The first time I heard about the Telkot village in the Bhaktapur district in Nepal was from Mary. She sent me an email explaining, that in the 6 weeks from the earthquake, there still was not any humanitarian help in this village. Before this letter I didn’t know Mary; she was a friend of my husband Joost. A few years ago Mary and Joost rescued a little Nepali girl from slavery. Mary found this girl working heavily at one of the guest houses on a far off Himalayan trekking path. Joost and Mary spent a lot of time traveling to Nepal to find the girl's parents and making contact with human rights organizations in order to move the child out to Kathmandu. This story ended sadly however. It was agreed with the relatives of the girl that Joost (and another friend) would send the girl's family money each month to enable her studies at school and, therefore, so that the child would live in a family environment. A year later it became clear that the money, which continued to be sent every month, never reached the family.
Mary, knowing that I was in Kathmandu, reached out to me from Australia and asked me to contact her Nepalese friends (who rarely had access to emails). This is how I was introduced to Telkot village. The village is situated on the famous tourist road between Bhaktapur and Nagarkot. Nagarkot is considered one of the most beautiful places in the Kathmandu neighborhood, and from here a lot of treks commence. The road from Kathmandu to Telkot is pretty good by Nepalese standards; it has asphalt. However, for some reason, the humanitarian aid had still not reached this far.
The earthquakes on the 25th April and 12th May destroyed 530 houses in the Telkot district. 540 families were left homeless and two schools were completely destroyed. The medical community of Telkot previously received only a small amount of assistance from the government, and after the earthquake government medical involvement ended. 150 families in the area are from lower castes, in addition to "women without men" (a widow, single mothers, or elderly women without any support). The government aid was precisely enough to set up one small accommodation tent near some of the ruined houses, and to provide cover for the most immediate assistance. Families have to live on the first floor of their destroyed houses; a Nepalese family is usually 8 – 12 people and they cannot fit all in a one small tent. With the rainy season starting two weeks previous, people were still using the first floors of their destroyed homes, which can collapse from damage and moisture at any time.
I have visited the area four times in the last month whilst trying to gather the necessary information on the Telkot area for Mary, who was engaged in the registration of NGOs in Australia arranging help for the victims in Nepal. In the meantime, my personal friends who want to help Nepal but have no idea of the best way to do so, continued to send me money for the victims of earthquake. A few days ago I got a call from my Ukrainian friend Andrew; his friend had "left him a pack of Nepalese rupees" and suggested that "we should celebrate it". For activists this means we go to the affected areas and try to provide some form of humanitarian aid.
Initially Andrew wanted to go to the Yalmo village area, but after meeting in Kathmandu with other activists in this village, it became clear that the initial aid was no longer necessary because the district operates with a local NGO. People in the areas that have received initial aid are now waiting for the rainy season to finish in order to start reconstruction, and construction of new houses. This secondary goal is already estimated at tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars. We are still focused on the initial aid, because right now there are people in the mountains hardly able to cope with the monsoon.
In Telkot we compiled a list of 50 people in urgent need of basic shelters. This list includes "women without men" and the disabled and unemployed people of lower castes. So in Kathmandu we bought 60 18hx12m tents, colored pencils, crayons and sketching material for children.
The finances behind this venture are –
TOTAL INCOME NRP 85,878
Emil (Bulgaria) $120
Daniel Novikov (Australia) NRP 24,284
Free Shop De Novel (A'dam) €25 euro
Andrei (Ukraine) NRP 47,094
TOTAL EXPENDITURE NRP 85,878
Awnings 60 pcs 18h12 NRP 78,000 (NRP 1,300 per Unit)
120 Drawing books NRP 2,040 (NRP 17 per unit)
144 packs pencils & crayons NRP 5,220
Transportation costs NRP 1,638
On 28th June 2015 (13th March 2072 according the Nepalese calendar) humanitarian aid was delivered to the affected area of Telkot village. 42 people came to pick up the awnings. For the eight families who were not able to come in person, the activists of Telkot delivered the awnings to their homes. There were 10 extra awnings which were left for Telkot community. Based on our prior experience of trips like this we knew that there was always the need of extra aid in these remote areas. So, this time instead of 50 awnings, we brought 60. In Nepal, thin iron sheets are the most necessary component for the construction of temporary shelters. Depending on the size of the sheet the cost varies from 4 to 7 dollars apiece. Shelters covered with iron sheets can last 7-10 years, compared to the more simple awnings which will not survive more then 1-2 seasons. During a meeting with the activists in Telkot village the suggestion was made that we should shift the focus to raising funds for a reliable shelter. Such a fund raising task is fundamentally much more challenging than the organization of funds of independent travelers journalists. If we want to help Nepal further, all of us need these two or three seasons living “under a awning" in order to retrieve and send all the energy and intentional flows in the right direction.
Larissa Matteyssen, Kathmandu.
photos: Andrew Kostyuk
English edition: James Ward