Harambee Arts expanded it’s services to Kathmandu, Nepal during the Spring of 2012. Our partner, Shakti Samuha, is the first organization globally that was founded and staffed by survivors of human trafficking. Most of the women who work for Shakti Samuha experienced forced prostitution in Indian brothels, some sold as young as seven or eight years of age. While struggling to reclaim their own lives, they reach out to support and empower other trafficking survivors by providing desperately needed shelter, legal aid, vocational training, and counseling.
Tragically, trafficking is a major export industry from Nepal to India and other countries. Traffickers prey on young people desperate to get out of Nepalese villages beset with hunger, their economies paralyzed by fighting between Maoists and government forces and more recently by the massive earthquake of April 2015.
In 2011, Ms. Simoneaux taught a two-day training to Shakti Samuha’s core staff of 24, as a consultant with Save the Children. During the training it became apparent that the women had not been given the opportunity to heal from their own traumas stemming from the unspeakable degradations they had experienced. She was invited to return in 2012 to lead an intensive two-week training in Expressive Arts Therapy. This work proved important to support the skills and confidence the women needed to make a difference in the lives of young girls rescued from trafficking. A core team of 7 was certified in the Harambee Arts methodology as facilitators and they now lead empowerment workshops for vulnerable young women and girls throughout Nepal.
My Life Started with Struggle. It is just like a dream that I was born in Nuwakot District of Nepal. When I was only 15 years old, at that time I got married without my permission. I had one son and one daughter. When my son was only 3 months old, my husband got re-married to another woman. It was so difficult to look after my children. I met one man who said that I could do business with him. I would make more money and other benefits with him. But he took me to India and he sold me in one place and my son and daughter in a different place. Then after a few months I ran away from that place. I succeeded to find my children also. I couldn’t find that fellow who sold me. I had to do so many things that I didn’t want to do in that brothel. Now I am proud that I am working in Shakti Samuha and I can do something for other women who feel like my sisters. I want to tell the women with whom I work: “You are not the only one who got trouble in life. Hold my hand. I am here for you.”
In 2011 seven magnificent, courageous women were chosen to participate in an intensive course of study to become certified as facilitators in the Harambee Arts method of Expressive Arts Therapy. Since then, they have facilitated two workshops for women from all over the world who traveled to Nepal to study Expressive Arts with them. They also traveled to Hong Kong to present at the 11th annual International Expressive Arts Therapy Conference. They continue to lead workshops for women and girls in Nepal to empower, educate and advocate. They are our true heroes.
Harambee Arts has brought Expressive Arts to remote areas in Nepal, training women and offering empowerment workshops to those affected by domestic violence and trafficking. Participants learn that they are not alone, building community while learning to express themselves in a safe and joyful environment which leads to an increased sense of self-value and confidence.
Harambee Arts partners with Community Based Rehabilitation, Bhaktapur, working with children with disabilities, families and communities to create a society where all are included in school, work, social and family activities. CBR also runs a school for deaf children and envisions an inclusive Nepal.
We also partner with Raksha Nepal, a humanitarian organization, which has been working for sexually exploited girls, women and their children since its establishment in 2004. Its main target is to protect those women and young girls working in the so-called informal entertainment sectors (massage parlors, dance bars and cabin restaurants) from trafficking and sexual violence by enhancing their knowledge, awareness and socio-economic status. Raksha Nepal advocates “to make the society free of compulsive prostitution. Additionally we partner with the Society For Children With Down Syndrome And Other Disabilities”
In 2012 and 2013, Harambee Arts organized two-week Work/Study Programs in Kathmandu, attended by twelve women from around the world, to study and practice Expressive Arts with our Nepali team of trafficking survivors and their support staff. The experience included five days intensive training and five days working with our partners, Raksha Nepal and CBR Bhaktapur and recently rescued girls cared for by Shakti Samuha.
This following quote by Pema Chodren embodies the Harambee Arts philosophy. Through our work-study program we enter a culture that differs from our own in many ways and our approach will not be as “helpers” but as providers of an exchange that will benefit both parties. Everyone is teaching and learning.
“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well, can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” Pema Chodren, Buddhist nun
Your 100% tax deductible gift to Harambee Arts: Let’s Pull Together TM directly helps provide art programs for vulnerable children in an environment that fosters their sense of joy, creativity and exuberance.