Story and photos by : Beatriz V Lalana
My recent trip to Nepal last April was in conjunction with the Adopt a Village Project headed by my friend Mr. Maxby Chan of Malaysia.
Laprak is located at what was the epicenter of the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake of April 25, 2015 where eighty percent of the structures in the village were destroyed. What little they had was lost. Accessibility remains a major problem with only rough, dirt roads which limit the kind of vehicles that can make the trip. During the wet season, it is very dangerous and sometimes impassable, occasional landslides continue due to the sandy soil.
In the wake of the destruction, Adopt a Village and several foreign groups came to its immediate aid, but despite the efforts, today two years later the residents still live in refugee-camp style structures. Adopt a Village contributed very significantly to the hydro-electric power plant, and electricity was installed just days before our arrival. Like in most developing countries, corruption poses a lot of obstacles in its rehabilitation and foreign groups have opted to help the people directly.
The lack of good water sources is a major problem. In the lower village, there was only one faucet to service the neighborhood. Without sufficient water supply, hygiene and the corresponding health issues will continue. Even if the children look sufficiently nourished and are adorably cute, a view up close will reveal that their tender cheeks are parched and burnt, and thick mucus dripping from their little noses indicate chronic conditions. Baths are restricted to once a week, the kids are grubby and wear tattered clothes and let’s not even talk about toilets, which are communal and when I say communal I mean for the whole community! The cold, harsh weather is another thing to contend with. in these light makeshift shelters.
As in most third-world countries, the women are the backbone of the local communities.
The women of Laprak are strong because they have to do a lot of physical work while the men try to find jobs in the cities or other countries. They carry baskets by a strap on their heads, carrying their loads up and down the hills through rough dirt roads. Most of the women continue to do this hard physical work well into their senior years.
Girls in their early teens are already hard at work breaking stones for the on-going constructions in the new resettlement site; others do the laundry and other household chores. They sometimes care for their siblings by carrying them in their baskets.
Women tend the goats, plant and weed their potato fields, forage the mountains for food for their animals, gather wood and take care of the children. There is only one school, where a few valiant teachers try their best to provide a basic education. There is also only one dedicated nurse servicing hundreds of people.
Our group also brought toys, stationery supplies, and hygienic supplies to distribute to the children. The different responses were interesting as some little ones, never having had them before were afraid of the stuffed toys, one little boy cried and pouted until he got the ball he wanted, others were shy, and some had no expression at all, their childhood robbed by the circumstances.
But in spite of everything we saw, it was such a fulfilling trip, playing with the children and talking with the villagers. It is truly inspiring to see how they carry on with a smile despite everything.
Even if they exhibit such resiliency, much remains to be done and they still desperately need help in so many ways – education, books, clothes, medicines, most of the basic needs really.
Many small gestures become one big helping hand. If anyone would like to donate or volunteer, please get in touch through Adopt a Village Facebook site (look for Laprak because I believe there are others FB sites with this name) or get in touch with Mr. Maxby Chan at PhotoSafari.com.my.