MAF is still working in Nepal with the relief work there. As I was going through my email, I was encouraged as I read the story below of the organization Mountain Child that MAF is able to help in Nepal with our services. Here are excerpts from an email that I am allowed to share.
From the email:
I thought it would be good to share the latest on our work in Nepal which continues to bring hope and help to those remote and devastated communities in Nepal. Please find below a story by LuAnne Cadd about the amazing work being done by one of our partners in Nepal – Mountain Child and how we have been able to assist them.
Protecting Nepali Mountain Children – story by LuAnne Cadd
“Let me tell you the story of a young girl from Nepal,” Jack Reid says. It’s a heartbreaking story. Jack has been describing the Nepal earthquake, the urgent needs of the mountain people, and what his organization – Mountain Child – is doing to help alleviate the suffering caused by the earthquake.
The girl’s story, however, has nothing to do with the earthquake, or so it seems. It’s a horrifying tale of an 11-year-old girl from the mountains he calls Jyoti who was taken from her family and used as a sex slave, chained to a bed, often serving 30 men a day for years. She and her family were tricked into believing the girl owed money to this man but she could pay it back by working while getting an education in the big city of Kathmandu. It was a lie.
He is just one of an unknown number of child traffickers who target poor, trusting Nepali children and parents, particularly those from the mountainous regions. The stories of deception and lies vary, but the end results of trafficked children are similar.
“It’s a story repeated thousands of times every year,” Jack explains. “It is the harsh conditions that they live in that create such difficult circumstance for these families. The traffickers prey on them. They are incredibly vulnerable, and incredibly naïve, and someone will come to the mountains and offer to take their children to the lower elevations to get a good education, a better life. The parents send their kids down with someone they trust, and those children are never seen again.”
The 2013 edition of the Global Slavery Index ranks Nepal as fifth for the highest prevalence of modern slavery out of 162 countries.Trafficking was endemic in Nepal before the 25 April earthquake, with an estimated 12,000 Nepalese women and children trafficked out of the country every year, according to a 2001 International Labour Organisation study.
It’s unimaginable, and has everything to do with the current earthquake disaster. With children accounting for 40% of the Nepali population, the earthquake crisis is also a children’s crisis. In the first two months since the 24 April earthquake, 513 women and children have been intercepted from being trafficked across the borders or internally to illegal ‘care homes’ according to UNICEF. These are simply the ones who were caught.
For the last 15 years, Mountain Child has been working with marginalized and desperately poor Tibetan people groups from the high Himalayan mountain region that borders Nepal and China. They identified five core interconnected issues: health, trafficking, education, child labor, and environment/agriculture. “You cannot go and deal with one without dealing with the other,” Jack says.
For people living precariously on a razor edge under normal conditions, the recent earthquake has literally and figuratively shaken their fragile world to the core. Footpaths and bridges necessary for transport of food and supplies have been covered in landslides, bridges broken, and an estimated half of the valuable donkeys – the mountain communities’ live transport – died in the earthquake from landslides or falling off the edge of narrow footpaths. Schools and homes have been damaged and destroyed.
“The lack of schools, the lack of providing those children with a safe learning environment and getting them engaged in education creates such a vulnerability that has a domino effect that can lead to children being trafficked,” Jack describes. “All these displaced families, all of the widows that have been created through this event, all of the children who are now fatherless, all of the families who now don’t have homes and are living in make-shift shelters in Kathmandu and the surrounding areas – they are now being preyed upon by traffickers who see them in this vulnerable state and want to take advantage of them.”
Mountain Child is working hard to keep other children from suffering the same fate as Jyoti and thousands of other children. Since the earthquake, Jack has focused his team on the immediate and urgent needs of the mountain communities where they have firmly established connections, particularly the Nupri valley. He calls it their “relational grid”.
“We have relationships with all of the villages in there because we’ve been investing in them strongly for the last 15 years,” Jack says. “When we showed up in the Nupri valley, half the children were dying before the age of eight.”
This relational grid, made up of teachers and health workers, began to feedback reliable information about the needs in specific villages following the earthquake, and the top priority was food. At the high elevations, only potatoes and barley can grow well. With the footpaths damaged, the area was cut off from all markets at lower elevations.
“We sat down with MAF,” Jack says, “and began to talk about how we could get flights into these remote areas because there was no other way to get supplies in there. With MAF, over the past weeks, we’ve been able to take multiple trips delivering thousands of kilos of food to areas that are really cut off right now. The first priority was to get them to tomorrow.”
Mountain Child works in the village of Shyala which sits high above the valley floor on the side of a mountain at 3543 meters (11,627 feet) in the shadow of Mt Manaslu, the eighth highest mountain in the world. Getting to Shyala is a challenge under normal conditions. It starts with a two-day jeep ride from Kathmandu to where the road ends and the footpath begins. From there it’s about a seven-day trek crossing numerous bridges made of steel cable or rope, some as long as 200 meters, crossing deep gorges.
“If you go lightning speed and walk 14 hour days, for me and most foreigners, you can make it to Nupri in about five days,” Jack describes. Four days after the earthquake, he sent in a small team of young men from Nupri to assess the footpath, not knowing if they could even make it to Shyala. “These young Nupri youths can usually do it in three days, partly because they walk all night. They’ll stop on the trail and maybe take an hour nap and then keep going. It took them a week and a half. So it really showed us that the trail had suffered significant damage. They reported that some of the bridges were out, some missing planks so they had to scoot across on a steel cable, and some of the rope bridges were broken and they had to take alternate routes. There are very arduous parts of that journey that make it very difficult to access, and it’s only been complicated by the landslides and the shifting of earth. There was a large shipment of textbooks and school supplies on donkeys when the first earthquake hit. All of the donkeys fell off the cliff and died – up to 50 donkeys. All the school supplies are gone.”
Mountain Child built and operated a health post and community center, called a Gateway Project, from a well-constructed building in the Nupri Valley on the way to Shyala. The earthquake sent a massive boulder hurling down the mountain, cutting a path straight through the stone walls of the building, missing staff on either side. The building must be torn down and rebuilt from scratch.
Getting the schools up and running again is the second highest priority for Mountain Child. Four schools suffered significant damage and were forced to close. All are boarding schools where students come from tiny remote villages and live on site. The Shyala school houses 110 children.
Mountain Child obtained 60 large canvas tents to use as temporary classrooms and boarding facilities. The MAF-coordinated helicopters flew he tents in via sling load- cargo suspended by cable beneath the helicopter – while a Mountain Child ground team came in to construct the tents.
“If education is not ongoing, the children might not ever restart their education, and they become very vulnerable to trafficking,” Jack explains. “It’s not parents selling their children. I’ve never seen that happen, ever, in the Himalayas. Parents love their children. They want what’s best for their children. They want them to get an education. They want them to survive.”
Since MAF began coordinating the helicopter service in Nepal, Mountain Child has flown on average two days a week, flying over 66 legs in the first six weeks.
“What we’ve done for them is guarantee twice a week so they can do their planning,” MAF’s Daniel Juzi says, “and usually on any given day of those two days, they’ll make two to three flights up there. For them it’s making a huge difference being able to use our subsidized flights to go up into those areas. It’s an organization with incredible resilience and dedication to very remote parts of Nepal.”
Jack dreams big, yet understands that meaningful and powerful change takes time in these remote communities, which is why Mountain Child has a 40-year strategy in place. They are committed for the long haul.
“Our great hope is that MAF has a long term presence in Nepal because the areas we’re accessing are so incredibly remote,” Jack says. “That’s the long-range wish. In the short-term, I think the safe estimate is that it will take three months to get the footpath open to Nupri.”
Mountain Child will be there when it opens, continuing their work to improve the lives of remote Nepali people, and protecting, teaching, and nurturing these children of the mountains.
ITEMS FOR PRAYER
- For continuing safety and grace with changing schedules as the monsoon weather causes disruption.
- For wisdom for leadership and good relationships with Government as we start the process of registering as an INGO in Nepal.
- To source a new office location close to the airport and Fishtail Air
- For safe travels for the team members who are arriving and leaving and for quick and efficient transitions between staff
- Praise for the continuing positive relationship between MAF Staff and the Fishtail Air staff.
- Pray for the Nepali people as they start to rebuild. Pray especially for protection for those communities and people most vulnerable to landslides.
- Pray for the team to be a great light to all we work with and come in contact with.
- Especially pray for Jack Reid and the team at Mountain Child – that they may continue their life saving and changing work with the communities they serve.