Project III & IV: The act of giving

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With our first project we learnt a lot and we sent the supplies with one of our member who was working at the ward at Sindhupalchowk with his team. It was good to get their reports and feedback on what was happening. Just when we had stopped going to the field ourselves, we had a conversation with one of the helpers working at my place. He told us the situation of his family members and village. It was heartbreaking to know that relief had not reached yet. We inquired more about the village and got the supplies arranged from Helping Hands for 30 families.

The village of Dhuseni was not that far, a drive of two and a half hours made us reach there as we crossed the landmarks at Panchkhal and 50 kilo. The off road drive was adventurous but at the same time we entered an area which was badly affected with the earthquake. We could see the landslide which had occurred and the narrower road made it more challenging for us to reach. We carried sacks of rice, chuira, juices, thepla and detergent packets. We also had masks and tents with us.

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received_10152836410671700As we reached our destination, we were introduced to the master and other people of theIMG_20150503_233035
village. They told us that they would divide the quantity of supplies among the families equally. Each member of the family stood in line as we gave out kilograms of chuira and rice. We observed didi’s taking the rice on the piece of cloth they were wearing. They put forward the sides of saree, salwar, while kids collected on their shirts. The distribution took a long time as we added the left supplies in their share.

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IMG_20150503_154631_HDRAs we got done with giving out all the food materials we went to see the place they IMG_20150503_161803_HDRwere staying at. The houses had collapsed and the ones which were not destroyed completely had cracks. The families were staying at the temporary tents. In a situation like this they offered us coffee and fresh curd. This made us realize once again how warm- hearted and loving we are. The view from the village looked spectacular. As we bid goodbye we IMG_20150510_112958_BURST1IMG_20150503_155820_HDRcrossed a house where everything had come down. It was Jyamdi village. A man had lost his life and the houses for seven families were down. Many livestock were buried inside and the place smelled differently. We could not help them as we had already given all the supplies, but we told them that we would be back soon and spread the word around if anyone else wanted to give relief materials.

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The night when we got back home, it started drizzling and I could imagine how the people IMG_20150503_162346_HDRwe met were living. They did not have tents and everything that they had built was damaged. The school books, scientific calculator and bags which were scattered around were the only remains that were left. They were sleeping under the open sky and the rains made it worse. This thought made us go the place again on the weekend.

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We purchased tents, rice, chuira, pulses for the people at Jyamdi. As our jeep was carrying more than 500 IMG_20150510_100240_HDRkilograms of supplies, the tyres got punctured on our way. As we changed the tyres quickly after taking all the sacks outside, we head to Jyamdi area. We gave out tents to the people who had not gotten yet. We were directed to the other wards by the teacher who was a wise man and made sure the supplies were going to the neediest. As we crossed the wards, we were informed that there were organizations that had gotten supplies during the week. The people in the wards wanted us to give out supplies to the others who had gotten no relief. They were satisfied with what they had received.

IMG_20150510_115435_HDRAs we checked each ward, we reached the hilltop at an area named Rampur. We analyzed the needs there, which were for 140 families, but we had materials for 30. As we were deciding on giving out the materials, two trucks with relief materials reached from another organization. We were happy as they had supplies for the whole area. As we drove down, we gave out our supplies to particular families in the nine wards at Jyamdi VDC. We stopped at a school at Deurali named Shree Bagdevi Uccha Mavisha which was destroyed completely. It was sad to see the school in such a condition. The locals asked if we could help rebuild the school. We left some tents for the school as we assured them we would try our best by spreading the word.

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The amazing bit was when people were letting us know whose family needed tents. We assumed that it would be really hard to control the crowd with the supplies but our experience was totally different. Their houses had been destroyed but their hearts were surely not.

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The Help*

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As we had decided to help with supplies and relief materials on the outskirts, we started with our first project at Panauti. We made a list of things that would be required for 600 people. After hunting for the supplies at a couple of departmental where the stock of chuira and wai wai had ended, we finally managed the amount we needed. With a lot of coordination with the other members, we put together sacks of chuira, cartons of juices and wai wai, energy bars, medicines and clothes. It was late on arranging everything and we postponed the plan for the next day. We wanted to reach immediately as the situation explained to us was really bad. We had problems arranging three things; one was water, the next was tents and transportation.

IMG_20150429_181019We took water purifiers with us but the hardest was to get a jeep or pickup van to reach. There were not many people in the city as many had gone back home. The drivers were hard to find and so was the vehicle. After some calls we finally managed the van. The first project taught us many things:

  1. The first and most important is to know a local person of the village personally so they can direct on which places the relief is needed and the exact scenario can be understood and known.
  2. An assessment of a place that one is heading to is must before taking the supplies.
  3. There are a lot of people trying to make the most of the vulnerable situation, by giving out wrong information of the affected people, place and stocking up the provisions. There could be chances of people fighting for goods when it reaches the destination. There are times when the villagers gather around the supplies and want people to leave everything for them even if it is not required and the mass cannot be controlled.
  4. The groups need to be ready for leaving the collected supplies at the offices of VDC, so they could distribute it well. It is not necessary to be distributing in hand to the affected on these situations because they have been going through the worst times.
  5. The groups should be writing in their experiences on different sites which have been designed for earthquake reporting and the places they have visited so there is no multiple reliefs been taken for the same place. It surely is difficult but at the same time this data would be very useful for non duplication of efforts.
  6. Even if one cannot go to the ground, one can send materials with the people they believe are doing ground level work as the main idea is for the supplies to be reached quickly. This made us realize how each citizen is helping each other and we are strongly united.
  7. The last thing that we noted was there were a lot of people collecting funds from across the world, and the donators wanted each penny to be used for the relief or given to the affected people. It makes sense when they want a detailed sheet on where the funds have been used, but at the same time they need to understand that there a lot of channels. Once the funds are received, the supplies are purchased, the materials are taken to the required place, and when it is left to the VDC office, there is no guarantee when and how it is given. So, one can collect funds and give it to the people that they trust and this is the most that groups who have collected funds can do transparently. Having said that, we should be doing our bit on how we can help and not judging what is right or wrong.

After the quake:*

The tremors and aftershocks were on and all of us wanted to help in our own ways. The ones who were residing abroad for their studies, work were helpless to unite with their families as much as people in Nepal. We could not see our city in tragedy as we wanted to rise with it. We had no idea how we could be of help but each one wanted to lend a hand.

The news channels were showing devastation and damages everywhere that it was hard to believe that the monuments and the heritage sites were no more. The places that we grew with were not the same. Basantpur Durbar Square was in a bad shape, so was Bhaktapur Durbar Square and Patan Durbar Square. We heard about Swayambhunath, Boudhha and other stupas which were badly damaged but the exact was not known. It was sad to hear that many people lost their lives at churches as the earthquake happened during the mass time.

The outskirts of the area was unimaginable when we saw the villages were washed away because of the earthquake and people had lost everything that they had built. Some could not make it out of their homes on time and got buried under their house while the others were lucky to be alive but with nothing remaining. Many temples in the UNESCO heritage site were in rubble and people were being rescued. The rescue teams from different counties were being sent but the coordination was not being done. Some groups were sent back because they did not know where to go and no directions were given to them. It was really sad to see relief groups leave our country during situations like these. The mismanagement and we not being prepared for a disaster like these made it worse. It was a chaotic situation at the airport where the tourists were stuck because of the delay in flights. Since the runway of the airport was functioning well and the highways were open, it was not that difficult for people to travel.

Each one of us was tired with the tremors. We were physically, mentally drained out. The moment we settled there was another aftershock. The only option was to stay strong and see around if we could help our people. The days were passing very fast but without doing anything. The nervousness did not lessen as three days were over.

We were confused on how we could start helping people, where should we begin, should we be collecting funds, or should we be assessing the situation. We decided on taking a check to the places we had been involved in with The KTM Drive. We went to the orphanages, old age home, and disabled centres for kids, Deepa’s house to see if everything was fine. We reached her house which was evacuated and the school that Sabina was going to was destroyed.

The situation was worst when we saw on the outside. People were in tents at the open spaces, mass cremation was happening; thousands of people were waiting in line to catch a bus and leave Kathmandu. The city was in grief while there were some groups who had already started doing their bit for the community that they were staying at. The campaigns had started as it was the need of the hour. While many groups were cleaning places, the others were giving information on water and sanitation to the needful. We needed to spread awareness to the majority on the precautions to be followed. In case safety measures were avoided the chances of diseases spreading were at a higher ratio.

We got back home with the understanding that it was more important to give out food supplies and relief materials on the outskirts concentrating on one area. We did not have a strategy or plan but we knew we had to aid the most we could. This incident also reminded us that the catastrophe could have been on the day when we had taken kids on a trip to zoo, museum or say any other event of The Ktm Drive where we were on the close space. We believe that the destiny is written and surpassing death is just not possible. Having said that we could have been one of many beneath the ruins, but luckily we got another life.

26.04.2015:- Hope & Prayers:*

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The aftershocks did not leave us for the entire night. Maximum of us slept in cars and in tents outside our houses and in open spaces. Each one of us was scared and did not get sleep because of the fear of bigger earthquake coming back again. We were the lucky ones who could arrange a tent or had a car to get in. There were thousands around who lost everything and also their loved ones. There was nothing left except that one word which was “hope” as we prayed for the vibration to stop. The world was praying for the same as the jolts did not stop. There were under the open sky which must have been the most difficult time for them. To worsen the situation, it started drizzling. We couldn’t imagine how people in the rural area would have been living. We just surpassed and survived the earthquake and now the challenge was to stay alive in the hardest moments.

We slept on the ground floor and woke up around ten times in the middle of the night. All of us ran to the garden of the house as soon as any one of us felt the beds were shaking. There were times when my little brother got up with panic in the lightest of tremble. We were expecting aftershocks after the disaster but not in the highest of magnitude. The sleepless night felt like eternity.

The morning news was saddening as the death toll around the country was reported and the areas on the outskirts and in valley were affected badly. Thankfully the phone lines were working and we could get connected to our near ones. Messages, phone calls, mails from across the world were being received by people we knew to know if things were fine. The answer to this was tricky as there were rumours of a bigger earthquake with a higher magnitude. Even if we understood that there is no timing for catastrophe and it just happens without anyone preparing for it, we were nervous. The same thoughts kept revolving as the social networking sites were flooded with the earthquake posts.

There was another tremor the second day which was really bad. People were mostly outside their homes nevertheless the ground started shaking and the feeling of a calamity coming to an end was far away. We saw the buildings sway and stayed back on the outside for hours as the plates had surely not settled. We were helpless and wished that Mother Nature would be kind to us with no more tremors.

25.04.2015

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It was a sunny Saturday morning, and each one of us had our own plans as it was a weekend. Some were being lazy and enjoying their holiday, while some were on a hike to the nearby places making the most of the day. We, as a KTM Drive team, were off with a list of things we were to purchase for the kids of Disabled Newlife Center. During the last event we made them write what they wanted to become when they grew older and one thing that they wished for. Their list was immaterial and we were amused to note that pencil boxes were favourites of many. We purchased all their gifts and were set for our event. As we were leaving the weather changed and the wind’s force was strong which made me grab my jacket for the ride. With the change in the climate, the signs of heavy rainfall were prominient. We had no idea about how things would change drastically and the disaster which was in store for us.

We left for Disabled Newlife Centre which is situated in Gokarna. We took a different route to avoid the traffic and as we reached the stretch behind the airport, the bike started unbalancing. We thought the tyre was punctured and I got down leaving it to the rider. As I stepped my foot on the ground, the road was quivering and the buildings in front of us started swaying to and fro. It was the most frightening moment of our life. People were screaming and running without any control over balancing themselves. Everyone was running to the open ground and with that I saw the water tank on the terrace of a far away building collapse. It felt like watching a slow motion movie as the vehicles came to stillness, while others were about to skid because of speed. All of us settled on the ground after the first huge shake and it left us clueless.

We have all experienced earthquake but this was the scariest, the 7.8 Richter scale for more than a minute made everyone fear death. We did not understand on what was happening as the aftershocks was stronger. The people who were in their houses ran towards the ground as the second big shake hit us. These situations are helpless and the most one can do is try to connect with family. The network congestion wasn’t helping but the news was all around internet. As we checked twitter, the news of Dharara, the nine storey building had collapsed which made us imagine the damage and innocent lives of people lost. Since it was a Saturday lot of visitors would have wanted to go the tower through which the view of the town can be seen clearly. As news came after the other we could see the flights being landed.

After two hours of wait, when we felt the tremors had lowered, all of us rushed back home. On our way , there were lot of destruction and the roads felt live never before. Everyone were on the streets with a fright of an unexpected calamity. I had a sigh of relief when I reached home and saw that everyone was fine. This was 25.04.2015 for me!! I am sure each one of us has their own story to share.