Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Volunteer’s Take on Our Projects

Goto Mah on one of the streets of Bhaktapur. Note the boards holding the buildings up.

A Volunteer’s Take on our Projects
Guest Writer Goto Mah

It all started as a call through C$. I was in Pokhara taking a break from volunteering and using some time for myself to sort out my own life while making friends. I was enjoying a sense of community that's hard to achieve when you live on the move.

So that said, I was starting to feel like I should move my ass again and help Nepal with the relief effort after the earthquake.

That same day I got a call from a friend who told me we were going to do a cleaning/demo action in Kathmandu, so I took an overnight bus that day and I was ready at the Fireflies to finish the banners in Kathmandu.

Got the guy's faces painted and off we went to the streets of Thamel to let'em hear us. Then we marched to the temple nearby carrying brooms and shovels. Once we arrived we cleaned what were layers of plastic that had been dropped there for years. Nepal has little infrastructure so plastic is a major problem in Nepal.

Then I was going to move on to Bhaktapur to help Shelters 4 Nepal, the Couch Surfing call, but started feeling a bit sick due to travelling conditions and tiredness. I checked into the Star View guest house and I woke up next morning ready to join the group building shelters. Next morning I was feeling better, but I woke up to a banda (strike) so the mission was postponed 2 days. It was nice to have a private room for a night or two with a private bath and a bit of rest, at least until the next volunteer came.  

Although these protests can disrupt things, I am happy to say democracy is alive and well in Nepal.
When I finally arrived to the workshop where the rest of the people were I found that we were going to work with metal structures, something completely new to me. That day we cut many metal bars into bits that would be the building blocks for structures that we'll assemble and cover with corrugated tin. So there we were, making bundles for the different parts of the shelters. Sparks everywhere.

We ended up with enough for almost 5 shelters. But we were lacking materials so called it a day. Went to have some coffee and meet the local link for Jagadati, the neighborhood in Bhaktapur where the shelters were being built.
Many buildings in Bhaktapur are held up with wood like this.

The guys left for the hospital to check on a friend, a tangka artist, and I came to Changu to meet Ama. On the way from the bus stop this young girl that came in the same bus was waiting for me on the path and told me that we were going to the same place. And there we arrived, to the Star View Guest House.
Ama was sitting in her living room crouched in front of a laptop and welcomed me with a broad smile. I told her my story and that I was broke due to all my previous volunteering help and the lack of donations and she offered me to stay free of charge in exchange for some help with her own projects.
Ama has this amazing concept on how to rebuild what once was an amazing village with the oldest Hindu temple in the Kathmandu valley. She also writes a blog and wrote a book about Nepal with tips on how to find your way around.

She showed me around the house and explained how to work my way around it. I got a small room with a bunk bed and there I was, set to volunteer around Changu Narayan.

The house is full of kids, about 5 of them that sleep in the room in front of me, plus two more mature guys that sleep on the ground floor and have their own garden space. This is due to the earthquakes because many people have lost their homes here. 

By night we had a party as it was Ama’s 62nd birthday. We sang and ate cake and drank local spirits. The neighbors were there, and also all the kids and teenagers, even the street dogs came to celebrate.
And right now I'm sitting next to her and some other lovely local girl helping towards Amanda's goals of making Changu a beautiful, authentic, ancient village, even better than before.

We're sorting out the problems with her book, creating a website for the new NGO that's going to take off soon, discussing the matters about project planning. I'm even going to show the guys downstairs interested in computing how to reinstall their operating system and have a dual boot so they could get a taste and feel on Linux/GNU.

Keep tuned for more info to come on improving Changu and its surroundings or you have the time and energy you can just come by and help out.

Life is everywhere

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