I want to tell you what I am doing in Nepal and the incredible young people I am working with and how hard they are working to pull themselves up from really tough backgrounds, and how you can help.
Circus Kathmandu is an organisation who work with young people who have been rescued from being trafficked into Indian circuses and from other vulnerable situations. As children, some were stolen, some were sold. They have all made the decision that they want to carry on performing with the skills they spent years working on and to be able to use their performances to spread awareness of human trafficking.
I came to Nepal knowing I was going to hear horrific stories. I thought i would be able to share them with you. To talk to the young people I am working with and enable their stories to speak of the dangers of trafficking and the reality of modern day slavery and to be able to build awareness of the incredible work they are doing here.
I was naive. I cannot walk into someone else's world and expect their trust and my desire to help to invade their past. At best it is inconsiderate, at worst it is obscene. But there are some moments frozen in memories that I can share to give you the darkest of outlines. Every young person here a story. Here are some fragments I have heard:
"His father used to be violent towards his mother. When his father threw him down the stairs, aged five, his mother left. Divorce is not culturally acceptable here, so her family disowned his mother. She was forced to work the streets."
"She was made to perform the trapeze without a harness. When she fell and broke her arm she was told she would not be given food if she did not perform. She performed with the bone sticking out of her skin until she was rescued. She still does not have full use of her arm."
"He does not remember a time before living on the streets picking litter. If he collected enough plastic, he may be able to eat that day."
"After being hit on the head she now cannot see out of one eye and her headaches keep making her dizzy. The doctor said she needs a CT scan but she did not go because she cannot afford it."
"He is one of the best acrobats I have even seen but he was treated so brutally he cannot bend his wrists."
"She was sold at nine, was married to someone in authority at ten and had twins by age eleven. She has another child at fourteen. By age sixteen she was a widow with three children, and still had to perform every night. "
These stories tumble out slowly like ugly acrobats. They have lived horror. I know I am only hearing the edited version.
But they have a chance of a different life. Circus Kathmandu are an inspiring social circus. They pay each performer a monthly wage and provide training with international coaches six days a week. Most circus performers only get paid when they perform and they have to fund their own training, which can cost around two or three years wages.
The idea is to get Circus Kathmandu international recognition and for them to become self sustaining. In time, we hope the company will be able to support, maintain and grow through the fees from performances. But they are not there yet. They just performed their first international gig in Dubai and had a wonderful time, the world is opening up for them, but the fact is we've run out of money.
Last year we managed to secure them gigs at Glastonbury, the Roundhouse and No Fit State Circus, but the UK border agency declined their visas, three days before we were meant to fly. We lost the flights, the money for the visas, the shows and most tragically, the kids had their hopes dashed.
This year we have been offered to perform in the UK again, but we simply do not have the money to start the visa application process. We have no sponsors, everyone here is working for free, and my money runs out in a month.
I have worked out that if every one of the people who follow me on here donated £2 each, we could fund this project for a year. That includes 15 people's wages, the hire of the rehearsal space, costumes and equipment. Times are tough for all of us, I know this and people have been so generous already, but my pride at not wanting to ask for money is negated by the stories I hear, the resilience and inspiration I see, and how much difference the price of a cup of coffee at home could make.
If you can, please help us establish a safe place for talent to be nurtured and dreams to flourish. Let's help these incredible young people build their own future.
You can donate via paypal at info [at] circuskathmandu [dot] com
Heartfelt thanks for taking the time to read this.