BY BISHNU BUDHATHOKI
KATHMANDU, May 22 - Deepak Karki, a 13-year-old boy, came to Kathmandu along with his parents from Gorkha district in the western hilly region a couple of years ago. Deepak roamed the filthy streets of the maddeningly crowded city for about a month looking for a job. He finally got one as a helper to a tempo (three-wheeler) driver.
However, he decided to quit the job as he felt that he could not enjoy the kind of freedom like that of the ’street kings’ that he frequently used to pass by during his working days.
The apparent freedom of the streets finally got the better of him and drew him towards the ’street kings’ after leaving his job.
‘When I met those boys in the streets, they encouraged me to join them. Sensing a kind of freedom that I had never experienced before, I decided to join them,’ he confessed.
He remained in the streets for about five years. During that period, he became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and whatever else he could lay his hands on in the streets. But soon, a time came when the more he stayed in the streets, the more he began to undergo physical and psychological trauma.
‘I have spent many nights without food,’ he says.
Exhausted, both mentally and physically, Deepak finally sought the help of the Chabahil-Pashupati Child Shelter at Mitrapark just two months ago.
Since then, he has been trying to live a normal life. ‘I have given up the habit of taking drugs,’ he confided. Interestingly, Deepak, who has already worked as a helper in a tempo, now wants to become a tempo driver.
The shelter accommodates about 70 other children like Deepak for the past two months.
British Ambassador to Nepal Keith George Bloomfield formally inaugurated the child shelter amidst a function in the capital today.
The shelter imparts informal education to the children in developing self-sustaining skills as well as psychological counseling in a bid to make them adjust to societal norms.
Ryckmans J, a Belgian citizen and director of the shelter, said that it helps street children free of cost. ‘It is an open shelter and street children are always free to come or go,’ Ryckmans said. He also informed that the shelter takes many of the children back to their respective homes and encourages them to stay there.
‘Our main focus is to make these children more responsible in society,’ he said.
According to a survey conducted by Chandrodaya Shelter, a rehabilitation center for children in the capital, there are about 1200 children still living in the capital’s streets. It also revealed that 300-500 new children from the periphery of Kathmandu join the streets in the capital every year.