Dec 15, 2015

Keeping Girls Safe Post Nepal Earthquake

Nepal’s central hills were ground zero for the earthquake, and the place where trafficking has long been entrenched. Predators have been quick to take advantage of the chaos, posing as job brokers or orphanage workers to lure away girls and sell them into slavery. How can this happen? For families crushed by poverty, in a culture that doesn’t value women, girls are expendable. The earthquake opened many new cracks for them to fall through.

EVERY GIRL SAVED IS A VICTORY.

Dr. Aruna Uprety, our visionary partner in STOP Girl Trafficking, wanted to prevent the tragedy of girls being sold and had a far-reaching idea — you can keep a girl safe by educating her. How does it work? Search out the girls most at risk and put them through school. Pay their school fees, give them backpacks, school supplies, mentors. And, as part of their safety net, involve the whole community, so that teachers, parents, and other SGT students all get invested in keeping girls in school.

The longer a girl stays in school, the more she learns and the more confident she becomes. She is seen as an asset to her family and a role model for other girls. Parents have wept with pride at their daughter’s graduation, a child they had considered of little worth.

SGT had 11,000 girls in school — before the earthquake. Within days of the disaster, Dr. Uprety and her organization, RHEST, transformed their network into emergency relief teams and delivered rice, tarps and hygiene kits to thousands of girls and their communities. And, because every day outside is a day at risk, we helped build 54 durable temporary classrooms where schools had collapsed, and added 3,800 newly vulnerable girls from the hardest-hit districts to SGT.

Now SGT has 14,800 girls in school. It’s a big jump for us, but it prevents another 3,800 terrible fates.

Links:

Jul 13, 2015

Health field clinic in Nepal

Patients lined up
Patients lined up

Two weeks after the 7.8 earthquake, a couple of AHF volunteers and I drove through Sindhupalchowk to visit a field clinic being conducted by our partner HRDC in the village of Jyamire. It was not my first visit, and I had seen news of the devastation, but it was still incredibly shocking to see firsthand.

On reaching Jyamire we joined the HRDC team. They had set up under a tarpaulin on top of a hill. The camp was to be held in the village school, but it too was razed. Even the hill was cracked, another disaster waiting to happen come the monsoon rains! Villagers lined up calmly, were quickly registered and seen by one of three doctors—including Dr. Bibek Banskota, head of medicine at HRDC and the son of legendary HRDC founder, Dr. Ashok Banskota.

This was the fourth camp Bibek had conducted, out of 20 planned by HRDC. He told me he expected about 60% of the 300 or so patients he would see that day to have injuries resulting directly from the trauma of the quake. At the first camp it was 90%. One woman required an injection of local anesthetic into her injured knee; others had bruises and aching muscles.  Most of the rest had taken ill from the living and working conditions caused by the quake—one patient had developed breathing difficulties as a result of the dust from digging through rubble to recover bodies.

Another woman had fallen and injured her arm while running from her house, but it wasn’t critical enough to be of notice to the first responders. After withstanding two weeks of pain, Dr. Bibek put her arm in a sling and gave her anti-inflammatories and some pain killers. And as she was leaving she was handed a pretty, new dress.

And then there were children, not really in need of medical attention, but who welcomed any attention at all. Two nurses took their details and initiated psychosocial counseling with kind, thoughtful words.

It's amazing how much a new dress can mean
It's amazing how much a new dress can mean
Waiting patiently for their turn
Waiting patiently for their turn

Links:

Jul 13, 2015

Back to school post-earthquake

destruction in Bhatapur
destruction in Bhatapur

The Chuna Devi School is located in the once picturesque village of Maha Manjushree, in the hills above Bhaktapur. While not totally decimated as other areas were, most houses sustained considerable damage and all of the girls there in STOP Girl Trafficking and their families are still sleeping outside under tarps.

The girls shared their stories of where they were during the two quakes and what has happened to them since. Miraculously, none of their family died or was seriously injured. Most of the girls were able to recover some of their belongings—clothes, books, school bags—from their homes. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case for Ranita. She was the only girl in the group who was not in her school uniform. It is buried under the rubble of her home which collapsed completely. She cried while telling us, and it brought tears to her mother and a few other girls as well. She was quickly comforted by our local volunteer, Sano Baba, who explained that we would look after her and find her a new uniform.

Raju Dhungana, a teacher at the school, told me he and another teacher had just completed a week-long intensive course in psycho-social counselling. They were tasked with observing the children and offering support when needed.

“For the first week at least, there will be no formal lessons. The students will attend school for only a few hours a day where they can play, sing and dance, talk about their experiences and, by doing so, try to remove some of their fear. The first stage is to offer them some distraction from what has happened over the past month.” Raju told me.

In a stroke of good fortune government engineers, after a thorough inspection, stuck a large green notice on the school walls: the building was deemed strong enough to be occupied again. 

Happy to get their new school supplies
Happy to get their new school supplies
 
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