Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lost and found (The Kathmandu Post)

Lost and found

The Kathmandu Post

Jenee Rai

Nov. 11 The arrest of Goma Luitel—the infamous warden of the Mukti Nepal orphanage in Maharajgunj, one accused of sub-standard operations and child abuse—was a rare episode of victory for the Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB) and the families of the 20 children rescued. The story of dubious orphanages in Nepal, and their deliberate exploitation of parents’ innocence is an old one as of now, but what has emerged from this one case of rescue and arrest is a story of children resuming normal lives.

Eight-year-old Rajnish Lama (name changed) and 10-year-old Rajni Lama (name changed) were admitted to Mukti Nepal at the ages of five and three respectively. Their childhood before the orphanage had been carefree, even though there was little prospect of education. But admitted to the orphanage upon false promises of being sent to school, life for them soon turned harsh.

“We were not given sufficient food and if anyone dared to steal some more, the warden would punish us severely,” recalls Rajni. Severe punishments often involved heavy beatings with iron rods. The siblings were hoarded with 21 other children in a small room, one that was mostly unfit for living.

Rajni and Rajnish were fortunate enough to be rescued by human rights organisations and placed at the centre regulated by the CCWB. Now reunited with their father in Thamel, the siblings go to a local school in the area. “I am happy that my children are now safe with me. I used to drink a lot. But for my children, I gave up drinking six months ago and have not touched a drop of alcohol since,” says Manish, the father.

Another child, 14-year-old Malika from Dang, was also rescued along with the Lama siblings and is now under the care of cousins who live in Dhapasi. Malika, who remembers her warden Luitel pocketing donations from foreign volunteers, is now studying in grade seven at the Chakrapath-based Little Rose School. Serious about her studies, she attained fourth position in her first terminal exams and topped her class in the next.

Such stories of reunification where children begin to grow in the right direction show that there is no real substitute for family care in child rearing—a conviction among anti-trafficking organisations who advocate the deinstitutionalisation of orphanages and have been looking into alternative care settings, such as moving children in with extended family members or guardians.

With the CCWB’s findings thus far revealing only eight childcare homes operating within the minimum standard—which include the capacity to take care of at least 10 children, the hiring of at least four staff members for administration, cleanliness, cooking and care taking and the assurance of the home being free of child abuse—the rest of the orphanages, hundreds in number, are likely to be spaces of mistreatment.

CCWB’s Rajendra Manandhar stresses the need for awareness in the local community and requests them to file complaints against any illegal orphanages that may be operating in their areas to the District Child Welfare Board or the District Administration Office. Arrests of perpetrators like Luitel—whose case is running in the Kathmandu District Court—are needed to prevent the lives of children like Rajnish, Rajni and Malika from being irreparably scarred.

Posted on: 2011-11-12

For background, see:

The Mukti Nepal adoption scandal -- torture of a birth parent:

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

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