Nepali children wait for their turn to play on a swing at an orphanage in Kathmandu. Photo: AFP (Image for Representation)
SYDNEY: Australians are being warned not to volunteer or fund orphanages in Nepal. It’s estimated that more than 80 percent of Nepal’s orphans are not orphans at all. The children are trafficked from remote villages to lure donations from foreigners.
Similarly, forty Australians have been duped into donating more than $480,000 to a charity scam that coerced children into a fake orphanage.
The Australians were fooled into thinking they were supporting Nepalese orphans when, in fact, the children were not orphans at all.
The Nepali charity responsible had also deceived Australian charity Forget Me Not into supporting the cause by falsely claiming the kids had lost both of their parents. The Nepali charity even falsified the parents’ death certificates to show to the Australian operation these were legitimate orphans.
Earlier, the non-government organization, Malai Na Birisu Bal Griha, hired child traffickers who manipulated illiterate parents in poor areas of Nepal and stole their girls away from them to live in a Kathmandu orphanage funded entirely by Australian donations, Daily Mercury reported.
Neither the Australian charity partner nor the donors had any idea about the scam until years later.
One of those donors was Jason Wall, 52, who donated $60 a month to sponsor a child named Sangeeta. When he was told of the scam, he felt a mixed bag of emotions. “There was both shock and sadness,” he said. “You just question – how the hell did this happen?”
Craig Manley, 51, and his wife Mel, 48 who run a McDonald’s in Bundaberg, felt “hugely deceived and disappointed” when they discovered the details. “My wife and I visited the orphanage every year, armed with presents – make-up, hair clips and cards from other donors like us saying how much the girls were loved,” Manley said.
In addition to the orphan deception, another nasty shock was waiting for the Australian donors.
Australia became the world’s first country to recognize orphanage trafficking as a form of modern-day slavery this month. Statistics show 80 percent of supposed orphans have one living parent and Asian orphanages are trafficking to meet volunteer demand. It’s a phenomenon known as voluntourism. The 2017 State of Children report revealed there were 567 registered childcare homes still in Nepal housing 16,536 children, but there was also an unknown number of unregistered homes.
(with inputs from Agencies)