Rainbo in Nepal: Launching food for freedom

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since we have now fully recuperated from our time in nepal (days of delhi belly, rocky road bus rides where we knew not our destination, flying somewhat tensely with their very own buddha air, eating lentils and rice, lentils and rice, and more lentils and rice…where are the greens?!) and been firmly beachside in goa for a few days, it seems like an opportune moment to fill you in on what we got up to there and our new and exciting plans for giving through rainbo.

i hope you are sitting comfortably…

as you may know, we were visiting the NGO we work with in the west of the country, called base, to visit the projects we have been donating to and establish solid projects for 2013 and beyond. a little background if you are not already acquainted:  base is a small but very effective organisation which helps the tharu people, indigenous to the west but who were dispossessed of their very beautiful and very fertile land in the 1950s by opportunistic neighbours when the malaria risk in the region was eliminated by the US. having lived a deeply rural life with little or no access to schools or education, many tharus were forced to sign over deeds to their land without knowing what they were doing and, with no land and no means of income, were forced into bonded labour – effective slavery – working for wealthy landlords with debts too great to pay off.

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in 2000, after seven years of slowly but surely growing his own tharu grass roots group, base founder dilli chaudhary (above and below)  managed to get the government to outlaw bonded labour. sadly, the practice is still as strong as ever and there are currently 2 million kids working in nepal alone, while the government has yet to prosecute or sanction anyone responsible.

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i first visited base in 2009 and the work they were doing to educate and empower the tharu community was deeply inspiring. through youth clubs, child-friendly villages (pictured below), women’s microfinance groups and school building, they provide effective and sustainable ways for families to generate income without having to send their kids off to work for others just to get food or education.

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at the time, they were well-funded and running very successful rescue operations for child labourers, rehabilitating them in safe and friendly transit homes for thirty days or more, and either reintegrating them with their families (as, happily, worked for the family below), or finding foster homes for those whose own families could not support them. when we started rainbo, an area we very much wanted to contribute to were base’s schools, and have been gathering funds for kitchen gardens there to help the community grow their own produce.

but when we visited this time, we were astounded to hear that so many children were still in bonded labour, and that base have recently had to freeze their rescue and rehabilitation projects due to lack of private and international funding in that area. we met with some of the kids who had previously been rescued (see sabita, top photo, who was sent away at a very young age and is now healthy and happy in a foster home and studying hard at school through base funding) and were blown away by their enduring spirit and the tremendous work base has done to get them back on track.

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no child should be forced to work in these conditions and each and every one deserves a safe home and a proper education.  these rescue operations and transit homes are a golden lifeline and change the lives of hundreds of kids  – and so we are launching a new campaign, food for freedom, where 20p from every meal sold from the rainbo van will go directly towards rescuing child workers and getting them back on their feet.

initial funds are needed to find a suitable space for the homes, recruit qualified psychological and medical staff and volunteers, provide sufficient education, food and clothing for the children – and after that the overhead costs are easily sustainable as children are rehomed and newly rescued ones come in. funding ongoing education is still a big problem, but first and foremost these kids need to start living their lives again.

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base are overjoyed that they will be able to reinitiate this programme with our help. the more we can raise, the sooner they can get moving, and we can get to know each girl and boy who passes through their hands and into a new life.

we are back from our travels at the end of february and can’t wait to hit the streets and get food for freedom rolling. until then, please feel free to email us any questions or share knowledge and ideas at hello@rainbofood.com.

a really big thank you to everyone who has supported and eaten with us so far, we raised a total of £1364 last year and have high hopes for 2013.

ben + shrimp

Kathmandu: visual diary

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Namaste from southern India. We apologise for the temporary blog abandonment. The reasons are twofold: one – the depths of western Nepal, where we headed after the capital, have little or no WiFi; two – since making it down to goa from the border via lucknow and Mumbai we have been strictly horizontal.

Here is what we got up to in kathtmandu – news of our charity visit to follow. There were bustling markets, sub zero nights, streetside buffalo momos that made our mouths water and battered vintage wheels that made our horns beep and our hearts sing.

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