29 December 2015
Hello from Namche Bazaar in the Everest region! Now that we have wifi it is time for a trip summary.
Most importantly, it was great to get to our villages in Khotang and see that everyone is safe after the earthquakes in the spring. There were no deaths in our work area, but much damage. The schools were all damaged to the extent that they are not reparable and unsafe to hold classes. The dZi foundation has helped set up temporary learning centers that will suffice until new schools are built. As you know D2N is fully funding the building of nine schools in the villages of Sungdel, Rakha, and Dipsung , with the dZi foundation as our implementing partner. Many homes were damaged, but everyone appears to have safe housing that I can see. New construction is visible throughout. It is evident that the acute crisis is over and now it will be a long rebuilding process. The Nepalese are proud and resilient!
After an uneventful, though long, trip from NYC-Dubai-Kathmandu with daughter Rachel, we met up with friends and D2N supporters Diana and Ben and Raju, our d2n Nepal country director.
We then flew to Kanidada (despite the fuel shortage secondary to the blockade at the Indian border) and walked two hours to the district capitol, Diktel. We met with district health office as well as representative from the Nick Simmons Institute. These were very productive talks, discussing our birthing center project in Dipsung. I am very optimistic this birthing center will be in place in 2016.
The next morning we had a meeting at the district development office. We wanted to determine if we can do additional toilet projects in the future. Apparently the government of Nepal has declared the district of Khotang "open defecation free". This fulfills a government mandate to have Nepal open defecation free. At this time D2N will not be able to plan future toilet projects.
We also visited the district hospital and had a meeting there.We then walked the afternoon and set up camp at Banjo Bare for the night.The next day was spent walking to Baksila. It was a gorgeous day; we set up camp in a field, retiring to bed at 7:30 after a hard day’s walk!
The next morning we walked down an hour or so to Jalapa Lower Secondary School. We saw our 14 current scholarship girls and met 12 beautiful new scholarship girls. We had a meeting with school committee and then had quite a ceremony with speeches, dance and music performances. In light of our prior meeting with district development office we did not meet regarding a new toilet project planned for Baksila.
We then walked three hours to the village of Sungdel to visit the Shree Chandra Primary School and temporary learning center. This is one of the schools we are having rebuilt this year. Damage was significant.
Great to see all the children in school. It was a 20-minute walk to camping where we set up our tents in the dark. We met with the school management and construction committees the next morning. We walked 2 1/2 hours to set up camp in Dindu.
The following morning we went to the Dindu Health Post (which D2N built). It seems in great shape. We met with Amit Mishra who is the health care worker, Jamuna the midwife and four female community health volunteers. They are seeing 70-80 patient visits a month and delivering 5-6 babies month. Vaccinations are given twice monthly and they stock 32 medicines. The most frequent condition they are seeing is the psychological impact of the earthquake.
We were excited to learn that Jamuna, the midwife is interested in taking the skilled birthing attendant training and staying on in our upcoming birthing center.
D2n will probably need to build two more rooms to accommodate families of the delivering mom at the birthing center/ health post. All in all, it was a great meeting; I am very satisfied with all the progress and our upcoming plans. The community is really behind these efforts.
We went to the Rennuka School and see our new library! It's great with 1,700 books and a separate reading room.
We then had meetings, ceremony, performances, and even participated in a volleyball tournament! After all the festivities we walked one hour to Jeevan’s house to set up camp. Jeevan is the head of Nava Jyoti NGO and has been the real workhorse. The next morning we walk to the Juba Jyoti School and meet with the school management and construction committees. This is another school we rebuild this year. After productive meetings we met with our current scholarship girls. We then walked to the Nava Jyoti NGO office for lunch and meetings. Our new scholarship students came to get their pictures taken and meet us. They walked six hours round trip to get their picture taken!! It was a very productive meeting. The birthing center is their number one priority with another school to rebuild in Bakachol next. This would be a 10th school and would not be done in collaboration with dZi. We discussed some smaller projects as well. In summary, we will look to complete the birthing center first, then probably the 10th school.
Another huge priority is to have Nava Jyoti NGO strengthen it's infrastructure. Jeevan has done the lion’s share of all the work; I would like to employ Jeevan as D2N's director at the village level. This will require other members of Nava Jyoti to step up.
The next morning we walked 2 1/2 hours up to the sacred lake at Bane, the site of two ancient chortens (Buddhist monument) and four other chortens built by D2N in memory of Miles Levin, Eileen Finkel, Namgyal Sherpa and now Jeffrey Surnow- all individuals crucial to the history of D2N. We had a three-hour puja (Buddhist ceremony) with a lama and three other monks. It was heartbreaking seeing Jeff's chorten. It was a sobering two-hour walk to Rakha.
We set up our tents at the CPS NGO office. A volley ball tournament just finished. First prize was four live chickens!
We have a grand dinner with cps, followed by a traditional rai performance with music singing and dancing. We all joined in! There was also a wonderful bonfire! The next morning we met with CPS NGO. We had a good meeting, discussing the nine schools to be rebuilt.
We then walked 30 minutes to Janahit Primary School to tour the damage and temporary learning center, meeting the beautiful children. We met with school management and construction committees- this is another school we rebuild this year.
We walked 1 1/2 hours to Rakha to tour our newly completed toilet project and to visit the Rakha Health Post (Alex Graham Medical Clinic) which should be completed by the monsoon. It looks great. We were very encouraged! After another productive day we headed off to a nearby field and set up tents.
The next morning it was a four-hour walk down to the river and then up to the Bakachol School(this is the proposed 10th school to rebuild). The school suffered from the worst damage we saw. Unbeknownst to us, all the school was waiting for us and all of the 224 students had flower garland to place on us! More speeches and performances! This is a huge school, classes 1-10. I really hope we can raise the additional funds to rebuild it. We also view their school library-we supplied 745 books for beginning and early readers. We set up tents just below school and call it a day.
The next day it was about a 3-hours walk up to Aishulekarkha. We visit the school library where we also supplied over 700 books for early and beginning readers.
That eneds the work part of our trip to Khotang. Raju walked to a roadhead to head back to Kathmandu. Diana, Ben, Rachel and I walked five days to Lukla at the foot of Everest region.
I feel great how things are going in Khotang and relieved everyone is safe. I thank all of you for your support.
It's off to Singapore January 4th to meet with the Red Cross!