All names have been changed for for the protection of those involved.
New Hope Ministries was founded by a Christian couple in 2007 by Paul and Ruth. This Ministry has two components: a hospice (New Hope Hospice), where HIV positive women stay up to three months for rehabilitation after an acute health deterioration, and a home (New Hope Girls’ Home) where girls rescued from traffickers are sheltered. On a fateful night in 1998, Kathmandu church workers Paul and Ruth Thapa were in a district called Dhading, screening a movie about Jesus in a dimly lit village called Maidi. When the film ended after midnight, two village women approached the couple, asking curiously if Paul and Ruth had seen their two daughters in Kathmandu.
A man had arrived in Maidi village more than two years before, promising village girls work in the capital. These two teenage girls had left with him. They were supposed to send news and money back home, but there was no news from the girls for two and a half years.
Paul and Ruth told the women that they did not know the girls. Feeling troubled for the women, they returned to Kathmandu to find out what could have happened. Government officials told them the girls were probably sold to India.Through their research, Paul and Ruth found the gateway points along the India-Nepal border most favoured by traffickers for their crimes. For Nepalese and Indian citizens, no official documents are required to cross the border, making it difficult for the authorities to identify trafficked victims. was a familiar story of traffickers tricking young, uneducated village girls into travelling with them to bigger cities with the promise of better jobs, only to sell them to India’s flourishing brothels. Through their research, Paul and Ruth found that gateway points along the India-Nepal border were most favoured by traffickers for their crimes. For Nepalese and Indian citizens, no official documents are required to cross the border, making it difficult for the authorities to identify trafficked victims. To locate two specific girls out of so many victims trafficked across the border would be near to impossible.
Shocked by what they heard, many thoughts ran through Paul and Ruth’s minds. What had the girls experienced after realizing their hopes and dreams were blatant lies? How could such an abominable crime involving innocent children be conducted rampantly?
Through their research, Paul and Ruth found the gateway points along the India-Nepal border most favoured by traffickers for their crimes. For Nepalese and Indian citizens, no official documents are required to cross the border, making it difficult for the authorities to identify trafficked victims.
Every year, fifteen thousand Nepali girls are trafficked from their homes. Because these are poor, uneducated village girls, they are an easy bait for cunning traffickers who use empty promises of a better life elsewhere. Many are sold by their own families, intentionally or unknowingly. Few people are willing to fight for their rights, and their poor families can do little to find justice. These girls are often sexually exploited and eventually scarred emotionally for life, even if they return to their homes. It is estimated that 60-70% of these victims contract HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases along the way, causing discrimination and suffering.
With the Maidi women’s pleas reverberating in them, the couple decided to raise awareness about human trafficking. They researched extensively on the subject, and through their church’s outreach, educated many rural villagers using videos and speeches.
In late 1998, a few months after the Maidi incident, a group of eight women were rescued from brothels in India and brought to Paul’s church. One of them carried HIV, and tuberculosis, but also a healthy infant boy named Binod. The church provided shelter, with Paul put in charge of supplying their basic needs.
Binod’s mother died three months later. During the grief period, Paul and Ruth welcomed the boy into their home, henceforth dedicating their lives to serving victims of human trafficking. The boy grew up strong, mature and loyal to his adopted parents’ noble cause. He loves mechanics and rides a motorcycle very well. He is 17 years old now and studying to be a pathologist. Upon graduating in mid-2015, he wants to start earning for the girls’ home his foster parents had founded. Traffickers also prefer to cross the border when there are crowds emerging from the trains. It would be much harder for the border officials to screen everyone for suspicious activities.
Paul’s team painstakingly exhorted the churches near the India-Nepal border to fight trafficking. Some church volunteers started to take shifts at three hot spot border points. Each shift is three and a half hours, with two shifts in the morning and one shift at night. The shift times tend to coincide with the train arrival times. The typical volunteer cycles two hours to the border, takes the shift, and cycles two hours back to his home.
Through this work, many young girls have been rescued from the traffickers and brought to nearby facilities for temporary shelter. Church workers attempt to trace each girl’s hometown, a difficult task since many village girls do not know where their homes are. If they find a girl’s village, they send the girl back. Sometimes, the village is deemed unsafe for the girl – the facilitators of trafficking are still around, or the girl’s family is so poor that they are likely to send their daughter off “to work” again. In these cases, the volunteers relocate the young girl to various homes for a longer shelter term.
By 2010, Paul and Ruth had also started to take into their home the rescued girls who had nowhere to go for shelter. As the numbers increased, they mortgaged their house to pay for daily needs. They used a portion of this money to purchase a small piece of land in Kathmandu’s outskirts, hoping to build a larger shelter house there to provide care for more trafficking victims and HIV-afflicted people.
HIV is a rising disease in Nepal, frequently undiagnosed until too late. Nepalese migrant workers contract the disease in brothels when they work overseas. They infect wives upon return, who then pass the virus unknowingly to their children during labour. The adults either die of fulminant infection or become too ill to work, and many children became orphans too early in life.
Associated with immorality, spiritual uncleanliness and divine punishment, people with HIV are discriminated against in Nepalese society. Few schools accept HIV-positive children, and not many employers allow the HIV-infected to work for them.
Together with their relatives Shiva and Rina, Paul and Ruth registered “New Hope Ministries” in 2010. Shiva and Rina opened their home to house women who were recuperating from HIV associated complications. The home became known as the “New Hope Hospice”, a misnomer since only one woman has died there in the last four years. These women usually come from the villages, got their treatment in Kathmandu’s Teku Hospital, and reside in the hospice as part of a step-down care, recuperating until they are strong enough to return to their homes.
One successful testimony was of a HIV-afflicted village woman named Naita, who was found by Shiva and Rina along the Pashupati river bank in Kathmandu, too weak to even ambulate. Miraculously, she walked home after seven months of loving care and relentless prayers.
The hospice has 15 beds, and each woman usually stays up to three months. There are HIV positive children who needed this service, but these have to be sadly turned away to other children’s home because New Hope Ministries do not have the funds to support more. While recuperating, the women spend their time making handicrafts, bags and bracelets, selling them to visitors for income.
In the fall of 2011, Paul and Ruth received a tip off about possible trafficking activity at a bus station in Kathmandu’s busy city centre. Rushing to the site, they joined the anti trafficking volunteers questioning a suspect who had a girl of 11 years old with him. Mala had a depressed look and empty eyes. Becau