All names have been changed for for the protection of those involved.
New Hope Ministries was founded by a Christian couple in 2007 by Paul and Ruth. This Ministry has two components: a hospice (New Hope Hospice), where HIV positive women stay up to three months for rehabilitation after an acute health deterioration, and a home (New Hope Girls’ Home) where girls rescued from traffickers are sheltered.
On a fateful night in 1998, Kathmandu church workers Paul and Ruth Thapa were in a district called Dhading, screening a movie about Jesus in a dimly lit village called Maidi. When the film ended after midnight, two village women approached the couple, asking curiously if Paul and Ruth had seen their two daughters in Kathmandu.
A man had arrived in Maidi village more than two years before, promising village girls work in the capital. These two teenage girls had left with him. They were supposed to send news and money back home, but there was no news from the girls for two and a half years.
Paul and Ruth told the women that they did not know the girls. Feeling troubled for the women, they returned to Kathmandu to find out what could have happened. Government officials told them the girls were probably sold to India.Through their research, Paul and Ruth found the gateway points along the India-Nepal border most favoured by traffickers for their crimes. For Nepalese and Indian citizens, no official documents are required to cross the border, making it difficult for the authorities to identify trafficked victims. was a familiar story of traffickers tricking young, uneducated village girls into travelling with them to bigger cities with the promise of better jobs, only to sell them to India’s flourishing brothels. Through their research, Paul and Ruth found that gateway points along the India-Nepal border were most favoured by traffickers for their crimes. For Nepalese and Indian citizens, no official documents are required to cross the border, making it difficult for the authorities to identify trafficked victims. To locate two specific girls out of so many victims trafficked across the border would be near to impossible.
Shocked by what they heard, many thoughts ran through Paul and Ruth’s minds. What had the girls experienced after realizing their hopes and dreams were blatant lies? How could such an abominable crime involving innocent children be conducted rampantly?
Through their research, Paul and Ruth found the gateway points along the India-Nepal border most favoured by traffickers for their crimes. For Nepalese and Indian citizens, no official documents are required to cross the border, making it difficult for the authorities to identify trafficked victims.
Every year, fifteen thousand Nepali girls are trafficked from their homes. Because these are poor, uneducated village girls, they are an easy bait for cunning traffickers who use empty promises of a better life elsewhere. Many are sold by their own families, intentionally or unknowingly. Few people are willing to fight for their rights, and their poor families can do little to find justice. These girls are often sexually exploited and eventually scarred emotionally for life, even if they return to their homes. It is estimated that 60-70% of these victims contract HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases along the way, causing discrimination and suffering.
With the Maidi women’s pleas reverberating in them, the couple decided to raise awareness about human trafficking. They researched extensively on the subject, and through their church’s outreach, educated many rural villagers using videos and speeches.
In late 1998, a few months after the Maidi incident, a group of eight women were rescued from brothels in India and brought to Paul’s church. One of them carried HIV, and tuberculosis, but also a healthy infant boy named Binod. The church provided shelter, with Paul put in charge of supplying their basic needs.
Binod’s mother died three months later. During the grief period, Paul and Ruth welcomed the boy into their home, henceforth dedicating their lives to serving victims of human trafficking. The boy grew up strong, mature and loyal to his adopted parents’ noble cause. He loves mechanics and rides a motorcycle very well. He is 17 years old now and studying to be a pathologist. Upon graduating in mid-2015, he wants to start earning for the girls’ home his foster parents had founded.
Traffickers also prefer to cross the border when there are crowds emerging from the trains. It would be much harder for the border officials to screen everyone for suspicious activities.
Paul’s team painstakingly exhorted the churches near the India-Nepal border to fight trafficking. Some church volunteers started to take shifts at three hot spot border points. Each shift is three and a half hours, with two shifts in the morning and one shift at night. The shift times tend to coincide with the train arrival times. The typical volunteer cycles two hours to the border, takes the shift, and cycles two hours back to his home.
Through this work, many young girls have been rescued from the traffickers and brought to nearby facilities for temporary shelter. Church workers attempt to trace each girl’s hometown, a difficult task since many village girls do not know where their homes are. If they find a girl’s village, they send the girl back. Sometimes, the village is deemed unsafe for the girl – the facilitators of trafficking are still around, or the girl’s family is so poor that they are likely to send their daughter off “to work” again. In these cases, the volunteers relocate the young girl to various homes for a longer shelter term.
By 2010, Paul and Ruth had also started to take into their home the rescued girls who had nowhere to go for shelter. As the numbers increased, they mortgaged their house to pay for daily needs. They used a portion of this money to purchase a small piece of land in Kathmandu’s outskirts, hoping to build a larger shelter house there to provide care for more trafficking victims and HIV-afflicted people.
HIV is a rising disease in Nepal, frequently undiagnosed until too late. Nepalese migrant workers contract the disease in brothels when they work overseas. They infect wives upon return, who then pass the virus unknowingly to their children during labour. The adults either die of fulminant infection or become too ill to work, and many children became orphans too early in life.
Associated with immorality, spiritual uncleanliness and divine punishment, people with HIV are discriminated against in Nepalese society. Few schools accept HIV-positive children, and not many employers allow the HIV-infected to work for them.
Together with their relatives Shiva and Rina, Paul and Ruth registered “New Hope Ministries” in 2010. Shiva and Rina opened their home to house women who were recuperating from HIV associated complications. The home became known as the “New Hope Hospice”, a misnomer since only one woman has died there in the last four years. These women usually come from the villages, got their treatment in Kathmandu’s Teku Hospital, and reside in the hospice as part of a step-down care, recuperating until they are strong enough to return to their homes.
One successful testimony was of a HIV-afflicted village woman named Naita, who was found by Shiva and Rina along the Pashupati river bank in Kathmandu, too weak to even ambulate. Miraculously, she walked home after seven months of loving care and relentless prayers.
The hospice has 15 beds, and each woman usually stays up to three months. There are HIV positive children who needed this service, but these have to be sadly turned away to other children’s home because New Hope Ministries do not have the funds to support more. While recuperating, the women spend their time making handicrafts, bags and bracelets, selling them to visitors for income.
In the fall of 2011, Paul and Ruth received a tip off about possible trafficking activity at a bus station in Kathmandu’s busy city centre. Rushing to the site, they joined the anti trafficking volunteers questioning a suspect who had a girl of 11 years old with him. Mala had a depressed look and empty eyes. Because the suspect was not able to prove his relationship with Mala, he was forced to leave her with Paul’s team.
Mala grew up in a village. She lost her parents a few years before and was living with her grandmother. A natural dancer, she was noticed by a villager who wanted to take her to Kathmandu for a bar dancing job in Thamel, the capital’s tourist district. After travelling for five days with her trafficker, she grew suspicious about where she was really going, and hence tried to attract attention by expressing an unhappy look.
Ever since her rescue, Mala has stayed in Paul and Ruth’s home, going to school and becoming a second mother to the younger children who were to join them. She is the “head chef” and “captain” of the girls – even though she is only 15 years old. She is certainly more matured than many of the Singaporean teenagers we know!
Teenage girls are not the only trafficking targets. Sima and Saru were 4 and 6 years old respectively when they were rescued from traffickers on the way to the Indian border. Young girls are usually sold to the Indian circuses where their flexible limbs can be trained to be stage performers. As they enter their teenage years, the circuses will sell them to pimps if these girls are rebellious.
6-year-old Arati belonged to the Badi caste, known as the “untouchable of the untouchables”. The women believed that it is their destiny to become prostitutes from as young as 10 years old. When Paul’s team visited the community, they found Arati lying beneath the bed where her mother was sleeping with men. Horrified, they started to work in the community and raised awareness about exploitation. Arati’s mother is currently undergoing rehabilitation, and she permitted Paul and Ruth to shelter Arati in their home to prevent her from entering the trade.
Niru, Pranita and Uma are from Western Nepal. Each girl is around 10 years old and they share similar stories. Their fathers were killed during Nepal’s civil war between 1996 and 2006. Their poverty-stricken mothers were not able to raise them, so the daughters were sent to rich families to work. Knowing what happens in these homes, there was a high chance that these three girls were sexually exploited, or were at imminent risk of being so. Niru ran away and sought shelter among the church volunteers in that area, while Uma and Pranita were found by the church ministry teams and subsequently rescued.
Paul and Ruth’s mortgage loan has been consumed after four years of spending on the education and food needs of the twenty children they now have in their home. They fear that the bank would take their home away, and when the girls have nowhere to go, they would be sent by government officials to government-run shelter homes, where children were known to be mistreated or even sold.
The two families have a vision – to build a new shelter home of their own in the outskirts of Kathmandu, on the land that is already theirs. They will be able to take care of more children and women, and start their own self-sustaining project: coffee planting and selling. Currently, they do not have funds to do these. They struggle day-to-day for basic needs like food and water.
Here is a summary of needs:
Short terms right away
- To build a house that can shelter at least 30 children and 20 adults. They already have a piece land, but lack the estimated $65000 required to build a house, connect the electricity cables and provide water supply. Paul and Ruth were told by the bank that the they and the girls have to move out of their current house. Price remains to be completed $300002. To start a small coffee plantation as an income generating project. Coffee takes three years to grow from a seed into a plant, after which the coffee beans can be harvested, processed and exported. In the first few years before their own plantation is formed, they plan to buy coffee beans from a friend, process these beans and then sell them.The ministry’s long term vision:A centre of rehabilitation and haven for rescued trafficking victims and people living with HIV, with their own income generating projects. We want to be self-sustaining and not reliant on external donations in a few years’ time, but need the short term financial support to start this major project.
Land to do vegetation for income till coffee $140000
More information can be found at www.newhopenepal.com