Located in a bustling area of Shantinagar facing Nepal’s Tribhuvan International Airport, Shankar’s business is much more than just a successful butcher shop. This shop gave Shankar the opportunity to start anew in his home country, when an unexpected turn of events forced him to give up his life in the UK.
Shankar* welcomes us to his shop premises as the afternoon sun lazily crawls up the slopes of Kathmandu Valley. Three o’clock marks the opening hour of the store; as soon as the shop blinds go up, customers start arriving right away. He is wearing a pair of red Converse and cargo pants, quite an atypical outfit for a Nepalese man in his early forties. Sipping a cup of hot milk tea, which he says reminds him of the taste of England, he takes us back to the days of his early career:
“I studied economics and was working as a credit officer at one of the Nepalese banks. But I kept on dreaming about taking my life a step further.”
With a clear goal in mind, he went abroad for the first time in 2011, completing his MBA at one of the London universities. He had high hopes about going back to his home country, convinced a foreign diploma would open an entire new world of opportunities.
“But I could not find a job. This is when an idea to go to the UK again crossed my mind,” he explains in impeccable English.
“It was a good life”
Having obtained a post-study work visa for two years, Shankar found himself in England again in late 2012. His visa was linked to yet another study course he had enrolled for, this time a diploma in chartered accountancy.
“I went back for the second time to again try and improve my chances of finding a job back in Nepal. I had never really planned to stay in the UK permanently,” he explains. Studying while also working as a team leader in a supermarket chain, Shankar was soon joined by his wife, Arpana, and the couple slowly began settling down in London. “It was a good life,” he recalls. “But out of the blue, my college’s licence was revoked. It was in 2015 when I learnt that my visa was terminated.”
Facing the difficult situation of losing both his visa and his work permit, Shankar decided to appeal the decision. The case took three years but was finally dismissed.
“During that time we had no right to work, we were under immense mental stress and pressure, and had to bear huge expenses related to the court proceedings,” he explains. It was his wife’s family, descendants of the famous Ghurkha soldiers serving in the British army, who helped him get through the dark days, hosting Shankar and Arpana at their house in a London suburb.
“In October 2018 our case was closed,” continues Shankar. “With our plea was dismissed, we decided it was time to go back.” Following advice from a social worker, the couple were able to get help to return home, including the travel tickets. They also received a leaflet on the European Return and Reintegration Network (ERRIN) and contact details of Caritas Nepal, ERRIN’s implementing partner in the country.
Within a month, the couple were back in Kathmandu. “I was very excited to come back, meet all friends and relatives. But after one month, there was a growing frustration as there was nothing to do. All the people around me had their lives and jobs. I had nothing.”
This is when Shankar and his wife approached Caritas Nepal’s ERRIN team, who explained in detail how the resettlement scheme works: “It was a turning point. We were uplifted by the positive support and guidance provided in every way possible.”
The support from the ERRIN programme allowed Shankar to enter into a partnership with a friend, an owner of the meat shop:
“We became partners and I invested the grant into growing the business, purchasing more livestock and expanding the offer. It is going really well now.”
He says that the support received from ERRIN made his landing back in Nepal much easier. A successful investment into an existing enterprise secured a steady flow of income for the start, and allowed Shankar to focus on searching for additional professional opportunities. He is now a part-time lecturer at one of the Kathmandu universities, introducing BA-level students into the secrets of business marketing. He dreams of getting more hours with the university, keeping the meat business as a primary source of income.
Asked about his overall experience with the programme, he answers without hesitation: “The reintegration support was not just about the investment support. It was all about the help and advice I received. In your darkest moments, all you need is somebody to tell you everything is going to be fine.”
This story has been reproduced courtesy of Joanna Nahorska / Caritas Nepal
*Names changed to protect the beneficiaries’ identity.