WARM CLOTHES FOR 1,200 SCHOOLCHILDREN
When the earthquake destroyed the house, Rajesh not only lost his home. He became an orphan, even though both his parents are still alive. It seems unbelievable and yet it is cruel reality: After the quake his mother left her family for another man from another district. Traumatized, Rajesh was left behind with this father. But his father could not handle the fact, that his wife had left him, and he started to drink – a lot. It did not take long, and he disappeared as well. Rajesh had lost everything and looked into a bleak future. The only hope he had left was his aunt Mrs. Junkiri, who takes good care of him since spring and treats him as if he was her own son. She also had lost her home during the catastrophe, but she managed to build a simple hut and took Rajesh in.
As part of our winter aid in Nuwatok Back to Life came back for several days in December to the 10 almost destroyed places where we had previously held our Health Camps. The goal was to provide the distressed villagers with the most necessities for the upcoming winter. To every schoolchild of the villages we handed out jackets, sweaters, hats, socks and shoes and additionally sufficient blankets for each family. Our help came just in time: Now the needy could more effectively withstand the biting cold of the winter nights and the schoolchildren did not have to freeze anymore during class and on the way to school. We were able to reach an almost complete coverage of the population of the villages, since virtually all families send at least one child in one of the schools. Rajesh was provided with the urgently needed new things from us as well and from then on the nights were more bearable. His aunt was overjoyed: “We had nothing to cover us at night, I am so grateful for your help. Back to life came to us like a bright ray of light through the darkened sky…” Rajesh and Mrs. Junkiri both smiled at us with sparkling eyes. Hope had returned into their eyes.
Our winter aid was directly related to our health camps and our doctors recorded – due to the miserable living conditions – a lot of flues and fevers and pneumonia. Our treatment and medication could provide temporary relieve and it was also great to see that many of the school children had already recovered. But without the warm clothes for the children and the blankets for their families it all would just have been a drop on a hot stone. As our intentions were to avoid new cases as far as possible. Almost all the houses in the northern region of Kathmandu were destroyed during the earthquake or severely damaged. The people were now trying to survive in built makeshift huts and shelters in and around the ruins that at best offered some shelter from the rain, but none against the harsh wind and the endless and bitter cold nights. Protective walls were and still are to a large extent non-existent or incomplete, the temporary warmth of a fire was immediately lost after it went out – with freezing temperatures an ordeal for body and soul. Sleep was hardly imaginable, while the trembling family members crowded together to get slightly some warmth.
The family of Mangal Mijar had also to get along with a pitiful state support till today and tried to get along somehow. Like most families whose houses were destroyed or damaged by the earthquake, they received a one-time-payment of almost 200 Euros. Just enough to purchase a few thin corrugated iron plates, which are now used as a roof. Mangal lived in a much too small hut together with his wife, Sanimaya and their two daughters, Mina and Sirjana. The place was just not big enough at all. To not ultimately lose their livelihoods as well, the goats and food were housed and stored in the hut. Thus, the whole family practically slept outdoors – under the canopy of the hut. In absence of any blankets they needed to use some rags until we showed up.
When the original roof of the house collapsed on Mangal during the earthquake, he was also injured at his spine by a falling stone. He still suffers from these events. Nevertheless, the family managed somehow successfully to at least restore this simple accommodation. Mangal said with a bitterness in his voice: “We nearly lost everything during the earthquake. The children are freezing and weeping ever since at nights. It was terrible to have to wait for the warming sunrise. I’m so happy that we now have the blankets and that the children have warm clothes. We could have never afforded these.” „Like most children in the village this is the first time ever in her life that she is wearing shoes,“ Sanimaya told us about her daughter Sirjana who happily looked down at her new sneakers. “For me, this is a miracle. It broke my heart when my children couldn’t sleep because it was so cold. I thank you so much.”
An important goal for Back to Life will be to rebuild as many destroyed schools in Nuwakot as possible, so that lessons can be held regularly. Due to the bitter cold, many children were sick or not attending school and normal education was hardly possible anymore – if you could even speak of normal education as the lessons were held in the makeshifts and ruins of the destroyed schools. Many children of Nuwakot are now at risk to grow up with only poor education. Even when they have survived this difficult time unscathed, they will lose touch with their futures without sound education. We want to prevent that as much as possible.