Written by Andrea and Valeria, AWASUKA volunteers:
We started this week celebrating Tihar, a celebration that lasts only a week not like Dashain, the former religious festival we held for 15 days.
Every day was different from Tihar, the first day is the KAG Tihar where crows are worshiped and blessed by people leaving food outside the home for them. All this because it is said they bring luck!
The second day Kukur Tihar, dedicated to the most loyal friend, the dog; they put red ticas and garlands made of flowers around his neck. They do this because they say that dogs can see the danger coming and death.
The Gai (cow) and Laxmi Puja Puja is the day for the cows, they are blessed in the morning.
People paint traces in their houses in the main entrance simulating the entrance of the goddess Lakshmi, who brings happiness and luck money.
On the fourth day Goru Tihar and Mah Bid the attention will outweigh the cow dung, very important in Indian culture and the daily lives of residents who use it to everything from the finished floor , lights up the kitchens.
All the houses are decorated with a beautiful mandalas, candles and colored lights, we had a Christmas in advance. Another tradition is that at night many young children go from house to house singing the song of gods, very similar to Bhailo the singing girls, although nowadays everyone in group singing and dancing to borrow money and sweets.
The last day, Bhai Tika, sisters put a tica of seven colours to his brothers to wish them a long life and prosperity are also offering food and nuts, they give them money in return.
This is how we celebrated this week in Tihar, making Yama Raj happy, because he judges our vices and virtues after our death, and his soul will treat accordingly.
Among middle of so much celebration we had time to continue working, Thursday we made another trip to Hetauda to buy more plastic for the ground and thus end up covering the entire surface of the office, an A4 printer to work with amendments we do the plans for the new prototypes and technical communities work with agility.
We’ve been twice in Jyamire Suping, where we have found more candidates to join our program AWASUKA. Here people help without expecting anything in return, thanks to a guy we met crossing one of the bridges to get Suping, we could understand many of the families affected by the earthquake, since many do not speak a word of English; but with gestures and smiles we understand without speaking the same language.
So far we have visited the houses that need to be rebuilt are made of stone and mud, most of the materials needed to rebuild the house already have: they reuse of the old stone house and a lot of wood of the house in ruins, another point in our favor is that many families have already bought new “Jasta” (plates) with which they have created their own emergency shelters, they sometimes brought the plates on foot through impossible roads. Monica helps us to recognize the pathologies they identified in the journey that many houses had suffered. With her we continue working!
We have been for week in Bhimpedi and we want to stay forever: People, landscapes, culture and the desire to learn and help… make us have fallen in love with this community.
On arrival “didis” (older sister) receiving us putting a red “tika” with flowers.
People seem very reserved but always have a smile on their faces.
Only we spent half a day in the chaos of Kathmandu where we did some tourism and we visited Boudha Stupa. We also visited the Community Building of “ Amics del Nepal” with Alex Sreshta Nepal, Nepali engineer, we decided which would be the best solution to repair damage caused by earthquakes in the last months of April and May.
During the three-hour drive from Kathmandu to Bhimphedi we look at the general state of the houses of the communities through which we passed; and arriving Mikel and Nerea, we did a tour of the village to situate; We locate the mistris with whom we had contact and some of the houses that had been visited on the trip identification.
On Monday finally we met Ram, a very competent Nepalese member of the agricultural cooperative AGRAAGAMI. He was who taught us where we could establish Bhimpedi Awasuka office. Two days later, Ranjeed, also from AGRAAGAMI gave us the keys and we could see the space where we will create a new office. We were cleaning and tomorrow we will go to Hetauda to buy all the necessary equipment.
One of our priorities in these days is to find a local technician able to carry the project forward; so we thought about putting an announcement in the local and municipal newspaper so much as a municipal.
On Thursday we went to the ward 7: Suping neighbourhood… It was a great tour with the bridges and the mountains. Suping is one of the most affected wards and next week when the holidays will finish (Dashain, which are like our Christmas) will come again and we will visit more homes.
As you can see it was a very productive week and still really looking forward with this project.
“Pheribhetaula” (see you soon)!
Suba bihana (good morning)!
This week we started with a trip to Hetauda to buy some paint, a plastic cover for the floor that simulates wood and all the material we needed for the electrical installation of the new office. Now we only have the furniture left and presenting the space of Awasuka to the public, as well as having the phone connection and wifi. Tomorrow we will go back to Hetauda with a member from Agragaami to hire the line and do some last minute shopping.
All the electrical installation was done with the help of Xavi (doctor and volunteer of Balmandir that knows how to do everything) and Papu, a boy that came out of the orphanage some months ago and now is working as an electrician in Hetauda. Also Kul, another boy from Balmandir, helped us with the finishing of the floor putting some cement.
Last Saturday, was one of those days where you remember that even though there is a cultural gap between us, the important thing is that we are people, no matter who we are, or where we come from or when we arrived. It went like this: we wanted to start painting but we couldn’t open the paint, so Valeria went to ask if someone could help. We ended up with half of the town helping to open the paint and a group of dancers of the village helped us to paint the room, the “Bhimphedi Guys. Our office is located in a public building (Janajati Hall) on the main street and we share space with this group of boys and girls.
Here you can always find someone who helps you and that’s something to be thankful for. We almost have finished preparing the office.
The 9th of november Mónica will arrive, she’s an arquitect member of the board of Amics del Nepal. Then we will decide in which houses we will start, because there are many families listed in the Shelter Program and others that come to the office with curiosity to ask what we are doing. This Tuesday a women came walking from one hour foot away to apply for the program.
Now there is a time difference of 4.45h hours between Barcelona and Bhimphedi, we wish you have a good day of all saints.
Kisses from Bhimphedi.
Ke bhayo (Hi, how are you?)
This week Mónica has finally arrived. Everyone know her in Bhimphedi and says nice things about here. It has pleased everyone with her arrival.
The office is almost ready, all painted with the plastic simulating wood on the floor and we have also rehabilitated the toilets that were already in the public building where we have our space. This Thursday we ordered the furniture to the carpenter. We want a polyvalent space where we can receive public but we can also do meetings and team work. We finally have phone connexion and internet.
With Monica we have started visiting houses in ward 2 (Bhimphedi Bazaar) and 4 (Targam or Simaltar), the ones that are more accessible and near to the center. With this first contact we have detected possible ways to improve how we communicate the project to the interested families and some improvements we could do to the prototypes designed in Barcelona. We’ve found that some houses we had visited have already been reconstructed so we’ve been able to see how they usually do it. This days we will work doing improvement in the project, because Tihar is coming now an there will not be many activities in the village. That’s good for us because we can do some office work.
We also met with Ram and Anju to talk about the technician we want to hire, so the 15th and 16th of november we are starting with the interviews.
Mikel Zubiaga and Nerea Guezuraga, volunteers of Awasuka Project and Bhimphedi Children’s Home between the months of August and October:
As we told some time ago, due to the earthquakes in April and May, the building of the Rana Dynasty (1846-1951) that we have within the Children’s Home was structurally affected. It is a building built for the family who was ruler of Nepal, which has an architectural quality as few buildings in the area. After the earthquake we decided it was only going to be used as storage, at least until it was structurally intervened.
On the identification trip by the Awasuka project team in July a structural analysis of it was made and identified which is the main cause of the large cracks that appeared on the building outer walls: the roof structure had been changed at some point in the history of the building, making that the structural behaviour was not like the one that originally was designed. The diagonal bars (struts) of the trusses had been removed leaving only one diagonal in one of the trusses. Normally this was not so big problem for its stability of it in short to medium term… but the earthquake hit.
So, before repairing the cracks and reinforce the walls, the first thing to do was to repair the roof structure. What at first seemed easy, putting in place the new diagonals in (marked by the previously existing ones), gave us many headaches and made us sweat a lot.
So the first thing we did was to break the floor of the attic to check on the ties and we confirmed it was indeed formed by two beams of different sizes, but fortunately the union was well done, so the tie worked as such.
The following days were spent with continuous disputes with the local carpenter we hired to do the work (Bahadur). Bahadur is a carpenter with many years of experience and we are some strangers who came to say how he had have to intervene in a historic building of his own village… You can imagine what he might think… “These people coming here to tell me how to do my job”… It was not easy to start.
We had to convince him that the new diagonals that he had initially cut were too small, so he had to repeat them with the same size than the originals. We had to convince him of the need to prop up all building heights. And finally, the most difficult was to convince him that, once we had put the diagonals, the vertical bar on the roof structure that ends at the height of tight-but should not touch it – it had to be cut at its base. “How are we going to cut it? What do they want? that the building falls on us?” he surely though.
After four days of hard work, we left the building being friends of the carpenter Bahadur, and having achieved that the structure of the roof worked correctly again.
Before, during and after the work we emptied and cleaned the building… The next step will be to repair the cracks and reinforce the walls, so that the building will be able to resist, not only the pass of time, but also future earthquakes that we hope will not happen in many years.
Mònica Sans, Coordinator of Bhimphedi AWASUKA, Housing Improvement Program:
After two years I am back in Bhimphedi. The first feeling is as if I had left yesterday, but many things have changed: some children have left and some have arrived to Balmandir, Dani is living here since last fall and he’s making lots of improvements, some of the villagers have left and some new inhabitants have arrived… but certainly, the most remarkable thing is that Bhimphedi has lived an earthquake; the most violent in Nepal for the past 81 years.
This is the reason that has brought me back to Nepal, with a very different aim than in my previous visits. I travel with two architects specialized in cooperation: Pedro Lorenzo, from CCD-UPC and Emma Ferrer from Base-A. During fifteen days we follow the guidelines of Pedro, intending to identify the state of the buildings in Bhimphedi, the will of the central government regarding housing reconstruction and the social organization of the village. All in all, to see the possibilities of developing a program of reconstruction in that area.
Dani meets us when we arrive to Kathmandu. He left his beloved Bhimphedi to accompany us during the trip and all the visits and meetings we did. He is going to be a key member of the project because he’s staying in Bhimphedi and can easily do the economic management. He knows the town, its people, the Nepalese society and its language, and this will make things much easier.
From inside the taxi that picks us up from the airport, we are surprised to see that the city is not that affected by the earthquake as we expected. The media is only showing images of historic centers seriously affected, but there are many new areas that have withstanded the earthquake without problems. When we get to our hotel, we realize that Dani has taken us to Geeta’s home, the accountant of Amics del Nepal. Very generously, she and her family have offered to host us in their home during the days that we will stay in the city.
The two days we spend in Kathmandu go by very fast. We’ve done some many things that it feels we’ve been a week in the city. We visit the Health Center of AN, the Maijubahal stupa, the Boudhanath neighborhood, we meet with NSET (Nepal Society of Earthquake Technology) with Bhupendra Pradhan and Juanjo Rodriguez, with people of Petit Món and with Dani Tejedor (architect who collaborates with them), with the Rotary Club Kantipur, etc … All our meetings are very interesting, there is great interest in collaborating to work in a more coordinated way. Between meetings we find a moment to see one of our kids that came out of Balmandir this year: Ashok Siwakoti. He seems to be adapting fairly well to his new life in the city and we are very pleased that Bhuphendra has helped us with his accommodation.
Finally, the day to go to Bhimphedi arrives. Excitement and nerves are enormous.
The trip runs smoothly and at midday we reach the village. After installing in Bhuphendra’s house and saying hello to a few people, we go to Balmandir. Pedro and Emma are very curious to see how it will be like, because they have never been in an orphanage before. To their surprise, they find it a much more lively and beautiful place than they imagined. We are delighted with the human warmth of the children and staff. The kids talk to me like if I was here yesterday, even asking for the song “Water paani.” I am surprised to see that although it has been two years, they still remember it and have so much interest in singing. Without even realizing it, I find myself in the games room, playing the ukulele and singing with a few fans. Then some of them take me to walk around the orphanage to see the news in the house: ducks, chickens and poultry, agarden with more vegetables than ever, the future house of the buffalo, the “cinema”, etc … It is very gratifying to see all this improvements: Dani bravo!
The following days at Bhimphedi we work hard: visiting houses of various wards and meeting with various people and organizations in the village. The members of the VDC (Village Development Commitee), the committee 3E, the women’s association, the agricultural cooperative, etc … During the visits we see all kinds of houses: totally demolished, partially affected and not affected. Luckily, the earthquake has left only material losses in Bhimphedi and no victims to regret. But the organizational level is very poor. No mayor, the secretary of the government has arrived recently and the people are in a state of total vulnerability without knowing what to do with their homes. When we arrive, the engineer of the government has reviewed all the houses Bhimphedi Area, making his diagnosis… But it seems that many don’t agree with the cataloging of their houses.
Despite the disorganization of the government, we are pleasantly surprised to find the people from Agragaami Cooperative very well organized and eager to do things. We have several meetings with them to see if they would host a Housing Improvement Program, and they respond very favorably. This is certainly one of the more positive results of our trip if ID: finding a local partner who has an interest in hosting the program.
One day before leaving Bhimphedi there is a tree planting ceremony in the new sports ground of Bhimphedi, which was inaugurated on the day of the quake. There are many members of the Rotary Club of Kantipur led by Bhuphendra, who wants to propose us one more work. They want to build a new sports facilities building next to the sports ground and they ask if it could be one of our earthquake safe prototypes. Juanjo says he is encouraged to get the funding for that, but we all agree that before there is a lot of work to do helping needy families who have no home. But we want to include this in our program.
We finally go back to Kathmandu, where we still have some meeting left with Brian Peniston, Rabindra Puri and the president of NEA (Nepal Engineers Association). We also visit Naresh and Pemba, two boys that left Bhimphedi a couple of years ago and now they are studying and working thanks to the project Young of Amics del Nepal. It makes me happy to see how the boys are living on their own thanks to their own efforts, but also thanks to the support and good advice of Dani who is their tutor.
To end the trip, we visit Thamel, Durbar Square and Bhaktapur. For the first time throughout our stay, we see the devastating effects of the earthquake: it is impressive to see the huge destruction that can be caused in few seconds… it is different to see the images on television than to be in the middle of that.
As I write these lines it has been two months since we returned from Nepal. It seems unbelievable … It has been very exciting to remember our adventures during those two intense weeks. I promised to Dani to write this text when I was back in Barcelona, but the truth is that I have been unable to do it earlier. Upon arrival, the team of architects has been involved in the preparation of a report of almost 100 pages, led by Pedro. Among other things, we were ordering all the documents of the houses visited and placing them on Google Maps. An overwhelming work … but it will be very useful to start with the work of the housing cooperative in Bhimphedi. (In this town, and almost all Nepal, there are no plans of municipal plots or numbering of houses or anything like that, and we thought that using Google Maps platform would be a good initiative to begin ordering that).
In early September we had a joint meeting of Amics del Nepal. Pedro, Anna Altemir (founder of Base A) and me were explaining the program to improve the way of building new houses and the possibility to replicate the project in other communities. The project was very well received; we can officially announce that Amics del Nepal will work on it. Now we just need to know the resolution of Caldes Solidaria NGO, covering 50% of this adventure … Once we know, we can say that the first phase of the program is approved (until the end of February).
Currently the team is defining architectural prototypes of earthquake resistant buildings, collaborating with specialists in structures. The first team of architects that will begin building prototypes will travel in mid-October to Nepal.
And finally, the name of the program is AWASUKA. The initial letters of the words: Sudhir Aawaas Karyakram, which means “Habitat Improvement Program” in Nepalese. It was hard to find this name, especially to find an equivalent to the word “Habitat” in Nepal… but thanks to Hem Adikhari (one of our boys of Bhimphedi Youth Program), we succeeded!
Before concluding, I want to give my personal thanks to a great team of people: Pedro Lorenzo (CCD-UPC) and Emma Ferrer (Base-A) for being fantastic traveling companions; to Anna Altemir (founder of Base A) being an excellent coordinator of this team, to Andrea Llanas and Andrea Valeria Cid (Base-A) for being tireless workers and always in a good mood, to Berta Marin (Base A) who has joined us a few days helping with the files, to Ines Garcia (specialist in structures and friend) as a new addition in consultancy. And in Nepal to Mikel Zubiaga and Nerea Gezuraga, who helped complete some missing pieces. A special thanks to Dani Roig, who besides making an impressive job in the orphanage, has been greatly involved in the project AWASUKA and is one of our most important props.
Thanks also to the team of translators Marta Masip, Elisenda Mitjá, Rocío Moreno and Andrea Mauri that have translated the notes of Pedro. And the volunteers of Bhimphedi: Mar Úbeda, Laura Conde and Isabel Valero (future volunteer) to be always willing to help with translations of posts and other things! 😉
To all of them: THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR INVOLVEMENT. As Pedro Lorenzo said during a meeting of Amics del Nepal “Bhimphedi hooks!”.
Beli is one of the wonderful caregivers (didis) of the children’s home. She, with Maya, is the “mother” of the 28 children living in the home. And for those who have children already know it is not easy work at all, even for those who have only one son. Everyone loves them and they never forget anyone nor anything. They cook, take care of the children, clean the clothes of small children, heal them when they are injured (every five minutes), help in the garden, watch if the kids have the necessary school supplies… They even find time to take care of the volunteers (if any of them leaves the dirty clothes unwatched for a second didis will wash them)…
Beli stays most of the nights to sleep in the center to take care of children and girls. But she also has her own family. The house where Beli’s family was staying was two stories made of stone, mud and wood; a beautiful building, but could not resist the first earthquake.
Amics del Nepal, after the earthquake, started doing emergency campaigns such as distributing tents. But we were keeping in mind that we should develop a project to improve permanent housing. Soon we will explain how the project is progressing on a new post.
But Beli, decided to act quickly in order to have a house where her two sons could stay in the rainy season. So soon we advanced the necessary money, and with the volunteer help of some of the older children of the children’s home and the relatives of Beli and two masonries (mistris) and we started to build the new house.
Not much after a month, just before the monsoons arrived, the house was ready. And if you already think it’s a big thing, it’s still more surprising for people who knows Nepal: One day you can not work because an old man from Chabeli died, and the day after it you can not work, if you don’t want to call the bad luck. Another day, before putting the stones in the foundation, it should be a religious ceremony. Just after putting the roof, it should be another ceremony. And after the ceremony, Beli had to organize a dinner to invite her relatives and employees. But in that dinner, one of the workers, who was responsible of the cement mixture (without machine, of course) drank too much alcohol (roksi) and fall down and injured his eye… The next day the mixture could not be made, so it was not possible to work. “But he says that tomorrow will come.” Beli told us laughing. A week later finally we could resume construction.
Surely something will must be done to improve her the house, once the Amics del Nepal architectural project starts, but there are other houses made like this and endured the earthquakes. So Beli is very happy to have own new house! where her children can live comfortably protected from the heavy rains of the monsoons.
Thanks to all you who make it possible, both in our country and Nepal.
It’s been two days after the second earthquake, but still noticeable consequences, most shops are still closed in Kathmandu and I still have not managed to return to Bhimphedi. The jeeps that would come from Hetauda to pick people do not come, drivers are afraid to come to Kathmandu. But here in Kathmandu is impossible to make any work these days… so I feel impatient to go back to Bhimphedi to do something useful .
At 9am finally I receive a call to tell me that if I reach on time I can have two tickets at 10:30, one for me and one for Shree. Wow, now time to run. I’m at Geeta’s home, the wonderful accountant of Amics del Nepal in Kathmandu. She and her brother were telling me all the adventures they were living these days in the expeditions to Sindupalchowk and Dholakba to give some support to the victims of the earthquake. As quickly as I can, I go to pick up my things and take Shree and we go by taxi to Balkhu. Impossible to reach by public transportation on time.
Surprisingly the taxi driver asks for a resonable price from the beginning so we don’t have to make bargaining ritual that precedes any transaction. On the way we see some destroied houses, Ratna Park is full of tents… finally the matter comes. The driver tells us he is from Dholakha, his parents OK, though their house collapsed. But his uncle died in the earthquake…
Three hours journey by jeep, on paths that go up and down one hill after another. From the first hill we see Kathmandu city I look carefully trying to see what caused the earthquake devastation. I see no obvious effects from the buildings from so far, but there is something different from the other times I had done this way: everywhere there are orange spots, tents everywhere.
During the three hours journey the same vision. Next to each house, there is a tent, no matter if the house is completely demolished or no apparent damage from outside. Everyone is living in tents that stand on the side of the house. Who has no house has to sleep outside. Who has cracked home sleeps outside for fear that the house is not safe. Who owns the house without damage, is afraid that in the night comes a stronger earthquake and this time the house doesn’t hold.
We reach on the last hill and we can see the hills and valleys of the Bhimphedi village. Like any other place, there is a tend next to each house, but to me they look different because Amics del Nepal was the one who provided 264 tents of them. Seeing all these tents makes me think of the adventures we lived in the two journeys to India to buy the tents and the distribution and monitoring.
We already explained here how we got the first 123 tents in “The Tent Adventure” and how they were distributed and tracked in “The tents are finally at home.” But not yet what happened on the second part of the project that started on May 8th going towards Hetauda to withdraw the money from the bank and take the jeep we had previously booked to go to India at 10:30 morning to buy a new shipment of tents. I can not cross the border, but the Nepalese do not need a visa to cross it, so I leave jeep and I do shopping for shelter and to pay the electricity bill while waiting for the rest of the team to come back.
Ram Naam Lama (Member of the community of Bhimphedi and the medical center that supports many projects)
Ram Bahadur and I were in Hetauda in the agreed place in the agreed time waiting for the Tata Sumo (jeep). It was10.30 and the tata sumo should be here but it’s not. I call to find out if it will take long time. But he tells us he can not come, he has to go to Kathmandu! why he didn’t inform us? Here begins our unlucky day…
We ask all the offices of transportation but none has any available jeep. Finally, through a relative of mine, we get one and we go to Raxaul (India near the Nepalese border).
Once we got there we began to wonder, store after store, but no one has medium tents, or so they say… when we start to lose hope, we see on a wall of a store a picture of a religious group in a volunteer campaign. What a coincidence, it is the religious group that my family belongs! We began to chat with the shopkeeper and finally asks: “What do you need?” “150 tents” we say. “No problem, it’s done” he says. It seems that after all today may not be an unlucky day!
We load the jeep with 141 tents and head towards the border. They stop us… The other time was very simple with the military car…
The official of the Indian border makes us go into his office and they start asking details of our mission. We explain where we came from and for what reasons, but they are not convinced because we don’t have any documentation to prove it. They ask us to go back again and give back all the tents to the shop where we bought them. It’s already 2 o’clock and it doesn’t look we will succeed… What should we do? Where should we go? To whom should we speak? We feel frustrated and without much hope… but we ask the officer to let us cross the border again. He says that if we confess that we bring the tents to do business, then with a small amount of money we may be allowed to cross… But we will not lie… the tents are not for selling, they are to be distributed to the Bhimphedi victims of the earthquake…
Finally the officer advised us that we should bring a letter from the Indian embassy… but we do not believe this is possible… But when we leave the office a Agent (a person who is on the border, but worker is not public) approaches us and he advices us to visit Jee Mishra’s office. We do it. There we pay 1,000 Nepalese rupees (about 9 euros) and Mishra Jee help us talking with the border officials. This time without any problem they let us cross. Mishra Jee Thanks!
We should not have given this money, because It was something wrong… but what to do? there was no other way to resolve the situation… However we completed the mission successfully, and the next day we distribute tents to the 9 representatives of the 9 wards.
Amics del Nepal Barcelona Team thank you for your support. Especially thanks to Dani and Laura!
Next morning Laura, Ram and I meet with the objective to distribute the 123 tents that we have brought from India. First we prepare a table to keep record of the families to which we will handle the tents so that afterwards we can trespass the information to the VDC (the equivalent to the major in Bhimphedi). We also write a letter of donation of the material to the VDC. At that time there are many villagers in front of the school waiting for their tent and food that they are distributing thanks to the donation of the jail.
It looks like we are going to distribute the tents from the school. But it’s not completely clear. Laura and I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to decide from where to do the distribution. We ask the kids of Balmandir to help us to carry the tents to the school. We place all the tents in one of the classes and prepare how we will do the distribution.
But suddenly, the people that were waiting outside begin to enter in the class and a big argument starts. From what we understand, it seems that some want that we begin the distribution in their ward. In Bhimphedi there are 9 wards and each of them is inhabited mainly by people of the same cast. So, each cast wants to start the distribution between their relatives and friends. More and more people continue entering in the class. Some say the tents will be given first to those who have their house completely destroyed; others claim we have to start with their ward.
It doesn’t look like there will be any agreement… But after an hour of argument everybody agrees in the following. There is going to be a leader of each ward that will take a number of assigned tents and he will be the responsible to distribute them in his ward. Everybody is satisfied with the final solution so we distribute the tents. Finally at 2 pm all tents are distributed and we can go home!
The process has been quite surrealist but the point is that at night it starts raining and we are happy that 123 tents are being useful to 123 families to give them shelter. Thank you very much to the volunteers and donors of Amics del Nepal, and also to Ram Lama, Anju Lama, Laura Conde, Dharmaraj Rijal, Ram Bahadur Adhukari and Surendra Kumar Thapa!
Two days after that, we go on expedition to the nearby mountains to see how they are using the tents and see the needs of the people there. It’s not an easy job… It’s extremely hot and only the first few kilometers can be done by motorbike. To reach the rest of the villages there are only small paths that go up and down the hills. We pass past houses and more houses and everybody wants to show us theirs. Many have a part destroyed but most of them only have cracks and some holes. But anyway, most of them don’t dare to sleep inside because they’re not sure if they are safe in their houses.
They have used the tents to built cottages that will be their shelters for an undefined time. Very few will be able to build a house before the monsoon that is approaching (time of intense rains that takes place from June to September). Some will start building their house in October after Dashain (national festival equivalent to our Christmas). But most will not be able to build a new house in the immediate future because they don’t have enough money to pay it. The government has promised loans for those who have lost their homes to build a new one. But nobody thinks this measure will be easily implemented and in any case, nobody thinks it will be done soon. Therefore these cottages will be their homes for many months.
Some days after, VDC distributes some more tents that they have received in ward number 9. But they are overwhelmed by the demand and the 30 tents and the mattresses donated by Amics del Nepal are not enough again.
So we must return to work. Tomorrow we will try to bring more tents from India… The adventure “Tents 2” starts. Second parts never were good, or so they say… But there are always exceptions…
Meanwhile in Balmandir we keep working hard and willing to start new projects in the center and collaborating with the government school and the community. It is not true that all the problems of Nepal have arrived with the earthquake. A lot of people want to help “rebuilt Nepal after the great quake” but the truth is that this country already had big problems before the 25th of April. Undoubtedly it has been a big natural disaster in which more than 8,000 people have lost their lives and lots of buildings are now collapsed or damaged. But in my opinion it’s important to continue working in projects of empowerment of new generations and women and promote activities that can give opportunities to the most needed so that they can improve their quality of life and their country. I have lots of friends that have asked me how to help Nepal now. This answer says a lot of them. Even Catalonia it’s not undergoing his best economical moment, Catalans want to support people who are in need in the rest of the world. That’s why, to these friends I would recommend to collaborate with the projects we are developing here in Bhimphedi and that we will keep explaining in this blog.
You can do so, by doing a donation to Amics del Nepal with the concept “Bhimphedi”
We wake up at 5:45 am and make time with the telephone tucked into our pocket and the first tea of the day, until 6. We finish our tea, meet up with the children to organize the day and is now 6:45 and there is no call yet. Laura and I leave the centre to sit in a bar in front of Ram and Anju’s home and we have the second tea of the day. It is now 7 o’clock and nobody has called so we decide to knock on their door.
A woman greets us, must be Anju’s sister because she looks a lot like her. These days they have many relatives at home from Katmandu (more than half a million people have left the capital to avert the shortage of water, food or disease infection such as cholera) and they sleep all together in the patio in case there was another earthquake. Finally, Ram and Anju get to the door asking if it’s already 7. Both of them have been up all night looking after a woman with an anxiety attack. Ram, even though he is a pharmaceutic he ends up doing the same role as a doctor would when there is no doctor (that is very often). They phone the people we were supposed to meet at 6 and they say they are about to leave the house…
We approach the village with Ram to start coordinating the transport and phoning shops in Hetauda to see if they’ll have enough tents. All of these phone calls are done from a bar in town with the third tea of the day in our hands just at 8 in the morning. It feels like we are taking one ant step at a time. Finally, the man we were supposed to meet at 6 arrives but he starts making phone calls too and it truly does seem as we weren’t making any progress. Ram tells us to go back to the children’s home and assures us he will call us when they are ready to go.
We are at the children’s home and around 9:30 there is still no ringing on the phone… we aren’t sure we will make the trip today so Laura and I decide that if necessary, we will go by bus. Going back into town, we pick up Anju and tell Ram that is now 10 o’clock, we might as well go by bus. But as it happens quite often in Nepal things work in a different way and different rhythm that might make you want to pull your hair out but extraordinary and surprising things might happen. Ram looks at us and tells us the transportation is on its way. Initially we were going to get a jeep from the hydroelectric company but that wasn’t possible… so they had been working it out to get another vehicle.
Suddenly a military jeep comes into view with two soldiers in it who approach us and welcome us to get in the car. So we are finally on our way to Hetauda. I had been to Hetauda by bus, on the roof of a vehicle, by car and by motorbike… But Nepal never ceases to surprise you. It takes half an hour to get there not without making our way through many cars that move away just by seeing the vehicle.
The first step is to get the money from the bank, but the passport and the cheque book are not with me. Nevertheless, we manage to get our money… we might be quite intimidating with two soldiers by our sides.
The following step is to go see if the shops have enough tents of 4,5×5,5 metres. Any of the establishments we’ve been to have many, and the price is more on the expensive side… while we are all thinking of what to do the soldier who was driving comes up with a great idea: “We have a car, all of the day to spare (it’s 12 o’clock) and just a mission. We could head to India where they’ll have cheaper tents so we will be able to buy more of them and help more people!”.
That’s marvellous, we jump in the car and half an hour later we are in Birgunj just at the frontier from India having warmed up to the soldiers. We know now they were at the official presentation of the basketball court with the minister and they have very interesting opinions regarding many topics. The one in charge of driving goes by another rhythm (driving too), he is energetic and passionate and ready to help. The co-pilot is very friendly and has friends all over so when we get to Birgunj two of his acquaintances are there to help us with our mission. Extraordinary!
We ask around the shops in the city but all of them are sold out of tents… it looks like we will have to cross the border. We stop at a hotel, Laura and I have to stay because we can’t cross to India unless we have a visa. The Nepalese people can go, so we wait for four hours eating and looking around town (which we didn’t like very much) until they come back with 123 tents that they had managed to buy from different places at half the price they were asking in Hetauda because they didn’t have to pay any taxes because of the military vehicle.
Before going back home, we make a stop in Hetauda and buy plastic rolls to cover the ground and so people can sit guarded from the cold ground. These people are indefatigable! We are so lucky to have Ram, Anju, Ram Bhadur and Dharmaraj…
But how are we going to bring those enormous rolls with us?… Why do I even ask? This is Nepal. In half an hour we are back at the children’s home and all of the children come out and help carry things and then they have some sweets the soldiers had bought in India. We have managed to get 123 tents at a very good price, transportation provided by the military, two good friends and a good adventure to narrate. Mission accomplished! Well, at least the first part. Tomorrow it will be time to give out the tents. “Tomorrow morning at 6 am” we say to Ram and Anju before saying goodbye.