Day 34-39 (06/02-06/07/15)
Time flies. We are already working at the construction site in Taukhel to build the earthquake-proof-sandbag-house for a week. It’s incredible fun that let us forget the muscle ache, scratched hands and aching joints.
We have nearly finished one of the two equal sized rooms. The second needs 3-4 days to be completed. Meanwhile, we have a very good overview of how to construct such an earthquake-resistant-sandbag-house. The sandbags or soil bags that we use here are very stable by themselves. But there are some methods that can make the house even more stable. The soil bags should always lay overlapping on one another and be pushed down hard. Between each layer, we have laid barbed wire. This wire catches the enters in the material of the bags and keeps two layers strong together. In addition, in each second layer of sacks iron bars are hammered. For the corners and doorframes we use chicken wire, which is at the end pulled over the complete paths.Furthermore, the corners are still lashed together with plastic tape. Those are a lot of techniques for an absolutely stable, safe design.The whole house, every corner is thus connected to each other. In the event of an earthquake, perhaps it can wiggle, but no individual parts will fall out because all is interconnected and hooked.The whole house is flexible and resonates with the earth.As you can see, we have learned a lot of it. Learning by doing is the motto. Every night we are tired, but return motivated and happy to the orphanage Ama Ghar. Here we camp for a week on the football field. Every morning we are spoiled with tea and biscuits. On the construction Dhal Bath is served at noon, which is brought by the wife of the householder and in the evening we get again a delicious meal. In the evening we wander from the building through a wonderful landscape towards the mountains while the moon slowly ascends.We pass meadows and fields, rivers and grazing cows. When we enter the gates of Ama Ghars, the farm dogs bark and wag their tails to welcome us. If we are not too tired, we sing songs in the evening with the children of the orphanage, play together Basketball in the yard or look funny Indian movies. It feels like coming home. Everywhere we go we make lifelong friends. And that makes us incredibly rich. We feel blessed. We are very well aware of this. Ama Ghar is a place we absolutely want to visit again.
But now it is time to pack the Backpack again. Tomorrow we will set off to Kathmandu very early and then to Devighat in Nuwakot.Here we will examine the finished school, we have commissioned. We are very curious and need of course to rest for the trip. Therefore we need to say Good night!
DAY 29-33 (05/28-06/01/15)
Now it has been already 33 days that we are helping here in Nepal. We have done a number of projects for emergency aid and supplied more than 450 families with food, tents, water purification systems and solar lights. We were active in different regions, such as Nuwakot, Sindhupalchock and the central area of Kathmandu. We have started a major project in Nuwakot / Devighat and built 100 houses and a school, which completion we will document and now we want to go one step further. Our goal is still to create a shelter for as many people as possible out of tin and bamboo, to give them a temporary accommodation during the monsoon, but we thinking already long term. After the monsoon, people need new, good homes again. And the most important thing is that they build them earthquake-proof!
The tradition of Nepalis especially in rural areas is to build houses of mud, straw and stones. But the current way is not secure enough, which the innumerable damage shows. Now in the 21st century, we are ready to employ techniques that guarantee stable, earthquake-resistant houses. Therefore, we have looked intensively on the construction technology of sandbag houses in the last few days. It is very simple and effective and everyone can build it. You can recycle rice bags and fill them with earth. The bags are simply stacked and fixed with barbed wire. At the end the bags are plastered with mud and the roof is made of tin or thatch.
The idea of the sandbag houses is from a man named Owen Geiger. He lives in California and has built many of these homes in this earthquake-prone area. We think that it is time to bring this brilliant idea to Nepal. That is why we are working for three days, just to build such a house. There are quite a few groups that build these houses around Kathmandu. Saturday and Sunday we helped with a house in Taudaha that is currently built on the property of Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation. Here two German make this innovative idea real. In the center of a permaculture farm we first filled sacks with gravel, for the first two rows and dragged, lashed and beat them down.
Since today we are working on a second site in Thaukel. Here is a house for a family of 4, with two large rooms. A cement foundation has already been laid, just as the cornerstone for the roof. This is the most secure version of the sandbag house. Two very young students of architecture and orphans from a nearby orphanage have had the idea of helping in their neighborhood with these earthquake-resistant houses. We found that incredibly touching and have decided to support the guys in the construction actively. When we arrived, Björn was immediately appointed to be the site managers, then gravel was carried, bags filled, sewn together and placed in the correct form. The team is highly motivated and the work is great fun. Tomorrow we expect another helper, because we want to make sure the house is ready within the next 2 days.
Meanwhile Germaid went to a music studio. We met a helper on the construction site who is a regionally well-known musician. After the first quake he wrote a song demanding citizens of Nepal to go to the villages and to provide reconstruction. 20 days he played this song in front of a temple in Kathmandu and collected 4000 Euro for the victims. Now he can produce the song for radio and television. Germaid sings a verse in the song.
Tonight we are highly motivated, but tired, after a busy day. We sleep in a wonderful tent over us the full moon and we look forward to a day with a lot of hard work on the construction of tomorrow.
Day 24-28 (05/22-05/26/2015)
And so, our stay in the village is slowly going to an end. The last 8 days we were living here in Devighat under a tarpaulin. 5 meters away our neighbours, two buffalo in a cowshed, are living. Hens and chicks walk through our living room during the day. At 5 o´clock in the morning we wake up by the women who gather around public water tap and fill their jugs of drinking water, which flows 2x a day for an hour here. The men play cards in the noon under a tree and children run around everywhere. They smile at us joyfully, wave and shout: “ What’s your name?“ In the afternoon, it has become so hot that you either should move very slowly or not at all from the spot. But anyway we are moving. With the help of local people, we accomplish so much here.
After about a week of work in the villages, we were able to provide about 100 families with corrugated iron. This has been used as new roofs and partly also to cover the sides of the house. 100 new houses are built here within a week. 35 houses in Devighat, 26 houses in Chapthok, 37 houses in Maghigaun.
Everything is now ordered to build the Setidevi Primary School. The steel framework of the first main building including the roof of corrugated iron and a strong foundations is finished. In the next 10 days walls with windows and doors, and a second smaller building will be built. We will now leave Devighat and return to Kathmandu. After 10 days we will come back and look at the results of the work. We have got some contacts from other locals from other regions who also need help to rebuild their villages. In the meantime, we will get in contact with them to let your donations reach far and long term.
At this point, a big thank you to all donors. You made it possible, that we could manage such huge projects here. Thank you so much! Also a big thank you from our side to all villagers who were and still are so involved in this project. To all boys from the village who brought us safely with their motor bikes up and down the mountains. To all moms who hosted us and supplied us so wonderful with tea and delicious food. To Hanuman who has really managed all actions, translated and connected everything. For us he has become the unofficial mayor of the region. We have made friends. This is certain. They taught us our first phrases in Nepali. We sang together Nepalese folk songs with the guitar under the stars. Sat together in front of the TV in order to follow the report, the local television has made about the school building. There were also difficulties for us, but we survived everything. For example, three large storms at night and one in the afternoon, which torn our tent away. Many aftershocks that have brought the earth and us to tremble again. The local slaughter festival, where the whole village has sacrificed joyfully and happily some goats. For us, as vegetarians a tough test, but we survived it as well 😉
It was a beautiful, formative, also strenuous, but unforgettable time here in Devighat.
Day 20-24 (05/18-05/21/15)
Now we already spent four days in Devighat. And our arrival our slogan is: build, build, build! On Monday we left Kathmandu with a truckload of corrugated iron (240 pieces each 12 Ft) and a lot of tools. In Devighat we met again with our good friend Hanuman, with whom we have been working for some time to help the villagers in this region.
After the corrugated iron was unloaded, we did not want to lose any time and swung us right on the bikes to visit the surrounding villages. First stop was up the hillsides to a little place called Chapthok. About 20 families live here very close to the mountain. Their fields are terraced between their homes. However, they are destroyed, parts of them up to 100%. There is a lot of work that needs to be done. The people have few space on the steep slopes to build new huts. First, the ruins of the old houses need to be removed and the soil to be straightened. Only then the pillars can be erected of bamboo. For this, we will then provide the people with corrugated iron, so they get a roof for their hut.
The villagers can then build the sides with old corrugated iron. Thus it is ensured that they have a good new roof, through which no rain can come. With the inhabitants of the village, we agreed that we will come back after a few days and transmitted them the corrugated iron. Until then they have managed to place and set up the basic structure.
Next stop was the village Majhigaun. A place where the caste of fishermen is living. 37 families here also needed a new cottage. But in this village more space is available. People can create bamboo scaffolding between their fields and then immediately process the corrugated iron. We decide to come back in two days and bring the corrugated iron.
The third station the next day was Setidevi. Here we decided to rebuild a school. The villagers were enthusiastic about that and wanted to help, so that their children can learn in a secure building again. However, to ensure safety, here we need a more stable construction. Therefore we will let create a steel frame. After some negotiations with the steel worker living there, we have made a good deal. A man who sends a daughter itself to this school, creates us a framework of 24×50 Ft within 5 days. Including working time and a load of steel the first building of this school cost us about 1,300 euros.
Also in Hanuman´s village we spoke to many people who need a new home. Immediately first constructions have started here as well. After one day the first family had built a very good frame of wood and bamboo. We were able to cover the first hut with corrugated iron already on Tuesday. And on it went. Many families were very motivated and created good frameworks. A grandson built in one day the construct of a hut for his grandparents. The grandfather is with his 93 years one of the eldest people of the village. When we re-visited the construction site on Thursday, the little house was completely finished, well covered with wood and fitted with windows and a door. Neighbors took an example and also started the construction of frames. The Nepalese are professionals in building houses. They know very well how stable the framework must to survive the monsoon. But most can´t afford new corrugated iron. The old corrugated iron often has holes and can´t be used as an for roof any longer. Because we provide the villagers with corrugated iron, we can help and motivate them at the same time to built new houses.
On Wednesday, the villagers from Majhigaun were ready to receive their corrugated iron. One day later, the people from Chapthok came and picked up their cargo of corrugated iron. Each family there gets 4 pieces of corrugated iron each 12 Ft. Of course we also tackled. Within 3 hours we built for our neighbors, an old couple, a stable, small hut. In return we got rice with dhal and fresh farm eggs.
After four days distributing corrugated iron, building houses, visiting villages and buying materials, we have established four major projects within a few days. 24 houses currently being built in Chapthok, 37 new cabins in Majhigaun. And in Devighat, the place where we ourselves live at the time, about 20 homes. Then there is the Primary School in Setidevi . Here, the framework for the first building and the foundations will be ready in 4 days. The second building of the school we want to order as soon as possible.
About 80 new houses and a school are being created. This is the balance of our work in the last 4 days. We even live currently under a cozy tent. It’s just wonderful here on ground to fall asleep with chirping crickets and to wake up early morning by the sound of birds and straying goats that nibble at our tent. Then the view of the green mountains. This gives strength for the new day with all the new duties.
Day 19 (05/17/15)
Almost three weeks ago we arrived in Nepal and yesterday on May 16, we granted us a short break for the first time. Although a few phone calls were still to do, but after that it we had time to make up for a lack of sleep, eat and refuel a little force.
Now at the end of the day the plan for the next week I set up. We were unable to get to the region Sindhupalchock two days ago as the roads and the area have become too dangerous by many land slides. We will now go to Nuwakot and start there with the reconstruction of villages. For this however there was a lot to organize. This morning we walked through the city in search of corrugated iron and tools. We have done a very good deal and tomorrow at 8:30 am we are awaiting a truckload with 760 square meters of corrugated iron for a total equivalent of 1,740 EURO. But that’s just the beginning. With this, 15 houses and a school can be rebuilded in the region Nuwakot.
Furthermore, Björn has built a prototype to produce light in a very simple way in a shack. The system is called „Liter of Light“. They fill a plastic bottle with water and a little chlorine. Then cut a hole in a piece of corrugated iron, which is part of the roof of a hut, fix the bottle in the roof, seal it up with silicone and you have that „Liter of Light“. When sunlight shines on the water bottle, the light is reflected in the hut, so that people are cared for in their shacks without windows during the day with light. The light that is reflected equals a 40 watt light bulb. This inovative idea we want to utilize in the villages.
The rest of the day was used to distribute some more tents in Kathmandu to families. Now we pack our things because we will leave our Guesthouse and our base station Kathmandu tomorrow. Our Guest House is closed, as are many other hotels and shops in the city. People feel no longer safe here. Our new home is Nuwakot. Here we will try to help as many villages as possible in the reconstruction process in the next few weeks. In 4 weeks the monsoon starts and until then we want give as many families as possible a safe and dry shelter. In order to transpose these plans, we still need your donations of course.
Thank you for all your support, either financially or in the form of good thoughts. We are deeply grateful that with your support we can do so much and help so many people.
Day 14&15 / 05/12-05/13/05/15)
After this wonderful and moving day in Alam Dada 6 we spent the night again in Hanuman’s home in Trishuli near Devighat. We left the remaining food in Hanuman village. He will distribute the few bags of rice and beans to residents of his village. The next morning we all walked again through the village Trishuli. We met an old man who lived with his wife in a poorly makeshift hut, which consisted of tarpaulins and sticks. His house completely collapsed. He and his wife are too old to rebuild it. The old couple has no ground and only a mentally handicapped daughter. We have decided to help them to build a good hut of corrugated iron and bamboo. With the motorbikes we went to the surrounding villages to say „hello“ and to figure out who needs our help. An old man told me that he wondered, why so many helicopters fly over his village, but never drop something and bring them aid. Even the governor has already marched through the village and has diligently written in his notebook. However, theyhave not seen him since then. Then the old man smiled at me mischievously with a single tooth in the mouth. One of the things we have learned to admire here in Nepal. The people are shaken by earthquakes, lose everything, their home, their family members, their livelihoods and at the end they stand up straight and give you a smile. Very impressive! The situation in the surrounding villages was reasonably stable, but when we walked further down the field, we came to the village school, or rather to what once was a school. Two buildings for three primary school classes on a hill were completely destroyed. The view from here to the mountains was simply enchanting. In the schoolyard, the children were playing in front of the ruins of their former classroom. Since the first big quake the classes were no longer held, but tomorrow the teacher will start teaching again under two tarpaulins. Without further ado, we made the plan, to help here to rebuild the school. Of course we have to work on the finances, but the rough plan was made already. After we supplied several villages with relief by tarpaulins and food now, the next step should be to rebuild. But then something happened, that throw us back again to point zero. We were just in the bus on the way home from Devighat to Kathmandu. The bus bumped over the stony streets, which is not unusual for the Nepalese roads. But this time it was not the bad condition of the street, but another strong quake measuring 7.1 . At first we were not even aware of, but then we saw all of the people running into the streets. Everyone pointed to the mountains. Clouds of dust were rising. Again houses collapsed. To make things worse, we had a breakdown with our bus. After a few hours delay we finally reached Kathmandu. Many people were in the street, some streets were closed and we had to take detours to our guesthouse. Many people left the city again. In our guesthouse we heard that the earth has shaken for 30 seconds. This was definitely not an aftershock. The state of emergency was back. No one knew what would happen next. Should we leave the city, because it might be too dangerous in the narrow streets of Thamel? Can we continue our plan of reconstruction? Or do we need to start again from point zero with this emergency? What is the situation in the villages like that we have support? Questions over questions! Without thinking too long we bought the overpriced tarpaulins on the street and with bikes we went through the city. Everywhere, people have prepared their bivouac on the road and we in need of tarpaulins. At the end of the day we decided ourselves to camp under the stars. The owner of our hostel has prepared a beautiful place in the garden for us. It was cozy. We sat together and laughed and drank, because we had to diviate us from the uneasy feeling that everyone felt in my stomach. What will follow? During the night, we gotthe answer. At 2 clock we were woken by a violent shaking. The earth was again noticeably in motion. Frightened people around us started to scream. But we were safe, secure on the ground, away from the houses. Everything was good! We have to accept slowly that the earth happens to move aroung us. What we can do is, to not be afraid, but to have confidence that all things will be all right and that we are protected. Many conversations these days are about this faith and the awareness of the current moment. This is, what we all learn here right now. Also the next day … Everyone was aware at all times what step he is doing next. Everyone thinks about where to go, if it happens again? Almost all shops are currently closed. Thamel has once again been transformed within a few hours to a ghost town. But as I said, the earth is in motion, and we just need to move with it and remain flexible. We can no longer cling to old plans. We make new ones … slowly a better feeling returns. The last night we slept outside again. In the evening we sang and played guitar in the courtyard of the guesthouse. It was necessary to lift the spirit. Germaid has played one of her songs, everyone listened with fascination. After the song, someone came to us running and asked: „Did you just feel the aftershock?!“ No, none of us has felt something. Everyone was moved by the music and all felt good. At that moment, everything was peaceful and free of fear and the fact that the earth moves, was just there, but no need to panic. We all slept very well that night. And today we followed our new plans. The next goal is Sindhupalchock. A region that we have already been helping. This region was hardest hit by the two major earthquakes, apart from the epicenter in Gorkha. No stone is still on the other one, and who knows what it looks like there after the last quake. There has already been brought a truck loaded of corrugated iron from us. We want to continue and help the village to build the huts, which can bring people through the monsoon. When the journey exactly starts depends on the road conditions. We will keep you up to date.
Day 13 (05/11/15)
It’s been a while since you heard from us. After the last tremor we had very different tasks and things on our minds but now it is time to tell you about what happened over the last couple of days in depth. We want to give you a rapport on our distribution of goods to the village of Alam Dala 6 in Nuwakot. “Happiness is the only thing that is doubled when you share it.” (Albert Schweitzer) In the mountains of Nuwakot were able to experience the truth of this saying continuously during our last trip. Our destination was the village Alam Dala 6. All in all there is nine villages with the name of Alam Dala in the region hence the numbering. After two days of planning, we had a truck with 300 tarps in front of the guest ready to load more. But beforehand we had to organize them and this was quiet some action. In our neighboring town of Thamel, tarps were selling for exorbitant prices of more than 20 Euros per 12×15 ft. tarp. In India tarps with a better quality are around 5 Euro. However we wanted to supply 300 families who had lost their houses with a shelter, which meant that we scraped all our last rupees together and bought from three different dealers. The last buy we even did spontaneously in the morning of our departure. In fact we were already on our pick-up driving up the mountain and bought the last tarps from a street retailer. This is Nepal. We had to think and act fast and flexible these days. No fixed plan lasted longer than 30 minutes in Nepal. Our first destination for the day was Devighat, where we had been three days before. Waiting for us was our local contact Hanuman with two truckloads of food. Thanks to Hanumans effort we were able to receive a great discount, which you are only able to get if you are in involved with the local community. And since we did not buy our groceries in Kathmandu but rather in the rural villages we created an economic benefit for the vendors in the mountains. On our list were: 300 bags of rice a 30kg each 24 bags of white beans – 30kg each 300 liters of oil divided by liter and 300 packets of salt – 1kg each All in all our supplies were worth around 3.870 EUR. Further we had 300 tarps worth 2,700 EUR with us. A Spanish film crew was waiting for us in Devighat to accompany our transport as well. They are making a documentary about volunteers in Nepal and our work will be featured in it. In the morning they went to the village to shot some footings and when we met them they interviewed Hanuman and Björn about our relief operation and our future plans. At 14.00 we were ready to continue our journey up to Alam Dala 6. Our team, of six foreign volunteers, Hanuman and many locals was moving again either on the back of one of the pick-up trucks or on motorbikes along side. The gravel road up to the village was not as long as our trip to Dhadakharka the other day but just as steep and rough. Additionally some dark rain clouds appeared over the mountain ridge. If the rain would start there was no way we could have continued with the trucks up the hill or return after our efforts to our base camp in Devighat. It was a race against the time. We were just on our way up to the village and still wanted to supply 300 families with our goods and the dark clouds seemed to put a spoke in our wheel. Nevertheless we kept going up the steep serpentines and arrived shortly without further complications in Alam Dala 6. It is a two-folded village. Up on the mountain top live 150 families of a lower caste and a couple of hundred meters further downhill live 150 families from a higher caste. We started our distribution in the upper part where the people had been hit especially hard by the earthquake. The destruction we found was shocking. 100% of the buildings had completely turned into rubble and ashes. Seeds and food supplies were buried by the stones. However when we reached the village we were not welcomed by destruction but by 1.000 smiling faces of the village population who came running towards us with floral wreaths. Each one of us was given a floral wreath by child and they painted our face with red color to bless us. Cheering people as far as our eyes could see were dancing on the rubble because of our arrival. We did not in any way expect this. The dark clouds were forgotten and we started with our work right away. Therese, our nurse placed herself in the middle of the former marketplace so that all injured could visit her. Meanwhile Thea and Germaid distributed chocolate-flavored protein drinks to all children. Björn and the other men of the group were unloading our trucks and we had to decant the bean bags of 24kg so that each family could receive 2kg of beans. We organized a chain and within the shortest while we had individual bags ready for the families each containing beans, oil, salt and candles. The villagers lined up around the market square while we were working. At this point we would like to thank and express our great respect to Hanuman who managed to write up a list of all families in the village and handed out a stamped coupons with name to each family. This way we ensured that really every family received goods. The entire process was professionally organized and we were able to quickly provide the upper village with the supplies. Additionally to the bags we prepared, each family received a tarp and a 30kg bag of rice. Happiness was written on peoples faced while they accepted the goods. Children were laughing and cheering while running around us holding us by our hands. We have encountered many little wonders today. During a little stroll across the ruins a family invited us for tea. Under a small wooden shelter with straw we met a woman and next to her a newly born baby of two days. In the midst of all the destruction she had given birth to her son a day before, whom we were able to adore now – a great beacon of hope between all the suffering. After a couple of hours we said our goodbyes and made our way to the lower village. When we arrived people had lined up and we started the same process of good distribution and medical attendance. The first person in line was one of the village elders, a small wrinkled man of 91 years, who had tears in his eyes when we handed him the goods. A group of Nepali military personal was attending our action and watched over the distribution. They took pictures of all of us. When Björn walked over and asked a soldier what is happening with the relief the Nepali government is providing he was only able to say that he is as well saddened by the suffering of the people but no assistance from the government will reach these villages. They came from different parts of Nepal and were only send to keep law and order. It was not in their power to influence where the state would engage in humanitarian relief. Shortly before it got dark we were done with our distribution. After a short dinner we started our descent back and then it started to rain. While the dark clouds were hanging over us the entire time, it only started when we were on our way back. We all had big smiles on our faces, while we were dashing down the serpentines because we knew that 300 families were able to sit under their tarps and did not get wet. However this was not the only miracle we experienced today. Therese was given plaster to make casts by the Spanish film crew before our departure and precisely today a woman came to her with a broken wrist that had not been medically taken care of until now. Further within the donations that we collected in our guesthouse Therese found a big package of eye drops and by coincidence or maybe even fate we had many patients today with eye problems. We had enough chocolate drinks for all children – not even a drop was left and in the end we were able to hand out our last tarp to a family. We were sitting in the back of the truck, our hearts filled with happiness and love that we shared today and received back hundredfold from the over 2.000 people living in Alam Dala 6. We will keep the beaming faces forever in our memory. And when the moon came through the clouds and we looked at one another we did not know whether it was tears or the rain rolling down or cheeks. Today was a good day!
Day 11 &12 (05/09/15)- (05/10/15)
Today I will really try to keep it short since we have to get up again tomorrow morning at 6am. We used the last two days to organize as much as we could. On our way back from Nuwaklot we went to visit a village spontaneously where 100% of the houses were destroyed. At the moment the 300 families are without home and roofs over their heads. The villagers are farmers and the earthquake buried all their seeds under the rubble which took away the basis of their livelihood. Additionally all their rice stocks and other food items are buried under the houses. The village is called Alam Dada 6 since there is 9 villages with the name in the region. Many of the people come from the lowest caste which means that traders in the surrounding villages will not give them a credit on food items because they are too poor to ever pay the trader back. So what are they suppose to eat? Where are they going to sleep and where can they find shelter once the rain starts falling? With immediate certainty, we knew this is where we want to help next. We heard about the village two days ago – and tonight our action plan is ready to be set in motion. Over the last two days we organized a team, enough cash and transport. We bought tarps and sufficient food for 300 families. This means that tomorrow we will be able to supply 2.000 villagers with food, nutrition and shelter. However our plan goes further. In the long-term goal we want to support the reconstruction of the village and will bring corrugated metal and tools with us as soon as possible to build new housing together with the villagers. This will give them a more stable home during the monsoon season. Aside from that tomorrow we will be accompanied by a Spanish film team who is making a documentary about volunteers, that are working and helping in the remote mountain villages. It is incredible how many people have trust in us here and want to work together with us. Therefore we want to take a few lines to thank all of you who have supported us over the last two days so much to get the enormous logistical efforts in order. Daniel and Joel from Canada, who joined our team and donated 100.000 rupees, Thea, who is also a new team member and further brought 100.000 rupees, Dany who supplied us with 50.000 rupees more and Nico, the owner of our hostel who organized tarps for tomorrow morning and gave us 200.000 rupees. This made it possible to buy food for the 300 families with 600.000 rupees (5.500 Euro). Tarps as well as transport are not included in this amount. A thank you to Zach for the help with the logistics regarding transportation and a big thank you once again to Hanuman, who is organizing all the food items in his town and where we will find shelter for another night. We are surrounded by many great souls. Over the last two days we found ourselves many times on the brink of collapse. How could all of this be accomplished? The delivery of 100 tarps will not be on time and we can not get enough money out of the ATM! All these questions and problems – however there were many little lights coming towards us in the shape of wonderful people who wanted to support our mission. Thank you. Thank you. And once again thank you all very much. We will head out for another two day tour tomorrow to the mountains of Nuwaklot to support 2.000 people – to make them happy for a moment. Namaste, Germaid & Björn
DAY 9 & 10 (05/07/15)-(05/08/15)
Please read and see here about the destination of our journey over the last two days. The region Nuwaklot is 67km North West of Kathmandu which translates into 3h by car. Once there we wanted to go to the city of Devighat. A beautiful town in a valley where two streams from the mountain tops merge. Our path was destined to continue from there for hours up into the mountains, across ridges, trough forests and onto dusty gravel roads. Us and a truck load of food always close to the edge. We went steadily upwards until we reached the village of Dhadakharka on top of a high mountain.
However before we went our long way up our mission was once again: shopping. We organized two pick-up trucks in Kathmadu to carry our goods. They were loaded with 120 bags of 25kg rice, 5 bags of dhal and lentils – 30kg each and over 100 packages of salt as well as cooking oil, cookies and tarps. Our team consisted of five foreigners including us, and many locals. The drive up to Devinghat alone was an adventure. While the truck-drivers were speeding up the windy, narrows paths, we were sitting in the back on top of the open cargo area and were pushed from side to side. Due to the dusty roads we were all wearing masks. One of our drivers seemed to be very ambitious and went full-speed downhill. Our pick-up in front suddenly had to break hard and that was it. The second pick-up crashed into the one in front and both trucks were left with severe damages of their metal. After some consideration we decided to continue our journey nevertheless. Luckily no one was hurt and the cars were still in driving condition.
Once we arrived in Devinghat we unloaded the trucks and looked for a bigger truck and a driver with more experience with whom we wanted to continue our trip since an accident on the roads that were lying ahead of us could be life threatening. A short 10 minutes walking trip from Devinghat across a narrow suspension bridge lead us to our camp for the night. Across the river Trishuli we found the correspondent village and were welcomed with open arms by a local family. Hanuman, one of the locals invited us and his wife cooked for us. We experienced a hospitality that is heartwarming especially with the knowledge that these people have lost everything as well. 70% of Trishuli is destroyed. On our way up to our camp we have helped out passing villagers medically. Hanuman and his wife do not have a house anymore nevertheless they did everything in their power to accommodate us and supported us in order to continue our journey the next day to Dhadakharka. When we set up our camp under two tarps there were constantly new villagers coming to our camp with wounded patients that we attended medically. Our nurse Therese gave Germaid and Megan from our team an introduction to first-aid so that they are able to assist as well. Our hearts were filled with grieve when a father with his five-year old daughter and an enormous bandage around her hand came to us. During the earthquake a stone fell on her hand and she had an open fracture. While this could have been cured the responsible doctor in the hospital was under a lot of stress due to the earthquake and decided to amputate the finger. The little girl was incredibly brave while our nurse changed her bandage.
In the end we spend our night on the loamy ground of a nissen hut. Amazing – Hanuman and his family were able to construct this hut within two days from the rubble and can now live here at least temporarily under a little better conditions. We felt extremely honored and decided that it was the best hotel we have been hosted in since we started our trip.
The next morning at 6am we were woken up by our locals. While the villagers were already busy the foreigners had slept in. And then we got started. All our purchases were put on the one larger truck and as soon as all men and women were aboard and equipped with masks against the dust we were on the road again and up into the mountains. Our path lead us on narrow, dusty roads right along steep mountainsides and meandering deep ravines. At times we only saw profound abyss. The earthquake has left its mark here as well. Big rocks could be found on the road and cracks in the ground were dividing the path. However our driver was amazing and should receive a price for getting us save to our destination. We had to stop the truck many times and the guys of the group had to push from behind when the slope became to steep. Twice we unloaded half the bags of rice and dhal because it street was simply to extreme for our truck. The truck took half the freight up where we unloaded it and the truck went back down to get the second half of our load. Once we had the help of villagers who simply carried the 25kg bags up to the top themselves since the path became more and more impassable. We have met an around 70-year old men who wanted to jump on our truck to be taken along for a short while, we could not take him along. However an hour later he had overtaken us and when we got to the top we found him happily smoking his self-made pipe and walking down the mountain with his wiry legs. Not 10 minutes later he was back up again, carrying a 25kg bag of rice on his shoulders. The people here in the mountain villages are incredible. Old men, women and children carry the most heavy loads tied around their foreheads. Incredible.
After 5 hours we arrived in Dhadakharka. During our trip up here as well as after our arrival we were greeted and rewarded for our efforts with the most beautiful view of the world across mountain tops, forest on slopes, lush-green rice terraces. This country is so incredibly beautiful that all we can do is being astonished.
Again we are supporting the population medically and trying to get an overview of the damages. Many houses are destroyed or the cracks are so tremendous that it is not safe to enter them. This is a huge problem for the farmers who stored their seeds and foodstocks in their houses. Without access their lifelihood is endangered. Therefore the first thing we do is supply the villagers with food. 120 bags of rice, dhal and salt for 120 families. Our locals have organized the distribution in an excellent manner. They had a long list with the names of the families and whenever called one member of the family would come forward and receive the supplies. This is how we avoided a big rush for the items and unequal distribution among the families. In one day we were able to help 120 families and hundreds of smiling faces were in front of us. We have received so much positive energy here that we could continue for weeks and weeks. Many of the children followed our truck waving, smiling and signing ‘Namaste’ towards the sky after we had boarded our truck and were making our way back. Thank you.
On our way back we were shaken a lot since were now sitting directly on steel. And we still had little goods such as cookies, one bag of rice and some tarps left which were able to distribute amongst people along the way on our descent. In this way we were able to assist over 1.000 people today which would not have been possible without your donation. You were all part of this journey with us. We want to thank you with all our heart. Your donation make such activities with big impact possible in the marginalized villages here. May there be many to follow. THANK YOU!
Germaid & Björn
P.S.: On our way down we have met a men who heard that there was a truck with assistance in the region. He made his way quickly with the hope of finding us. His entire village is destroyed and the villagers belong to the lowest cast in Nepal so that they do not even receive credits from the Nepali government to buy foods. However there seeds and food supplied are buried. No help or assistance has reached them yet. Björn went straight away on a motorbike to see what is happening. Of 300 houses – 100% are destroyed. We are sure you will here more from this village since this is our next destination.
DAY 8 (05/06/15)
Today’s report will be a little shorter. It is getting more and more difficult to find the time to write them – but we will do our best. Yesterday we went to more villages around Kathmandu on three motorbikes. Reviewing the situation, basic medical care through our nurses and the distribution of food to the families are our tasks on sight. It is very important to us now that we can deliver products that are not necessarily available to the people but essential for their health. Rice, dhal and potatoes for example are still available here and there since most of the people we meet are farmers and some can nevertheless access and plant their own fields. However especially children and infants need vitamins and proteins in this circumstances to stay reasonably healthy. Due to this need milk, milk powder, honey, cookies and glucose are amongst the goods we are distributing.
We wrote down some facts about two of the villages we visited today:
Khokhana – 9.000-15.000 inhabitants
150 traumatized children, who have been given shelter at their school, so they do not have to see more cruelties on the streets.
Bhurtal Village – ca. 300 inhabitants
tarps and food supplies are desperately needed.
Everyone in Kathmandu and Nepal in general is still looking for the highest good – tarps. There are 1.000 tarps waiting for us in Dehli, but the airline would need 12 days to deliver these which is why we are working on a plan to import them via land. This is not an easy task. But we have given our great supply contact in Dehli to other volunteer groups in Kathmandu and Gorkha, which means that many groups theoretically have access to tarps. Meanwhile prices in Nepal for tarps are climbing steadily, since it is the one item mostly needed. However the long term goal is to reconstruct the villages with bamboo and corrugated metal during the next phase to have something more stable and durable for the time of the monsoon.
We want to keep going further into the countryside where trucks and motorbikes have troubles getting through since there is still people out there that have not received any kind of support and help. Therefore today we are going to a village north of Kathmandu in a region called Nuwaklot. We will take trucks and motorbikes first for a couple of hours and when the roads are not accessible anymore we will still have another couple of hours of walking ahead of us to reach the village. This long walk in the reason why we will stay the night in the village, where we will not have access to electricity and no means to update you. But no worries – we will be back in two days.
Bye for now.
Yours Björn and Germaid
P.S.: This morning we were able to organize 20 tarps. And the day after tomorrow we will receive 200 more! Yeah! We all danced around full of happiness. It feels like Christmas and birthday happened to be on the same day.
DAY 7 (05/05/15)
Todays Report will be a little longer – BUT PLEASE KEEP READING since it is about people with moving stories that usually nobody wants to report about. Today we went to visit the central prison in Kathmandu. Beforehand we bought different goods for the prisoners such as soap, glucose, milk powder for children, food, medication and cookies. The situation in the prisons of Kathmandu and around the city is a disaster. As we have sadly had to experience before in many of the villages, that we visited, there has not been any support by the Nepali Government or any larger NGOs the same goes for the prisons. The imprisoned belong to the lowest caste in Nepal. The fact that they have become engaged in illegal activities pushed them further away from society. And in the end who cares about the right and needs of criminals?! One woman does. Indira Ranamager, founder of ‘Prisoners Assistance Nepal’ has been fighting for human rights for the prisoners since 25 years. When a woman is being imprisoned and has children – these children will automatically become prisoners as well. In order to have a future this wonderful superwoman is doing everything she can to save the children from the prisons and provide them with housing, food and education. Today Indira took us to a prison that has a male as well as female section, in which they also hold children captive in order for us to deliver the goods. We were sadly not allowed to take pictures inside the prison but below you can see some photos, where we hand over toys, clothing and cookies to the children in front of a prison. What we have experienced inside was more than an eye-opener – it was shocking and moving at the same time. Since we are lacking pictures, please take the time and read our report. Even before the earthquake hit the circumstances in Nepali prisons were more than degrading. In order to enter the courtyard of the separated male and female area we had to climb through a little whole in a fence. 700 men live crowded in a space, which may be 100 sqm big. We find the same situation in the women’s area. The drinking water has a yellowish-brown colour to it and due to the lack of housing the prisoners sleep in the courtyard under tarts side-by-side. In Germany this circumstances would not even be realistic in an animal shelter. In the women’s prison children in dirty clothes, with running noses, glassy eyes and traumatized look are in the midst of it. One woman was handcuffed to a bush in the middle of the courtyard. She is mentally impaired and threw little rocks at children, which is why she is being punished with endless days in the blazing sun without water. Another woman is telling us that she has been sentenced for 20 years because she was selling drugs. A few meters further in the men’s section a man is saying that he is a politician and worked with NATO in Afghanistan. He was the leader of a group of ‘freedom fighters’ and gave the order for an attack in Kabul, which killed 11 people three years ago. However he is emphasizing that he has good contacts to the Nepali Government and with the right amount of money he will be out of the prison by the end of the year. Is this justice? A woman will be in prison for twenty years due to drug sale and a political murderer will be free after only three years? When the earthquake hit, an entire building collapsed on top of the prisoners tells us another man. 16 men died. However the media only reported two and no help from the outside was received which meant that the men had to burry their death themselves. While we were walking across the ruins it smelled of decay, which let us believe that there are more bodies buried under the rubble. On top of the collapsed building the prisoners have set up their provisory and improvised shelter under tarps. The Red Cross brought three tarps after the earthquake – three for 700 prisoners – are they saving money at the Red Cross?! The inmates collected all their money and bought tarps themselves. Further the man told us that they will also reconstruct the buildings themselves. “We have to. We have to live here somehow. Otherwise no one will.” Our nurse attended some wounded with provisionary care and provided new bandages. The assigned doctor for the prison has not been there yet. He is too scared to enter the prison. It is indeed quiet dangerous since many of the building have huge cracks. If there is another shake more buildings will collapse and burry the inmates. Next to the prison is a mall, which has enormous cracks as well and is slightly tilted to the side. In case this building would collapse there is at least a thousand more deaths to claim. When we walked into the prison we considered where we could run to in case of a big aftershock but the prisoners do not have any opportunity to run and save their lives. Two of the inmates had life threatening injuries. One man had a ripped hamstring due to a big, falling piece of metal. He had not been under medical care for 11 days so the muscle has stiffened. Our nurse was shocked while she applied some cream on it. That was the most she could do given the circumstances. She said: ”This man needs an emergency surgery now – otherwise he will die.” Another man had an open wound on his leg and was probably already suffering blood poisoning. If he will not receive treatment very soon he will die as well. When we met with the director of the prison, our nurse tried to make him aware of the emergency. He listened to our claims and wrote them down but he seemed to be more occupied with the TV than with another humans life. I also attended a patient medically. In fact I only put some cream on his leg but he looked at me with beaming eyes and said: “You are my angel. You saved me.” Full of gratitude he started singing and the other prisoners starting clapping along. How could we have made an impact in this hardship with the little goods that we brought – our limited food supply, insufficient and improvised medical care and five blankets for 700 people?! But what the inmates have given us, is not to be phrased in words. They have welcomed us beaming with joy and with their hands in front of their foreheads – greeting us with Namaste. The joy and thankfulness that we have received for coming, visiting them to help, was simply overwhelming. Who is taking action and caring for criminals? Who is taking on the challenge? We were not able to give a lot of supplies and goods today compared to what is urgently needed. But we have given the inmates the feeling that someone cares and that made all of our souls beam. We are extremely touched, close to tears and incredibly grateful that with Indira we had the opportunity to visit the prison and let you and the world know about these forgotten souls. Please do not forget them. We surely won’t. With moving hearts, Germaid and Björn
DAY 6 (05/04/15)
One thing is clear: there is no normal day here any longer. Everyday we facing new tasks, but still all days have one thing in common. Our alarm wakes us up at 6 am and we get up not later than 7am, even though at night we go to bed not earlier than 1 am. In the morning we went again to villages, this time the ones surrounding Kathmandu. Our aim was to find out how the living conditions of the villagers are in these different areas. How many percent of the houses are destroyed? Where are tarpaulins needed? Where does food needs to be contributed? Do the people need medical care? We have meanwhile become a good team. The group consists of locals, foreigners who live and do social work in Nepal since many years and two nurses from France. The conclusion of the tour was that also around the capital most of the houses were destroyed. Food and medical care were given in some parts but in no way sufficiently. The impressions of the damage are still shocking us again and again. The rest of the day we spend online to acquire more donations as well as to order a huge amount of tarpaulins. We built up good connections to our merchants in Delhi, when we bought the first goods, so we are not only able to order good quality but cheap tarpaulins for our team but also for other groups of volunteers from Kathmandu and from the region Gorkha. In total there will be sent around 1000 tarps to Kathmandu and 300 to Gorkha. Tarpaulins are still one of the most needed reliefs, because the people need something to have at least a little protection in the night and from the rain. Every tarpaulin means that one more family gets a temporary shelter. However the monsoon is coming. So our next step will be to organize und finance huge amounts of corrugated metal to start the reconstruction.
DAY 5 (05/03/15): second part
Yesterday we went to the prison of Dhulikhel together with Indira Ranamagar, to check the conditions after the earthquake. Indira has founded the NGO „Prisoners Assistance Nepal“ and fights for the rights of Nepalese prisoners. Dhulikhel is a prison for mentally handicapped persons. These people are being imprisoned, if they do any kind of crime. There are no hospitals or rehab program or psychological care for them here in Nepal. The government sends no reliefs to the prisoners, because they mostly belong to the lowest caste. The prisons partly collapsed over the head of the inmates. People died or got injured. Parts of the power and water supply were demolished. There is no help coming here. We supplied them with a water purification kit and solar lamps. The living conditions inside the prison are horrible. 39 inmates are living in a small, overcrowded courtyard, up to 16 persons are housed in one cell. Mentally handicapped persons are living together with inmates, who are convicted for robbery, murder, rape, drug trafficking and so on… Second stop: On the road to the region Signdhulpalchock around 60 people are grouped, who came downhill. 100% of their homes in the mountains are destroyed. They haven´t got any help yet. There are 11 families gathered who have built up a temporary shelter. We gave them sanitary products, food, blankets, tarpaulins, a water purification kit and some solar lamps.
DAY 5 (05/03/15)
Today we have bought medicine and food for over 60000 Rupees and distributed it together with a lot of the reliefs we brought form India in a villages called Nawalpur in the region of Sindhulpalchowk. In this region nearly 100% of the villages are destroyed. We have become a powerful team by now. Some locals from Kathmandu, who have lost their homes as well but still want to contribute something to the people even more in need and two French nurses have joined us.The village Nawalpur is a three hours drive north of Kathmandu and no reliefs from the government or any NGO have reached the villages yet. Actually we are first ones who have supplied essential goods.
All 28 houses are completely destroyed and more than 35 people died…All inhabitants work as farmers or raise cattle. Due to the earthquake a bigger part of the livestock was killed and the fields are not accessible. Some of the children are apathetic and suffer severely from the horrible experiences. There is neither electricity nor excess to potable water. The people are worrying how they will survive the upcoming monsoon season.
There is an infinite number of things to be done….
DAY 4 (05/02/15)
We are now working together with a small NGO called „Kamala Foundation for Women & Children“ as well as with the NGO „Prisoners Assistance Nepal (PA Nepal)“
PA Nepal was founded by Indira Rana Magar . She was nominated for the . „Worlds Children Peace Price“ and came second place for her wonderful work. We are also working together with Indira from now on.
The situation in Kathmandu is indeed horrible, but in some degree under control.
The huge problem is the situation of villages outside of Kathmandu, like Gorkha (the epicenter of the earthquake). In some places up to 90 % of the houses are destroyed. The people have no drinking water, no food, nor tarpaulins for shelter. Countless dead bodies are still buried under rubble und everywhere you can smell decay.
The worst thing is that there is no help coming here, One week after the earthquake no bigger NGO has arrived yet in many of these villages. The airport in Kathmandu is full of reliefs from all over the world, but nothing is coming to the villages. The media has even forbidden Indira to report on the catastrophic situation.
Today we have been in a small village in the south of Kathmandu called Sankhu, More than 60 % of the houses are destroyed and because of the danger of epidemics the living condition is even getting worse. Only yesterday the first rescue team has arrived to search for buried persons. But after seven days there is hardly any chance to find survivors and the smell of decay gives few hope. There is no electricity and not sufficient potable water or food.
We have distributed some of our tarpaulins, water filter kits, solar lamps and charges to Indiras school and to locals. People were especially thankful for the last three things, because bigger NGOs do not distribute them, well apart from the fact, that no reliefs from bigger NGO or the government reach the village.
People are left alone….
In Kathmandu there is electricity again and some shops are already reopened, so we can buy huge amounts of reliefs and food. Therefor we need your help!