In April 2018 a group of 18 people from congregations throughout Scotland visited our partner organisation, the United Mission to Nepal (UMN). The 10 day visit allowed the group to see life in communities affected by the 2015 earthquake and how they are responding and rebuilding their lives and their communities.
This short series of five blogs shares some of these moments and marks the third anniversary of the earthquake.
Dhadingbesi is 90 KM west from Kathmandu, a three hour drive, and is the main town in the district where United Mission to Nepal (UMN are working following the 2015 earthquake. After an orientation session UMN staff in their Cluster Office eleven of us piled into 4 x 4 vehicles. It took four hours on dirt roads and river beds to travel 45 KM to Dundure where the road ended.
We adjusted our walking poles and set off for Kalangmarang, a small hillside village where we would spend our first night. We walked for four hours. A torrential downpour meant we couldn’t visit a drinking water scheme as the path would be too muddy and slippery. We were relieved to reach Kalangmarang just as it got dark as we had been walking up steep paths for most of the afternoon.
Next morning we saw around the village – even that was hard going as the village was on the side of a steep hill so visiting the two new schools, drinking water scheme and church was tiring.
We were introduced to Menja Tamang, a village elder who had donated land for the new Middle School. He was delighted with the smart new building, calling it “a palace” in comparison to the previous building which collapsed in the earthquake.
We met a young woman whose leg was crushed when the church wall collapsed on her. She still hobbles around on crutches.
For four days we trekked up and down steep paths, several kilometres of them rebuilt by UMN and their local partner HIMS. We crossed the Mankhu River three times on rebuilt footbridges. We passed a rehabilitated micro hydro power plant that powered a sawmill and rice mills. The government of Nepal has asked UMN to rebuild 55 schools and we saw several buildings and classroom blocks, each built with an earthquake resistant designed. Each school also had a new latrine block to improve hygiene.
In villages we stayed in and passed through we saw more evidence of UMN’s work to improve the lives of the communities in north Dhading. New cash crops like cardamom had been introduced, each household was encouraged to build their own hygienic latrine, safe drinking water supplies had been installed – we always took the chance to fill up our water bottles when we passed a tap.
One highlight was the church service in Eve. There was a real sense of fellowship as we joined the local congregation in the rebuilt, if not quite finished church building. One of the ministers in our group, Stuart Duff, was asked to preach. We were asked to sing a song and we gave a rendition of Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart. Immediately we finished the congregation sang the same song in Nepali! Although we couldn’t understand each other very well we knew we shared the same faith and worshipped the same Lord.
Our accommodation on the trek was basic by Scottish standards. We slept on mats on the upper floors of houses, used outdoor Asian squat latrines, maybe managed a wash in cold water in the morning. We ate simple Nepali food – rice, lentils, vegetables – served to us by our hosts. We experienced a little of what life is like in isolated communities in Nepal. The trekking was arduous at times, some of the group struggled with the limited diet, but we were always aware of the immense privilege of being able to visit these communities.
Most of the places we visited are not even on the map. Yet in Kalangmarang, Tawal, and Ewe we saw churches and schools, families and farmers. We saw resilience and resourcefulness. We saw people rebuilding their lives and their communities. We saw United Mission to Nepal and HIMS using money sent from Scotland to train people, to rebuild infrastructure and communities.