When we found the ISIS children close to a decade ago, we had the immense good fortune of partnering with 13 wonderful families who immediately gave their financial support to 136 children we rescued from child traffickers, enabling ISIS to provide the children with a home, emotional support, an education and healthcare. With the incredible support of these “ISIS Kids Sponsors”, we have made much progress with the “ISIS Kids”, who today, are happy, healthy, vibrant children.
In August this year, one of our very generous ISIS Kids Sponsor families was able to take part in a cultural exchange with the ISIS children. The Mackay-Cruise family spent a week in Kathmandu learning all about the work of The ISIS Foundation, meeting the children who they have been supporting for many years, and engaging in the day-to-day life of the children. As the children spent time together, and shared their stories and lives, Max came to understand just how difficult life had been for the children before they were involved with ISIS. Max, displaying intelligence and empathy beyond his years, wrote an incredibly compassionate first-person account of his interpretation of the lives of the children involved in civil war and human trafficking. Max turned his account into a speech written in the first person as though he was one of the ISIS kids. He delivered it to his class-mates and wider school upon returning home. His wonderful speech is posted below:
By Max Mackay-Cruise
Namaste, I am from Humla Nepal, a remote mountainous region on the border of Tibet. I am now fifteen years old and I am going to tell you my story.
It all started in 2003, when I was five. I was supposed to be at school, but I was home, like all the other children, because the Maoist Rebels had invaded the schools, and were forcing us to learn their culture. The Maoist Rebels were a communist group influenced by the Chinese. They were fighting the Nepalese government for power, and it had turned into a Civil War.
It had probably been six months since the invasion and my mother had called me from the doorway. I obeyed. I saw her hand over a stack of rupees, it was probably her life’s savings, and whispered good luck in my ear, and turned away, crying. I turned back to her, but felt a strong grip on my shoulders. The large hands started pulling me back. Realizing I was being taken, I started to fight back, but it was no use. I turned and found a large group of children, just like me, being led away towards the mountains by the man who had taken me.
I later found out that the man who had taken us away from our family’s, was a government official. He was being paid by parents to look after their children and protect them from the Maoist Rebels. He took us to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. We joined up with children from all the other villages in Humla and there were more than five hundred of us in total, with our ages ranging from 3 to 15. We arrived at Kathmandu by plane. After we arrived, we were taken to a small home that the man had rented. I spent a year there. We were forced to cook for ourselves or find food on the streets and we never washed. In the house that I was staying in, there were 39 of us. There was one single room for all of us and most of us had to sleep on the floor, me included. There weren’t any blankets, mattress or other clothes. And the kitchen and dining hall was very dirty. No running water, no attached bathroom. We were malnourished, exhausted, starving, beaten and abused. There was not a single second when someone did not have some disease. We hated it.
Occasionally, some nice people, apparently from a charity called ISIS were sent in to check us out. Over time, we saw more and more of them until one day, we were saved. ISIS, the charity, arranged to get custody of all 136 of us children from Humla. ISIS had experience with children and had organised social workers to help us. We were all in very bad conditions. We were split up into ten homes, with about twelve of us in each. I was in house eight and the houses each had sponsors to fund everything. We were given great education, food and shelter. I was seven at the time. But there was still one problem; ISIS thought we were all orphans from Humla, because that was what the man had said. A few months later, they realised their mistake whilst talking to one of the older boys. ISIS then took photos of every single one of us and took them to Humla. They knocked on every door, and found all but two of the 136 children their original families, with me included. Then, we and our families were given the option to continue with the ISIS program in Kathmandu, or stay in Humla with our families. Less than ten decided to go back to Humla.
We found out that of that five hundred original children who were taken from Humla, plus another one hundred who had been flown in after, a lot of them had either been lost in Kathmandu or died of starvation or disease, but over three hundred of them had been sold as slaves into India. The initial man who had taken us would have made a fortune from all of the parents, and then the same amount again by selling half of the kids as slaves. But by now, he was no-where to be found.
Poverty is a huge issue in third world countries, like Nepal. There are thousands of people living on the streets, their life style worlds away from yours. This is a true story. I am now 15 years old and go to boarding school, Kathmandu Valley Higher Secondary School. I am in year 10 and I am busy doing exams. At least twice a year I visit my family back in Humla and often call them. ISIS has changed my life and I hope that my story has changed yours. Dhanyabaad.