Help Rebuild a School in Nepal

Help Rebuild a School in Nepal

During the week of the 1st December, we (Orla Muldoon and Judi Pettigrew) along with colleagues and students from Kathmandu University travelled to  towns and villages in Sindhupalchowk which were directly affected by the earthquakes in April and May of this year.  Our immediate interest was in speaking to people in these communities that were directly affected.  We are academics interested in how individuals and communities harness social and psychological resources in response to adversity.  In this regard, our work was easy.  The people we met were willing and indeed often keen to share their experiences of the quake.  It was hard not to be struck by the magnitude of the losses of people in these communities. Their stories were filled with sadness and loss. 

 

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One of our first stops was at the Sangachok Community School, or at least the site of what used to be this school.   The school was completed in 2004 subsequent to donations from German philanthropists.  Nothing of the building remains.  Seven children that attended the school perished during the second earthquake and many more have been bereaved losing parents and grandparents.  Others have been injured. The school was closed for a month subsequent to the quake reopening after about 5 months.  The teachers report that the children were changed on their return: less joyful and playful and sometimes confused and angry.  The school is now a series of 8 temporary classrooms made from corrugated iron.  A windowless structure offering no protection from the elements.  Teachers (and parents work on) supporting children as best they can.  The school now teaches children first aid,  they have provided children opportunities to express their concerns about their loss and their future through artwork, discussions and song.  They teach children the appropriate response in the event of an earthquake both how to search for others and how to protect themselves.  So the school is very important on this practical level.  However it is also an important resource for parents and women in particular who are trying to rebuild their lives.  The women we spoke to are struggling financially.  Working the fields is essential if they are to feed their families and doing this is not possible if they are also caring for their young children.  So school, as well as educating children, improving literacy and numeracy allows women to support their families by providing much needed care for children whilst family income and food is generated.  Despite all these challenges, the school was a positive place.  Business was continuing as normal despite the devastation still evident as a consequence of the quake.  And the children were as they are elsewhere, looking to the bright-side of life.

 

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In this town and in the district headquarters Chautara which we also visited, there is very limited evidence that any significant rebuilding has occurred since either the first or second quake.  Many we spoke to felt let down by the government as the promised relief materials and money has not arrived. Some well-resourced people are managing to bring in materials despite the blockade and are reconstructing. The buildings that we saw being repaired, however, were all commercial properties or apartment blocks. Many families are living in temporary accommodation such as tents and shacks.  Tents occupy small corners of land off streets and some are perched precariously on rooftops. There are large gaps in the streets we walked down that houses used to occupy.  Piles of rubble at the side of busy thoroughfares are common.  The hospital in Chautara is housed in tents supplied by the UN.  The sick and injured are spending these cold winter nights under canvas. The uninhabitable hospital building is being used to store motorbikes (off the road because of the lack of petrol) cooking implements and equipment. Outside the ‘emergency department’ tent we met a man whose house had been destroyed by the second quake and who like so many others now lives in a temporary shelter.. “The beds are very cold inside the tents but it is even more difficult for us waiting outside”, he remarked as he waited for his young son who had been admitted for an operation on an infected finger.

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It was hard not to be saddened untouched by what we saw.  We left decided that we would raise funds to rebuild the Sangachok Community School. We are hopeful that we can do this using earth-bags – a way of using in situ rubble and soil to build earthquake proof buildings.  if you think you might be in a position to make a donation to the school rebuilding fund you ca do so at to the following account:

IBAN: IEI8 BOFI 905950 51022322     BIC BOFIIE2D