Princess Home is a residential shelter and employment program for girls and boys who are either survivors of trafficking, former street kids who have been victims of sexual exploitation, orphans, or children at extreme risk because of family violence or extreme poverty.
The program founders, Ranjit and Sarah Kunwar came to Nepal from India 15 years ago. Their original mission was to start a church. Soon they discovered the human rights crisis of trafficking, and the fact that thousands of children are living endangered on the streets of Kathmandu. They set aside a room at their church as an emergency shelter, and it has since grown into two full service shelters. There are scores of feral children in Thamel, Kathmandu;s tourist district. These children have been abandoned by their parents, and many have been living on the streets for years. They soon become addicted to glue to numb their pain. The little ones are preyed upon by older street kids and adults. The girls are often trafficked to India or to the ‘cabin restaurants’ (brothels) popping up in Kathmandu itself.
On a recent visit to Nepal, I met some of these street kids living in Thamel. They were dirty and ragged, starving for attention but trying to seem aloof. Their hair was matted and wild. One boy of about twelve sat down next to me on the sidewalk, elbow to elbow, knee to knee. He seemed happy to be accepted, to have a few moments of positive adult attention. Then, another boy of about the same age came up and began acting out sexually with the boy next to me, kissing his neck and whispering terms of endearment. ‘My lovely,’ ‘My sweetie’. At first, the boy at my side seemed irritated, but finally he surrendered to it, and the two little boys kissed and groped each other on the sidewalk. Obviously they were reenacting the sexual abuse that is part of their everyday lives on the streets.I was deeply disturbed by this incident, and was motivated by it to try to do more for these children and this partner program.
Helping this population of street kids is hard. Ranjit takes months building relationships with the street kids and gaining their trust before attempting to rescue them. After a friendship has been established, he and his wife bring the kids in small groups to their church about an hour from central Kathmandu. After church, the kids share a meal with Ranjit and Sarah and their three kids, and have some time to relax and play in a safe place. Then they are driven back to their street home in Thamel. This process is repeated as many times as necessary, until the children are ready to move off the streets and into the shelter. “When they ask to come, then you know the time is right,” Ranjit told us. “As much as you might want to rush it, especially with the younger ones, that never works. They have to be ready”.
Ranjit and Sarah had just finished raising a group of twelve boys alongside their three biological children, their 'tribe of twelve'. All are now young adults, working or going to college. They are in the process of constructing a new shelter to house 50 boys.
Twenty-five girls are growing up at the Princess Home, and ten of these are in our school sponsorship program. Another fifteen young women are employed in the Princess jewelry program, also supported by Made By Survivors.