Admittedly this is my first time to implement a self-help Aid Program of this scale. I have in the past contributed to Institutional Aid Programs but due to its effectiveness and sometimes controversies, I have decided to implement a self-help aid program with a community of friends and well-wishers. I have personally gone down to the ground to see first-hand on how aid is dispensed and how to implement it effectively.
Journey to Laprak Village, Nepal
Laprak village is one of the two villages that were at the epicentre of the 7.9 Richter scale earthquake that struck Nepal on 25th April 2015. The other was Barpak. Laprak village was destroyed, most of the houses collapsed forcing residents to seek higher and safer ground. The villagers have split into 4 to 5 locations, the largest settlement is about 3,000 residents at a relatively flat land at about 2,700m.
My journey started with a flight to Kathmandu from Kuala Lumpur on 19th June 2015 with Mr Paul Sack. In Kathmandu, we met other Nepali friends who shared the same goal as us in helping Laprak village. We arranged a 4×4 jeep to transport us to Laprak Village, a journey that would take 12 hours.
On the 21st morning, at 6 am our rented jeep picked us up from the hotel. We drove for about six hours on sealed roads. Upon reaching Phinamtar, the roads turned to dirt tracks. We had to cross a few shallow streams as there were no bridges. I believe when the river level rises, these streams are impassable. The track follows the Daraudi River till Rangrung. From there it takes the right turn to Mandrel and Laprak. The journey on this dirt track took another six hours. By the time, we reached Laprak it was about 6:30 pm.
It was drizzling when we reached Laprak and was immediately taken to our quarters, a 4-man tent where five of us would call home for the next 3 nights.
The villagers have moved out of Laprak and are now separated into 4 to 5 groups. The largest group of about 3,000 residents have located to 2,700m. This area is relatively flat (in mountain terrain terms).
Presently the whole village looks like a refugee settlement with temporary colourful tents springing up sporadically.
The main problem with this area is that there is not enough water supply for all their needs. Presently, the water source can only supply 8 lit. / person. With the monsoon and more efficient collection methods from this spring source, the supply will be increased to 18 lit / person. The ideal is to achieve 45 lit. / person in order to take care of all consumption and hygienic needs. The electrical supply has not reached this area and it will take some time before the Govt can install the electrical supply to this area.
Sanitation facilities is still an ongoing exercise. Presently there are only 50 toilets serving 3,000 residents.
The Govt has constructed a dirt track to this area to facilitate the transport of materials, food and medicine. They have just contributed 16 sheets of 8ft long cgi roofing sheets per registered household when we were there.
Institutional Aid vs Individual Self-help Aid
When we were in Laprak, we noticed there were only two Institutional Aid Organisation there, OXFAM and CARE Nepal. OXFAM was responsible for the water supply infrastructure and sanitation. So far, they have constructed 50 toilets and have laid a water pipe from a spring to the village.
CARE Nepal was stationed in Barpak and was responsible to distribute cgi sheets and food donated by the Nepali Govt.
Other Institutional Aid Organisations do not have any representatives there but drop in occasionally to distribute food, clothing, etc. Some of the time, the aid provided was mismatched as they do not have any idea on what is really required at the village.
As an Individual self-help Aid program, we have two representatives staying on site coordinating with the locals and understanding what they need. Our two representatives were Santi Viveencharras, a Spanish Mechanical Engineer and Karen, a New Zealander writer. They have been staying in Laprak for a while and will continue to stay there for some time.
Overall, we are no match to large organisations but, while we are lacking in strength, we make up with an on-time and efficient delivery of the most needed items. For example, we have managed to stock up the medical posts with the much-needed medicines and have delivered cgi sheets ahead of the Institutional Aid.
We are now cooperating with CARE Nepal to provide cgi sheets to families who are not or could not register with the Govt. for eg, single mum or elderly people staying alone.
I would not like to go into the politics of aid programs. You can read about it in other published articles. Yes, it exists.
Overall, there is a place for Individual self-help Aid groups to work together with Institutional Aids organisations. Recently the number of Individual self-help groups are increasing. We have also met a few self-help groups in Barpak who were interested to work with us. For any Individual self-help group to succeed, they must have a liaison person staying on site who is able to have the trust of the residents.
Projects that we are undertaking
We have the blessings of the residents to implement three projects.
1. A Guesthouse with facilities to accommodate about 8 guests in four rooms This is very necessary if we are to send volunteers to Laprak to help out in the recovery phase. Presently, all volunteers stay in tents with no sanitary and bathing facilities. We did not bathe the whole four days we were there. The toilets were about 50 metres away and were shared with the army personnel. The construction of the guesthouse has commenced and should be completed by next week when the hardware, sanitary fittings etc which we have purchased last week would arrive.
2. Nursery School. There are about 100 kids attending the Nursery School. Presently these nursery kids are housed in tents. Many aid organisations have committed to build the primary and secondary schools. We will start the construction of this Nursery school as soon as we have completed the guesthouse.
3. Community and Memorial building
Laprak has a long history of culture. They hold colourful annual festivals. The villagers have a long-term plan to promote this village to visitors once they have recovered from the earthquake. Laprak will be the starting point for those who want to trek to Manaslu base camp. There are also few short two or three-day treks around the Himalayan from this village.
This community building provides space for the elders to pass down traditional dances and rituals to the younger generation.
The community building will also house a photography collage and permanent exhibition of photos from photographers who have taken photos before, during and after the earthquake. This is for the remembrance of this tragic event so that the future generations will appreciate what their forefathers have gone through.
All the construction and hardware works are carried out by employing skilled local labour. Volunteers are required to provide the software part – like teaching English, art, craft, music and other soft skills to the Nursery kids aged 3 to 6 years old.
Volunteers are also required to teach commercial crafts to the womenfolk at the community hall so as to increase the income of the people.
Volunteers need to be there for a minimum stay of two weeks. They have to provide their own airfares to and from Kathmandu. All transport, accommodation and food in Nepal will be provided for by the self-help aid groups.
If you are interested to volunteer your services, please contact Maxby Chan.