Photos and Story by Noni Abdullah
“We Will Rise Again..”
The writing on the beanie of this tiny boy with huge innocent eyes, was a poignant reminder of what the villagers went through 12 months ago to this day.
On April 25th, 2015, Nepal was hit by one of its worst natural disasters in history. Named the Gorkha earthquake, it killed over 8000 of its inhabitants and injured 3 times as many.
The earthquake triggered avalanches across the country, including fatalities on Mount Everest, and flattened villages across its wake. Thousands of people were made homeless, many of their villages, which ordinarily would be challenging to reach, totally inaccessible.
I had the wonderful opportunity to visit first-hand last month, the Village of New Laprak-Gupshi, with a great team of Malaysians headed by Maxby Chan.
The trip was a 12-hour jarring ride from Kathmandu through dusty and stony tracks, which I would rather forget.
New Laprak Gupshi rose from the ashes of old Laprak, situated about 600m down. The Old Laprak Village, once picturesque, near the epicenter of the Gorkha earthquake was totally obliterated and the 6000 villagers had to quickly resettle themselves. Divided into 4 different camps, the largest, Gupshi is located at 2,700m, making it colder, harder to reach, but they chose it because they found the terrain to be more stable.
As time passed, many of the older folks, not being able to take the severe biting cold of the winter, harshness of the wind and monsoon rains, no electricity and restricted water supply, decided to go back and rebuild their homes in Old Laprak, not withstanding the fact that it was deemed unsafe. There is still some electricity and water is in supply which overrides safety issues.
Schools however have been rebuilt in Gupshi and school children trek all the way up for their daily academic work, as the cows make their way along the same path for their daily grazings in the arid fields.
There does not seem to be a village head, and notably, buildings seem ad-hoc and reminds me of squatter housings. At the back of my mind, I fiddle with the idea of more environmental friendly homes, like those of the Swiss’ or even China’s countryside, where buildings blend charmingly into the background. However, if I understand right, the Government had been slow in approving the lands that they choose to settle in, and therefore help has been intermittent and not very much thought through. But who am I to say. An outsider, a piecemeal contributor. More help cannot come soon enough. Bigger organisations are required to get things moving faster. Its been a year and it’s a slow process. I salute the team that I came with for their unceasing desire to continue to provide aid, in whatever ways possible, and to generate further awareness in order that the Laprakis could help themselves. One such initiative from a previous volunteer at the village, who was so touched by the villages can be found athttps://www.madeinadventure.com/trips/community-culture-in-laprak-nepal-may-2016
But the Laprakis do not sit and wait, some, who have more contacts with the outside world have gathered their resources and hope to build back what was their family homes, to bring about improvement through education, for the youth and the next generation. Notably is the Everest Summiteers Iman Gurung Memorial Trust, headed by Suman Gurung, Dhan Gurung and Laxman Gurung, (pic below) whom I had the honour of meeting. Armed with resolve and determination, they continue to help rebuild Laprak.
RESILIENCE. I see it in the eyes of the Villagers. I couldn’t find a befitting picture that stares me in my mind so there is none slotted here. Smiling at the temporary distractions that visitors provide, they then go back to their lives in the make shift homes, and to what I can only gather is darkness as dusk sets and the cold creeps in. Until a new dawn breaks and hope comes alive again.
Find out how you can help. A newly identified project for a “private” school where they will be taught to be armed with the necessities, including languages, to be integrated into the outside world. Contact :
Maxby Chan : [email protected]
Suman Gurung : [email protected]