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 5 blogs shares some of these moments.
Visiting the south of Dhading involved 7 of our group and our UMN colleagues piling into two 4×4 vehicles and heading for the hills! We turned off the main road and climbed higher and higher on mud roads until we were more than 1000m up. Even then we turned a corner to find a small village or a school building. Our roads zig zagged across the hillside but you could see the paths between these curves of the roads going straight up and it was those steep pathways which the villagers used to reach their houses. Often they walked in bare feet or flipflops, carrying heavy packs on their back supported by a strap across their forehead.
We were shown houses in various states of destruction and others in various stages of reconstruction. To see the piles of stones which were once a family home, the cracked walls, the temporary shelters where people are still living three years on brought home to us the enormity of the situation. However we were encouraged to see the new building, from the piles of bricks, stone and sand, the foundations laid, the walls built and the shiny new corrugated roofs of homes and schools. All the buildings were being built to a ‘pattern’ by masons, many trained by UMN. These earthquake resistant buildings with vertical and horizontal reinforcement provides stability if they are shaken by tremors and quakes.
But for us, even more important than seeing the building work was to hear the stories of the people themselves. 3 years on, the trauma of loss is still real, for some physical injuries are still healing, yet many shared their story. We heard how during the earthquake ‘walls were dancing’. We sat in a church where we heard from one woman of being trapped by falling roof and walls in a church with 45 children. Other people’s children. She was their Sunday School teacher. 2 of the children died and many were injured, including herself. She talked about how it felt to try to calm young children until help arrived and how they prayed and sung songs while they tried to dig themselves out of the rubble. She told of how she felt God’s presence with her then and how he has continued to guide her since. We heard the pastor tell of how, after the earthquake he felt drawn to help in one particular village. He said ‘God walked through my life to allow me to work in that village and many have been brought to Christ’. The 200 individual churches that make up Dhading Christian Society have worked closely with UMN and their partners before the earthquake and continue to provide support and training of trainers to allow the churches to engage in various community mobilisation projects. Pastor Lek Bahadar Tamang of Ebeneezer Church impressed on us the importance of both spiritual and social engagement with communities, that they needed to be both salt and light to the people around them. UMN helped in this process.
We scrambled up uneven pathways to see interruption chambers built to control flow of water being channeled from the source some 15kms away and heard how villagers had dug the channels from there to the villages and how with the technical skills had been provided through UMN so that water could flow again from taps right beside their houses. This relieved people of walking for 1½ hours down the mountain for water and carrying it back up. We clambered down paths to visit a micro hydro scheme powering a mill for grinding maize providing opportunity again for people to have this service in their own community. The terraced fields were green with new growth of rice, maize and many other crops watered by channels for irrigation had also been repaired.
Building of community…this is what the funds from the ‘Let us Build a House’ campaign. There is no doubt this is what we saw happening during our visit.
To be continued….