NEWSLETTER NO 3 – AUTUMN 2015
It has been several months since our last Newsletter but we have been busy behind the scenes supporting our beneficiaries in our four village areas through the monsoon; assessing the impact and planning the next steps. We have also been putting together the documentation required to set up a Charity.
This includes the Governing Statement and an online application. We hope to have this formally set up by the end of the year. We have chosen the name Community Support Nepal. Let us know what you think or if you have other ideas as it’s not too late to change. We wanted a name that would enable us to continue to support long term beyond a short-‐term disaster appeal. We have appointed four Trustees (the minimum is three). Over the next year we will be looking to expand the membership and looking for members with particular skillsets in the charity sector, so if anyone has an interest to become involved please let us know. Further details on this to follow. Key updates since the last Newsletter includes a report from Dr Janet Jones (Lecturer, College of Life & Natural Sciences, University of Derby), who visited Nepal in August 2015.
In addition, we were fortunate to have a visit from Tula Kandel who was passing through London on his return to Kathmandu with his family, following a hosted wedding invite in Finland. During the short visit Tula was able to share the progress in how we have continued to help those impacted by the Earthquake where he gave a fascinating presentation to St Luke’s Church Congregation in September. Some extracts of his presentation are included in this newsletter. There have sadly been reports of political unrest in Nepal during the last few weeks as Nepal tries to put a consistent footing on its political journey with the long awaited Constitution. However, this has upset some political parties on the Terai, bordering India, leading to roadblocks and preventing aid and goods being imported from India. This has resulted in a shortage of fuel preventing many not being able to cook. Some individuals have expressed that the situation is worse than the earthquake aftermath, with no transport, no fuel and a shortage of medical supplies. We are monitoring the impact this will have in the village areas and providing further relief where needed.
Extract from Dr Janet Jones’ visit to Nepal in August 2015 (Lecturer, College of Life & Natural Sciences, University of Derby)
I justified my decision and went against my family’s concerns by taking comfort from the many friends and contacts I’ve made in Nepal over the years, who all assured me that it was safe to be in Nepal. I knew that a further earthquake could not be ruled out, but I equally knew that life in Nepal continued and that the people needed us more than ever, and to not be a part of this would be turning my back on a country and its people that I have come to know and love over the years.
I flew from Manchester to Kathmandu via Abu Dhabi. The usual tourist passengers were no more. Most on the Abu Dhabi-‐Kathmandu flight appeared to be business or NGO/aid workers; the latter most conspicuous with their ‘earthquake relief’ T-‐shirts.
My arrival into Kathmandu was not as I had imagined. I had prepared myself for chaos and disruption, so was surprised to see the airport in its usual condition with no visible sign of damage or disruption. The journey into Thamel, central Kathmandu, also appeared ‘normal’, with much of life in the streets and surrounding buildings in place as if the earthquakes never happened. Although there were large piles of rubble on most pavements this was not unusual in a city ever trying to expand and build. It was difficult to tell earthquake damage from the usual unfinished-‐on-‐going building work. But what I did feel was a sense of ‘life goes on’, with strength and unity slowly enabling daily lives to continue amongst the uncertainty. However, the tourist centre, Thamel, was quieter than usual, lacking the usual throng of tourists, replaced by groups of aid workers.
Finally as we drew close to my hotel the driver pointed to my first real view of the earthquake damage. A four storey building that had been a shop and living accommodation constructed on its own between two other shops that had collapsed with the earthquake; just like a pack of cards. Workmen were using power tools on the various uneven and precarious floors to try to clear the site. A lorry was parked ‘inside’ the shop to take away the rubble as it was drilled out. Clothing was hanging off the walls several metres up, highlighting that people used to live and sleep there. The buildings on either side were untouched, and business and life was carrying on as before.
Like me, many of the regular visitors to Nepal had changed their focus from study/work to supporting projects to help earthquake victims. It became apparent that more than 90% were there to help with the earthquake relief.
As I wandered around Thamel and beyond, it became evident that my initial interpretation of the devastation from the earthquakes was hidden from view. Whilst some areas were somewhat untouched, other parts of Kathmandu and surrounding areas had been virtually wiped out. Everywhere that I went there were stories of whole villages being destroyed and lives lost. Everyone had a story to tell about loss and grief. Many of the shops and restaurants had closed, devoid of visitors, staff had taken the opportunity to return to their village areas to help with the relief efforts, putting their imminent income worries on hold for now.
Although due to the monsoon rains I wasn’t able to visit the village areas we are supporting, I was able to meet with some of the people on the ground helping with the logistics of gathering data and organising supplies. I met with Tula Kandel who was leading the logistics from Kathmandu. Tula explained that within a couple of days of the first earthquake he led a team of people from Kathmandu to make the treacherous journey to the villages to assess the damage and to provide initial aid of food, clean water and temporary shelter. It was apparent that shelter was the main priority, especially with the monsoon season fast approaching. Since then Tula and his team, with the support of our fund and the involvement of the villagers, have planned and provided more substantial, yet temporary, shelter and are preparing plans in the near future for the rebuilding of sustainable housing that is also earthquake resistant. Ironically, while Tula had gathered the villagers together, the second earthquake struck and the villagers watched as all the remaining houses collapsed.
As I continued to venture in and around Kathmandu I saw tent after tent on what had previously been open-‐ground; hundreds of tents for those who had lost their homes or who were too frightened to go back into their homes. But conditions were poor, with portable toilets inadequate for the demand. I spoke to a taxi driver who was living in a tent with his family after his home was totally destroyed. He told me about the poor sanitation provision with no washing facilities, but he struggled to know how he could improve his situation without tourism, his main income. Everyone that I spoke to who had been directly affected by the earthquakes maintained that they were still very frightened that earthquakes would return.
As time went on, I was faced with a real dilemma; that of human curiosity to visit devastated sites in and around Kathmandu. I struggled to bring myself to go out of my way to visit personal homes of devastation and destruction. However, on my last morning I wrestled with my conscience and decided to visit Durbar Square.* Although badly damaged, the authorities had reinstated the entrance fee to the square. By paying my entrance fee I would not be exploiting anyone, but rather contributing to the country’s income. Having not seen much damage close up I was unprepared for what I saw. Nearly every temple had been damaged to a degree. Some temples were totally destroyed. The original Royal Palace had been badly battered. This gave me a glimpse into the level of unseen damage that must have been experienced across Kathmandu and beyond.
I left Nepal feeling sad, with a sense of helplessness at the daunting task that lay ahead for the Nepali people. Knowing the full impact would be unseen in remote rural areas where housing is constructed with basic materials, I struggled to see how Nepal, a country with so many financial problems, could rebuild itself after such a catastrophic disaster? Lives had been lost; homes and villages destroyed; livestock killed; temples damaged; businesses destroyed and the main source of income, tourism, badly blighted. Many people were now homeless, poorer, dependent and despondent. On top of all that, many people were fearful of further earthquakes and emotionally traumatised. Despite all this, I remain confident that Nepal will overcome its grief and continue to rebuild through its strength of culture, unity and faith. Nepali people are renowned for being the nicest and most sharing nation in the world, without having anything but sharing so much in their love and cultural heritage. It is our turn to return the sharing and help them on the journey ahead.“
* Kathmandu Durbar Square in front of the old royal palace of the former Kathmandu Kingdom is one of three Durbar Squares (Royal Palace) in the Kathmandu Valley. All are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Durbar Square was surrounded with spectacular architecture and vividly showcases the skills of Newar artists and craftsmen over several centuries. The Kathmandu Durbar Square held the palaces of the Malla and Shah kings who ruled over the city. Along with these palaces, the square surrounds quadrangles, revealing courtyards and temples. It is known as Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square, a name derived from a statue of Hanuman, the monkey devotee of Lord Ram, at the entrance of the palace.
Monsoon impact and on-‐going help
We continue to focus on helping four smaller villages in a remote area, 80 KM North East of Kathmandu in Birtra-‐Deurali Village Development Committee in the area of Kavreplanchok District, Central Nepal.
Case Study -‐ Shobha Regmi, 27 years old
Shobha has been teaching English for just under two years in Birta Deurali School for Class 1 and is currently living in temporary shelter shared with seven family members including her husband, mother‐in-law, father‐in‐law, and brother and sister‐in‐law and many children. Cooking is not possible inside the shelter. At first the children were excited with the make shift accommodation but it is now congested and open to the elements. Many complain that the nights are cold this time of year. The sun shines strongly in the day but temperatures drop quickly when the sun sets. Shobha helped the school re-‐open one month after the earthquake. She reports that small pupils felt afraid with their minds still remembering the earthquake; which led to the school organising some singing and dancing to help provide some relief from their dwelling on their experience.
We are looking at providing some blankets for Shobha and other families to help them through the winter months.
School Improvement Programme:
- One of four school buildings is safe, three need to be demolished and rebuilt.
- Temporary classrooms have been built in the open space in the central yard.
- Currently only 2 temporary classrooms are used, as classrooms get very hot during the daytime (metal roofs) and there is no noise insulation.
How we have helped since the last newsletter:
- A picnic for Nepal’s school children in these four villages.
- Transported three large cases of children’s clothes bundles donated by our supporters.
- Provided a further 176 bundles of corrugated iron for vulnerable families in urgent need of roofing/shelter before or during the monsoon.
- Assisted in setting up temporary schooling.
- Provided two buffalo to two families where there has been loss.
- Provided goats and chickens where there has been loss.
- Assessment of on-‐going needs and workshops.
We continue to look at longer term help and focusing on assessing the landscape following the monsoon area. We are seeking specialist advice on land stability where there has been landslides in the area. Fortunately it does look as if the monsoon has been kind to the villages we are supporting, with no extensive damage reported. But the challenges of living in temporary shelter in difficult weather conditions did continue. Following a period of warm weeks the winter nights will be the next challenge, although days should be warm.
During the next few months we are:
- Providing blankets for the winter period.
- Holding income-‐generating workshops in the village areas.
- Supporting the continuation of building homes and schools.
- Helping to replace livestock – cows, buffaloes, chickens, goats.
- Providing advice on how families can access Government aid offered to each family from international donations. We are also offering match funding to those that invest these funds into income generating activities of strengthening their homes.
- Helping to repair road tracks in the area to enable easy access of material and aid to the village.
- Holding musical and sport activities for the children.
Our donations will continue to help with:
£15 30kg bag of rice and water purification tablets
£25 Can buy food for a month for the family of four
£50 Bundle of Corrugated iron sheets
£100 Match funding (from Government aid)
£150 Tools for rebuilding house
£300 Buy corrugated iron roof for a house or a buffalo
How you can continue to help Nepali villages Bholung, Patuwar, Ala, Timrini:
- We have beautiful 2016 Nepali Calendars, Christmas cards and thank you cards for sale (packs of 10) all with hand painted scenes of Nepal on local rice paper. All proceeds are helping local sources and our beneficiaries. The suggested cost including UK postage is £12.50. Please let us know if you would like some.
- Run for Nepal -‐ London Marathon. We are looking to register our Charity asap so we can have some runners in the London Marathon to help us to raise funds.
- Rohan Kadel (aged 13) is offering to make home-‐made Christmas Yule Logs at £10 per cake – please let him have your orders. We can delivery locally in West London for the week before Christmas. Christmas Fruit Cakes are also available at the same cost.
- Could you hold a Christmas Cake Sale or offer some home made Christmas ware over December to help raise funds? We’d be happy to help you – let us know.
- Make a direct donation
We can save on the admin charges of Internet donation sites by you using direct bank transfers. There are no other overheads and 100% of your donation benefits Nepali villagers.
Thanks for your help – please keep supporting us!