Here I was once again in Nepal. As the car I was travelling in crept up the steep hill to a place in the outer suburbs of the capital Kathmandu, I felt a prickle of fear and bewilderment. What had the girls I was going to see witnessed? What had they been through? Where had they come from before finding themselves here?
I was heading to Asha, a place of love, understanding and teaching, where these girls could be children again after their lives, of sometimes, brutality and violence. Many of the girls had been trafficked to neighbouring India to work in the sex industry, the rest are vulnerable to violence by family members and sometimes friends.
Asha , which means Hope, is a halfway house. Some of the girls are just seven, one little girl, just four. Most are from the poorest of poor and uneducated.
Lured into Kathmandu from the beautiful mountains of Nepal at the prospect of working in the city and sending money home, they are then taken across the border to work in brothels.
Asha provides homes for these girls (and a couple of boys) with foster carers or mothers who take care of those fortunate few who have found Asha or Asha has found them.
The girls don’t live in the centre but offers them a chance to study, learn and play – a vital component lost in many of these rural places in Nepal. These poor kids sometimes have to look after babies like a grownups and are only babies themselves. Playing and schooling are often missing from these areas.
The centre has a computer room, musical instruments, a therapy and play room. They can dance, sing, and learn to play instruments and hone their computer skills just like everyday children get the chance to do.
There are dolls, figurines and other objects to play house, shop and play “pretends”, often being the person that they want to be when they get older.
People like teachers, nurses and doctors. It gives them a chance to heal.
It must be so painful for all and they surely would block out their memories that are often abusive and destructive. The therapist at Asha try to stop those memories from once again rearing their ugly head so the children can have more or less a normal adult life.
The woman that oversees the whole project, Smrikiti Khadka, studied as a nurse after her schooling and now looks after this whole amazing place with a team of trained and dedicated staff.
She is a young, married girl with a son not much older than the ones she looks after. I felt the calm of this place after the hustle and bustle that seems to invade the rest of Kathmandu. They even have a green outlook as I noticed the vegetable gardens across the road.
To raise funds for Asha Nepal, Project Didi Australia, a small not for profit organisation which partners with Asha is holding a screening of SOLD, the acclaimed movie, based on true stories from Nepal, and produced by Academy Award winner, Emma Thompson on Thursday May 24 at 6.30 at the Queensland Multicultural Centre (QMC), Kangaroo Point.
The movie, starring, X-Files actress Gillian Anderson, is the heartbreaking story of a little girl trafficked to India to work in a prison brothel, called Happiness House. It is filmed entirely in Nepal and India.
All profits to Asha Nepal’s programs.
For more information and to purchase your ticket click here.