A long journey home
Arun was born in a small village in Nepal and was abandoned by his mother when he was just three months old and his parents separated. Doubting Arun’s disabled father’s ability to care for his son, his mother chose to leave him instead in the care of his uncle.
However, when Arun was 10, his uncle also left the village to seek work and a new life in the city, and Arun had little choice but to go and live with his estranged father. Having lived apart for 10 years, the pair struggled to adjust and didn’t have a particularly strong relationship.
One day, when Arun was 11 years old, he took a bus journey alone. Being too young to understand the bus system, he ended up in a city he didn’t recognise: Pokhara. Scared and alone, Arun desperately tried to remember the name of his hometown. 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. He soon found work in a small tea shop, but he quickly left after being mistreated by his employers. He 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 an alleyway restaurant, looking after the child of the restaurant’s owner. Arun was 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 only remember the name of his home district (county).
Our social worker was determined to get Arun safely back to his family, but in the meantime, arranged for him to stay in our rehabilitation shelter for street children. Here, 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. We took this image shortly after Arun’s arrival at our shelter.
During months of counselling sessions, our social worker used mapping methods, marking out landmarks near to his home, identifying types of schools, and other names of places he remembered. 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.
Despite the ongoing, local district police investigation, our social worker contacted police in Arun’s home district. It was soon 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 process to identify and locate Arun’s 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. We took this image of Arun, his father and uncle shortly after their tearful reunion.
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.
Thousands of children across Nepal are 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 of 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.
Donate today to enable children and young people living in chronic urban poverty to have safer brighter futures.