Help rebuild a village in Nepal
$32,652 of $100,000 goal
Even so, the earthquake left as many as 500,000 families homeless. Thousands of villages are believed to have been largely destroyed. The village of Kot Danda (Armory Hill) is one of them. Home to about 100 families, Kot Danda sits on a ridge on a high hill on the southern edge of the Kathmandu Valley. A long steep and narrow road connects it to the bigger towns and urban sprawl of Kathmandu, but it is far from the attention of the Nepali government and the international aid community. On April 25, the earthquake destroyed about 80 percent of the houses (see pictures). At the moment, several hundred people are living under makeshift tarps.
Time is critical. The villagers need to build temporary shelters to protect themselves from the monsoon rains that will begin in a few weeks. They need tarps and corrugated iron sheets. As soon as possible, they also need to start building better shelters to take them through the frigid Himalayan winter, which will begin in early November.
I am an American writer who has lived in Nepal for the past two years. My aim is to raise money for the people of Kot Danda who have lost their homes, first, to provide them with tarps and corrugated iron sheeting and, then, with the guidance of a village committee that will identify and agree the most urgent needs, to help homeless villagers build more permanent structures. I will disburse the funds, keep the books, supervise the construction and update the donors regularly. I am always reachable on my email: email@example.com.
If we manage to raise more money that the village needs, the remaining funds will go to similar activities to the ancient Newar village of Khokana, just down the road from where I live. Much of that historic town is now destroyed, and many of its old mud-brick and mud-stone houses have collapsed or are too weak to be inhabitable.
The people of Kot Danda are extremely grateful for your donation. Nepal needs your help.
A brief history: Kot Danda is the village of our family friend, Keshav Thapa Magar, and his extended family. Most of the families have lived here since the 1750s. Kot Danda means "Armory Hill", and the settlement was originally used, in the mid- and late-1700s, to store artillery after the army of Prithvi Narayan Shah, the King of Gorkha, invaded the Kathmandu Valley and united Nepal under his leadership. Keshav's ancestors were all Magar, an ethnic group that served as soldiers for the Gorkha kings in the 1700s, and they were given land on the hilltops surrounding the Kathmandu Valley as a reward for their service and also to ensure that other invaders could not gain control of the hills or the trade routes entering the valley.
I just received this great news from the Kot Danda Reconstruction Committee. I was thrilled, excited, happy and wished from my faraway home in Ankara, Turkey that I could get to Kot Danda to celebrate with everyone.
Here's whats happening in Kot Danda.
For almost an entire year, the news out of Nepal has been grim. After the earthquake that severely damaged and destroyed almost all of Kot Danda, a five-month land blockade of the entire border with India meant only dribs of diesel, petrol, cooking propane and imports from India came into Nepal. That meant few imports of corrugated iron sheeting, bricks and construction material as well as fuel for transportation.
With the help of all of our donors, the village reconstruction committee managed before winter to buy 138 bundles of iron sheeting and distributed them to all the homeless families and families with damaged roofs.
Here's the latest.
In the past few days, the reconstruction committee distributed a total of 62,700 bricks for 66 homeless families (950 bricks per family). Due to high demand for bricks in Nepal, prices have been very high and the villagers opted to wait until they dropped a bit. The price was NPR 0.15 per brick ($1=108NPR).
Thanks to all the Kot Danda donors, the task of buying reconstruction material is now finished. The leftover funding is NPR 2,491.46 ($23.12). This Spring, the rains have failed and Nepal (and North India) has been ravaged by a widespread drought. Kot Danda has not been spared and their water sources have dried up forcing people to walk an hour to collect water and lug it back up the steep hill in plastic jerry cans and traditional brass containers.
On May 14, 2016, the Kot Danda Village Reconstruction Committee voted to donate these leftover funds to the village drinking water committee.
The villagers of Kot Danda asked me to thank a thousand times over all those who helped them, who believed it was important to reach out to strangers and in doing so gave courage, strength and hope to a Nepali village very far away from all of our own homes.
This has also been a very personal and deeply emotional journey. I have been inspired by the generosity and trust of friends, friends of friends and total strangers. When my husband, my 10-year-old son and I decided to help Kot Danda rebuild, we knew only one of its residents: Keshav Thapa Magar. We are now friends with so many more: women, men, mothers, fathers, teenagers, children, toddlers as well as are acquainted with a vast array of goats and cows. Special thanks go to Keshav Thapa Magar, Rajan Thapa Magar and the entire reconstruction committee for all your hard and thorough work. You made it happen! Kot Danda will always be part of who I became after April 25th 2015.
Strengthening the hand of the demonstrators, the Indian government has enforced an undeclared trade blockade, letting in barely a trickle of petrol (10% of Nepal's daily consumption), diesel and propane. Because of this blockade, Nepal, which imports 60 percent of its medicines from India, is neither receiving enough new medicine nor able to produce it locally without the raw materials that are also imported from India. Lack of fuel has forced many industries to shut down, hospitals to cut down to the basic emergencies and basically paralyzed the movements of an entire country. Prices of basic food stuffs have skyrocketed.
What does this mean for Kot Danda? Thanks to all our generous donors, they have the funds to buy bricks to begin permanent construction. But the brick making factories are not manufacturing bricks (no raw materials, no fuel) and the few bricks available are extremely expensive. Even if they could buy them, there is no diesel or petrol and therefore no truck to transport them to Kot Danda. Cooking propane is unfindable (you have to have high level government or police connections to buy and then the price is tenfold higher than in August and unaffordable for villagers) so everyone in Kot Danda (like many in Nepal) is cooking on a wood fire. But a bundle of wood now costs 500NPR or $5 --- this in a country where daily wages for its poorest are less than $2 a day. There is a scarcity of basic staples and a country-wide inflation affecting all goods.
As the protesters remain intransigent with their demands (the amendment of the constitution), so does the government continue to drag its feet on negotiations. Protesters burn trucks, police stations even ambulances and police shoot protesters igniting new protests. India plays bully and pretends there is no blockade (if it declared a blockade, India would be violating international laws and treaties). None of the players involved seem to care for the people of Nepal. It may take years to recover from the damage done so far.
I wrote this piece for NPR on the present medical crisis in Nepal.
I've been in the U.S. For July and first week of August and drove up to Kot Danda this morning. The monsoon rains have made it difficult to navigate clean up in the constant mud and wet. But the first permanent structure is almost finished! (See pix on the Help Rebuild Kot Danda FaceBook page). This is the two room home of Keshav Thapa Magar's mother (in pix) and younger brother's family. Note the seismic bands on the brick walls. The bricks are staggered to improve the bonding. The blue chunk of concrete in the soon-to-be kitchen is part of her old house.
We went through the books with the village reconstruction committee. Half of what we raised (thank you again!) has been spent on corrugated iron sheeting. The next step is deciding how to parse out the remainder between quality bricks and cement and how best to insulate for winter: ply board, fiber board or 'weather cool' which is a form of thin fiber glass insulation (the most expensive) . The committee has sussed out the local markets and the prices. Timing now hinges on the end of the rains but also the maize harvest (very labor intensive) and Nepal's biggest holiday in mid-October called Dashain.
Many villagers have built impressive temporary dwellings (see pix) with usually two rooms, Gerry-rigged electricity and goats sheds attached.
In ten days, we will be visited by 11-year-old Nelson B and his family who are visiting Nepal from the UK. He raised generous funds by asking his friends to donate to Kot Danda instead of giving him a birthday gift. The village will be one of his first stops.
Again many thanks to all of you and enjoy the pictures!