Thumka Housing Project│Post Nepal Earthquake 2015

Report from Clinic Nepal, Inc.

Following the devastating earthquakes of 2015, Clinic Nepal led this project to rebuild the village of Thumka, Gorkha District. The construction of 31 houses and 1 community building was completed in 18 months. In May, 2 years after the earthquakes, the villagers gathered to celebrate with representatives from Clinic Nepal, the Nepalese Army, local dignitaries, and volunteers and friends from the international community. This is a reflection on how this project started and what it has meant for the Chepang people of Thumka. Thumka Awas Nirman Aayojana, Bhumlichowk-8, Thumka.

Shortly after the 2015 earthquakes, Clinic Nepal sought to help a community that was particularly devastated by the disaster. With the help of the Nepalese Army in identifying Thumka Village, Gorkha District, Clinic Nepal took on the project of constructing 31 homes and 1 community building for the 280 residents. Most of the existing dwellings of the Chepang tribe were destroyed by the earthquake. The villagers collected local building supplies, and many materials from the rubble were repurposed into the new structures. In this hard-hit region, and all over Nepal, earthquake recovery faced some logistical setbacks. Shortage of materials and transportation difficulties due to political strife with India slowed the construction. High fuel costs added to the expense of transporting the goods. The project came in over budget due to this and the work took a little longer to finish. However, construction was completed in 18 months at an actual cost of $78,000 USD. The success was a result of teamwork and strong leadership. Clinic Nepal supplied the needed remaining materials and transportation of supplies, though it was no easy task to reach the work site! For supplies to reach the village they had to be carried mostly by hand up the steep hill after crossing the Trishuli River. Metal pipes, cement, corrugated tin roofing sheets, tools and more, had to be hauled up manually. The building of the earthquake resistant structures was done primarily by villagers under the leadership of the project manager and with help from local and international volunteers. The initial blueprints were modified at the request of the villagers to better meet their needs. The desired changes included the building of outdoor kitchens and enclosed latrines outside the homes, which reflected flexibility and cultural sensitivity.

On the evening of May 4th, the residents of Thumka hosted roughly 20 guests in their new homes. Commanding Officer of the Gorkha district, Lt. Col Parbat Raj Giri and his team from the Nepalese Army joined in an evening of food, music and celebration. Many Clinic Nepal staff, friends and family from Kathmandu and Meghauli were also present. The whole team enjoyed the hospitality of the locals, which was a very memorable and pleasant experience. The presence of international guests, Dr. Signe Berg Sondergaard and her mother Margaret, from Denmark, and Jill Downing from the United States of America added more delectation. Dr. Sondergaard had visited Thumka previously with the mobile clinic to provide healthcare for the villagers, and made the trek back to Gorkha for this special event. She commented on the honor she felt to be a part of this experience. As a volunteer doctor, it is her goal to provide care where it is needed most, but it was the villagers’ gratitude that was most overwhelming to her. It was very clear to Dr. Sondergaard the pride and joy the villagers have taken in this project. The guests arrival in Thumka had been an adventurous one to say the least. After traffic delays and a rain deluge, the Trishuli River was crossed by hand pulled cable car and the travelers set out on the steep 2-hour climb to the village. Through rain, hail, lightning and thunder they trekked up the muddy ridge in the dark- nothing would stop the celebration of this project! Upon arrival, they were greeted warmly by the villagers and treated to a local meal of native roots and vegetables that the tribe harvested from the forest, such as wild nettles and yams. Many households set up beds and went out of their way to ensure the comfort of their guests. Taking part in the party was a special treat for Jill Downing, who noted that the local village experience is priceless, and hosting travelers like this in the future is just one idea for the sustainable economic progress of Thumka that has been discussed.

On the next morning, the 5th of May, a special plaque, bearing the date and recognizing all those involved, was hung on one of the new village homes. The speakers praised the work and enthusiasm of the villagers, and also thanked them for the unity their effort produced. On behalf of the chief guest, Major General Ramindra Chhetri (PhD), Lt. Col Giri inaugurated the plaque. He gave thanks to Clinic Nepal for the coordination and appreciable effort. He further candidly responded to the queries raised by the locals the prior evening, especially regarding the matter of joining the Nepalese Army. He advised them to apply and face the competition; also he informed them about the reserved seats for minorities. Hari Bhandary, Founder and Chairman of Clinic Nepal, spoke next about the project. He started at the very beginning, on the day of the first earthquake. He recalled how terrifying the experience was for his own family, and yet he knew he had to help others right away. In immediate response to the earthquake, Clinic Nepal distributed tarpaulins, medical supplies, food and materials for shelter (corrugated sheets) in the earthquake affected communities. Later, additional relief materials were supplied to local communities in remote areas unreachable by the Clinic Nepal team. This was done in cooperation with the Nepalese Army, the Nepalese Army Wives Association, and the Armed Police Family Women’s Association. But this was only the beginning of the work since Clinic Nepal did not stop here. Hari sought the advice of the Nepalese Army as to who he could help best with the limited resources that he had. Once Thumka Village was identified as a match, Hari, Clinic Manager Singh Kuwar, their engineer Dhurba Raj Adhikari, and project manager Manaballev Wagle made their first visit to the village. They arrived in the evening after hiking in the rainy darkness. Hari remembered the dire living conditions they observed; the villagers slept outside and had nothing, yet they offered their visitors food and shelter for the night. Due to fear and shyness towards the outside world, it took time to coax the villagers into discussing the project with Clinic Nepal’s team. During his speech at the morning ceremony in their village, Hari asked them to look at how far they had come. Everything they have now is a result of their hard work and willingness to improve their lives and accept help. It has made everyone proud to see this progress and initiative. He went on to mention that there is more to do. Clinic Nepal wants to see Thumka village prosper and is committed to helping them build a sustainable economy.

Later that morning more than 150 people gathered to celebrate the completion of the project. All of the guests from the previous evening hiked down with many of the villagers to the centrally located ceremony tent. Members of the media recorded the event that formally marked the turnover of the village homes to the residents. Present at the ceremony was chief guest Army Major General Ramindra Chhetri, and members of the Nepalese Army. A strong turnout of 100 Chepang villagers traveled to take part, and many friends and family of Clinic Nepal were in attendance. The Committee Chairman Mr. Janak Chepang led the official ceremony. In his speech, Mr. Chepang thanked Clinic Nepal for all they have done. Beyond the housing project, the Clinic has assisted the tribe in many other areas, including healthcare. He recalled a past visit from the mobile health clinic, when it was discovered a child of the tribe had a heart condition. The trip to the hospital resulted in open heart surgery for the child, which saved his life. Today that child is back in school and thriving! Also speaking at the event was Mr. Shiva Bhurtel, Chairman of the Meghauli Drinking Water Project. He praised the hard work and dedication shown by Clinic Nepal to their country. Over the years, the organization has improved health, education and sanitation conditions for thousands of Nepali citizens. Certificates of recognition were given to local committee members acknowledging their hard work and leadership, amidst much applause and many smiles! The Major General and his wife, Shanta Chhetri, handed over a final gift of money from Clinic Nepal. The amount of 15,000 rupees ($150.00 USD) was gifted to the female head of household for each of the 31 families for start-up support.

Major General Chhetri spoke of the pride the villagers must take in their new homes, and their responsibility to upkeep them and maintain their strength. At the end of the ceremony, another special partnership was struck up: the headmaster of the local school received a personal pledge from Major General Chhetri to supply the school with a new computer! The Major General wove together education and opportunity in his speech. He spoke to the young people of Chepang of the criteria that must be met to serve in the Army and how education is the key to meeting those standards. He sent a positive message of encouragement that higher standards in society start with education. Investment in education will link the villagers and the greater community together productively.

Over the last 30 years, many of the Chepang people have become more civilized in their lifestyle. Previously, most lived in the jungle and hills and foraged food to eat; now many have adapted to a more agrarian lifestyle. The Chepang are experiencing much growth in many areas, also in  regards to education. A group of international volunteers came through the Clinic to the lower village where the children of Thumka attend school. New school materials such as whiteboards, pens, instructional books, and more, were donated. The volunteers upgraded the school aesthetically by cleaning and painting inside and out. More information about their organization can be found here: http:www.openingtheworld.org. The school’s headmaster attended Friday’s ceremony and voiced his appreciation for the work and gifts given selflessly by the volunteers and the Clinic. He is optimistic about the future, a sentiment that was echoed throughout the day. In his speech, project manager Manaballev Wagle commented on the many positive changes he has witnessed in the village. He encouraged the tribe to plan ahead to sustain themselves, and gave ideas. He also praise the huge upgrade in health and safety standards among the villagers. The introduction of planned kitchens and latrines has promoted proper hygiene, which in turn has produced much better overall health. Committee Secretary Mr. Chandra Chepang stated he had no doubt about the integrity of the new houses and improvement to daily life. He expressed the safety he felt from learning to plan for the future, and his gratitude towards the organizations that have helped the village. Mutual respect, offerings and handshakes concluded this memorable experience for all involved.

Clinic Nepal hosted the ceremony to celebrate the completion of this project, and bring together the different groups that have worked hard to make this happen. The result has provided a much higher standard of living for the 280 people of Thumka Village. We are pleased to report that Clinic Nepal’s initial goal, to help mitigate the devastating consequences of the 2015 earthquakes, has been met and exceeded. The pride of the villagers and the desire to improve their lives is a direct result of the time and money invested in them. Special thanks to the many volunteers, supporters and donors who gave to this successful project. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Namaste and Dhanyabhad!!


Global Peace Exchange’s Nepal Earthquake Relief Campaign│2015

The month of April marked the two-year anniversary of Nepal’s devastating earthquake of 2015. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake violently shook Nepal on April 25, 2015, leaving more than 10,000 people dead and thousands more injured. Nepal suffered from 120 aftershocks following the original earthquake, the worst reaching a magnitude of 7.3. It sent buildings crumbling, leaving countless families homeless. More than 500,000 houses were completely destroyed, and over 250,000 houses were damaged. As of now, only around 31,000 earthquake survivors have rebuilt their homes. That said, more than 700,000 houses still need to be rebuilt, and sadly very few families are receiving the funds promised by the government of Nepal. As winter is just around the corner, some survivors are still struggling to return to normal lives. Two years following a catastrophic earthquake, Nepal is still cleaning up from the disaster that killed thousands of people and destroyed cities. 

Following the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, Global Peace Exchange then immediately started raising donations for the victims of Nepal Earthquake. With the influences and connections of General Chuck Krulak, then Birmingham-Southern College’s President, Global Peace Exchange would be featured in the local news media including CBS, FOX, NBC, and Alabama Media Group, as we garnered support for international assistance. The support we received from the General Krulak, BSC and FSU community, GPE Alumni, and our supporter here and abroad was absolutely overwhelming. 

The raised donations were sent to a local non-profit organization called Clinic Nepal, and the donations contributed towards their project, Thumka Housing Project- building 31 houses and 1 community health post in a very rural village of Nepal. Clinic Nepal worked for the past 2 years on this Housing Project in the wake of destruction left by the 2015 earthquakes. The final project report from Clinic Nepal has been posted at the very top of this page. The report strives to detail the process of rebuilding so that donors and supporters will know the effect of their efforts. With much gratitude and respect, THANK YOU to all who have made this possible! We, Global Peace Exchange FSU and BSC, are forever grateful for the support we have had from BSC community, FSU community, and all our supporters here and abroad.

GPE President Saurav Bhandary interviewed by WIAT

GPE President Saurav Bhandary (flanked by other members) as he is interviewed by WIAT CBS42 on how members of the community can help the Nepal Earthquake Relief effort — with Ansley Tomlin, Gavi Kaplan, and Wesley Chambers.

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