‘Dharti’: After the construction, towards the recovery journey

When the 25.4.2015 Nepal Greater Earthquake struck the nation, there was no person or place not affected by it and everyone were seeking for support. But the question was how would we support and what was our own capacity too? Should we try to reach as many people as possible or choose one place, one community and then work with not just the preliminary stages of relief but also on long term process of restoration. After consulting with the team of ChangeFusion Nepal and Thailand, we then decided to make one place our priority and support as much as possible, within our resources.

That is how our journey at Bhattedandha, a predominant Tamang community which also has a women farmers cooperative residing in the city of Dhulikhel with a village background started. All of their houses were destroyed and they were in seek of support so we began working from May 2nd towards achieving the four targets : relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and recovery. First, we gave them the immediate relief materials and then we asked to the community what was the immediate requirement after relief they all agreed on sustainable shelters. We then started with the construction and finished almost the half way mark, which was 50 and those updates can be viewed here.

After reaching the half way milestone, we placed all our time and effort into the second batch and now we have decided to form 2 teams: 1 team would start with the other 50 remaining sustainable house installations and rehabilitation while the next team would start with the recovery phase of the 50 installed houses. Our decisions have always welcomed community suggestions and approvals as they know more than us with regard of their welfare so on 15th May, 2015, we again decided to have a meeting with the members of 50 houses we constructed.

The time was fixed at 2 pm but from 1:30 pm, the dark clouds engulfed the sky and it started drizzling so we thought no one would show up for the meeting. Some had to walk an hour and people get scared when it rains as they fear there will be another earthquake again. Surprisingly, we got a call from the community people exactly at 2 inquiring as to where were we and that they were waiting at the meeting place. As we were waiting for them in nearby tea shop, we ran there and what we saw the entire members of 50 houses along with their children waiting for us. That really made us very happy and we were encouraged to proceed with our meeting agenda for the day.

First we started taking about the shelters we constructed. Everyone was happy because, despite the big storm and an earthquake of 7.4 rector scale, the shelters stood still. We then asked if they were more problems and then these were the enlisted solutions that came by.

Problem 1. It is very hot in day time. Its Solution: They can put straw (paral) on tin.

Problem 2. The shelter has a hole in the base level so they fear the open space below can accumulate water when it rains and can also invite snakes inside. Its Solution: They can fill the base and open spaces below with mud.

Then we discussed on topics of agriculture, children and community school, electricity and water resources.

i) In the agriculture sector: As 90 % of the household are agriculture based, it is important to start with the plantation and with the onset of monsoon, the seeds and crops to plant this year was gone along with the houses in the earthquakes. So, we decided to help with the seeds and crops and the requirements of every family’s seeds will be informed by Sunday.

We then discussed about the Junar (oranges) plantation in community which we were planning for the past 2 months, so we encouraged them still to go ahead with it. We also asked households who relied on alternative sources for income generation to tell us how we could help them so that they can go back to earn their living.

ii) Children and education: Most of the children may be scared and some may even have psychological trauma so to help them overcome from the current state of mind, we will have to work on it. First, we plan to give them informal counselling with toys and drawing materials so that they can relax and play. Then we plan to sit with the community school authorities as to what we can further do about them.

With regard to the school building it is not damaged but for now, the teachers are scared to go inside and resume teaching so we have asked them to come up with emergency immediate solution so they can start the class and children can go to school.

iii) Electricity: We are working with two sectors on this: 1st by making use of their own local electricity; they have the line but need some assistance on more wires and bulbs to bring the light in their new shelter houses. However, the power is very unreliable and can go off any time so we decided on the solar alternative. Right now, ChangeFusion Thailand is helping us to get the solar to the village.

iv) Water Resources: The people of Bhattedanda had been drinking the Natural spring water coming off from the forest near their village. Since the two massive earthquakes, the spring has no more water and there are facing water shortages. We have proposed to get water from the government generated pipes which need to be stored and then pumped up to the main village chowk.

The water from the natural springs have stopped.
Empty water collection tank
Building which stores pumped water.

We then concluded the meeting with the ending note that by Monday, we would need details on every household about the seeds, crops, children, water and electricity and from Tuesday we start to carry on with the actions.

At the beginning we also mentioned about how we were divided into 2 team, while 1 team were taking care of the 50 installed houses, the other team went to do the survey of 20 more houses to be build for the next batch. They found out that this batch of 20 houses were in a difficult location geographically and they had to walk at least an 1 hour and 30 min. The houses were completely destroyed and they could only do 12 houses survey and returned. They also said it won’t be possible to complete 20 houses like last time because their houses were too far so we decided to go with only 15 more for the next batch. The detailed information will be provided with the pictures in our next blog when we construct the houses.

After the meeting, the whole team went for daal bhat and celebrated life despite of the hundreds of aftershocks and continuous earthquakes. We are really proud to have such passionate and courageous members in our team. Despite an earthquake of 5 rector in the morning, they were in the village by 11 am and despite their family were not happy by them leaving home in such conditions, they did for the team and community people with the spirit of supporting each other.

Team celebrating life.
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