As already explained in two previous posts (A and B) through the Yellow House, ‘Himalayan Disaster Volunteer Relief Group‘ initiative my fellow VSO volunteer Will and myself found ourselves organising an aid mission to a remote, hard-to-reach area of rural Dhading. We were extremely proud of our impromptu team of Nepali and International volunteers who joined us to answer this cry for help. They were amazingly dedicated, brave and professional all despite the inherent craziness of a grass roots response within days of a natural disaster.
Here is a brief summary of their mission into the field. The photo credits go entirely to Raffael Lenk (in the middle at the back in photo #1). I was not personally there with the team in Dhading so my commentary is based on a few frantic mobile phone conversations we had during the mission whenever the team had signal and a more comprehensive debrief session held once everyone had returned safely to Kathmandu. This is me attempting to give a glimpse of their journey – I hope I do it justice;
#1 The volunteer team ready to leave by bus from Kathmandu and travel into the unknown;
#2 Our final volunteers got settled in with the supplies and we waved them good luck and goodbye. Below, a shot of the truck having successfully arrived in the district main town of Dhading Besi and rendezvoused with the volunteers who travelled by bus. Next steps, local Government approval to proceed and procuring transport to the nearest accessible bit of road;
#3 The team enjoy a hearty meal of daal bhaat – they’re going to need their strength! Next day, the team travel a few hours by bus up to the furthest, still accessible point before a major landslide blocks the road. At that point the volunteers from Kathmandu are joined by a large number of locals who have walked down from their villages ready to help porter the supplies;
#4 For two days the team of volunteers and volunteer porters walked up and down the rugged terrain of Dhading. The path traversed hillsides, crossed ravines and included crossing countless unstable, earthquake induced landslides of rocks and earth;
#5 Passing through various devastated villages on the way to the final destination the team took time to talk to each community and complete a needs assessment which was ultimately passed on to United Mission Nepal – the main aid agency about to start launching aid by helicopter to this area. The team saw both devastation and stunning beauty which is summed up perfectly in a few words from Kailey-Jean, one international volunteer on the mission;
“Infinite gratitude for everyone who donated to my Grass Roots Nepal Relief Fund. Its been a wild and rewarding journey to be able help those so desperately in need. Your generosity has enabled us mobilize our efforts, and in many cases be first responders in many of the remote villages that had yet to receive any aid after the earthquake. One place in particular was completely cut off by dangerous landslides, and involved a 2 day trek high into the mountains just to gain access.
I have never been so close to the threshold of heaven and hell in my life. The areas areas effected by the earthquake are devastatingly gruesome, yet have the picturesque backdrop only seen in my wildest dreams. And those same beautiful people that have been left with nothing, still manage to offer you a cup of tea and a warm smile, and take my breath away with their elegance. I am left horrified, awed, and incredibly grateful to be alive.
Its difficult to leave Nepal in its time of need, but as larger NGOs have now had time to organize, Its time to let the professionals step in, and transfer the efforts to more long term solutions.
For those who still want to donate, this would be my recommendation link”
#6 Here one lady continues with the vital work of preparing the harvest in front of a damaged house;
#7 Onwards and upwards to the team’s final destination Ward No. 7, Tajimrang Village in Ree VDC in Dhading District. An entirely displaced village of approx. 700 people now living in 4 new tent villages close together;
#8 The team took the time to discuss the situation with the village leaders in all of the villages they passed through and complete needs assessment forms. In the displaced Tajimrang village they also explained the need for, and demonstrated how to build, a pit latrine to help improve the sanitation situation. Last but not least they used their limited first aid knowledge to help with infected cuts and similar. Later the medicines were passed on the area health worker whose own clinic had been destroyed;
#9 The undivided attention of some local people to the tantalising possibility of an aid helicopter passing overhead;
#10 After a 6 day mission in total, including a 2 day walk up and a 2 day walk back down the mountainside, we were very grateful to have the team all safely back in Kathmandu and we celebrated together with another hearty (deliberately not daal bhaat this time) meal and a comprehensive debrief. Just to sum up, we are so proud of these guys!;