Names and certain details have been changed to protect his identity.
Taral followed the cattle into the dense jungle. Grazing land is scarce in Nepal, and feed is expensive, so they had to find food where they could. He was responsible for looking after the cows and helping with the chores around the house, but home life was becoming unbearable.
After his parents died, Taral was taken in by his aunt and uncle. His uncle worked diligently but still brought home less than NZD$164 a month. While he was away at work, his wife seemed to take every opportunity to scold Taral. The woman was relentless, constantly berating the 12-year-old for not helping enough or failing to find a full-time job. She even went as far as to suggest that Taral shouldn’t be dependent on the family anymore.
But something changed as he tended the cattle on this particular day. There in the jungle, Taral met a man.
A sympathetic ear
His name was Arun. The 25-year-old was friendly and attentive, so much so that Taral found himself confiding in him. He told the stranger about losing his parents and his struggles with his aunt. Taral told Arun that he longed to return to school, but he had neither the opportunity nor the means in his current circumstances.
Over the next several days, Arun began to methodically manipulate the boy’s feelings. He told Taral he was impressed with him and that Taral was mature beyond his years. He told him he could get a better job in a neighbouring country where he’d be free from his aunt’s badgering and described an easy housekeeping job with a generous monthly stipend that would still allow him to go to school.
Arun even offered to cover Taral’s travel costs out of the country, saying he could easily pay him back once he was settled in his new job. If he just agreed to come with Arun, Taral could live a better, brighter life where he’d be respected and free.
Arun’s dogged efforts paid off: Taral finally agreed.
The escape plan
Arun laid out a plan of escape. When the day came, Taral rose early before anyone else in the house was awake and sneaked to the appointed meeting site. After walking to a nearby village, Arun and Taral rented a tuk-tuk and rode to the border.
But instead of just crossing together, Arun told Taral they needed to split up for a bit. He explained that he would go on ahead and that Taral should follow a short time later, pretending to be a local child without documentation. Once he made it across, they’d link back up, and Arun would take Taral to his new life.
After Arun crossed, the young boy nervously began his trek to the border, trying to blend in with other crossing families. Taral didn’t know it, but every step he took brought him closer to a life of bondage.
What waited beyond the border
Traffickers like Arun specifically look for kids who are unhappy in their current circumstances. They target the disquieted, the disgruntled, the lonely. An impoverished orphan like Taral was the perfect mark. With few connections to tie him to home and many pressures that kept him from feeling settled, Arun was able to easily fabricate a believable alternative to lure Taral out of the country.
We can only speculate about what waited on the other side, but past rescues have given a clue. In border trafficking situations, bondage can take many different forms. We’ve seen examples of forced labour with little or no pay, which are some of the better situations. Many female victims disappear into brothels where they’re held against their will, enduring abuse night after night to line the pockets of the brothel owner. Others are sold into loveless marriages as little more than property to their “husbands.” Boys, on the other hand, are often sold into hard labour, potentially facing a lifetime of slavery.
Taral was one step closer to a similar dark future with each step he took. Because once victims cross the border, it becomes almost impossible to locate them again.
But Taral never made it that far.
A rescuer in blue
As he approached the border, a woman in a sky-blue uniform stopped Taral. She was a Destiny Rescue (an organisation whose rescue work in the Philippines, Cambodia and Thailand Child Rescue helps fund) border agent, trained to look for signs of human trafficking.
When their team asked him where he was going on his own, Taral repeated the lie he’d rehearsed with Arun: his house was just across the border, and he was walking home. But he was obviously anxious—even frightened. Taral clammed up when our agents asked for more details about his fictitious family.
The patient agents explained how border traffickers operate, how they lie and trick their victims and the immense danger that awaited them on the other side. At first, Taral was not convinced, but the agents gently and relentlessly continued to counsel Taral until he understood.
Finally, releasing the hope of the brighter future falsely promised by Arun, Taral confessed the entire plan. After getting the full picture, agents quickly sent a team to search for Arun on the other side. The trafficker was gone; he’d most likely run as soon as he saw agents stop Taral.
Taral was taken to one of Destiny Rescue’s counselling offices, where he was taught about the dangers of human trafficking. Though Taral didn’t know his home phone number, the staff were able to utilise local connections to contact his family and incorporate them in the counselling as well.
Taral is now safe with his family again. While he still faces the same challenges as before this ordeal began, he’s now equipped to face those challenges in freedom.
These brave border agents interview an average of 60 Nepali citizens every day as they cross the border, stopping pedestrians, rickshaw and even buses in their tireless search for children like Taral.
If you’d like to join efforts to rescue children from traffickers, please consider following the link below to donate. Your gift could make the difference between a life of modern slavery and freedom for an innocent child.
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Child Rescue Charitable Trust and Child Rescue Charitable Aid Trust are registered New Zealand charities. Separate returns for each charity are filed each year with Charities Services which is a NZ Government organisation under the Department of Internal Affairs.
Annual reports to Charities Services can be viewed here
Please note: Annual Reports on this website will refer to ‘Destiny Rescue’ – Child Rescue’s name in New Zealand until August 2017.