Soon after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25 killed thousands in Nepal and brought death and destruction to much of my home village, the July volunteer group went into action.
Although I lost my brother, my home, and the school and hostel we had built, it was still a huge decision to take the group in July. I made the decision to proceed because help was desperately needed in Nepal and the volunteers played a vital role in giving support and much-needed hope to our community.
My sister, Tok-Maya, called me during the earthquake. The fear in her voice obvious. As the scale of the death and destruction became clear, I decided immediately to return to Nepal.
The July volunteers were extraordinary people. They put aside their fears amid ongoing aftershocks and worked tirelessly to help wherever they could. The group included Australian residents from different ethnic backgrounds. Everyone arrived on different airlines at different times on different days. After we did our shopping and orientation, we started to trek to my home village on the third day as scheduled.
Everyone did extremely well walking the hills to Chisopani. As we walked through many villages in the area it was heartbreaking to hear of the deaths and injuries and to see the damage. We stopped at a half standing tea house in Mulkharka Village. We were lucky to get lunch as it was among only six houses still standing in the area.
We were lucky to have a beautiful clear day as we were walking during the main monsoon season, but unlucky in that we still managed to encounter leaches in the Sivapury National Park.
As we arrived in Chisopani, the extent of the damage was abundantly clear. Every tea house was reduced to rubble and our hearts sank as we learned 25 people, including some tourists, had been trapped and killed. It was a lot for a small town of about a dozen tea houses and guest houses, which rely on tourists for much of their patronage.
We soon erected tents. We normally stay in a tea house so it was a new experience for Take on Nepal staff and volunteers. We were lucky to get food prepared at the temporary shed restaurant in Chisopani.
Next morning we had an early breakfast and walked to Batase. A couple of volunteers had a few difficulties on our second day although it was a shorter walk. They were obviously feeling the effects of the previous day’s efforts. When we arrived safely in Batase the cook had lunch prepared.
Many other schools in the area were closed because of quake damage and the monsoon season but Batase students (with our temporary accommodation) attended school regularly and were excited to learn from our volunteers. The volunteers meet all the teachers and students and it didn’t take long to get to know each other. The volunteers also went on a short village tour, which helped them understand village life and the type of students they would be teaching.
Everyone was keen to start teaching and our students and teachers were ready to learn from our volunteers. Normally we would have a group of three teaching the class but this time having only five members in a group, each member took a class with our local teachers and volunteer co-ordinators. Volunteers spent from 9-1pm at school and then went home. After lunch everyone rested and prepared lessons for the next day.
Every weekend we had local activities. They included walking and also climbing the highest peak in Batase. Other walks were around the town to experience local life. On this trip we were also lucky to join the locals planting rice. It was a great experience and everyone had a ball.
A final treat was a Chitwan safari holiday for everyone. I feel fortunate to have such a wonderful team who gave hope to our students and tourism of Nepal after the huge earthquake.
© Take on Nepal 2020