sure you are all too aware of the earthquake which struck Nepal in April, but did you know there have been over 383 aftershocks over magnitude 4 since that initial earth shattering moment? Nepal may have disappeared from the front pages but here are some other facts which should bring the devastation home:
- Approximately 8 million people have been affected by the earthquake
- The current known death toll is around 8,700 with at least 22,200 injured.
- 2.8 million people were left in need of urgent assistance, 1.1 million of whom are children.
- There have been more than 500,000 homes destroyed, and nearly 280,000 damaged. That’s 780,000 people who need somewhere to sleep. Add in landslides caused by post earthquake monsoon and close to 2.8 million people have been displaced.
- Nepal is a country where a quarter of the population live on less than $1.25 per day.
- Around 2.4 million people—overwhelmingly women and girls—are currently in forced labour as a result of trafficking
- An estimated 1.2 million victims of trafficking are children with around 43% of them trafficked into the sex industry.
- Sex trafficking is a big industry in Nepal, with reports finding as many as 10,000 women and girls are trafficked from Nepal to India each year. (Nepali girls are especially desirable as prostitutes in India because Nepali virgins are believed to be a cure for AIDS.)
And then we come to the issues I am here to try and work against.
Reading those facts above, imagine how hard things were before the earthquake. No imagine how hard it is to keep your children safe when your home has been destroyed, the school fell down and so your children are no longer protected by four walls at any time. And then an “uncle” (usually someone from the same caste) tells you that one of your children would be a lot better fed and looked after (and maybe even get a job) if he looked after them.
It’s a stigma which breaks the image we have in the West, but I believe very few people sell their children out of cruelty alone. It is deception and desperation. Most often they are told their children will have a much better life, an education and a chance of a fine job (and fine clothes - and they most definitely will be fed). Most also believe they will be able to see their children regularly. And in desperation you are much more likely to be tricked by someone offering a future to your child when are struggling to feed them. We give the grand title of human trafficking to this business, but it is nothing more than modern day slavery. And this is going on in 2015.
Our troupe were mostly rescued from having been sold into circuses in India where they were forced to work long hours from a young ages under horrific conditions. Since the earthquake they have been focussing on outreach work - supporting NGO and education programmes through play therapy - to bring light relief to children and young people in communities which have been hardest hit by the earthquake. With fun shows, trust games and co-ordination skills they are using their knowledge of these humanitarian dangers to be able to teach other children how they can try to keep each other safe.
We have no funding, no sponsors, and quite frankly, I feel I have hit the wall of compassion fatigue with this project and people are getting tired of me shaking my cyber-bucket at them. But they need your help. I need your help. Still. Maybe it’s just the price of a cup of coffee, of maybe it’s just a RT or post of the fundraising page on Facebook, but every single bit of support helps.
£2 would pay for safe water for the troupe for a day
£5 could make 100 juggling balls for workshops in camps (rice and balloons)
£10 could provide child care to enable a young mother to be able to also have a career
£20 would pay for school for one year for one of our young people
£50 would allow us to get emergency response first aid training for four young people
£100 would pay for the costs of an outreach workshop to an area which has been hard hit by the earthquake
These are just some examples. There are thousands. And it is thousands we need. But every single donation makes a difference. Maybe you’ve heard the old adage “How do you climb mount Everest? One step at a time”.
I know so many of you have donated already, and your support has been so amazing. I am asking again because this is still a country in absolute crisis.
If you would like to make a donation you can do so here https://www.justgiving.com/circus-kathmandu
And if you could help me spread the word, I would be most grateful.
With deepest respect.