I’ve previously written about a charity I worked with in Cambodia, New Hope, and shared with you a great piece by Celina Bledowska about seeing the world by volunteering your way around it. Good causes around the world are a topic I’m keen to keep talking about, and so right now I’d like to draw your attention to a charity I’d never heard of until a friend started sharing her experiences there with me – Raksha Nepal.
Raksha, based in Kathmandu, provide care and support for women and girls in Nepal who have been sexually exploited and abused, along with caring for their children. Some of the backstories I’ve heard about those cared for by Raksha are truly, utterly harrowing. In wealthier parts of the world we expect that if we are attacked, raped or kidnapped there will at least be an attempt at justice. Police will be mobilised, perhaps a criminal will be caught and locked away. But around the world, others are unable to have these same expectations.
I have never visited Nepal, but Raksha make the problem clear: “Nepali culture supports the man’s right to use and abuse women, and there are no laws to protect the victims of this abuse.”
Recently an 8-year-old girl was brought to Raksha having been gang raped by a group of men. The damage was so extensive both internally and externally that doctors treating her say she’s unlikely to be able to live a normal life, but when questions started to appear about what the police were doing to deal with the culprits the answer came in the form of resounding silence.
There is no state victim support service, there is no support for victim’s families, there is no network of help to assist women and girls in getting out of living situations where they are permanently at risk. There is also no publicly available free medical treatment. This is why the work done by Raksha Nepal is so important.
In the case of the young girl I just mentioned, more than £1000 was raised in a week as a result of social media fundraising by Lori, the wonderful woman I know who goes to work with Raksha regularly. That’s pretty good going, I’d say, and is helping to cover the cost of numerous surgeries as well as time spent rehabilitating and shelter in the Raksha Nepal safe house.
Here are a few other activities that donations to Raksha Nepal support:
• Educational Support: Raksha Nepal provides financial support for education to children displaced by conflict and without families, and to children of sexual victims.
• Psycho-social and Trauma Counselling: Raksha provide free counselling services to children and women who have experienced different forms of violence and abuse.
• The Raksha Shree Cooperative: A saving and credit cooperative started in collaboration with rescued victims, which provides girls and women with an easy to access micro-credit to start their own venture.
• Raksha Shree Polyclinic: The polyclinic provides free regular check-ups, and raises awareness about safe sex practices and STD prevention through discussions, seminars, workshops and handouts.
• Rehabilitation and Reintegration Program: The charity provides skills training and education on leadership and financial management, to empower women and help them to support themselves through job placements.
• Research and Survey: Raksha Nepal conducts surveys to help identify the magnitude of abuse in Kathmandu and the best way to address it.
• Safe House: Raksha Nepal provides shelter to those children and women who are at risk of being exploited, and to rescued victims.
A few words from Raksha Nepal volunteer and fundraiser Lori Sutherland:
Q: How did you first find out about Raksha Nepal?
I found out about Raksha Nepal through a man who was working at a hotel called “blue diamond” in Thamel. I asked him if he knew somewhere I could help during my time in Nepal, and he told me all about them and they work they do.
Q: What was it like spending time with the women and children of Raksha?
You’d think because of what the children have been through at Raksha that it would be a very dark place, but as soon as you arrive you are met with smiles, singing and dancing. The energy in the safe house is so beautiful. It’s filled with love, support and sisterhood.
Menuka, the woman who founded Raksha is a pillar of strength. The children have a strict routine 6 days a week, rising at 5am for meditation and yoga, tae kwon do, school, then singing, chanting and music therapy in the evening. They chant a phrase every day over and over which will stay with me forever “I am beautiful, I am powerful, I am healthy.
All of the children are polite, talented and full of love. I couldn’t imagine my life having never met them.
Q: What advice would you give to people who want to help?
If anyone wants to volunteer then one way to arrange that is through the Help International website, also donations can be taken via that website and also through the Raksha Nepal website.
Note from Tabby: You can donate to Raksha using the bank details on their Donate Us page here, or you can make a PayPal donation through Help International by selecting Raksha Nepal from the drop-down menu.
Q: If you had to describe Raksha Nepal to someone in just a couple of sentences, what would you say?
Working with Raksha has changed my life. They are a voice for the hopeless. A lighthouse, a compass. Walking with Raksha is like walking the path of angels 💚