…to support ongoing relief and rebuilding efforts after last year’s earthquakes.
Musicians Deva Premal, Miten, and Manose who was born in Nepal, set up the Gayatri Fund to help raise money to support relief and rebuilding efforts in Nepal. During their European tour in spring 2015 they raised over 150,000 Euros which were funnelled to volunteer efforts; food, tents, clothing, clean water and transport to get to outlying villages. The efforts continue…
Last summer Osho News met Kurt Amert, one of the managers of the German NGO Kriegskindernothilfe (Emergency Relief for War Children) which exists since 1992. The Gayatri Fund, founded by Manose, Deva and Miten chose Kurt to become the responsible person for the administrative part and Eva Holmberg as the acting person in Nepal.
Kurt said, “On 25th April 2015 I was woken up by the radio-alarm and heard the news that there had been a big earthquake in Nepal. When I heard the word Nepal I immediately thought of Manose and wondered what might have happened to his family and friends and contacted him immediately.
“I thought I could do something because the NGO I work with had built village schools in Pakistan that are safer in case of earthquakes. They are built in such a way that the children can escape the building as soon as they feel the earth moving. We also had two water projects running in Pakistan, so we had plenty of experience. One thing was clear, we did not want to storm in like many international charities do that organise things ‘over the top of people’s heads’ without considering what the villagers actually want and need to have done. It was then Manose’s idea to involve Eva, who founded the Swedish organisation Society for Street Children in Nepal back in 2011,” concludes Kurt.
Eva writes, “The Society for Street Children runs two orphanages in Nepal and we have an ambitious programme to resettle children, whenever possible, back to their families. We also have a large project in a slum area in Kathmandu and an educational programme for nurses and midwives in poor villages. Kurt personally and his NGO is also helping finance students to attend Medical College.” The reason why there are so many street children is that mothers die in childbirth due to lack of medical attention but also lack of hygiene. So focussing on training nurses, midwives and doctors will finally help tackle the problem of street children at its core.
“It is important to make the families understand that children need an education, that this is the only chance to get out of the circle of dependence. Some children, mainly girls, are even being trafficked to India. Children should be able to take their life in their own hands, through education,” added Kurt.
The earthquakes were violent: 7.8-magnitude on 25th April with continued aftershocks at intervals of 15–20 minutes, with one shock reaching a magnitude of 6.7 the following day. The quakes killed almost 9,000 people, injuring 22,000, and damaging or destroying nearly 800,000 homes. As if this were not enough, the population suffered in the following weeks from cooking gas and petrol shortage due to political tension. Even now, a year later, although some of the debris has been cleared away, very little reconstruction has actually taken place.
Right after the earthquakes Eva immediately bought tents and tarpaulins with money raised by the Gayatri Fund. Nobody thought that the tents would be going to be lived in for months and during monsoon time. She also rebuilt one of the children’s homes which had been destroyed by the earthquake. “We also managed to provide water for drinking and irrigation to the village Maghi Gaun in Nuwakot. This has been a great success, giving 32 children the opportunity to go to school instead of carrying water on a steep path from the river up to the village high up in the hills.” A simple single-phase pump and a length of 650 metres of pipes was all that was needed.
During the Gayatri Festival in Corfu last year, Eva held a talk which spurred others to join the efforts and it was decided to meet in Nepal the coming winter. Last November they met in a Buddhist Monastery in Kathmandu; there was Manose, for the first time in years back in his native country, Eva Holmberg of course, Ilanit from the Netherlands, Alexis from Switzerland and his daughter Laura, Harold and Marjorie from the USA, Theo and Kurt both from Germany.
“We chose to work for the village Ratankot (65 km north-east from Kathmandu, district of Sindhupalchok, at 1763 m (5784.12 ft) above sea level) because no other aid had reached them and also because Eva has good connections with the people there,” continues Kurt. After a wrecking trip in two 4-wheel drives, through mud, gravel slides, waterfalls and even a river they finally arrived at the village where an unexpected welcome celebration awaited them.
As we understand from Kurt, the idea is not to offer help by putting up a building or two but actually help people to help themselves. First of all it was important that they are taught how to build earthquake-proof buildings and that the construction material is easily available.
The Gayatri Fund team studied several possibilities and came to the conclusion that compressed earth blocks would be best. These earth bricks are made from 10% cement and 90% soil which is easily available. They contracted an experienced training team to come to Ratankot and teach the technique to twenty villagers (men and women). After the trust had purchased a man-powered press they managed to manufacture 200 bricks a day. Reconstruction work could begin. The first project was the school, to be followed by building homes. The villagers have now the technique to speed up the reconstruction process while earning a living at the same time.
Eva writes, “The Gayatri Fund is financing the school in Ratankot. The children spent more than a year in school tents and we are happy that we were able to secure the nearby unstable riverbanks and the hill behind the school. Before monsoon started we managed to build six classrooms and, after the heavy rainfalls which will end in mid September, we will continue to build six more classrooms. The school will offer education from grade 1 to 10 to more than 100 students from Ratankot and nearby villages. The Gayatri Fund will also finance the reconstruction of the town spring in Sakhu, Manose’s ancestral home town, a very beautiful historic place with very old houses and an interesting street layout.”
Last November also Ilanit went to Nepal to work there as a volunteer. She writes, “After my visit in this amazingly beautiful country with so many problems and poverty, I decided to organise a Benefit Concert in Amsterdam. Manose, who was touring Europe (including the Netherlands) with Deva Premal and Miten was happy to take on the task. Local musicians were invited and the concert was held on 10th June in a beautiful church in the heart of Amsterdam. It turned out a marvelous evening. I am very happy that I could help a little in this way, but so much still needs to be done in Nepal.” (Manose had also organised benefit concerts in Miami, Florida, last winter – called ‘Prayer for Nepal’.)
Ilanit is also organising a six-day Yoga Retreat in Bhaktapur, Nepal, which will be facilitated by a well-known yoga teacher from LA, Keith Mitchell (1-6 November). All proceeds from the retreat will go to support the various projects. The participants will also be able to visit Ratankot village and meet the people there.
Alexis Burger and his daughter Laura are organising a twelve-day Nepal Discovery Tour from 8th till 19th November 2016. Alexis, a professional travel guide, will share his knowledge about Nepali culture and history while visiting various sites and, of course, a visit to Ratankot is included. Also the proceeds of this programme will go to the Gayatri Fund.
Ilanit writes, “I think that creating awareness about what is going on in Nepal and about how we can help people there to become self-supported is very important. After the quakes the country depends on the right help from other countries for rebuilding their houses and schools. Education is very important; there are still too many children who do not attend school at all or leave school when still young.”
Text by Punya thanks to Kurt Amert, Eva Homberg, Ilanit de Wilde and Viha Connection – photos thanks to Eva Homberg
Donations for ongoing projects can be made to the Gayatri Fund: gofundme.com/gayatri-fund
Gayatri Discovery Tour in Nepal – 8-19 November 2016 with Alexis Burger and Laura Burger Chakraborty
discoverytourinfo (at) gmail (dot) com – laburger (at) bluwin (dot) ch
Gayatri Yoga Retreat with Keith Mitchell and Ilanit de Wilde
1-6 November 2016
nepalcompassioninaction (at) gmail (dot) com