Since our founding, we’ve helped reunite thousands of displaced children with their families. Each and every one of these families has a story to tell, and within each reveals an inconceivable amount of bravery and resilience. Today, as families across the world look towards the day that they’ll be able to meet with their loved ones again, we’d like to share one special story with you.
Arun was born in a small village in Nepal. When he was just three months old, his parents separated, with his mother deciding to abandon him and his disabled father for good. Doubting Arun’s father’s ability to care for his son, his mother chose to leave him instead in the care of his uncle.
Arun lived with his uncle until he turned 10. That year, his uncle also decided to leave the village in search of work and a new life in the city. Arun had little choice but to go and live with his estranged father, with whom he did not have a particularly strong relationship. Having lived apart for 10 years, the pair struggled to adjust at first but eventually grew closer.
One day a year later, when Arun was still just 11 years old, he took a bus journey alone and, being too young to understand the bus system, ended up in a city he didn’t recognise: Pokhara. Scared and alone, Arun desperately tried to remember the name of his hometown, but simply couldn’t. No one he asked had any idea where he might’ve come from, or how he might be able to get home.
Alone in a big city, and unable to remember any details that could help reunite him with his father, Arun was forced to live and work on the street. It wasn’t long before he found work in a small tea shop, but he quickly left after being mistreated by his employers. He then took on another job at a restaurant, but when his employers became worried that they’d be reported for employing child labour, they found him work in a small alleyway restaurant instead, looking after the child of restaurant’s owner. Arun was still only just 11 years old himself.
After some time had passed, a Kidasha outreach worker – who had been working in the local community and was monitoring instances of child labour – identified Arun and tried to learn more about his circumstances. Arun explained his bus journey to our social worker, but could still only remember the name of his home district (county).
Whilst others had considered the information they had as too limited to help Arun, our social worker was determined to get Arun safely back to his family. But in the meantime, they arranged for him to stay in our rehabilitation shelter for street children. There, Arun lived and socialised with other boys just like him, who had all found themselves living on the street due to a range of complex reasons, many outside of their control.
During months of counselling sessions with Arun, our social worker used mapping methods to mark out landmarks near to his home. Together, they marked different types of schools and other places he remembered on the map. Months into their investigation, our team of social workers identified a crucial piece of information: the name of a school in his Arun’s village.
Amidst the ongoing, local district police investigation, our social worker contacted police in Arun’s home district. It was discovered that two years prior, a man had filed a missing child report, leaving a contact number. The man, of course, was Arun’s father.
The entire process to identify and locate Arun’s hometown and father took around 9 months, largely due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and Nepal’s subsequent nationwide lockdown. If his father hadn’t filed the missing person’s report, the process could have taken years.
Just days after learning that Arun was not only alive, but and safe and in the care of trusted social workers, Arun’s father and uncle made their way to Pokhara. Once there, they went to the district police office to be reunited with Arun, who had at that point been trying to find his way home for over a year.
After all the formalities were concluded, Arun was free to leave Pokhara and finally make his way home with his father. We discovered that Arun had been a 16 hour bus journey from his home; a journey which, had he walked, would have taken days.
Saying goodbye to Arun was difficult. He was a well-loved character at our shelter, and is missed by all of his friends. We are however, incredibly proud of his resilience, and wish him the very best in his future.
Some determined lobbying by our team in Pokhara – who always work hard to make sure action is taken against employers of children under 14 years – resulted in Arun been awarded Rs. 25,000 (£159) in compensation for the unpaid work he had completed whilst on his own in Pokhara.
Currently, thousands of children across Nepal remain displaced, or engaged in exploitative unpaid labour. We are incredibly proud of the efforts made to reunite Arun with his family, and remain committed to ensuring that children like Arun have a similar opportunity for a better life.
To do this, we urgently need your help. A donation of any amount will go far in funding the tireless efforts of our social workers in Nepal, who work day and night to identify and house vulnerable children. Find out how you can support them, by visiting our donation page.