On 3rd March 2020 a documentary was aired on ABC’s “Foreign Correspondent” highlighting the corruption involved In Nepal orphanages.
This documentary has raised questions with some of our donors and supporters. 3 Angels Australia knew you’d want clarity from our partner 3 Angels Nepal on some of these issues. The below Q&A will give you the full picture.
Questions and answers from interview with CEO of 3 Angels Nepal, Rajendra Gautam.
Q. What percentage of children in the 3 Angels Alternate Childcare family homes are true orphans (ie no living mother or father)?
A. First we must be clear 3 Angels Nepal do NOT operate orphanages or volunteer tourism at all and carefully protects the privacy and welfare of all those in our care. We have 15 alternate childcare family model homes (ACCH) for rescued minors needing protection and a family home. After assessment the child is either reunited with family or placed in our ACCH until they can be safely reunited with their family members in their community of origin. Reunion with family is always a priority. Currently 20% of the 218 children in the homes now are total orphans and ALL are government referred cases.
3AN do NOT accept any child in our ACCH without recommendation from the local government.
Q. For the children who are not total orphans what are the key reasons you have accepted them into your care?
A. The remaining 80% are rescued children from either vulnerable situations, at very high risk of being trafficked, or have been trafficked already. Most of these cases have been verified by the local government prior to 3AN accepting them. However, there are a few cases who have no identity at all and there is no one to verify who the child is or where she is from.
3 AN continues to explore every avenue to locate each child’s community of origin and has been proactive in advocating for more government and legal assistance in this complicated area.
Q. How does 3AN respond to people saying the child is still better off with their family or relatives and that the best solution is to address the poverty of the family?
A. 3 Angels is completely supportive of this. However, this approach and idea is not currently working well everywhere in Nepal. Ideologically this is what has to happen, and we strongly advocate for this with government. I am on the Child Welfare board of the central government and have been actively involved in child protection and family reunion policy for Nepal. The aim must always be to reunite children with their family members and ensure that they are safe by providing education and support to the family and community as needed. The sad reality however is that this is not always possible, and we must have an alternative to protect the child in the best way. That’s where our alternate childcare homes come in to provide love and support for short or sometimes longer period of care.
Q. What do you think of the idea that the best option is for the child to receive education back in their home village?
A. True, we are very much behind this. Our Micro Finance and cooperative banking programs are aimed at alleviating the poverty level in the vulnerable communities. When parents can afford to send children to school the chances of them being trafficked are minimal compared to those who do not attend school. Education empowers.
Q. Many now say the best approach is to work in the village where the child comes from but it’s easy to make theoretical suggestions. What really works in practice and why does 3AN not just do this?
A. Yes, we have also adopted this approach at 3AN for 4 years now. We have a MoU with The Forget Me Not charity & work with them in reuniting children with families. We provide educational support for 374 children in their own community school while some of the mothers are supported by our Micro Finance program and our cooperative banking is assisting in their small-scale businesses. If families have other means of support they are more likely to keep their children at school in the village. It is a great ideal, but Nepal is a long way off doing it well as a nation and needs a lot more help in educating far more.
Let me give you a recent example of the ideal failing in practice… 3 AN knows of 18 children who were reunited last year after parents were deemed by authorities as capable to care for their children, but this was not the case. Follow up was regularly done yet problems could not be solved and most of the 18 have gone …. it is suspected they were trafficked to India as we have been unable to trace them. Three were married off in child marriage which is illegal but still practiced in remote villages as it eases the financial burden on families with one less mouth to feed. Of the 18, two children remain with their parents but the authorities who were to support these families did a poor job as these children did not continue at school as planned and now do labouring work on the land. It is very disheartening and needs a lot more support and resources.
It is a complex problem for our nation and there is still a long way to go in Nepal to better protect the welfare of many village children and funds are needed to enable us to educate and provide them and their communities with more resources. Unfortunately, 3AN remain limited until we can be free from rents for our school and 15 children’s homes. The building of our new school will help make us self-sufficient and free up more funds to educate and support more remote village children in their communities. 3 AN are at the forefront of reforms in Nepal to educate and empower communities to be safe from traffickers and corrupt organisations exploiting the women and children of Nepal.
Donate and help 3 Angels Australia give 3 Angels Nepal a ‘leg up’ to self-sufficiency and help even more be safe from trafficking and exploitation.