Nepal was hit by a huge earthquake in April 2015 very close to the capital, Kathmandu.
The earthquake found the country not at all prepared for such a natural disaster. At its aftermath, a huge part of the historical Darbar Square was severely damaged, but the most important damage was to the moral of the Nepali people. The death toll was 9000 people, houses were destroyed and peoples’ life was thrown into disorder. Struggles of years were wasted and people had to find a way to survive. Rural communities were hit the hardest. In the area of Sindhupalchok, at the epicenter, where once stood beautiful 3 storey houses made out of stone, now was only rumble.
As we were ascending the mountains with the bus, we saw the tin roofs of the temporary houses people had erected next to or on top of their previous property. At first this didn’t strike as odd to us, because we were used to these type of houses back in Africa. However this was not the case here. As we found out, the traditional Nepali house had the basement for kitchen and as a stable for animals, the sleeping and common area was situated at the second floor and at the topmost , they used to keep a stock of grains and food for the whole year.
So, we were on our way to Takure with all these thoughts, where assisted by the volunteers of Conscious Impact and YUWA, a local NGO, we would be engaging on The GreenHouse Project, our first volunteering project in Asia. The greenhouse project was suggested to us by YUWA. The vision of Deeraj, its 26 year old Nepali founder, was to help the local community grow stronger after the earthquake and use the chance to introduce to the area a new way of sustainable farming. Our goal was to fundraise so as to build a greenhouse that will be hosting avocado and coffee saplings. The locals would sell them and thus make a sustainable profit so that they can rebuild their homes.
After a very long ride through rough roads we managed to arrive in the afternoon in the village of Takure, where Beth from the team of Conscious Impact welcomed us and took us to the camp where we would be staying for the next 3 weeks.
Conscious Impact is an international, grassroots effort to bring resources to rural communities around the world. A group of passionate young guys from the US started this with the vision to expand horizons and create community by working together to learn, grow, and build (see more in their website www.consciousimpact.org ). The base of the project was a camp that the team has set up on the hillsides next to the village and has all the characteristics of a community. Living in a community was a new experience for us but we found ourselves feeling a sense of belonging there like a family! Volunteers from all over the world staying all together in tents and since April sharing knowledge on agriculture, building with different materials like cob and earth bricks.
The days passed and we were experiencing life to the full. Duties were shared as well as knowledge. We would all help to make breakfast, dinner , clean the dishes, carry supplies and duty we would wake up at 6.30 am just because we were cooking on fire otherwise we had yoga in the open air, eat and the head straight to work.
We were working daily and what first was just a farmland came to be a proper plot were we could erect the Greenhouse. It wasn’t easy. With collective effort it took us a week to clear the space from roots and grass, and level it with shovels, removing shovel from one end to the other. Then we had to make sure the walls of the terrace would not collapse in the first rain so we had to put up rock barriers. This was the most tedious and tiring part. For 3 days unloading trucks of rocks and moving them to the site. Then stacking them up and making sure it was level.
At this point, the campaign was also a bit stagnant and we were thinking if we will be able to make it in time. At these hard moments, at the end of the day when it was cold and we couldn’t even get enough heat with 2 jackets and the blanket we would think at the local people. Look at us, we are feeling uncomfortable in this, while them they have lost everything and are still smiling through life’s difficulties. Being in Takure we came very close with the locals, some of them also working for the projects. It is not difficult to feel welcomed in this land because the people are so friendly, every time we met them in the street they were greeting us with such a warmth, and they were keen to learn more about us even if we couldn’t understand them. We would get stronger at the thought of these people and learning from their strong attitude.
Days went by and the hard work continued. The steel frame of the greenhouse needed to be welded , something we had no idea about how to do it, but thankfully the volunteer team was there to support us in that. The electricity was weak in order to operate the machine and sometimes it would stop working simply because somebody was using the rice cooker in the kitchen! The team was keeping our spirit up at nights when we would all gather around and share our thought on what made us feel grateful each day! This was the most amazing gift from the Conscious Impact team! It happens so often that we forget about the gift of life and the energy that hides in living in the present. We need to find more things to be grateful about everyday and to us this was something like healing.
When we managed to have the plastic on top of the frame, it was so touching to see what power lies in a community, when people are together working for a common cause . On our last night in Takure, Mama , one of the most kindhearted and sensitive person we have met, invited us to his house for dinner with his family. His house even though small was very welcoming. He shared with us the story of his life and when we came to understand for one more time that there is nothing most important than feeling that we all ONE in this planet, that we were in tears both us and him.
We left Takure with our hearts full , the fundraising complete (thanks to the amazing 239 people who got on board and helped us raise 5,701 euro) and the 26 x5 Greenhouse ready to hold the thousands of coffee and avocado saplings that would help the people of Takure gain back what they lost.