Nepal

After the amazing experiences of our AfriQuest and Wheeling2help projects we decided that we want to do more and more of traveling and volunteering. Keeping that in mind, our next destination would be Asia with 3 beautiful projects in Nepal, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Below you can reada small summary of the first project we did in Nepal :

The full blog post you can find it here http://www.dreamtravelive.com/category/destinations/asia/nepal/

 

The Greenhouse Project in Takure community, Sindhupalchok area.

Budget : 5,000 euro

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Nepal was hit by an earthquake in April 2015 killing 9,000 people, destroying houses and throwing life into disorder. Rural communities were hit the hardest. Being very sensitive for that matter, we partnered with Conscious Impact and YUWA who were already working in the area with beautiful projects and we decided to create #TheGreenhouseProject (you can see our fundraising campaign where we raised €5,701 here).

Our goal was to build a huge greenhouse in which plants such as avocados and coffee trees will be grown and distributed to the villagers. Through this new method of agricultural farming we will assist the community grow a sustainable business and generate money to rebuild their homes. The construction of the greenhouse was made with sturdy materials and will serve the community at least for the next 15-20 years.

 

Dora Bitsi

Dora Bitsi

Feb 10 2016
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AsiaQuest Diaries -The GreenHouse Project in Takure, Nepal

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.

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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.

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The beautiful scenery of terraced hills !

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.

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Aspect of the village

 

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.

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Parts of the common areas in the camp!

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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.

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AcroYoga time!

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Sunrise Hike :)

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Nitzan’s Cob Master class!

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Pulling the brick maker machine was as hard as it looks!

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.

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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.

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Namaste! Such a beautiful greeting..

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.

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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.

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Mama ! the heart of the project!

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.

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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.

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Dora Bitsi

Dora Bitsi

Feb 04 2016
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AsiaQuest Diaries – Nepal – From Pokhara to Kathmandu

For many travelers Nepal is a lifetime dream.

Situated between the mountain wall of Himalaya and the steamy jungles of the Indian plains, Nepal is the land of yaks, Yeti, Monasteries and Mantras, Sherpas and snow capped peaks, temples and tigers, magic and mystery.

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Last year, Nepal was hit by a disastrous earthquake that left thousands of people homeless. Our mission with the Greenhouse Project was to fundraise for the people of Nepal, which we intended to do in the month spending in the mountains of Sindhupalchok.

Our adventure in Nepal was bound to be epic from every aspect!

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Crossing from India to Nepal was easiest than we thought and we got our Nepalese visa without any delays! The officials were chatty and relaxed in Sunauli border. However, the news from the bus agency were not as good, the bus route to our first stop, Pokhara, was a 12 hour route for a distance of less than 200 km! Already tired from the train, we had at least a decent non spicy meal for the first time and in a few hours we boarded the bus. Indeed, we realised that the 12 hours ride was mainly due to the bus stopping every few minutes but also due to some of the most dangerous roads we have crossed so far. The road was not even wide enough for two trucks to cross with enough space, but still there were plenty of times we even overtook a bus that was slowing our way! Thankfully it was night, so we didn’t realise all of this at the time and we managed to sleep through the most of it.

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The best part was when we stopped for food, an underground shack-looking building in the middle of the mountains. That was when we experienced the local food,dhal bhat, and it was good! With 150 Nepali Ruppes, that is 1.5 euros, you got endless refills of rice and sauces, typically, bean and lentil soup, curried vegetables and stewed greens! All you had to do if you were more hungry was to shoot Khana! And there was more!

Around 6am we arrived in Pokhara , managed to find a cheap room close to the main street and finally slept.

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Nepal opened its borders to outsiders in the 1950’s. Nowadays, you will see legions of trekkers ready to conquer the world’s famous trails like the Everest Base Camp and the Annapurna Sanctuary but also hippies who come here to enjoy the energy of its atmospheric towns and meditate in its many ashrams.

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Laid back Pokhara is the 3rd biggest city of Nepal and its main feature is the beautiful lake situated in the centre.

In the quiet streets surrounding the lake, one can choose from a wide range of activities like renting a bike to explore the area , hike to the nearest hills or simply just stroll along the streets, that come alive with people day and night! Organic cafes, shops selling traditional paper items, shops and restaurants playing live rock music made up a very relaxing armosphere!

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We were there for Christmas and the town was full of locals that wanted to celebrate the day even though they are Buddhists! We managed to have a three day break enjoying the good vibes of Pokhara before moving to Kathmandu and from there to Sindhupalchok, our main reason for visiting Nepal.

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In Kathmandu, the backstreets of Thamel, the foreigner’s area, countless shops with cheap hiking apparels are catering for the needs of the trekkers who are starting their explorations from here.

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As were descending to the valley by bus from Pokhara we saw the vast size of the city expanding among the surrounding mountains. It seemed hazy at first but what we later came to realise was that Kathmandu had a terrible atmosphere, a mix of dust and pollution that was trapped inside the valley. The locals were walking around wearing facemasks something that made the situation better but seemed a very strange sight for us.

Other than that, we got to explore the ancient city of Kathmandu further than the tourist area.

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The jewel of  Kathmandu and the best example of the trace history left in this city is the Durbar Square. Durbar in Nepali means palace and as the name suggests it was the place where the Kings were once crowned and ruled the country. The Square, a Unesco  World Heritage Site is full of beautiful strictures and temples, which unfortunately were ruined beyond measure durind last years 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Many of them collapsed and some of them were temporarily being held from falling with sticks. It was very sad indeed to watch a heritage of centuries almost destroyed.

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The next few days we passed eating local delicacies like warm noodle soups and momos.

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Momos can be found everywhere in Nepal. They are made from dough and filled with either chicken, vegetables or most commonly with buffalo meat which was the tastier option!

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We were also lucky enough to spend a day with Apostolos, a crazy but amazing Cretan guy who is currently travelling the world on his bicycle. It was nice to exchange some crazy stories about both trips! With our batteries charged, we couldn’t wait to move to Takure and start working on our first AsiaQuest fundraising-voluntary project, the GreenHouse Project!

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