I got to know Jeff and the Community Development Network (CDN) during the summer of 2016 after an introduction was made by a mutual friend. Jeff has been working in Nepal since 2014 and has accomplished a lot through his research around Education and implementing computer labs surrounding Kathmandu.
After getting to work with Jeff Lee and CDN I was off an running on setting up our donation link on the site here, and encouraging donations through my Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook posts. I was introduced to Ramita, a woman from Sankhu a town just outside of Kathmandu where Jeff and his cohort Tiffany had worked with extensively since 2004. Ramita was very warm and welcoming in her emails, and excited that I would be returning to Nepal. She invited me to visit with her family and her home in Sankhu. I was ecstatic about the opportunity to visit another place in Nepal and to see the work Jeff and the CDN Team had been doing all these years first hand.
I graciously accepted the invite to visit Sangku an Ramita’s home there, so Ramita put me in touch with her Sister Paru. I connected Nisha with Paru as well so that they could coordinate our visit and Nisha could see the work that CDN had been doing as well and get ideas for the projects we are working on.
When we arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal Nisha picked me up and we spent the first day in Kathmandu checking out the sites and resting as I caught up on my sleep after my 20 hours of traveling. The next day Nisha and I hoped in a Taxi and drove to Sankhu to visit with Paru and Ramita’s Family. The drive to Sankhu was a rough one with roads broken up from the Earthquake in 2015 and the sights of the large camps of people living in tin shelters after their homes were destroyed.
Photo Credit: Saif Khalid/Al Jazeera
The camps go on for miles and miles and looks like something out of war zone photos or refugee camp photos that you see in the news. I just couldn’t believe that the country I love so much and the people are in this situation and where is the help to get them back up on their feet?
I briefly covered the issue of organizations not getting help to the victims of the 2015 earthquake. I see rebuilding of Nepal with road construction and the main architectures such as the various Stupas being worked on. I don’t see much going on with individual homes and the sight of the rows and rows of people living in these tents and tin shelters is overwhelming.
We reached the town of Sankhu and were greeted by Paru as Nisha and I exited the taxi. We were guided to the home of Ramita and Paru where they grew up and up the steps to Paru’s room where we got to know each other and enjoyed some tea and biscuits.
I asked Paru questions about the computer lab and the work that CDN has been doing. She also told me about the earthquake and that CDN has not been to Sankhu since the quake. I know Jeff has expressed many times that he would like to get back there, but with a wife and two small children he has been busy with his own life. I promised Jeff and Paru I would see what I could to help their community. Paru mentioned the school supplies issue that Nisha’s village ran into. The Government provides notebooks and pencils to the children that do well in school, but it is difficult for the children to do well when they don’t have the means to be able to do the work expected of them. CDN had been providing these supplies just as Nisha and I had done, and Paru would like us to continue to help. She also talked about students that need help with their education fees. We talked about our scholarship program and that perhaps next year we could fund a few students to attend University. We then walked down to the kitchen and sat down for lunch with the family.
They served Nisha and I first, and not getting me a spoon (Nepali eat with their hands but will provide westerners with spoons) I began to eat with my hands. I had learned the proper way to do this in Arnakot (there is a method to it for sure) and Paru and her family were impressed with my ability to be able to eat with my hands. (at least I like to think they were).
When we finished our meal we walked around the town of Sankhu and Paru pointed out buildings that were either completely gone or the now piles of bricks where homes once were. She told me stories of the people that lived there, where they are now and those that had died from the earthquake.
One story that touched me the deepest was a story of a woman who was found trapped under the rubble of many bricks after her home collapsed in on her. She was found clutching her baby protecting it from the walls crashing down on them and managed to save the baby while sacrificing her own life. The baby was alive, but sadly died a few days after.
The people of the homes that were in rubble were still living in temporary shelters, just as the camps were in Kathmandu.