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Last Updated: Monday, 28 May 2007, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Nepal: Street children given hope

Khemraj Puri and Gopal Gurung are former street children. Their stories are a reminder that in times of dramatic political changes, Nepal faces another pressing problem - poverty.

Here they talk about their lives on the streets of Kathmandu and their hopes for the future.

NEPAL: ONE YEAR ON
Khemraj and Gopal's report

They have also been speaking to ordinary people about how things have changed since King Gyanendra was forced to give up political power last year. Click on the link on the right to read their report.

KHEMRAJ PURI

Khemraj Puri
Khemraj Puri: Nobody listens to the simple people
I was born in a small village in eastern Nepal. I don't know my exact age but I must have been born around 1985.

I have six brothers and sisters. None of us got the chance to study.

My siblings worked in the carpet factory for very little money that wasn't enough for food and housing. In desperation I left my parents and started a life on the streets.

There were 19 street kids in our group fighting the cold on the streets of Kathmandu. Life was very difficult because there weren't many generous people to depend on. So we used to beg from foreigners.

Most of the time we used to collect plastic garbage in order to sell it. But the money we would get for a whole day's work was not enough for one breakfast. So we used to steal fruit and vegetables from the shops.

We were not allowed to sleep in front of the people's houses. So we used to sleep, when there were no policemen, in the corner of the road cuddling with the dogs to keep warm.

New beginning

I was lucky enough to join a school for street children, the Nawa Asha Griha (NAG) which means Home of New Hopes. There I not only got food, clothes and shelter, but also a very good education. It was a great change in my life.

Khemraj Puri with other street kids
Khemraj Puri was eight years old when he started living on the streets

I have recently left the NAG home but all my college expenses are still paid by it. Now I am studying in higher secondary level which is going to be completed in a few days.

I am also working as a night taxi driver in order to pay for rent and food. I sometimes get hired to make videos at weddings and birthdays. I love taking photos and videos of life on the street. I want people to see the true Nepal not the tourist Nepal.

I would like to go abroad to earn enough money so that I can make my parents happy and I could give them everything I was deprived of in my young age. It is my duty to look after them.

I do not believe I can earn enough in Nepal to make a good future. I feel that nothing has changed in this country and nobody listens to the simple people.

Although I don't have wealth, I have ability and education to achieve all I wish for. I wish I could earn enough money abroad, so that I can come back and become a politician. This way I can help my country.

GOPAL GURUNG

Gopal Gurung
Gopal Gurung wants to be a journalist and show the true face of Nepal
I was born in a very poor family in the Himalayan region in 1986. I don't know the date of my birth.

When I was four our family was forced to leave our village. Our house and land had to be sold as my parents had to pay their debt.

We came to Kathmandu. It was like moving from heaven to hell. My mother worked in a carpet factory. She was trying to make our life better. She couldn't. Her salary was too low.

I was forced to beg on the roadside. I had very bad experiences working there. The big boys used to beat me and take money from me.

Treated like a dog

Some people treated me like a dog, but the dogs also treated me like their enemy. The only thing I could do was beg at the holy Buddhist stupa in Boudhanath, hoping that a person with a kind heart would help me.

Gopal Gurung with his brother
My mother could no longer bear the pain of our situation and ran away. I was five years old and very alone in the corner of this great city. There was nothing to eat at home, so I had to learn how to survive by myself.

I slept on the side of the road, in the park and in front of the shopping centres. Early in the morning I would get a hard kick in my back to chase me away.

I saw kids going to school. I was very jealous as I also wanted to study. I was seven years old and I had not known what education was. I wanted to study and become a good human being.

Then I heard about a small school which gave children like me education. I had to convince my father to let me go. I saved as much money as I could and gave it to him to make him happy. My dream was coming true.

Art by Gopal Gurung
A painting by Gopal Gurung
When I entered the gate of the school I felt happy for the first time in my life. Now I am the tallest boy at the school and I feel proud of myself. I am educated and I love basketball and painting.

Time has taken my past but my future is safe. My success belongs to the future. I want to earn money by doing a good job.

I want to paint and write about the true face of Nepal, like the streets and the poor people's life.

I want to see equality between rich and poor, and between men and women in this country.

I would also like to start a home for street kids because there are so many children on the streets that have no place to go. I want to help them in the same way I was helped.



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