Nepal 2015

Stories From the Field

Distributing Water Filters & Blankets

Just because you don’t speak the same language doesn’t mean you can’t build a relationship.

This morning we started by traveling to the home of three siblings who had lost their parents in the earthquake. The top floor of their three story home had collapsed with their parents inside, leaving them with both a damaged home and a damaged outlook on life. We were lucky to be able to hear their story, and it was evident that the story was extremely difficult to tell, as tears were shed by both the siblings and our team members. The two boys are 21 and 25 years old, and the girl, Anu, is 18 years old. Although Anu is in twelfth grade, current circumstances will be preventing her from continuing her education. Rather than pursue her dreams, she will be forced to work alongside her brothers in the factory. After spending some time with the three siblings, it was even more apparent just how much they have lost all hope. It was a difficult conversation for all and one of many tragic stories the team has heard thus far. We extended an offer to the three to spend time with us while we are here, with the hope that we will be able to learn more about each other through the process.

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Our next interaction was interesting–meeting with a community leader to give blankets in secret. The reason for this is that we learned that the previous community leader had lost his life as a result of mistrust from community members. Apparently, at the time many of the members believed that the community leader was unfairly distributing materials to favored groups within the tent camp, rather than equally among everyone living there. The current leader had previously been threatened because he didn’t have adequate supplies to distribute, and has been cautious ever since. It is also important to note that whenever possible, the Invictus team works directly with community leaders to plan and distribute supplies and initiate projects. We do this so that the community leaders keep their respected roles intact with their members and so that toxic dependency on foreigners can be averted.

After lunch, we distributed the first water filter of the trip to the first tent community led by Robin. The filter was needed in this community because the fuel shortage had shot up the prices of water delivery, so the water tank that they currently had wasn’t useful. After giving instructions on how to use the filter, one elderly woman sat right down next to some of the female teammates and was full of smiles and thanks. She couldn’t speak much English but kept saying “good day, good day, thank you”. She then pointed to the girls and counted “1, 2, 3, 4” and then pointed to herself and said “sister.” After repeating herself a couple of times (with a huge smile) the team realized that she had been saying that they were her sisters. This was an honor, and we felt like our contribution really meant something to her.

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The next recipient of a water filter that day was the community of 6 families called Guhe Pokhari camp. The team learned that many of these women were skilled knitters, knitting items such as gloves, hats, scarves–usually at least one item a day. As it turns out, whatever they complete, they sell to local businesses who then mark up their items anywhere from $3 to $15 (USD). That’s a huge markup considering they pay these women anywhere from $0.30 to $1 (USD) per item.

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The team spoke at length to these women, gauging whether or not they had ever considered starting a cooperative where they would be able to leverage their combined work to more profitable markets. After our conversation, we learned they had in fact not considered such a thing. We were also able to give emergency blankets to many of the women in this community to keep them warm at night. This would turn out to be one of the team’s favorite camps because of a little girl named Angeli. On one of the previous days, we had played with her and a couple of other children for a brief time. During this visit, she brought out a soccer ball that was completely torn…but she played with it regardless. As soon as we started playing with her, she lit up. Each time we kicked the ball back to her she would pick it up, punch out the middle to semi-reinflate it, throw it on the ground, and kick it back. It didn’t matter that it had completely lost its integrity as a ball–she was overjoyed to have us to play with.

We also revisited and distributed emergency blankets to the Gyan Vijaya Secondary School tent community, and the response was interesting. These women were much older, including the woman that we had previously interviewed about surviving two earthquakes–the recent one as well as the one back in 1934. To us these blankets may look like shiny tinfoil (basically what they are) but we understand the technology and how they keep you warm. But to the elderly women, this concept is a little bit more difficult to grasp. We spent a good amount of time trying to explain the concept and how to use the blankets.

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With a little down time before dinner, the team was able to explore and visit some local vendors. We met with one store owner who had Nepali homemade paper, and learned about how it was created. Another store owner was very excited to tell us his story. He had lost his home and store in the earthquake and had just opened his pottery store for the first time since the earthquake. It was great to see the ability of this man to get back on his feet, but crazy to think that it had taken this much time for him to do so…without an income or means of living, just rebuilding. He even offered us pottery lessons should we return.

The team ended the day over another delicious Nepalese meal at a restaurant near where we are staying. Many team members got the treat of trying the famous King Curd yogurt, and we welcomed a new team member, Joey Perez, who had flown in from China earlier that day.

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