Photos and article by Maxby Chan
Since my first visit to Laprak Gupsi, this new village is slowly taking shape. Semi-permanent buildings were sprouting up in place of the makeshift tents. Some group has donated and built a paved pathway around the village. The residents have accepted their fate and felt happier trying to cope with the new environment. When we were there in June last year, there was an atmosphere of insecurity and gloom.
A new medical post donated by a self-help French group has been completed. Institutional groups like OXFAM has left the village. CARE Nepal has taken over the project management of institutional pledged funds and is working with the villagers on permanent infrastructure projects like roads, drainage, water supply, electricity, sanitation, and permanent housing.
The Journey to Laprak
We decided to make a trip to Laprak from 17-27th March 2016. This group of eight participants is our largest group to Laprak so far.
The participants were:
1. Noni Abdullah
2. Nora Yusuf
3. Scott Bergstein
4. Jessica Coup
5. Evelyn Ang
6. Josephine Ong
7. Vincent Pee
8. Maxby Chan
The objectives of this trip were to create awareness and encourage more self-help groups to participate in the recovery process of Laprak.
Many Malaysian donors have supported us by donating multi-vitamins in both liquid and tablet form. There were also donations of toys, toothbrushes, soaps, T-shirts and cash donations to buy the stationery and hygiene kits in Kathmandu. We arrived late on the 17th evening and by the time we checked-in it was almost bed time. The next day was spent shopping for stationery sets, hygiene kits and a boombox.
We charted two 4×4 vehicles to bring us to Laprak. At 6:30am on the 19th, we loaded our bags and goodies on top of the jeep. There were twelve of us excluding the drivers. We spent about six hours on a paved road from Kathmandu to Phinamtar. From there it was dirt tracks all the way to Baluwa. There is a direct bus from Kathmandu to Baluwa, our last two participants took this route.
From Baluwa, the dirt tracks turn into mountain tracks. To say that it was bumpy was an understatement. We intended to reach Laprak before sundown. One of our jeeps developed a clutch problem at Barpak. We were forced to spend a night in Barpak before continuing our journey the next morning.
On 20th morning, we hired a tractor to bring the goods to Laprak while five of us trekked from Barpak to Laprak, a three-hour walk in the park.
On reaching Laprak, we were completely taken by surprise the rousing reception the Laprak villagers gave us. It has moved many of us.
What have we done so far?
In May last year, we have donated emergency supplies ranging from medical supplies, food, generator, toys and CGI sheets to the villagers.
Since then we have sent three delegations to Laprak to assess the situation and donated 100 units of LED lights, hygiene kits, stationery sets, toys and other emergency needs.
We have also donated for the construction of the Laprak Volunteer Guest House. This guesthouse was completed with four bedrooms accommodating eight people, a dining room, a kitchen, a toilet and a bathroom. This is to facilitate volunteer groups, giving them a decent accommodation experience when they are visiting Laprak. The rooms are free to use but they have to contribute a small fee for maintenance and housekeeping. There is a cook manning this guesthouse and the dining needs of the guests are taken care of from breakfast, tea, lunch and dinner for a fee.
Where do we go from here?
On the recovery aspect, the physical construction of the village has been catered for by the Govt, Institutional groups and big donors. However, not many of them are concentrating on improving the income of the people and getting them out of the poverty cycle.
This is the area what we are going to concentrate on and the process has just started.
What are the projects that we will be doing?
1. A Community School
This community school was started by four young men from Laprak who have received their college education in Kathmandu about four years ago.. They have gone back to the village to start a community school that was using English as a medium of instruction. This school caters for young children from the ages of 5 to 14 years up to grade 4 when the children will join the Government schools.
The Nepal education system accepted this arrangement. However, no aid is forthcoming from the Government. The Community school was still housed in tents since my last visit in June last year.
Our participants have a consensus of adopting and helping this community school by rebuilding a new semi-permanent school and assisting them with other education programs.
We have asked for the design and quotation of building a semi-permanent Community School. We have also advised them to include a room for a library and an activity room. There will be seven rooms , a staff room, a store, a toilet and a bathroom. We are now waiting for the design and quotation before we can act further.
2. Community and Cultural Tourism in Laprak
One of our Adopt-a-Village participants, Chin Wei Ting, has helped the Laprak residents organised a Community and Cultural Tour of Laprak from 13-22nd May 2016. The program includes a visit to the traditional honey hunting and their local festival, Buddha Purnima.
Another of our participants, Evelyn Ang, will propose to her Marathon group to organise a Run-for-Laprak event in October this year.
4. Handicrafts from Laprak.
This is a tricky project because I have only met a metal smith and a weaver. Traditionally, I believe most Laprak people do not do handicrafts for a living.
Overall, I am satisfied with the progress towards our objective of helping the Laprak Villagers recover from the devastating earthquake. There is no silver bullet solution but by engaging the villagers more frequently, more and more ideas will come forth.
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