2015 in Review:
The year began well for Roshika Helping Hands (RHH). In the first few months we were able to supply more than 10,000 exercise books, several thousand pencils and some athletic equipment to the 8 schools we support. Funds were raised for this through jewelry sales, individual donations and the students of Garibaldi Heights Elementary School in British Columbia, Canada, who raised more than $500CDN through their efforts.
The Earthquake and its aftermath
The earthquake of April 25 changed our plans dramatically. The Khalte region was fairly close to the epicenter and almost all homes and schools in the area were severely damaged by the quake and subsequent aftershocks. More than 1000 homes (almost all) can no longer be lived in. Although the houses did not completely collapse, they cracked extensively and were thus deemed unlivable by the Nepali engineers who inspected them.
To date, homes have not been repaired or rebuild and people are living in small shelters or temporary homes, with whole families ‘bunking in together. Most of these people are farmers and have little to no savings, so rebuilding on their own has not been possible. Money donated by major NGO’s and countries has not yet been distributed such that homes can be rebuilt.
Almost all of the schools were destroyed. And unfortunately many of the supplies we had donated prior to the earthquake were destroyed as well.
In Kathmandu the situation was very grim for those affected by the earthquake. Many were forced to live in tent cities for quite some time. The “jewelry ladies” were among those impacted. Their situation was pretty miserable, and although they continued to make the jewelry that we buy, there has not been much of a market in Nepal.
To compound the earthquake misery, there has been a fuel blockade imposed by India for the last several months. This means that people and goods are not able to move around much and prices have skyrocketed. So there are food shortages everywhere and aid supplies cannot get to where they are supposed to go.
The result of this is that there are very few travelers heading to Nepal. The fall trekking season, normally the busiest of the year, was severely impacted and has resulted in many trekking companies hotels, restaurants, and stores closing their doors. Hopefully only temporarily, but that remains to be seen.
What we were able to accomplish
After the earthquake, we were able to help fairly quickly through the generous donations of individuals from around the world. Within about two weeks of the earthquake, were able to getting supplies to about 100 families that most urgently needed our help. Overall, within about one month we helped more than 700 families. We provide blankets, basic food supplies and sleeping mats.
RHH was able to help rebuild some of the schools, but only with corrugated iron roofs and minimal walls. These are of course very poorly insulated and are unusable during heavy rain due to the noise and very cold during the winter months.
We were also able to provide housing for a few months for the “jewelry ladies”.
In December, in time for the cold of winter, we were finally able to distribute the jackets, footwear and blankets generously donated by Canadian friends. We had great difficulty getting the goods from Kathmandu to Khalte due to the fuel shortage.
And, because the schools are running and the children need the books, we delivered nearly 7000 exercise books and more than 2000 pencils to all 8 schools in Khalte that we currently support before the end of the year.
2016 – The year ahead.
There are three areas that we will be concentrating on in 2016: the schools, the jewelry ladies and building a new shelter for old people in Khalte. It would be lovely to help people rebuild their homes, but realistically we do not have the capital to do that and we hope and believe that the Nepal government will be soon stepping in to do something about all the ‘broken homes’.
We are still supporting the same 8 schools and have several more on a waiting list. While we would really like to expand our program, we think that for this year we will only be able to support the same schools. All the schools still need to be rebuilt into solid structures that properly house the students, teachers and supplies/equipment. We are not sure where that fits into the Nepal government’s rebuilding priority list, but it is to be hoped that it will occur this year.
Through the recent generous donations of Australian friends some of the schools will now have new desks, benches and other much needed equipment and furniture, and many of the students will be supplied with much-needed uniforms.
Meanwhile, we will supply the books and pencils etc. such that the grades 1 to 3 have enough for the entire year (they tend to run through them very quickly – which is a good thing ). We have already been able to supply for January through to the end of June.
Raj will continue to visit the schools several times throughout 2016 and talk to the teachers, parents and students to ensure that what we are doing is effective.
In the short term, we will continue to support the housing needs of the jewelry ladies. However, we will keep a close eye on what the Nepal government is doing, as they have recently indicated they will start to release money to rebuild homes for the one million + who lost theirs as a result of the earthquake.
“Old Folks” cottage in Khalte
We hope to build a small shelter in Khalte that would be a gathering place for the old people of the village. They have nowhere to meet right now and have ‘a cup of tea’, and they have indicated that this would be something very special and important for them to have. Plans are underway to get this started soon.
How much we can help this year will of course depend on our fundraising abilities. We are looking at expanding the jewelry sales program, online fund raising programs and engaging more schools to help. To that end, we are very proud and excited that Cougar Creek Elementary school in Delta, British Columbia is supporting us this year.
What you can do:
For more information and pictures: