A multi-part blog series about Nepals ongoing earthquakes, how they affect rural villages and what communities are doing to survive this unique period in their history.
Nepal is a nightmare of a geographical terrain to have to respond to a wide spread national disaster. Villagers live in some of the most remote mountain hillsides of any groups of people on the planet. When the April 25 earthquake shook down houses in the Nepali countryside, it left hundreds of rural villages with 90% of all buildings within their communities completely destroyed. The primary cause of death for many villagers were the falling houses. Communities were left to clean up after the earthquake, desperately awaiting any group, non-profit, government or self motivated citizens committee’s, to deliver relief support.
The social project that has impressed me the most in response to the earthquake in Nepal is Himalayan Disaster Relief Volunteer group. Everyone around Kathmandu knows that groups of friends started a movement out of ‘The Yellow House’ restaurant where missions leave daily to remote villages around the country.
The most common form of relief given to villages are tarps, blankets, rice and beans, and sleeping pads. Distribution has been successful in many attempts, but landslides affect the ability of organizations to distribute. The other factor I’ve noticed from field visits is that people living nearest the roadside are more often receiving supplies, whereas many villages that need support are beyond 6 hours walking from the nearest road access. Carrying 50 kilogram sacks of rice to these villages requires organizing teams of porters, many of whom are busy salvaging the reusable supplies from their fallen homes in order to make their families temporary shelters.
The good news is that some communities have chosen to begin the rebuilding process, understanding that donations from an outside organization are unlikely. Last week in the Sindhupalchowk District, I reached the village of Ghudel after walking 6 hours over 2 days. Our team arrived around 8am and was surprised to hear hammering and corrugated tin being shuffled around the village. When we got closer I saw women and children carrying pieces of wood from their fallen homes to a new temporary shelter that families were building in the interim.
I spoke with ‘Tenzang’ who told me that he had returned two days prior from working in New Delhi, India. His father and mother had asked him to come home to help their family rebuild since they didn’t perceive anyone was going to help them after the earthquake. Communities higher up the mountain had been helicopter evacuated for medical care, while villages at lower altitudes were able to hike a few hours to the nearest road to seek supply distributions and medical attention. He described Ghudel’s problem as being inconveniently stuck in the middle of relief efforts, but unwilling to let that get everyone’s spirits down. So they immediately began allocating space on an adjacent plot of farmland for each family to put up a temporary home for the coming weeks.
Community organization and willingness to prevail in the face of discomfort are vital factors in supporting progress for rebuilding villages in Nepal. Ghudel showed unique leadership and community support that impressed me in comparison to neighboring villages. They responded that any help would go to families that needed it the most, but they were proud of beginning to rebuild with the resources they could manage to internally generate.
The inspiration of these experiences has lead a group of friends and I to fundraise in order to start or own non-profit. We are taking this opportunity of disaster relief work to learn about the many ways the earthquake has affected rural villages. As the coming weeks progress, many communities will transition from relief to long term solutions for having lost their homes and various aspects of their livelihoods. Our fundraiser aims at monitoring the situation on the ground and sharing Nepals progress in the coming weeks, but our work will be to rebuild long-term sustainable housing with international volunteers in rural communities. Here is a link to support: https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/nepal-earthquake-sustainable-housing-solutions
Video from the community: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10102258335833794&set=vb.11317244&type=2&theater¬if_t=like