In the remote villages scattered throughout the Himalayas, opportunities for children are rare. So when an aunt offered to take 10-year-old Devi to the bustling capital, Kathmandu, to attend school, her mother readily agreed.
What awaited Devi was not the opportunity of a lifetime, but misery and despair.
Her aunt handed her over to an illegal orphanage. Devi had become one of Nepal’s fake orphans.
“They were lured, the families were tricked. But actually, the life which they were living in this place was hell,” says Anju Pun, a social worker for the charity which helped rescue Devi.
Every year, thousands of foreigners donate money or volunteer to help orphans in Nepal. But in reality, most of the children living in the more than 500 orphanages across the country have parents.
Like Devi, many are victims of traffickers, who prey on poor families desperate to give their children an education.
Instead, traffickers deliver the children to illegal orphanages where they are used to attract donations from well-meaning foreigners.
Australian lawyer Kate van Doore uncovered the dark underbelly of Nepal’s trade in children in 2006, when she set up an orphanage in Kathmandu, taking in a group of girls from another institution. Five years later, she discovered that they had parents.
“We found that the children’s names had been changed, to prevent, I suppose, family finding them,” Kate says.
101 East follows one young girl’s journey home from Kathmandu back to her family in the Himalayas.
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