On Monday, Harry and Wal travelled to Hokshe in Kavre to assess the need for shelters. The area is notorious for its illegal organ-trading over recent years, as vulnerable villagers are duped into selling their kidneys to Indian conmen for a fraction of the price they fetch in Mumbai or Delhi.
We were called to focus on the west side of the mountain, where the earthquake damage is huge. It transpired that another NGO had visited and told all the villagers to build bamboo shelters, and that they would provide the tin roofs. That was two months ago – the NGO abandoned the village and never came back, leaving hundreds still homeless.
We partnered up with Mahendra and Sanjay from the NGO Nepali for Nepali, and went to see the place. The devastation was truly terrible, and because of the promised tin that never came, most were still staying in dangerous cracked houses, or renting tiny rooms far from their land. It was really quite hard to imagine that large families of five or ten people had been living like this for so long, through the heavy monsoon rains. It was decided: we will help Hokshe.
Over two and a half days we completed assessments of over 70 families’ needs, and compiled a list of who we could distribute tin to, based on family size, income, and what resources they already had. Wednesday evening the build team arrived with tools and 60 bundles of tin, and got to know the locals over candlelight dal bhat. We stayed in tents in the grounds of the school, the bricks of its classroom walls fallen in piles, leaving gaping surreal wounds in the building. They told us the school had been shut down, but at 5.30 the next morning we were awoken by dozens of loud and inquisitive children. Julia was not happy!
After chai the team set to work building a demonstration shelter on a site near where the tin would be distributed from. Mahendra gathered the villagers, and together we explained the finer points of the structure (two-feet-deep holes for posts, effective and secure wiring, and clamping of the roof using ‘banana’ bamboos pulled straight for strength). Everybody listened attentively, and agreed on the method.
Next, Sanjay explained to the crowd why we had made the decisions we had, why some families got more than others, and what they would need to give in return for the tin. When it came to distribution time, we gave out a total of 336 sheets of 12-feet CGI tin, and a roll of wire each to 56 families, to secure support poles to each other and to hold the roof down. What’s more, with Sanjay and Mahendra’s organized method, it took only 45 minutes!
The next day, we took a truck up to the top of the mountain to build two more large shelters for families living in the forest, and reassessed how the rest of those in the area were getting along. Most had already managed to put the tin we supplied on their roofs, and five families had pooled their money to hire a digger to clear the wreckage of their homes. Only two days earlier, we had clambered over huge piles of rubble – rocks and timbers – and now the area was flat and ready to begin setting up home anew. There was a real sense of positivity and moving forward.
I visited Mohan, who had received six pieces of tin from us, and he had managed to source more for the walls. He explained to me that the area is prone to visits from tigers and snakes, and with the new tin he was able to keep his family safe at night.
On Saturday the team returned to Kathmandu for an emotional goodbye to Beth, Dipu and Rosie, who started SGDR and have been driven to give their all to those in need from the very beginning. Today we will return to finish the shelters, and tomorrow the second team will follow tomorrow to build toilets in an effort to prevent the expected diseases associated with monsoons hitting areas without proper sanitation, and to help relocate 35 families whose shelters are perched precariously on a landslide risk. We have six new volunteers, including permaculture designers and toilet makers, and Kiran, a photojournalist who also works to distribute solar lights to villagers in disaster zones.
We’ll keep you posted as soon as we can!
Lots of love from the Secret Garden team.