In March 2018, I spent 12 days in Nepal at the invitation of Risk Management Solutions to volunteer with Build Change, an NGO that is helping with the re-building efforts following the 2015 Earthquake. Approximately 1 million homes were damaged during this event and organizations like Build Change are playing a vital role in the reconstruction by designing earthquake resistant construction techniques and training local builders. There are three walks that took place during my visit that I would like to share with you.
The first walk was unplanned and came about during a visit to the remote village of Dhunkarka, which sits on a steep hillside at 2,050 meters. The purpose of our visit was to inspect a home that had been retrofitted by Build Change. Due to poor road conditions our 4 wheel drive vehicle could only make it halfway to the village so we got out and walked the rest of the way. This walk was both grueling and informative. Grueling because of the steepness of the climb, which caused my leg muscles to burn and my lungs to gasp for much of the way. Informative because I learned about the daunting logistical challenges facing homeowners, builders and organizations like Build Change because many of the damaged homes are in remote areas on steep slopes. I learned that the 6-person crew who worked on the reconstruction of one home walked 1 ½ hours to the village each morning on this steep road and returned to the main village far below each evening for the duration of the construction.
Once there, the gracious Nepalese couple in the photo above invited us to inspect their home, which had been retrofitted by build change and is now safe for habitation. You can see the new support beams connected to the original frame in the other photo below.
The second walk was a trek, which I undertook after my volunteer work with Build Change concluded. I hired a guide and a porter for a 3-day trek around the Kathmandu valley rim. My guide was Sujan, an articulate and thoughtful 23-year old Nepalese man pictured with me below.
While we walked, we talked, and I learned that Nepalese often live with their parents for much of their lives because of their desire to provide help and support to their parents as they grow old. I learned how multiple religions co-exist in Nepal. According to Sujan, “there is a great harmony among religions in Nepal. Most Nepalese are Hindu, and they often visit Buddhist Stupas while Buddhists in Nepal frequently visit Hindu temples. All religions are respected.”
Most importantly, I witnessed Sujan’s kindness and respectful attitude toward me, other travelers, shop keepers, villagers and basically everyone we met during our trek. Thanks to Sujan, I came away from this trek better informed on several levels, than when I began. When he is not guiding clients, Sujan is an amateur photographer and student. The photo at the top of the blog was taken by him. If you wish to see Sujan’s photography, check out his Instagram site here.
The third walk I want to share is a poem I discovered in The Kathmandu Post, a local newspaper, on my last day in Nepal. The poem is entitled, I Walk and was written by Supriya Khadka, a +2 college student and president of St. Xavier’s literary club. I present it here, having been fortunate to obtain her permission to do so, because it evokes the determination, resiliency and strength of spirit of the Nepalese people.
The poem is also a powerful and timely message during these troubling times, because it is the voice of our youth; our thoughtful, articulate, powerful youth, who are seizing the day.
by Supriya Khadka
My naïve steps—slow and steady,
Help me move forward
I can feel a pull from behind,
But, I do not stop
Pushing everything aside, I walk
My goal is so far ahead,
It all seems so muzzy,
It’s very blur, blur enough
For people to think there is nothing,
But I know,
it only gets clearer as I march ahead;
So I ignore what they say,
And pushing everything aside, I walk
People sneer, they discourage
When I trip, they don’t help
But I climb,
Climb the steep, tall hills
Every woman for herself
I am enough, I am strong
Pushing everything aside, I walk
My legs wish to halt, they wish to cease
My eyes want a glance, of what’s behind
But, my heart is stubborn and brain is stern,
Checking all the desires,
Pushing everything aside, I walk.
View the original version of this poem, published in the online Kathmandu Post here.
View Pete’s Instagram site with other photos from the Nepal Impact Trek here.