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tv   Witness  LINKTV  May 16, 2022 9:00am-9:31am PDT

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♪♪♪ sally sara: in the mountains of the himalayas, a young girl leads the way home. she's been separated from her family for almost a year, sent to school in kathmandu. instead, she landed in a nightmare. kate van doore: children are being recruited or transferred into orphanages for the purposes of exploitation and profit. what better object of charity than an orphaned child? sally: thousands of children in nepal are being forced to pose as orphans to attract western donations.
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now, some are returning home, but the journey to end the trade has just begun. sally: i'm on my way to meet a special group of children. sally: this place is quite important in the whole process of freeing the kids to go home? anju pun: that's right. all: namaste. sally: namaste. sally: this is a transit home on the outskirts of kathmandu. all of the children here have been rescued from illegal orphanages. sally: are you gonna do tracing? uh-huh. sally: they were trafficked from their villages deep in
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the mountains. sally: yep, and on the next bit. sally: ten-year-old devi is finding her voice again. sally: what about that one? blue. devi: blue. sally: that's right, that's good. anju: she's mischievous. sometimes she cracks jokes. she is very, very friendly with all the children, and she just loves--a carefree type of child she is. sally: so, she's a bit of a character? anju: yeah, yeah, she is, she is. devi: [speaking foreign language] sally: should i do that bit? oh, okay, hang on, this is gonna be difficult that bit, that bit. maybe it's a garden. what do you think? sally: despite everything she's been through, devi hasn't lost hope. sally: is it good, is it all right? sally: her dream of home remains strong. sally: two, three, four, one, yeah! do you wanna put that one in?
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no? anju: i can't imagine how these young children between the age of three to nine, or ten, how can they be separated, you know? how can they live away for so many years, so many months? devi: [speaking foreign language] sally: yeah, blue, that's right. sally: in a few days, the children will start the long trek back to their families. sally: oh, yeah, that's perfect. ♪♪♪ sally: nepal's mountain regions are as beautiful as they are poor. opportunities here are few. many parents in remote villages want a better life for their children. orphanage recruiters prey on that desperation. ♪♪♪ families hand over their savings on the promise of an education
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for their kids in kathmandu, but there's a catch. while orphanages may provide some schooling, the children are falsely presented as orphans to attract foreign sponsors and volunteers. it's an industry exploited by nepalis, but driven by western demand. kate: we're trained in western countries to think a certain way about developing countries, and one of those ways is that orphanages are a great way of caring for children who are--who would otherwise be living in poverty. and that, in combination with the good intentions and the funding and the flow of volunteers, just drives the separation of children from their families. the cold, hard facts are there aren't enough "orphans" to
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volunteer with or fund this whole industry, so the orphans are being invented. they're paper orphans. they are orphans made by their fraudulent documentation only. sally: australian lawyer kate van doore speaks from firsthand experience. in 2006, she and some friends raised funds to open an orphanage in kathmandu, with an initial intake of 6 girls handed over by another institution. ♪♪♪ kate personally sponsored the smallest child, four-year-old alisha. ♪♪♪ kate: i felt a huge sense of responsibility towards her, but i also wondered, "where are her parents? and why is she orphaned?" and we just assumed her parents were dead.
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she was too small to tell us otherwise. my wonderings about alisha constantly referenced her family. where was her family? and how could i be her family moving forward? ♪♪♪ sally: for more than a decade, kate has maintained contact with alisha and the other girls. today, they're reuniting for the first time in five years. kate: look at you, hey. it's a long time, huh? it's a long time. kate: thank you. alisha: i missed you. kate: yeah, i missed you, too. alisha: [speaking foreign language]
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kate: hey! sally: kate knows now that all the girls had living families. diksha: hello, it's me diksha*. katie auntie: hello, it's me katie auntie. diisa: hello, it me alisa.sha*. sally: in 2012, an aud revealed they had been trafficked as paper orphans before entering her care. kate: we found fraudulent death certificates andn birth certificates. we found that the children's names had been changed to prevent, i suppose, family finding them, and i thought, "if they've got family there's no way that they should be here with us. if they've got family then we need to find a way to get them home." ♪♪♪
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sally: kate's organization, forget me not, began the process of tracing the families. they discovered alisha's parents had been searching for her for years. kate: when we got that news i remember crying, because i'd wanted that for her. and i had hoped it was out there somewhere, but i had never, kind of, known what it would look like for her. and when her father came to kathmandu to see alisha, he hadn't seen her for six or seven years, and he cupped her chin, and he turned her head. and she has a scar just here, and he touched that scar, and then he lifted her forehead. and she has a scar just here from when she was obviously a small child, and he said, "this is my child."
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yeah, even if you did nothing else, that was the most important. [conversation in foreign language] sally: forget me not has completely changed its mission from orphanage to reuniting children with their families. after living at home with her family for four years, alisha has returned to kathmandu to enroll in college and to mentor children like devi. [conversation in foreign language] sally: there are no foreign staff or volunteers at the transit home. the care is in the hands of nepalis. kate: they know what needs to be done to deinstitutionalize this country. they're on their way there, and we just felt that it's more important to have a nepali voice in that process than it is to
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have a foreigner's voice in that process. sally: the staff carefully build trust with the children so they can try to find their families. anju: when the children start trusting you, trusting us, the team here, then they start telling more stories about the previous orphanage or the family members. sally: anju pun is helping to put the pieces back together. anju: very much rewarding. it makes me happy. it makes my team happy, because after a lot of work, when you are able to reunite a child with her or his family, i think it's the best thingn the wod. that's how i feel and my team feels. [conversation in foreign language] sally: many of the children, like devi, are
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still traumatized. [conversation in foreign language] female: [speaking foreign language] sally: this video shows the day that devi and the other children were rescued from the illegal orphanage. they had been held on the outskirts of kathmandu for more than six months. anju: they thought of a better life here. they were lured, the families were tricked, but, actually, the life which they were living in this place was hell. sally: the orphanage owners had failed to secure sponsors. meanwhile, the children went hungry. anju: it boils me, you know? and i think that anger is good for me because that will help me
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to talk in front of the government authorities and the people who are supporting orphanages that "you are harming children." sally: devi's own aunt, kalpana buda*, has been charged with trafficking the children. it's common in the orphanage trade for relatives to be used as go-betweens. kalpana has agreed to speak publicly for the first time. she claims she was assured the children would receive quality schooling and accommodation, but she failed to raise the alarm when she saw the terrible conditions. kalpana: [speaking foreign language] sally: kalpana says she tried to help the children.
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kalpana: [speaking foreign language] sally: kalpana is out on bail, but will be jailed if she's found guilty. kalpana: [speaking foreign language] sally: the court proceedings could take years to resolve. ♪♪♪
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sally: at the transit home, devi and the other children are preparing to go home to humla. anju: they're very excited. they're scared also. flying to humla is not an easy task, you know? even adults like me, i've flown there before. it's dangerous. ♪♪♪ sally: just like the kids, d.b. lama is from humla, too. [conversation in foreign language] sally: his organization, the himalayan innovative society, is partnering with forget me not to ensure the children arrive home safely. [conversation in foreign language]
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sally: going home means saying goodbye to the staff at the transit home. ♪♪♪ sally: even though it's for all the right reasons, leaving is painful. ♪♪♪ alisha: [speaking foreign language]
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sally: there are no roads to humla. it will take two flights to get there. the children have bonded through the ordeal they've shared, but in less than 24 hours they will be going their separate ways. ♪♪♪ sally: d.b. lama knows it will be challenging. ♪♪♪ d.b. lama: when a child remains in an orphanage, then everyone friend.
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but once they come back to their family, there is a hierarchy of family members, so they have to respect each of the family members differently, so that will be difficult for the child. ♪♪♪ sally: it's a rough ride home. ♪♪ sally: as the plane gets closer, the children start recognizing their villages below. humla's capital, simikot, sits at almost 3,000 meters.
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this runway is infamous. it's so high, the plane barely needs to make a descent. humla is one of the most impoverished and isolated parts of nepal, in the bottom 3 of 77 districts on almost every measure of development. [background conversations] sally: the kids wait for their families to arrive. d.b.: [speaking foreign language]
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sally: at first, the children are not sure how to reconnect. the local culture is reserved. female: [speaking foreign language] d.b. lama: [speaking foreign language] sally: this is just the start of a complex process. d.b. lama's job isn't just to reunite the families, but to help them through the hardships that separated them in the first place. male: [speaking foreign language]
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d.b.: we are not only sending the child back to family, but we will support her education. our job is not finished. our job starts from there, because we have to watch all the behaviors, the changes in the family, and counsel them. sally: ten-year-old devi is still waiting as the day ends. at last, devi's mother, kalawati, arrives.
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sally: local custom dictates that she greets the men first, d.b. lama: [speaking foreign language] sally: and there are no shows of affection for devi. [conversation in foreign language] sally: devi's mom trusted that her daughter was being educated and cared for in kathmandu. now, she's learning the reality. ♪♪♪
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sally: it's not easy putting families back together after almost a year. the children are more worldly now, but many of the parents have never left the mountains. male: [speaking foreign language] sally: there's only one way for devi to get home, on foot. ♪♪♪ her village is deep in the mountains, a day's walk from simikot. it will be a difficult trek.
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♪♪♪ sally: it's not until you get out here that you really understand just how far the traffickers are prepared to go to get children for the orphanage market in kathmandu.
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it also gives a sense of the isolation and remoteness that the parents are facing. they are desperate for opportunities and education for their children. sally: devi's mom has lived a life heavy with struggle. three of her six children died of illness. female: [speaking foreign language] ♪♪♪ sally: devi's journey back to her village is finally over. thali is tucked away from the world. ♪♪♪
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sally: devi greets her sister, aauli*, but it's an awkward reunion. they've lived very different lives since devi left for kathmandu. devi's family will receive financial support to send her and aauli to school in the village. social workers will check on them for the next three to five years. [conversation in foreign language] alisha: [speaking foreign language]
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sally: back in kathmandu, survivors of the orphanage trade like alisha don't want another generation to suffer. alisha: [speaking foreign language] kate: i would say to australians please do not volunteer or
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fund orphanages. this is not just a problem in nepal, but it's actually a global problem. we know there's up to 8 million children living in orphanages across the world, and we know that 80% of them have a parent that could care for them if they were supported, and that's astounding. sally: kate van doore is campaigning in australia and beyond to end the flow of funds. kate: it's really hard to get people to change their minds, particularly when they've been supporting an orphanage for a long time. even when we found family for these children, some of our donors and some australians were saying to us, "that's great that you found their family, but you won't let them go back there, will you, back to poverty? because the kids will be better off with you, won't they?" poverty is just a lack of resources. resources we can fix. love, you can't buy that. you can't just pay for that to happen. that needs to happen in a family. ♪♪♪
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[conversation in foreign language] ♪♪♪
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