Here I am in Nepal after a few hitches getting here. The petrol embargo set by India is causing many problems in Nepal. My flights to Nepal were cancelled and I had to rebook with another company that did not need to refuel in Nepal. It is quieter without all the cars and buses that usually frequent the streets. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. With the lack of fuel, the impact is endless. It is difficult for people to get to work, have food and water delivered, and even get propane for cooking. 80% of the supplies that were sent to Nepal are in storage places as they cannot be delivered. Yet, I am amazed at how the people still continue to smile and function. Right now it is festival time – Dashain, and folks are trying to go home to their villages to celebrate with their families (like Thanksgiving). The streets are teeming with people as they are trying to get places..
ANSWER-Nepal is not simply building houses, but homes…for those who lost theirs to the quakes. Because of the Indian embargo, it has been no small matter to locate supplies and tools such as shovels, pick axes, sledge hammers, but we were able to acquire a truck with enough fuel at the 11th hour to get Bal, Sanoj, Earle and me, with engineers and architects to the construction site for three days of toil. Most importantly, the truck also carried a couple dozen enthusiastic students to Sabina’s family property, up in the hills outside Kathmandu. It took nearly two hours to make the initial one hour trip as it had rained the night before. We successfully forded a river, but then, we had to extricate the truck from the mud three times with the tools and manpower we carried. Our students were not to be denied, and with shovels and shoves, the truck finally broke loose to deliver us all. Tea and Nepali donuts greeted our arrival.
So this first structure to be built would be an “earth bag” structure. An organization called “Good Earth Nepal” is supervising us. Measured, mapped out, demarcation string in place, we started digging a trench two feet wide and three feet deep for the foundation. These will be filled with gravel, crushed stone, drainage pipes, and plastic bags of gravel. What a sight to see all these kids learning how to throw a pick axe and shovel that heavy clay soil. Together, they sang and chatted and laughed as they worked muscles they did not even know existed. The family whose home we are building joined us. Sabina’s father split the huge stones with a sledge hammer and Sabina worked alongside her colleagues. Her mother and sister worked primarily in the kitchen, but joined us when they could.
Sanoj (College & University Counselor for ANSWER-Nepal)–My! Is he strong!– swung the pick, and dug with shovel and kudalo (Nepali spade), as well as Bal (ANSWER-Nepal Director) and one of the students. We formed a chain including the truck driver, the family and the students as we passed the heavy stones down the line. When their muscles tired, the students started laughing and began using untapped muscles by hauling stones in baskets on their backs with a headstrap to their forehead. “Look, take a picture,” they shouted as they were loaded with several stones in the basket. What camaraderie. For three straight days, the family fed us and made us tea as we worked and sweated in the hot sun…. Finally, Nepal shut down to celebrate their biggest festival Dashain, giving us all a chance to recover.
In the meantime, we have been meeting with officials from Habitat For Humanity for their expertise. They have expressed their willingness to help, especially as they were forced to cancel their Global Village in Nepal program because of unrest and lack of fuel at their site. This was to involve 1500 volunteers from the States, including Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter!
Team work is sure paying off. This country is amazing at how everyone wants to help each other. This first home is a model home because we need to learn how to build them right. Our students not only need to have a home in which to study but also learn how to build solidarity and to “pay it forward.” This is not a business but a way to spread humanitarianism, care, and peace. Giving these kids basic hands-on skills and organizing–Wow. What a concept! Everything else is at a standstill waiting for the government to address the problems, but ANSWER is able to go past politics and get the job done!