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.
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.Since I have met Jeff, Renu and Peru and visited Sangku I was also introduced to a woman that is from New York, but has been frequenting Nepal for many years (just as Jeff has). Natasha Wozniak has managed to raise the money and rebuild an entire village which includes just over 20 homes. Natasha and I have been in contact many times and have become great friends as we both travel to and from Nepal and help the people there. She has been facing more struggles than I have with her many homes to my one home I’m working on with Nisha. Though some of the attitudes and expectations from the people she is building the homes for are very much the same as the ones I have been experiencing with Nisha and her family.Nisha and her family aren’t only lucky that they still have their home, but lucky that they live in a nicer area with newer buildings. No storms, land slides, or earthquake will take them down (at least not yet).
Natasha is now finished with Rainaskot and back in New York working on fundraising for her second village Kavre Barbandi. Kavre is not only in need of new homes for those affected by the earthquake, but also in need of a water supply and a community center. She’s told me she’s worried that she is biting off more than she can chew, but I have the confidence that she will be able to get the money and the project completed.
As for Jeff and Sangku, I am still working with Jeff as he wraps up his busy life and gathers his research students for a trip to Nepal in December of this year (2017). I am organizing a few schools for his students to visit and talk with including Nuwakot where I am raising the money to build a new water system as the children have no place to go to the bathroom (urinating and defecating in the woods) and no source of water to drink, and have never had any.
If you are interested in Natasha’s project and would like to help out, feel free to reach out to her on Facebook. You can also download the project brief that she sent me here. You can donate through my website here, but it is best to work with her directly so that you get your proper tax write off and she will keep you updated as to what’s going on with her project.