Susan Mann is taking comfort dolls knitted by local women to Maiti Nepal

Susan Mann is taking comfort dolls knitted by local women to Maiti Nepal

A trek to Nepal with a difference

Maiti Nepal

Susan Mann was spending her last few days in Nepal after a three-month stay with Medical Mercy Canada when she went into a book store in Thamel, the tourist area of Kathmandu.

She came out with Sold by Patricia McCormick, about how girls are sold by their families and taken to brothels in India.

“The pimps come to the remote villages and some of the fathers, often those who are alcoholics, will sell girls as young as seven or eight. The parents are told that the girls are going to work for wealthy families and will send money home. In reality, these virginal children are then re-sold to brothels in India. Men come from all over the world to use them,” said Mann.

The girls are beaten and starved and don’t speak the language where they are. They are there for life, which can be short as they get HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases, and have children too young.

Mann was appalled by what she read and made up her mind to visit Maiti Nepal, an agency based in Kathmandu which helps the rescued girls. There is an organization in India where men volunteer to visit the girls in the brothels and gain their trust by not having sex with them, then escape and return the girls to Nepal. If they are caught by the brothel owners, both are killed.

Maiti Nepal, which operates in Kathmandu in a modern building constructed by a German couple in memory of their young daughter, rehabilitates the girls through medical treatment and education. Maiti Nepal trains some of the young women to work as border guards and they can spot the men who try to cross the border to India with girls without papers and see that the girls are returned home.

Maiti Nepal was born out of a crusade to protect Nepali girls and women from crimes like domestic violence, trafficking for flesh trade, child prostitution, child labor and various forms of exploitation and torture. A group of socially committed professionals like teachers, journalists and social workers together formed Maiti Nepal in 1993 to fight against all the social evils inflicted upon the female population. Most of all, its special focus has always been on preventing trafficking for forced prostitution, rescuing flesh trade victims and rehabilitating them. This social organization also actively works to find justice for the victimized lot of girls and women by engaging in criminal investigation and waging legal battles against the criminals. It has highlighted the trafficking issue with its strong advocacy from the local to national and international levels.

Mann met Anuradha Koriala, the founder of Maiti Nepal and learned more about its work. She intends to go there to volunteer at some time in the future and when she got back to Canada earlier this year, she talked to her friends, who also read the book and wanted to help. They are making Comfort Dolls, from a pattern originally made by ICross Canada, for dolls to be given to children in Africa. Heather Hackman, Janet Armstrong’s knitting group, Kelli Rose of the Nee Nee Yarn Shop in Falkland and her customers, and other friends made dolls for Mann to take to Maiti Nepal on her next trip starting Oct. 13. Mann will also be taking monetary donations to Maiti Nepal.

Mann has volunteered in Nepal with Medical Mercy Canada, a registered, non-government charitable organization founded in 1991 by Dr. Myron Semkuley and his wife, Elaine, a pharmacist, and based in Calgary.

“Last year, I volunteered at a health camp and then lived with a family in the remote mountains and had a health camp there,” said Mann, a registered nurse and advanced practitioner.

“It is truly subsistence living. Many of the children do not go to school and they have no toys. For the girls who are rescued from forced prostitution having the doll may be the first thing they have ever that is their own and it is something very special for them.”

Mann and her family supported a girl from a rural area to go to university to be a computer programmer and she now works in a bank in Kathmandu. This was done in memory of Mann’s daughter, who died in a car accident 12 years ago, just as she was going to enter university.

“I am going to do more to help girls with education. It costs only $15 a month for a girl to go to school. School ends after 10 years and the cost for everything for university for four years is $3,000. There is so much to be done,” she said.

Mann is going back to Nepal to volunteer with Medical Mercy Canada for three months  at health camps in the Terai area, the jungle area on the border with India.