Having visited the village on a brief trip before, me and our ‘Man in Kathmandu’ Ram decided it would be worthwhile returning. On our last visit we brought clothes donated in the UK. With winter coming we felt there was a need for more. Plus it gave us a chance to find out more and spend some time with these people that it seemed the world had forgotten. We planned to go despite a fuel crisis that meant getting around in Kathmandu was difficult enough, nevermind the 2 hour drive East on the Arinoko Highway out of the Kathmandu Valley.
So we started early and went shopping -120 kids winter survival kits (jumper, hat and gloves) to buy. These would go to two schools. It turns out 360 items of clothing make 2 big heavy bags, a nightmare on a bus and no chance of using the motorbike.
A taxi was ordered and took us out of smoggy Kathmandu and up into the mountains. The clothes were dropped at the start of the hike- the villagers would bring them up the mountainside. For us a simple 90 minute trek.
Upon reaching the village of Janajageran high on the mountainside we were met by the principle. A small, young chap with a big smile and a mild manner. We were led further up the track. Finally coming to his temporary home where we were invited to stay. It stood on its own on top of a crest. It seemed a lonely place to be.
Ram was off taking photos while I recovered from the climb, then I heard him shout me over.
As I round the building the whole village came into view. A gleaming mass of corrugated sheets, ramshackled buildings perched on this small plato high up on the mountainside.
The earthquake destroyed every building here, its violent shaking caused the mud and brick structures to collapse. All 19 homes were gone. There are 100 people living here. They moved into one big tent, there they lived together for a month.
One of the teachers whose house was lost is our chef for the evening. Over a mean Dhal Bat, chicken and beans no less, I was told her story. Her husband had gone to Qatar and sent back a years wages, with this they had recently built a new home. The earthquake turned it to rubble. He had never even seen his new home.
Over the evening Ram chats away to some village members occasionally translating. I understood the jist of the subjects tho – water, chicken, schools, teachers, volunteers. The evening drew to an end as it became colder and darker, by 9pm we had turned in.
After a bad nights sleep I was glad to see daylight break through the cracks in the building. Panchab (School principle) was off to fetch water, Ram was snoring – time for me to move. With a belly full of dhal bhat we headed off to see more of the village.
The villagers explained some of their problems – the main issue was a trickle of water ran from a pipe feeding the whole village. Pales waited to be filled. Without water the crops wouldn’t grow, chicken wouldn’t lay – the community stagnated as there was no work, no prospects, no chance of a better future.
We decided to stay another night. Giving Ram time to ask more of the important questions and for us to explore further. Plus a chance to try the locals tipple Rocksee (just to be sociable of course!)
Another early start. We traversed across the mountainside to the nearest town. Here the principle of the secondary school met us. It was clear to see the earthquake had devastated this town too, rubble at every corner of the cross-roads that had let to its growth.
Again, we heard how the town was struggling. How the government had delivered no support. The school that was set above the village had no drinking water for its 250 pupils (we’ll be sending out water filters as soon as possible). We asked to have a look and were led further up the mountain to where the school sat, cracks on every wall, empty dusty classrooms. Not an environment conducive to a good education!
We were told about a womens group and the cooperative they had setup. I needed to hear a positive story and this seemed the ideal tonic. 20 women put in 100NPR (70 pence) a month – this could be loaned by any of the women to help them buy seeds, chicken, rebuild homes or whatever they needed. It had to be paid back in 3 months and there was a small interest charge. So far no-one had defaulted and it was working well. With some ideas and advice – they could hope for more. Ram spoke at length about investing in training and the women were clearly grateful of the advice. (NB – they need a new roof for the meeting room too though).
Having learnt so much and met so many kind-hearted people in such a struggle we discussed where the Nepal Foundations limited resources could help best. Decisions that cannot be made easily. Whatever we decide we need funds to implement them, so please do donate. www.nepalfoundation.uk/donate – theres a button at the bottom.
We visited other schools on this trip. Both were in a bad condition but they had received some help and had some basic things. The bamboo building of Janajagriti School housed 4 classes. The other we went in-front of the students to lead a couple of classes and found it difficult. The standard of teaching is poor, many teachers hitting students.
This trip was to the Kavre region. Our plan was to visit schools at Janajageran and Janajagriti. We saw a lot more though!
Taxi to [Ram to add], Kavre Region – Night in Janajagaeran – Visit to Chandeni Mandar VDC [Ram to check] – Womens Community Group – Primary school – Clothes distributed at Janajagaeran School – 2nd Night in Janajagaeran – Clothes distributed at Janajagriti – Bus to KTM